Sunday, May 30, 2010

Early Music at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music

Part Two: Lutes and Voices

Rodney Stucky teaches at CCM’s Early Music Lab (EML). Rod teaches a group class that combines voices and early plucked instruments, such as lute, vihuela, and theorbo. The lutes also receive extra private coachings, as part of their participation in the class. He has taught in the EML since the fall of 2002. Numerous singers have completed his class to pursue early music careers, including Catacoustic’s own Youngmi Kim, Mischa Bouvier (also performed several times with Catacoustic,, Molly Quinn (, and Chris Wilke (currently pursuing a doctorate with Paul O’Dette at Eastman in lute and theorbo, A current student in Rod’s section of EML bought his own lute this year. (The Early Music Lab has a collection of instruments that are loaned to students for the duration of the course.)

Additional information about Stucky:
Rodney Stucky is a lutenist, baroque guitarist, classical guitarist, and vihuelist. He has been active in early music since the late 60’s. His performances include appearances in New York at the Cloisters with the Dupont Circle Consortium, in Washington D.C. with the Theater Chamber Players, directed by Leon Fleisher, and in Paris at the Conservatoire SupĂ©rieure with his wife mezzo-soprano Mary Henderson. Locally he has been heard in concert with the Vocal Arts Ensemble, Dayton Bach Society and Philharmonic Orchestra. He is a member of the baroque music ensemble, Apollo’s Cabinet and has directed or co-directed early music ensembles at the University of South Carolina, St. Louis Conservatory of music, and at Interlochen’s summer program. In St. Louis he was a founding member of the “Oriana Singers,” a vocal quartet focusing on music of the late 16th and early 17th centuries. He is currently a co-director of the Early Music Lab at the College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati and head of the classical guitar program in the Preparatory Department. He is also author of Guitar for the Young, books 1 and 2, a classical guitar method for young children.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Early Music at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music

Part One: Viola da Gamba Class
I have been teaching viola da gamba at CCM for three years. I took over from James Lambert, who plays double bass in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. He is also a frequent musician for Catacoustic Consort performances.
I teach two gamba classes – one beginner class and one for returning (advanced) players. People who have bowed string experience are encouraged to participate, although everyone (must be a music major) is accepted. The beginner class is naturally all about the physicality of how to hold the instrument and how to get a good sound. By the end of the quarter, we are able to play ensemble music. We talk about basic concepts in playing renaissance music, since so many basic concepts in communicating through music have changed through time. The advanced viols spend their time with a bit more technique and more in-depth coaching on playing stylistically sensitive manner. Concepts of rhetoric and effective musical expression are throughout this class. We spend each class playing consorts. The past two quarters this year have introduced the advanced players to tablature. (Tablature is a type of notation for the viol that is, in effect, Braille for the viol player. It shows what strings to play and what fret to cover. Viol tab uses a staff which consists of six spaces and seven lines. Each space represents a string, and letters are used to represent which frets to stop. An “a” on the bottom space would represent the open string, and the “b” on the bottom space would be the first fret on that string.) This is an ideal system for reading chordal music in different tunings, which is exactly what we have done. We have played lira viol trios all quarter in this class – even working on Lawes lira trios, which are VERY difficult!
The degree programs at CCM are quite intense, as it is one of the best music schools in the country. My students are introduced to the viola da gamba and concepts of musical expression through this instrument. Occasionally there are exceptional students who decide that they would like to pursue the instrument beyond the classroom, which is thrilling. But, it is also rewarding for the students to be introduced to the instrument and its repertory in the classroom.
There is typically a class recital at the end of each quarter, involving all the collegiums sections, including the loud band, recorders, voices and lutes, and viols. We had our class recital this past Tuesday, and the viol students were wonderful!
While the CCM early music class is not intended as a major field of study, it offers a fine introduction to a new instrument and musical language that may encourage some musicians to continue to pursue this field of study.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Why does someone take up an "early music" instrument?

I began playing viol when I was in high school. I played violin and attended Interlochen (a summer music camp), where I took a class entitled “Shakespeare’s Music” handed me a treble viol. I fell in love and haven’t looked back. Numerous early music professionals got their start there. Unfortunately, Interlochen has since ceased offering any early music to their campers. Currently, in the US most early music professionals get their start on a period instrument in university. Another strike against us is that many universities are cutting these programs with today’s economic difficulties. The professional performer is only side of the historical performance world. The other is that of the amateur musician…

Many people decide to take up music later in life, as their careers and families are established. They may have more time to devote to music in retirement or as their professional and personal lives are more established, they want to explore a creative path in music. This musical explorative journey is quite rewarding, as it offers opportunities to make music with friends in ensembles of like or unlike instruments with many people performing in church or in house concerts.

The recorder is often a popular choice for people to start their musical exploration. It is quite easy to play as a beginner, and there is much music to play for solos and ensemble. (Instruments are quite inexpensive, with decent plastic instruments selling at around $20.) One local player is a proficient trombonist, who was pushed to pick up the recorder by his church organist to eventually perform in church services. There is also at least one amateur recorder consort in the greater Cincinnati area. Catacoustic also offers frequent workshops for beginner, intermediate, and advanced players with teachers brought to instruct these players in technique and ensemble skills.

The viola da gamba is another surprisingly popular instrument for the amateur musician. It is easy on the body to play, a rewarding instrument for the beginner, and offers a huge repertory for many levels of ability. There are four players in Cincinnati who play on Catacoustic’s rental instruments. I also teach music students at CCM (University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music) to play the viol in group classes. Catacoustic offers frequent workshops for viol players, attracting players from throughout the Midwest – from Nashville, Cleveland, and Chicago!

As I think to the future of early music performance in this country, I would like to continue to encourage people to find their voice in Renaissance and Baroque music. This will include amateurs and professionals learning early music instruments, as well as attracting more people to concerts and recordings where this repertory is performed. I would like to know your thoughts on the best way to do this. Have YOU ever thought of playing an “early music” instrument? What is the best way to go about doing this?