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?