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Circulating musical knowledge: The paradigm of Megaron Orchestra Camerata and Music Library of Greece “Lilian Voudouri”

Introduction

The paper is about a pioneering educational program held by the Friends of Music Society with the collaboration of Megaron Orchestra Camerata and my Library, carried out in several high schools in Athens and attended by some thousands of students per year.

The Friends of Music Society, a non-governmental organisation, from the very beginning of its foundation in 1953, included in its objectives the construction of a building to house the Athens Concert Hall, the development of a Music Library and the foundation of a Chamber Orchestra of international standards. All these objectives were accomplished in the last decade of the 20th century: the Athens Concert Hall was founded in 1991 (and in 2005 more than doubled its size with new premises), the Megaron Orchestra Camerata gave its first concert in 1991 (and I think its worth it to mention here that the Orchestra was blessed with the contribution of two distinguished english musicians: sir Neville Marriner was the Orchestra’s honorary chairman and Christopher Warren-Green was its principal conductor). The Music Library “Lilian Voudouri” opened to the public in 1997, acting as a pool of information for music and the arts, capable of supporting a full program of research and education and functioning as an important centre of study. The Library, whose collection includes the Greek Music Archive, a portion of which is digitised and available through the internet, among its other services, holds annual lecture series, organises music conferences, offers electronic services, has a children’s library and participates in research and educational programs. One of these educational programs is the one we are describing here.

Project Description

First Phase: Visits to schools

Since its foundation, Camerata Orchestra has shown a strong commitment to educational programs. In 2004 it started a series of concerts at high schools all over Athens, under the title Camerata goes to school, and in 2008 the Music Library met the challenge to expand this project, contributing to it with its own means. Four thousands five hundred students from fifteen high schools attended the project, while three hundred seventy five of them participated as music performers.

The educational program was developed in successive activity phases with the contribution of musicians, music educators, composers and musicologists. Namely, the program credits belong to Nikos Tsouchlos (the artistic director of Athens Concert Hall), Pari Christodoulopoulou  (the Orchestra’s managing director), Stephanie Merakos (the Library’s Director), Alexandros Mouzas (the composer of the music piece), Leda Massoura and Efi Averof-Michailidou (music educators), Alexandros Charkiolakis (musicologist), and Nikos Espialidis (sound engineering director).

The core of the project was the inclusion in the Camerata’s concert program in the participating schools of a new interactive music piece, composed exclusively for this situation by composer Alexandros Mouzas. The piece required the participation of twenty-five students, without music knowledge being necessarily required from them. The piece combined the classical orchestra sound, with computer sounds and the sounds the kids were making, using their bodies, their singing or narrating voices, nature and recycled material, and even their cell phones! The first activity phase of the program consisted of two visits of the composer and the music educator to each school, which were aiming to prepare the kids musically to perform in the piece following the conductor’s instructions.

During this first phase, Music Library of Greece “Lilian Voudouri” participated in the project by hosting in its web page musicological material (such as texts, photos, sound recordings and videos) relevant to the music pieces performed by Camerata, so that they could be used by the students in projects under the guidance of their music teachers. Moreover, a trendy designed brochure including the cd with the concert pieces and some challenging creative ideas in connection with the music material was distributed to the students. The students’ own artistic projects, such as paintings, posters, choreographies e.t.c., which were inspired by these ideas, were later uploaded in Library’s web page.

In the third and last visit to the schools, the whole Camerata orchestra performed its concert program in front of the plenary of each school’s students. The program comprised specially chosen famous musical pieces, some times humorous, from all musical periods from Vivaldi up to date. The highlight was the performing of the piece CAM-MEDIA with the lively assistance of the twenty-five students themselves, who performed the piece alongside the orchestra in front of their classmates under the guidance of the composer-maestro. The purpose of the students’ participation was literally to “translate” the musical piece, and more broadly the music itself, into the teenagers’ own language. Watching their classmates performing was what impressed these teenagers the most and what in the end interconnected a professional orchestra performance with real, everyday life.

Second Phase: Visit of schools to Athens Concert Hall

Let’s now move on to the second phase of the educational program, during which the three hundred seventy five students who participated as performers in the music piece CAM-MEDIA were now visiting Athens Concert Hall venue. This exact exchange of visits between us, musicians, musicologists, music educators e.t.c., and them, students, is what inspired the title of this presentation with the concept of circulation of knowledge “in, out and around” the schools, the Library and the Music Hall.

The central idea of this whole day visit was that students divided in three teams would attend circularly three activities. The first one, which took place at Nikos Skalkotas Hall, was a multitasked artistic program with the participation of Camerata orchestra and its special music educators.

The second activity was the visit to the Music Library. The students, after having been introduced to the Library virtually through its web site, were now having the opportunity to visit its impressive premises. They attended a library instruction program, especially accustomed for their age and interests.

The third activity, being the central one, was the live performance of CAM-MEDIA in Friends of Music Hall and its professional recording in real studio conditions. The outcome was a professional cd, mentioning all the students’ names in its modern cover, which a few weeks afterwards was handed to each one student participating in the recording, as a souvenir from this unique day and experience.

The whole project was professionally video recorded, and the recording is available to all Library’s visitors to watch.

Conclusion

I would like to draw your kind attention into some key remarks on the project regarding the conference’s scientific parameters.

The program was designed taking into account the concepts of integration, cross-curricular thematic and interdisciplinarity that today prevail in the contemporary theoretical contemplation in education and learning and of course in music pedagogy too. Acquiring musical knowledge in less obvious and direct ways, such as the pleasure of music listening and performing seems to be one of the most effective ways of actually teaching music to children and teenagers in particular. Enhancing musical knowledge and perception by teaching students to perform was therefore the core of the whole project.

The strong belief that has been formatted is that the long road, which will lead the audience into the concert halls, has primarily to pass through school classes. The project described demonstrates the need for organizations and institutions (such as music halls, orchestras and libraries in this case) to find new, effective ways of approaching children and carrying the musical knowledge into schools. After almost twenty years of operating and contributing to culture and education, the Friends of Music Society has adopted this innovative educational method in order to cultivate young music lovers and to create new music audiences.


Marianna Anastasiou, Musicologist - Music Library of Greece “Lilian Voudouri”
Athens, 29-04-2010
This article is based on the homonym presentation the writer made for the Annual British Forum for Ethnomusicology, Oxford 8-11 April 2010.

   
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