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Middle Schoolers and Schoenberg

Another summer filled with music making and teaching has passed. The highlight for me was wildly enthusiastic reception of Schoenberg’s “Verklarte Nacht” at Market Square Concerts’ Summermusic 2015 by 80 middle and high school students.

They have never heard of Schoenberg and fortunately were not taught to fear his music. It was a much needed boost of faith in the power of high quality art, and its resilience across time. It is so refreshing to hear a sincere unfiltered response to music from a group of youngsters, who have not yet developed biases in music. I wish people who buy tickets to concerts were looking a little more for surprises and little less for familiarity. Somehow people tend to forget that the works that are familiar and loved were at some point a revelation to them. Why is it that so many like to try food new to them, but not music? Isn’t the potential cost of bad experience with new food much higher than the damage inflicted by a piece of music that turns out to be not so great? I don’t believe anyone has ever been hospitalized with a “music poisoning." I also often wonder about people willing to push and challenge themselves for the sake of physical fitness, but finding that challenging their ears, attention and emotions once in a while with a half an hour long piece of classical music is not worth their time. I wonder if there will be a time when people realize that being occasionally offended, challenged and troubled by a piece of music, while perhaps unpleasant in the moment, makes life richer in the long run.

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