Monday, June 26, 2017

Getting Started

Today marks the first day of rehearsals for my 7th season as conductor of Interlochen's Intermediate Concert Orchestra and for all of the ensembles for the 2017 summer season. I am excited to get started with my group and woke up this morning with a great amount of energy and anticipation for the coming day. I know that this will prove to be a wonderful summer of music-making and learning. I can't wait to meet my students and begin to learn who they are and what they are about.

I began my morning with my (third) cup of coffee out at the dock on the lake in front of my cabin. I looked to the north and saw grey clouds with a little bit of sunshine peeking through. I look to the south and saw blue sky and white clouds. I couldn't help but to reflect on the beauty of this place and the wonderful life that I live as a musician , teacher, and artist . I'm feeling blessed this morning.

On Saturday we had our opening faculty meeting. It was a wonderful reunion of magnificent friends and colleagues. I always love this meeting because so many of us are coming back together after a year of successes, trials, and arts events . We get to catch up on all of this personal and professional experience and renew our deep and lasting friendships . There is also always a great anticipation of the work and fun ahead of us and the incredible art that is about to be created. This gathering is always a highlight for me.

This year, Interlochen has a new president, Trey Devey. He is truly just days into his tenure at Interlochen. We met him and heard his opening remarks. I feel confident that he will bring a deep respect for the institution and tradition along with new perspective, ideas, and energy to this special place. I feel certain that we are in good hands moving forward.

We also heard opening remarks from Ted Farraday, Interlochen's Vice President of Education Programs.  I always look forward to Ted's remarks at the beginning of Camp. I have actually written about them before in a previous post. He has an incredible ability to cut to the chase on our goals and motivations for teaching and promoting the arts . This year was no different.  I take notes on his remarks every year and this one was no different.  He reminded us the the best teaching occurs when we ask questions.  Not just "who, what and where."  The important questions are "why and how?" 

He also articulated this idea:

There are really only 2 kinds of questions:

The response to this is facts and information.  In this information age, this is readily accessed.  Important, but accessible.


So what?
Why do we care?  This cuts right to the human condition.  Thinking has to take place.
This question requires more time and consideration.

We know this as teachers, but it is always good to be reminded.  Our content is important. Notes, rhythm, technique, and history all matter.  But, the inspiration and thought that gives the content relevance to the human condition is where real arts learning and inspiration occurs.

Ted also encouraged us to be thoughtful when meeting folks for the first time.  Ask them, "What's happening?" "What's important right now?" "How can I support you?"

Wow. What a wonderful charge to start the summer. These are the questions I will be asking my students and colleagues.  See?  This is why I can't wait to get here and get started each summer.

To add to all of this anticipation, I am also digging into a thought provoking book that I will be writing about in coming days.  It is Beethoven: His Spiritual Development, by J.W.N Sullivan.  I was cleaning out some bookshelves at NCSSM before coming to Michigan and ran across this 1927 publication.  The title totally intrigued me and I had to stick it in my backpack and bring it with me.

This book looks at art, expression, interpretation, and, of course, Beethoven's life and works in interesting ways and will certainly provide a great deal of food for thought for me in the first week or so of camp.

Time to go to rehearsal.  More later!




  1. Hey Scott, while you're in a philosophical mood maybe you have some thoughts on this...

    I've given a lot of thought lately to the question "Why are the Arts important for human life" and second "How can they be extended to earn money for people". Here's some background:

    We wee that robots and artificial intelligence (among other things) are displacing workers and probably will continue to do so at a greater and greater rate. Another observation is that arts are apparently necessary to human life; even as far back as cave paintings and flutes made of animal bones. Why did people do these things? They didn't have to to them in order to survive. So arts must be somehow necessary for human life. Certainly we know now that people today pay a lot of money for arts (concerts, galleries, etc) so arts have a commercial value even now.

    So we question arises: Why are arts necessary to human life? Second question: How can this need be harnessed to provide jobs for a lot of people?

    A little something to chew on in your idle moments


    Don Scott

  2. Dear Don,
    Thanks so much for the note. Interestingly, this question is a big part of the opening chapters in the book that I referenced. The author refers to the "aesthetic emotion." This emotion is excited by works of art or by "all manifestations of the beautiful." He actually compares it to the human sex drive. So, if that is the case, it is not hard to draw a line to "the importance of the arts to human life." We certainly know or feel this anecdotally. But how do we quantify it? The second question requires some kind of quantification of the first.

    You might want to check the book out. It is available for free all over the web. It certainly isn't scientific and is representative of early 20th century thought. That said, it is really though provoking. I think you would find some food for thought in the first part of the book. The author calls it "Book One."

    I will certainly continue to consider this as I go through the summer. I love this sort of thing! I will continue to be in touch.

    All my best.