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Why is Chamber Music So Important?

Why is Chamber music so important?
On Wilton Music Studios facebook page, I commented that the second session of Chamber Music Central’s camp was about to begin. I said “Chamber music is so important on so many levels”. So the little voice in my head which likes to argue with me all the time, chimed in with “oh yeah, how so….?” giving me this blog topic!
A decade or so ago (Governor Roland was in office), I had the opportunity to attend an arts symposium in Hartford to discuss the role of the arts in society and the economy. In one of the keynote addresses, the speaker gave this report on President Bush’s (George H. W) commission on education and jobs of the future. Apparently, President Bush had asked the commission two essential questions:
1) What skills will the jobs of the future require
2) How well are our schools preparing our students in those skills
The commission came back with a set of skills and said we were not doing a very good job at training our kids for them. The skills included:
1) The ability to work alone (involving time management skills, self discipline etc)
2) And then the ability to take what one has done on his/her own and plug it into a larger context – coordinating with others to achieve a greater goal.
The commission was then asked:
in what area of study do we come the closest to teaching these skills?
and the answer came back:
IN THE ARTS.
The example they gave was a class taking on the project of putting on a play. They have to agree on what play they were going to do, design and build sets, get props and costumes, learn individual lines, learn the blocking and then come together to put all the pieces together to present a fine finished product.
One can also say the same thing about playing in a band or an orchestra – you have to learn your own part and then put it together with the other players.
CHAMBER MUSIC offers all of these learning tools with several others added in. In band, for instance, a flutist is one of several kids playing the same part. It is possible to not learn one’s part completely and still stay in the section. Besides, if the trumpets and drums are playing away loudly, you can’t hear the flutes anyway (so say my students…) BUT in CHAMBER MUSIC, you are the only one playing your part. It is critically important that you have learned all the notes, rhythms, articulations and dynamics that are on the page. It also helps if you can play your instrument in tune throughout the registers. When you come to the rehearsal with all those factors in place, then the fun really begins. In band or orchestra, there is a conductor up front who tells you how to interpret your part, tells you if you are too loud or too soft and basically dictates the interpretation of the piece. In chamber music, there is no conductor – well, there is a coach but that person is there to facilitate –not dictate.
So Chamber Music is all about collaboration. No one dictates anything, and the musicians come to a mutual understanding of how they want the piece to go. At his master class during the first session of the Chamber Music Central camp, Frank Dakin asserted that if you are playing in a trio, you really need FOUR ears!
1) To hear yourself
2) To hear each of the other two players (that is one ear for each)
3) To hear the overall sound – a bird’s eye (ear) view – if you will.
Each player has to take responsibility for contributing their insights into the piece. Each player is responsible for the final outcome of the piece.
The benefit to students in terms of self esteem, self-worth etc is immeasurable. In order to achieve the goal, they must develop a sense of camaraderie, mutual respect and team work. They bring the best of their abilities to the group and mutually fashion a performance that gives voice to the composer, a profound experience for each other and great pleasure to the listening audience.
CHAMBER MUSIC is one of life’s best teachers as well as one of life’s greatest joys!
For more information about Chamber Music at Wilton Music Studios, please visit our website www.WiltonMusicStudios.com or call 203-761-7787.
For more information about Chamber Music Central, please visit www.chambermusiccentral.org

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