Bach to Basics

Barbara Campbell
Under the 'How Cool Is This' category, Falmouth Academy (FA) student musicians received personal instruction from a German music teacher bearing the auspicious name Bach!

Here's how it happened: FA German teacher Gundi Eder saw a notice in a newsletter from the American Association of Teachers of German announcing opportunities for teachers, including music teachers, to apply for virtual exchanges between the United States and Germany. She asked George Scharr, FA’s Director of Music and Arts Chair—also a trombonist with the Cape Symphony—if he would be interested. He was.

In February, Scharr invited Holger Bach, a fellow music educator from the Thomas Mann Schule in Lübeck, Germany, and trombonist with the Lubeck Symphony Orchestra, into the classroom via Zoom to teach a master class to FA’s brass band ensemble. In March, Scharr will return the courtesy and teach Bach's brass band a lesson on excerpts from "Aladdin," "Ode to Joy," and "Ol’ Man River."

Bach had the FA musicians play movements from German composer Tielman Susato's "Three Dances," an early brass ensemble classic. He focused on their breathing and told them to match it to the first trumpet, Fofi Verslycke '28. He instructed the other musicians to listen for Verslycke’s audible air intake and collectively play on the exhale rather than counting (1, 2, 3) for better coordination. Doing this allowed the trumpets, trombones, baritone, and tubas to synchronize, resulting in a beautiful harmony.

This is not FA's first music exchange with a German student music group. In 2001 and 2003, former Academic Dean and Orchestra Director Dr. Deborah Bradley worked with the orchestra lead at the Hölderlin Gymnasium in Heidelberg to create an in-person exchange. First, the German students came to FA, and the two orchestras performed for the Falmouth community. Later in the year, the FA students traveled to Germany to reciprocate.

In bridging continents through the universal language of music, Falmouth Academy continues its tradition of cultural exchange, enriching the lives of its students and fostering connections that resonate far beyond the confines of the classroom.
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