Sharing Musical Tastes

Country music and opera — anything in common? Via the MENC discussion forums, members respectfully voiced their opinions about the technical requirements and the “intangible” elements of each genre, as well as how to broaden students’ and their own understanding of these different musical genres.

On opera vs. country music, choral mentor Christine Nowmos shared that music can be compared to food/cooking.

“It takes much more skill and training, as well as much more time, to prepare many classic French dishes than it does, say, to make a hamburger. In a fancy restaurant, you eat a meal that someone has obviously gone to a great deal of trouble to prepare, where every detail is exact and perfect, and flavors blend together magically; you feel like you’ve died and gone to heaven. But enjoying this meal doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate a good-quality burger, cooked just how I like it.

“It depends on what I’m in the mood for and what the occasion is. And for that matter — which is better? Indian food, Mexican food, Chinese food, Italian food? Depends on how well it’s cooked and again, what I’m in the mood for.

“Sometimes the [music] you think is awesome, others just don’t have a taste for it, don’t have the experience to be able to enjoy it, or are maybe even a little afraid of it because it’s different from what they’re used to.

I think with any kind of music that isn’t familiar to kids, you need to find some way to relate something unfamiliar to their own experiences– like giving my kid a plain kebab at an Indian restaurant since it’s a lot more similar to food he’s used rather than expecting him to eat curry.

“Find a way to connect what it is you want them to appreciate to something they like, and help them to understand the context of classical singing and why it sounds the way it does (why are they singing in another language, why the voice has the tone quality it does, how opera singers had to project for an entire auditorium of people before microphones were invented, how opera was a popular form of entertainment before movies were invented, etc.). They still may not like it, but it might help them understand and appreciate it more.”

Shell333 chimed in:

[To help kids understand the music you love] “You might do a little more listening [of the music they love] — there are many country songs out there today that are uplifting, enlightening, and inspiring. The themes are pretty similar: death, love, heartbreak, lust, regret, folly — all these are shared themes in both country and classical.

“I think as a music educator it is important for us to remember that there are many different types of music for a reason. Music is something that is deeply personal, whether you are singing it, playing it, or just listening to it. Just because I like or appreciate music doesn’t mean that my students feel the same way and vice versa. But it is a fact that it exists and people pay money for it, so it [country music] deserves some respect.”

PART ONE, Opera vs. CountryBe sure to check out the resources!

“Famous Operatic Arias”, Music Educators’ Journal, September 2003

Opera for Everyone

Grand Ole Opry

Mountain Stage, performances/podcasts of artists

-Sue Rarus, June 23, 2010 © National Association for Music Education