Music Seminar offers a dive into music history and composition

Some students play in the orchestra, others compose, and some do both. Music Seminar, taught by Anne Klus, engages these students who are interested in doing more than playing the notes on a page. The class studies music history chronologically, starting with the Medieval period and also incorporates music theory and composition.

“Right now we are working on the Renaissance era for music history, and we’ve been doing some composition with four-part harmony. There are a few different composition projects we have to write throughout the year. I know there is definitely a fugue that we have to write, and a quartet,” Senior Lily Nestor said, one of the four students in the class.

To those new to composition, writing an original piece can seem intimidating. Senior Gemma Yoo, who plays viola and piano, finds composition as a curiosity.  

“Some of the other people in the class have done composing before, but personally, I never have, so it’s daunting to think of writing a whole piece. And I’m scared that I might accidentally plagiarize it somehow. But it’s cool because it’s always something I have been a little bit interested in, but I think my theory background just wasn’t good enough to be able to do that on my own.” Yoo said.

While playing an instrument or singing in the choir does not require music theory or composition knowledge, the extra knowledge often enhances one’s satisfaction with the music.

“I’m also in the orchestra and the choir. I think Music Sem has helped me with cello playing, and vice versa,” Nestor said.

The class can be designed for what we want to learn. It has a curriculum, but it can also be more tailored.

— Gemma Yoo

Yoo notices subtler changes in her viola playing section leader in Honors Sinfonia, but agrees the two classes are mutually beneficial.

“But I think more than the viola, it might have helped me with piano a little bit more—just recognizing chords. But, I think as the year goes on it will help me in recognizing rhythms and things like that, which would help me with my playing” Yoo said.  

Music Seminar is also a break from Harkness tables and busy classrooms: one has no choice but to sit at the front with only four people in the class. This class size allows for an informal environment and encourages engagement in learning.

“I think [having only four people in the class] enhances the learning, it makes the class more fun and relaxed and if you have a question it is just really easy to speak up and ask it. And another good thing is the class can be designed for what we want to learn. It has a curriculum, but it can also be more tailored,” Yoo said.

For all that are interested, Music Seminar is offered again next semester.