Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Project in the Arts Well-Remembered...

In the 60's and 70's, interdisciplinary education at high school level was still rather new and not utilized widely. I thought about developing a course in the arts wielding this particular method, and went about doing so:
To make this as brief as possible; my course was called "Sights and Sounds," and I was one of two teachers who conducted this project. As a matter of fact, my partner came out of retirement in order to be the second half of the "team," as she found the concept rather fascinating - she had been an art teacher all of her career; actually, this elegant lady was a descendant of the eminent American artist Winslow Homer, and I felt truly privileged to have her as my artistic partner.
She and I would always be present at all classes, she dealing with a subject in art, and my following with a parallel view in music; for instance, one session might be dealing with great paintings of oceans or other forms of bodies of water, and I would follow with examples in, say, Impressionism, of composers and their musical views of the seas, in music form; or, perhaps Smetana's "At the Sea."
Or, my partner might show and discuss various paintings of great cathedrals, and I might follow by playing, say, Debussy's "Engulfed Cathedral."
But I went one step further - I decided to inculcate other subjects and follow with parallel issues in music; for example, on one occasion I might invite the head of the English department to spend a couple of days on Shakespeare and his work and times, after which I might spend a couple of days either playing or putting on recordings of Elizabethan music, in order to deepen the projecting of a deeper 'taste' of those times.
I might invite a teacher of history to discuss the Enlightenment for about a week, then follow with the musical giants of that period, such as Mozart or Beethoven, in order to better demonstrate the coming of the freeing of human spirituality in aspects outside of the church.
On one day, I would invite a teacher of physics to discuss, say, sympathetic vibration; then play, perhaps, Siloti's transcription of an organ prelude by Bach, which would utilize the pianist's depressing notes without sounding them, so that they would 'come alive' by way of playing other notes of the same alphabetical name.
Only the upper ten percent of the upper classes could take this elective course, and it became so popular that we eventually taught this course every day, rather than two days a week.
As I recall, I ran this course for about three years - then my wonderful partner decided that it was TRULY time to TRULY retire.
And so, regretfully, I decided to terminate the course, as I did not feel comfortable about substituting any educator of art to replace the terrific lady I had chosen to be my other half , and who was one of a kind, be assured.
For a couple of years, I formed the same type of course at college level, but then decided that high school level for this kind of investigation of our world was a far more important endeavor at a more formative age - and so I never returned to my teaching of this kind of course.
I did, however, continue to teach at high school level until the '90's, each course having been strictly at college level (the college I taught at during the same period was not too happy with me!).
I have always believed that there are students out there who have never been truly tested for their own potential, and I always sought these students out in whatever I taught.
At one time, I chose four students interested in music, and for their intellectual curiosity - these four were between twelve and fourteen, and we went through the Hindemith harmony course, which Hindemith developed at Yale for his students there.
These four students averaged "A" in virtually all of their exams.
What an adventure education can be!



Anonymous Anonymous said...

A contented mind is a perpetual feast. ....................................................

June 7, 2010 at 11:26 AM  

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