Music at the Stanford Study Centers in Europe

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As of now, Stanford University has three European Centers, which are located at Beutelsbach bei Stuttgart, Florence, and Tours. Stanford-in-Germany was the first center to open and has been in operation since June, 1958. Last October, the French and Italian campuses were opened with the customary fanfare and colorful ceremony associated with formal academic occasions in Europe.

The purpose of these centers is to provide an opportunity for selected matriculated undergraduates to spend six months of their four-year college career studying and absorbing the language and culture of a foreign country without essentially interrupting their normal course of study. For the sophomore, the program is the best in that he can continue with the fulfillment of his general studies requirements, but with the added incentive and enrichment offered by the different and stimulating surroundings of the European setting. The second-year college student also has less of a problem in regard to the interruption of his major sequence program than a junior or senior.

Every six months, a group ranging from sixty-eight to about eighty students is selected for each of the three centers. Stanford University provides transportation to the overseas centers by chartered plane or ship at no extra cost to the student. The only additional cost for those chosen is that of the transportation home, and the expense of individual travelling while in Europe. Tuition, room, and board are at the same rate as at Stanford in California. Financial aid such as scholarships or grants-in-aid is given on the same basis as at home.

All the centers offer courses in three areas each quarter. The greatest emphasis is upon the language of the country and all students are enrolled for six units of work with native language instructors. Before departure, any selected student must have completed at least two quarters of the appropriate language. The other courses offered normally amount to four units in the humanities and five units in the social sciences. Offerings in the humanities are rotated among art, architecture, literature, music, and philosophy. The social science taught may be anthropology, economics, geography, political science, psychology, or sociology. Most of these courses may fulfill general studies requirements for undergraduate students at Stanford University.

Each quarter there are two faculty members from the regular staff at Stanford teaching at each of the three centers. Round-trip transportation plus room and board is provided for all faculty members and their families who serve at the overseas campuses. Faculty wives operate as informal deans of women, nurses, and counsellors, as needed. The atmosphere created by the size and proximity of the staff and student body is one of a small college. Many students discover that this close association with the faculty and other students is one of the most gratifying and memorable parts of the total experience.

Wherever possible, the American faculty members teaching abroad are expected to revise the content of their courses to emphasize those elements related to the history and culture of the particular country concerned. Since close social contact between the students and the local population is both encouraged and expected, subjects in the social sciences are not difficult to orient in this manner. For instance, while music was being taught at Stanford-in-Germany, the other subject offered was anthropology. As soon as basic methods of anthropological study and observation were established, students started individual projects dealing with special aspects of the culture of the area in which they were located.

The study of music, as well as any of the arts, is also ideally suited for the European setting. With such a large percentage of our musical traditions and culture originating in Europe, it is not difficult to make the subject relevant and stimulating to the student. During my term at Stanford-in-Germany, we offered the Stanford University Music 1 course for the general student, entitled "Introduction to Music," and a Seminar in Music. Parenthetically, I should explain that my six-month term covered the last three months of one group of students and the first three months of another group. In the second group of students, fifty-five had not taken a music literature course at Stanford University and were therefore enrolled in the introductory course. The remaining thirteen students, who had already taken Music 1 or other music literature courses, were enrolled in the seminar, which was designed to meet their individual interests and level of advancement. In addition to these courses, I directed a chorus and madrigal group which included most of the students.

One of the basic problems in teaching an introductory music course is that many students enrolled have had little or no previous contact with great works of music. Therefore, one finds it necessary to teach first certain fundamentals and listening techniques before understanding can be achieved. This problem becomes intensified in the European setting, where one does not want to miss any opportunity for coordinating class work with live concerts or opera presentations which were constantly available. The ideal solution would be for students to complete the introductory course before going abroad. Then one could concentrate completely upon the music of the country and the opportunities which presented themselves. Classes could be prepared for a specific concert or opera without first spending so much time on basic techniques of hearing and understanding music. Even so, Professor William L. Crosten (who is now at Florence) and I agree that a very high degree of motivation and an excellent standard of student achievement is reached in the music courses at these European centers.

As a part of the assigned work for music students at Stanford-in-Germany, attendance at eight concerts or operas was required. Four of these were specified for all, and the remaining four were selected by students from lists of recommended concerts and operas furnished to them. Actually, student attendance at live presentations ranged all the way from the minimum of eight to as high as twenty-eight per person. In order to avoid superficiality, students were required to write four substantial papers on works, or portions of works, heard at public presentations. Whenever possible, recordings and scores of compositions discussed in papers were obtained, so that students could give them more thorough study. In most cases, these works were heard many times both before and after the live presentation. As paper deadlines approached, the listening equipment became so popular that it was in use around the clock. Much to the dismay of the faculty family living in the same building, students were signing up to use the phonograph at three o'clock in the morning. To my amazement, I found that these live concert and opera experiences were the first for a number of students. In spite of this lack of background, several papers dealing with stylistic comparison and analysis which were received by the end of the course were comparable to work done by music majors.

One highly effective method to help the students understand the meaning of music was the use of many compositions which were settings of German texts. This method not only coordinated the student's language study with music but brought to light the many subtle nuances of musical expression associated with specific words and phrases within the context of a specific composition. I am sure the advantage of dealing with the original language rather than an English translation is obvious.. Some of the best papers were those dealing with comparable situations, moods, or characterizations within German operas, Lieder, or sacred choral works.

Not the least pleasurable of the learning experiences at the overseas centers are the field trips. Each quarter a seven-to-ten-day trip is made to an important cultural center. During my term there, the first group of students went to Vienna and the second to Rome. For the musical portion of the field trip, reservations were made in advance for attendance at two operas in each city. One of the difficulties soon encountered was the different way in which European concert and opera houses plan their schedules. It is not at all unusual to arrive at an opera house expecting to hear one opera and find that another one has been substituted for it. Relative to this problem, my attempt to prepare the students for the two operas scheduled in Vienna became almost ludicrous. Four times the opera schedule was changed! The week before departure the third revision indicated that Fidelio and Tosca would be presented. I hurriedly obtained scores, libretti, and recordings and began seriously preparing the students for these performances. Then the day before we left for Vienna, our resident-director, who had preceded the group, wired that The Bartered Bride had been substituted for Tosca. The only thing to do at this point was to circulate libretti and scores on the Orient Express as we sped to Vienna. For the Rome field trip, we had better luck. Only one change was made and we attended performances of La Forza del Destino and Don Giovanni, each of which had been studied in advance.

Most of the other concerts or operas attended by students took place in Stuttgart. Our campus is located about fifteen miles from there, overlooking the beautiful and rural Rems Valley. In order to relieve any feeling of isolation and to encourage students to take advantage of the cultural life of a large city, two special buses were operated per week to and from Stuttgart. Then additional buses were chartered when attendance was required at special events. One evening we had a close call. The students were all going to a broadcast performance of the Beethoven Ninth Symphony to be presented as a part of the Schiller festival. The bus departed in plenty of time and descended the narrow, winding road from Landgut Burg, our campus, to the village of Beutelsbach. Just outside the village the bus stalled, due to a mechanical failure, and it was too late to order another bus. Fortunately, my wife and I were driving our Volkswagen. Immediately I summoned all the student automobile owners and seven crowded into my car. We hurriedly ascended the winding road back to Landgut Burg, to procure their vehicles and the school microbus. The stranded students were squeezed two-deep into the small European cars and we arrived at the Stuttgart Liederhalle just as the doors closed behind us. Five minutes later, the scheduled broadcast of the live performance began.

 

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. . . overlooking the beautiful and rural Rems Valley . . .

 

Another facet of the European experience which made the teaching of music more meaningful was the first-hand acquaintanceship the students developed with many historic spots and places of architectural interest. Since a normal five-day schedule of classes was telescoped into four days, students had ample opportunity on weekends to visit places of cultural interest, in addition to becoming more closely acquainted with families in the surrounding villages. Also on the field trips, conducted tours were arranged with European experts in history, art, and architecture as lecturers. For instance, with the fresh memory of the style of a Baroque palace or church as a frame of reference, it was much easier to point out the spatial, ornate, pictorial, circular, theatrical and active qualities of Baroque music. Assignments of biographical and historical background reading took on added significance when students had seen homes of great composers and the courts and churches where their music was written and performed.

Music at Stanford-in-Germany was not all of the passive variety, though. We had two active performing groups—the chorus and a madrigal group. Extensive rehearsing was necessary, since many students had not participated in choral groups before. Nevertheless, creditable results in performance were achieved, which provided an important and new learning experience to many. With the first group of students, we participated in a Beutelsbach Fest with our performances of both German and American folk songs. Then, near Christmas, we gave a choral and organ concert in the Beutelsbach Stiftskirche, which included a short Bach cantata and carols of various nations. One of our students who was a music major wrote an original Christmas carol for the occasion. In March, with the second group of students, we gave a concert of choral and chamber music in the Beutelsbach School Auditorium. Included were Brahms' Liebeslieder Walzer, English madrigals, German polyphonic Lieder, and German, English, and American folk songs.



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. . . we participated in a Beutelsbach Fest with our performances of both German and American folk songs . . .

We believed that these programs helped to overcome the frequent attitude among less well-informed Europeans that America's major contributions to culture are in the realm of jazz, Coca-Cola, motion pictures, luxurious automobiles, and cowboy outfits. Unfortunately, in too many places these items are becoming too popular with the Germans. At some big Fests we heard far more American-style popular music than traditional German music. At too many Fasching parades we saw more cowboy and Indian costumes than traditional peasant dress. It quite amused us one day when our ten-year-old son said that he was tired of playing with one German friend because the only game this boy wanted to play was cowboy.

I should hasten to add, though, that almost all relationships between our students and the local population were most cordial. When each new group of students arrived, the Beutelsbachers would line the streets giving them Kuchen, flowers, and invitations to their homes. Before the first official tour of Beutelsbach was accomplished with our second group of students, at least half of them had been adopted by local families for weekend and evening entertaining. Experiences in the homes of these Schwäbisch villagers were high spots for both students and faculty members of Stanford-in-Germany. In some of the homes, students who played instruments or sang joined with German families in music-making. Among our most pleasant memories are the evenings spent playing chamber music in the home of Herr Mensing, a dentist by day who lived for the evenings spent playing his 'cello.

In case the picture may look too rosy so far, I should say that there were a number of difficulties involved in teaching music at Landgut Burg. These, however, were primarily in the areas of the budget, equipment, and classroom facilities, Because the teaching of music requires the purchase of books, scores, recordings, listening equipment, and instruments, it inevitably costs more than the teaching of a course in economics or anthropology. Consequently, even an apparently generous budget more than twice as large as that allotted to other courses taught overseas had to be spread pretty thinly. What already seemed to be a minimum list of books, scores, and recordings had to be pared several times; also, a sufficient balance had to be left for procuring material relevant to a specific outstanding performance that might be scheduled in Stuttgart. Wherever possible, I borrowed material from the Stanford University Library at home, but this had to be planned and shipped several weeks in advance of departure. Other helpful sources were the American Library in Stuttgart and, of course, German libraries in the area.

As for equipment, two pianos had to be rented and a custom-built listening machine constructed which would reproduce both mono and stereo discs and tapes through both speakers and earpieces. The earphone attachment was necessary, since one large multi-purpose room served as the library, main classroom, assembly hall, lecture hall, choral rehearsal hall, and listening room. The only other rooms available were the small television room and the Ratskeller, which could be used for seminars. This latter room was so named due to its function as a student tavern by night.

I might add that the centers in Florence and Tours have better physical facilities, including sufficient classroom, seminar, and library space. Stanford-in-Germany will soon also have ample space when a proposed library and seminar building is completed.

In spite of the difficulties involved with library resources and lack of sufficient equipment and space, I believe my teaching of music to the general student at the European centers achieved even better results than at our home campus. The fact that music is taught to a captive audience over there does not seem to inhibit the program in any way. In fact, the enthusiasm with which the students received it only points up how much the general student in college today does need and can understand great music. In many instances, these students might not have taken a course in either music literature or performance. This experience in Europe also suggests that more attendance at live concerts should be required of students taking music courses at their home college or university. For only through sufficient contact with live music, either as a listener or participator, can students achieve the highest degree of motivation and understanding.

As modern technology helps increase the number of leisure hours, the well-educated man needs more than ever to appreciate the arts. It is time that we, as college music teachers, press harder for well-taught required courses in music literature for the general student. It is time also that we provide more performing groups for the general student. In the years ahead, the amateur may have more time to make music for the joy of it than the overworked professional musician.

The value received from a course which enhances the student's ability to hear or perform music is certainly at least equal to the value received from a required science course. In fact, the usefulness, pleasure, and intellectual stimulation derived from a music course might conceivably outlive that of many presently required courses in our general studies program.

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Last modified on Thursday, 15/11/2018

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