Music Appreciation is so much more than that one class you had to take your freshman year of college. You know the one; packed with 300 other students, where you most likely watched “Amadeus,” and (if you are anything like my former classmates) what you took away from the experience was a newfound appreciation of the band Falco. What you might not have taken away is the starry-eyed ideal of listening to works by Bach or Stravinsky, and doing this for fun.

This experience certainly understandable. So many of us in the musical community have built a working knowledge and personal experience of this art form brick by brick, practice session by practice session, and of course, band camp. But what about those who have chosen to study music, and are just beginning to dive into the richness of the art? Our Music Appreciation professors are usually music professionals, with genius ideas and careers built on sheer dedication to the study and appreciation of music. They are left with the challenging task of introducing people to the musical community and the vast, vast amount of knowledge available to have a rich and meaningful relationship with music. What both teacher and student find is that it is difficult to really explain all that there is to know in just an hour or so each week.
Here’s the big, underlying secret as to why this is:

Music Appreciation is a skill.
Music Appreciation is a skill that requires practice.
Music Appreciation is a skill that requires practice by students on a regular basis.

When you are sitting in that lecture hall with hundreds of your colleagues, you can now realize that your professor is teaching you skills for you to practice outside of class! (This sounds an awful lot like what a private lessons music instructor does, no?)
Now you are a bona fide initiate into the musical community, and the first step is to get to know your musical neighbors! You don’t want to listen to 20 hours of Vivaldi right now? That’s perfectly alright. You don’t want to turn into a “music snob” who has to debate with other musicians for (basically) no reason, and jerkily correct others (“It’s pronounced ‘re-NAY-sahns’”)? Totally fine. This Music Appreciation blog section is meant to give you ideas for exercises you can do yourself while you’re listening to anything, and (hopefully) everything that comes across your ears.

“Trying out” different types of music is just like “trying out” different types of foods. There is so much to enjoy! But the more varied, the more wide your exposure, the more you feed to your imagination. Classical Music (or also called music from the Common Practice Period) is our musical heritage; the necessary and amazingly detailed first step in building a platform for our understanding of music as art. Hey, if you are judging a tuna salad sandwich, it’s best to taste how a fine dining restaurant makes it before trying to compare it to, say, a sandwich that you bought from the back of a van or something. So it is with music: Starting with the classics helps us have an idea of formal musical ingredients with very fine presentation. Again, you don’t want to start there? That’s perfectly fine! But—once you are hungry for substantial musical experiences, just know that the Common Practice Period can and will satisfy you, when you’re ready.  Man cannot live on dubstep alone…

HERE’S WHY THIS IS COOL (Another secret no one will tell you):

When you have a refined ear, it works exactly the same way as the refined palette of a chef: You will then be able to create your own musical recipes—your own creations—with finesse, innovation, and flat-out heroism! All things the world is desperately craving! People need good food, people need good music. YOU can be the one who gives it to them. At the very least, you’ll always be able to find those substantial musical experiences for yourself, and that is a very good thing.

(C) 2015 Margaret Nelson

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