The University of Oregon Symphony Orchestra is the premiere orchestra at UO and one of the finest university orchestras on the west coast. A symphony concert is not only a wonderful opportunity for student performers to apply their knowledge in a real event setting, but also provides an exciting performance night for the audience. Before the last University Symphony event of the term, scheduled on March 10, 2013, Liner Notes had a chat with Dr. David M. Jacobs, Conductor about the upcoming concert and about the University of Oregon Symphony Orchestra itself.
Liner Notes (LN): The University Symphony’s upcoming concert is a chance for non-music majors to better their understanding and appreciation of classical repertoire. What do your student musicians gain by performing?
David Jacobs (DJ): The students gain an opportunity to learn and perform great masterworks of orchestral literature. They gain knowledge of stylistic trends and compositional devices. They hone their ability to perform with a cohesive and unified style. They practice interpersonal and professional exchanges, both verbally and non-verbally. They practice listening critically.
LN: What do you aim to bring to audiences with each new concert?
DJ: While each concert is different in content, the goal remains the same. Present the highest quality literature with energy and artistic integrity, so that the listener is transformed, enlightened, edified, or otherwise affected by the music.
LN: Classical music does not get played in the mainstream media very often. Do you think that the orchestra at the university receives enough appreciation from the general student population?
DJ: So-called “classical music” has some of the same difficulties that all “high art” wrestles with in order to penetrate the “popular” or “mainstream.” It is more than mere entertainment. It requires something of the listener. That is not to say it does not have a tangible and immediate appeal. I believe to my core that it does. Anyone can hear the finale of Beethoven #9 and be awestruck by its beauty and power. But it also requires thought, an open heart and mind, and perhaps most of all, reflection in order for the fullness of its impact to be felt.
The masses aren’t attracted to [classical music] for the same reason why we sometimes just want to read a magazine instead of Dostoyevsky, or watch the latest James Bond movie instead of The Shawshank Redemption. It is certainly not because the latter are irrelevant. “Classical” or “art” music is perhaps even more relevant to the human experience than any other type of music because it evokes such variety of human emotion. One moment can be full of elation while the next, heart-wrenching despair. One piece of music evokes a certain affect while another, something completely different.
These things are universally felt by one listening to great works of art music. Art reflects our human experience; therefore, it is absolutely relevant, and while the circumstances of humanity change throughout the ages, humanity itself fundamentally remains unchanged. We all have struggles, we all love, we all cry, we all long for acceptance and redemption. It is our modern culture that diminishes the value of such art. It is consumed with mere escape, distraction, and temporary pleasures.
Great art requires more focus, energy, and thought on its subject for its full power to be felt. But the reward is even a greater experience than the trivial musings of daily life. It is the perfect opportunity for students to experience something powerful and unique. Therefore, students, whose goal should be to remain open to varied modes of thought and expression, would greatly benefit by getting acquainted with so-called “classical” music.