Benjamin Coy


Hearing great music

February 9, 2014 at 8:17 pm

This has been a week of great keyboard players in Columbus. Thursday night, I subbed with the Columbus Symphony playing Prokofiev’s third piano concerto with Lang Lang. Then, last night, I went to a local church to hear Michael Murrayplay a solo organ recital. Both men are internationally revered, and their performances this week were exhilarating. These concerts made me reflect on the importance of hearing great music live, especially for music students.

Most universities have a “recital attendance” requirement, and students must show proof of attending a certain number of concerts each semester. However, this is usually satisfied with attending student performances, and the requirement really serves the purpose of making sure there are audiences at all the school’s performances. Despite it not being a requirement for graduation, attending professional performances is the most important part of a music education.

Attending classmates’ performances does not offer students anything they have not heard before – it merely reinforces the level at which they are currently performing. A student level is insufficient after graduation, so there must be some experience which pushes the conceptual boundaries and moves students beyond their undergraduate level. Listening to professionals provides students with a model for success. Professional performances include interpretations, repertoire and techniques that challenge students to ask hard questions and and think about important musical issues.

It is also not enough just to hear professionals on one’s own instrument. I’ve heard many of the world’s great trombonists live, including Christian Lindberg, Joe Alessi and others. These were great performances, and I left them feeling very inspired. But, the most important musical experiences of my life featured other instruments. Itzhak Perlman, Evgeny Kissin and Claudio Abaddo shattered my perceptions of music and gave me a richer, deeper understanding of life. Only a small fraction of the great music in the world features any one given instrument, and trombones get less than most. The objective is to experience great music, regardless of instrumentation.

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