For the past few weeks, it has been a pleasure to observe the musical life of a number of communities at home and in Germany. With all the talk in the US about the death of classical music, the dropping of music programs from public schools and the lack of solid commitment of young people in their private music study, you would assume the funeral and wake for all things musical in the US was a done deal.
However from what I have observed, music is still alive and well in at least three places on the globe. Let’s take a look at Edmond Oklahoma and The University of Central Oklahoma. UCO offered two camps/seminars in music for young and old in June. A Jazz Camp took place right along side a Keyboard Ensemble & Music Technology Seminar. Improvisation was a part of both events. UCO supports an active Jazz Lab program, bringing in local as well as well known Jazz musicians. The key to all of this is support from those who listen to the music. The Jazz Lab was full of active listeners making it hard to find a seat for the out of towner. Summer Season Music Theater is a huge part of the Oklahoma music scene. Peter Pan happened to be on the docket during my visit. It was quite obvious to the visitor that Edmond was in attendance with hoops and hollers to favorite members of the cast.
There is a general mind set amongst Americans that Europe loves their classical music and is not much interested in anything else. This statement is only part of the truth. On our small walks around Amberg, during rest periods for our daughter who is recovering from surgery, we have found young people walking to and fro with their musical instruments strapped to their backs. The organ at St. George's was very pleasing to listen to at the close of afternoon Mass. Regensburg is also filled with young people carrying musical instruments. Signs advertising local concerts were everywhere. I wish we could be in this area longer as a once a week organ concert in St. Peter’s Cathedral would be quite a treat.
A very well established music store in Regensburg had a constant flow of patrons. Musik Wittl, a Yamaha and Schimmel Piano Dealer does a brisk business in both acoustic and digital pianos. It was in this shop that I delivered a gift from the musician, teacher and writer, Leila Viss. A copy of her new book iPad Piano was given to Sebastian Wittl, Klavierbaumeister at Wittl Music. What is even more amazing is Sebastian’s age. When you think of an owner of a shop, your mind jumps to someone who is older, with more experience and tons of gray hair. Sebastian is a young man who obviously has made the shop a huge success.
Even with all the hype about the world cup, Germans are just as apt to watch the world cup game and then spend the rest of the night singing in groups, reliving the win through song. We often think of sports and music as mutually exclusive endeavors. What a shame to think you can have one but not the other.
What is amazing to the troops stationed at the various bases around Germany are the number of radio stations that carry American/British rock standards. The playlist on most of the stations frequented by the troops have been American/British oldies as well as new songs with a more melodic flair. (AFRTS is not the only show in town.)
Our troops are active participants in music making as can be seen by what has been on US TV lately. It was during Memorial Day on US television that a tribute to the troops was held by a number of Country Western artists. The unique thing about this special is their desire not not just entertain the troops but to highlight those talented military members who sang and composed music themselves. Obviously, American Music is still alive and kicking!
Colorado Springs offers so many summer music events for families to share. The Philharmonic gives free concerts during the Fourth of July week. Colorado College has a summer music festival that features some of America’s finest musicians for a full month. A free, Thursday at noon organ concert at the Civic Center is just made for family fun. The gigantic theater organ is rolled out and plays while you eat lunch. A silent movie is often shown while the organist creates the sound track by improvising during scene change. Concerts in the various parks around town allow you to pick and choose a concert to match your musical taste. There is nothing like live music from musicians playing real time.
When you have a minute this summer, think about the music that touches you. Think about a piece of music that recreates a special moment in your life and try to find an artist that is playing that piece at a local concert. We want music to live a long and healthy life as part of the American dream.