Social Change through Chamber Music, what’s that?

Our mission is to use chamber music as a model for social change. We perform chamber music as a string quartet, use it as a model for learning in our program, and dedicate much of our lives to sharing this wonderfully fulfilling form of music-making. Read BPQ members responses to a few questions about chamber music:

Why chamber music?

Jason: “As a violist, I think chamber music is the most rewarding form of musical expression.  Each player has a significant role and level of responsibility to the music and the other members of the ensemble, which brings a sense of comradery and pride.  This is why chamber music fits in perfectly with any educational model.”

Adrienne: “Through chamber music we learn how to work as a team and how to communicate with those around us.  We have to make ourselves heard when we have an important part to play, and we always have to listen to the other people in the group.  A string quartet is a small, self-driven community.  Everyone has a unique role, and we work together and support each other as we try to constantly improve and create something meaningful.”

Marji: “Playing chamber music requires a complex system of communication. In order for a self-conducted group to function even at the most basic level, every participant must be open to receive, process, and respond to abstract, sensory, and social messages coming from multiple directions, while simultaneously sending out messages that are coherent, inspiring, and directed. I love the challenge of this web of communication. I can feel it when I’m in a chamber music group that is constantly balancing the acts of listening and giving, supporting and demanding, analyzing and creating, imagining and maneuvering; my senses, my intellect, my body, my character, and my soul feel stretched to new limits. This has a direct impact on the way I interact out in the world–as a grow as a musician, I grow as a human being.”

How do we incorporate Chamber Music into our teaching?

Betsy: “At the most basic level, and throughout all levels of programming, we use an approach that includes musical elements and skills used specifically in chamber music from day one. There is always more than one part of music happening simultaneously; whether a duet with a teacher, individual students clapping a unique rhythmic ostinato, or playing a carefully tailored and arranged student string quartet. Each student’s individual voice, role, strengths, challenges, and creative contribution is upheld as an integral part of the whole. Students experience playing in a small chamber group as soon as they learn the basics of the instrument, coached in all of the elements of communicating their individual parts.  As students grow through our program, they become apprentices in chamber music, modeling their musicianship after older students and teachers.”

Marji: “In a self-conducted group, each participant needs to be a teacher, student, and audience all at once. Nobody is a natural at this. It requires guidance and practice, so I try to prepare my students individually for this challenge. In private lessons, my priority is to help each student prepare for the moment when they sit down to play music with their peers. I challenge them to identify and solve problems and make decisions, to listen and react to their own playing in a constructive, positive way, to be steady, thoughtful, and flexible in their general approach to music, and to create a welcoming space in their music for other voices to join in. This preparation is a long-term (even lifelong) process–it requires patience from everyone, especially the teachers. That is why we treat chamber music class not just as a rehearsal for a concert but as a social and artistic laboratory, a safe place to make mistakes, laugh, take turns, challenge, experiment, debate, and share. For me, the teacher, the primary goal of chamber music class is for the group to have at least one moment of true unity during the process of working together, and for the whole group to be aware, thankful, and proud of that moment when it happens.”