The art of being a dedicated music teacher goes far beyond merely teaching students to play an instrument. If we teach classical music, we need to act as standard-bearers of a living musical culture that is passed down to our students. Here are some things that many of us take for granted, but that those new to classical music need to learn from scratch:
What are the instruments and what do they sound like? Are there different types of classical music? What does a conductor do? What on earth is one supposed to listen for in a concert?
These are complex questions whose answers are not often to be found in the annals of popular culture. As teachers, we can touch on these subjects, but in a weekly lesson, it can be extremely difficult to allocate enough time to teach the depth of knowledge required to enjoy classical music to the fullest.
Fortunately, there’s a new way that students can learn about this vibrant tradition. From February 23- to March 15, 2011, the New York Times Knowledge Network will be presenting How to Listen to Classical Music, an online course geared towards music students and casual listeners. Teaching the course will be respected journalist Daniel J. Wakin. From the information I’ve seen, it looks like the online class will be neither a music theory nor a history course, but a musical listening journey designed to unlock a lifetime of pleasure exploring classical music.
If you or your students are interested, you can register online. The course costs USD$135 and will be delivered using the Epsilen Learning Management System, known for its multimedia and collaborative learning tools. This is not a large price to pay, considering that similar courses regularly offered through schools can run to two or three times the price of what the NYT Knowledge Network is asking.
What is the greatest benefit of a genuine understanding of classical music? The basic knowledge needed to develop a collecting and concert-going habit that allows you to dig into a musical world that you could not possibly exhaust, even through a lifetime of listening and performing. Students who understand this can be the most rewarding of all to teach.