Behnke Blogs/Clarity

Posted by Bradley Saunders on

My goal is to provide a Behnke Blog on a regular basis here at the Timberline Music Company site.  Topics will cover a range of issues pertinent to music and music education, ranging from the philosophy of TMC and its music and writers, to some more practical issues of “how to.” As a company that offers a broad spectrum of music types and styles, this site will not be limited in content: subjects addressed here will include anything and everything musical that this writer and select others have the experience and knowledge to offer to our readers.  And it is my sincerest desire that each of you will find stimulating and useful information here, information that can be useful to you in your musical life…and that will cause you to think.

As a point of departure, one of the highlights of my own musical development came with an Oregon Arts Commission grant that I received in 1987 to travel to New York to “study” with Pulitzer Prize winning composer Norman Dello Joio.  For several months there, I drove out the Long Island Expressway for weekly sessions with a composer whose music I had revered since playing trombone in my father’s high school band.  My sessions together were very generous, often starting in the afternoon, followed by an invitation from his wife to stay for dinner, and ending later in the evening.  Suffice it to say that the subject of our conversations covered a gamut of topics, most often music related, but sometimes not.  A recurring theme of our time together often led to a single basic idea – one that became a guiding principle from that point forward in my musical life.   Simply, the take-away concept from my time with this musical master was “clarity.”

It’s a deceptively simple and unassuming word, but one that has relevance to virtually everything we do in music and in teaching – indeed, to everything we do in life.  One of my conducting teachers early on made the point that rehearsals are easy once you’ve developed a clear concept of what you want the music to sound like.  It’s just a matter then of eliminating anything that is not a part of that concept.  Perhaps a bit of an oversimplification, but it’s true!  The reason we study, reflect, plan, and think about anything important in our lives is to arrive at the highest level of clarity possible relative to that thing:  then the action we need to take also becomes clear.   Toward better music…better teaching…better lives…


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