Monday, February 28, 2011

Piano-in-Tow: Brining Classical music to rural Nebraska

Dr. Nicole Narboni, “Dr. NAN,” is a well-loved member of the piano faculty at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Over the years, she has shared her love of Classical music with many of her college students. She enjoys performing the works of Beethoven and has studied and recorded the works of Jean Francaix, a French composer, as well.
Recently, Dr. NAN found a new way in which to bring Classical music to the people of Nebraska through her project “Piano-in-Tow” (“PiT”) Graciously, she agreed to answer a few questions about “PiT.”
What is the purpose of Piano-in-Tow?
The purpose of "PiT" is to bring live, classical music to rural audiences (especially school-age children) who do not have regular access to it.
What towns have you visited?
I have visited towns in all four corners of the state (including Harrison and Morrill on the western edge and Crofton and Ponca on the eastern edge). On our last tour, we even stopped in several towns in South Dakota and Minnesota.
Has it been rewarding?
"Piano-in-Tow" has been very rewarding. The response from both adults and students is always enthusiastic. I really enjoy meeting people and talking to them about their lives in rural America. I have also heard many great stories!
What's the best memory you'll take away from it?
Probably the best memory I have (so far) is when I was in Oshkosh, I asked the assembly "What is the difference between a guitar and a banjo?" and one young man (probably less than 10 y/o) raised his hand and replied, "Hillbillies play banjos, rock stars play guitars!" His comment brought the house down and I just stood there and laughed. There really was no response to that comment!
What's the current stage of Piano-in-Tow? Will you be heading out again or is it all wrapped up?
"PiT" is on sabbatical this semester while I wait for additional funding. I submitted three grants over Christmas in the hopes of continuing touring. If I am fortunate enough to receive funding, I will be designing and building a website. And, if funding for the NEA isn't cut completely, I hope to submit an application to the "Access to Artistic Excellence" fund (through the NEA) for money to create a DVD. Right now, everything depends on how well I wrote those grants!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Classical music's relevance and life today

Since at least the 1970's, some have believed that Classical music is dead. This impression of lifelessness is due to the changes of culture and world. No longer is Classical music at the pinnacle of all musical forms. Instead of being the very definition of “Music” as it was in the 1600s-1800s, the Classical genre of music is but one of many such as pop, hip-hop, rock, etc. But it is still very much alive.
In the world of art music composers today, a shift has taken place wherein techniques, instruments, rhythms, and harmonies of popular music are borrowed and employed to attract or get a reaction (whether positive or negative) from their audiences. Music is now free. “Music” does not have to be Classical, it includes all forms of pop music and classical. People are free to explore, create, and express their strong opinions about Music—in whatever form they choose to experience it.

If young people caught up in listening to music all the time on iPods and radios could lose their fear of the “canon” and accept Classical music as another genre to enjoy along with the rest of their music, everyone of them would discover something relevant or riveting to them personally because Classical music is one of many genres and people can have the chance to experience it without feeling Classical music’s former stuffiness. That is—if Classical musicians take advantage of “something new” happening!

Classical music is alive—and therefore changing! In Lincoln, perhaps that something new can come as the Chiara String Quartet advocates by doing outreach with “chamber music in any chamber.” There is so much yet to come in the life of Classical music.