today’s music history

Ear budsOld dead white guys. Guidonian hand. Sturm and Drang. WAGNER. Every professional musician must go through what usually seems to be wading through hundreds of years of probably-important-but-I-just-don’t-see-why details called Music History. This collection of information is supposed to teach us where we are going based on where we have been, but we get so lost in “sacred music of the 17th century” that we fall asleep and forget to ask how this helps us to be better musicians. Knowing when Mozart died only helps you slightly.

What I want is more knowledge about why they did what they did. For example, when Rossini wrote lyrics to “Di Tanti Palpiti” and says “It will be happy – my heart says, my destiny – near you” does it help you understand it more knowing he wrote the lyrics while waiting for risotto at a restaurant? I think it would. History books

So after years of complaining that music history classes haven’t found a way to connect music of today that all humans understand and connect it to music history of years past I just about fell off my chair when I came across Switched On Pop – a podcast of a songwriter and musicologist that did just that.

The first episode I listened to really struck a chord (ha!) because a few months ago a student complained that her middle school music history class was just so boring and I said “wouldn’t it be great if they could explain it to you and connect it to current artists students today like, such as Taylor Swift?” And what was the first episode I listened to by these two smarty-pants? The Oeuvre of Taylor Swift. At a later episode they equate how primal dance beats of “boom, boom, pow” can be traced back to a French renaissance composition of a cappella. (Insert mind blown emoji here.)

So I thought I would list a few podcasts that I currently love learning things from, in hopes that something sparks that “what? I have to tell someone this random fact!”

I’d love to hear if there are any other hidden gems I’m missing out on in this new (to me) world of podcasts! Here I’m listing a fun one about the evolution of the Star Spangled Banner (origins up through Beyonce!)

Star Spangled Banner


Texas strings camp

**Just to be clear, check for any explicit language if you are concerned (should be marked on each episode.)

>> photos by @creativecoffee, filters by color storyafterlight


19th century cellists and their “classical holds”

Per a conversation I found myself in the other day, I have realized that I am woefully behind in my life-long search to understand and play the cello to the best of my ability – particularly overdue in studying the history of the cello.

Sure, I’ve been to Florence and seen the old Stradivari and even been to the not-so-distant (but worthy) National Music Museum in Vermillion, SD to see the worlds oldest collection of musical instruments. But how well do I know the forefathers of this instrument and why they made the choices they did?

I think it is time to start investigating, and making it a journey that my students can ride along with me (kiddos, Breval was a real cellist – not just some composer.)Amedeo modgiliani cello

To start off I think we should just remember that this thing was invented and worked on over centuries – not just spontaneously made as it is today. For example, the end pin did not always exist. Cellist used to hold their instruments up with their calves! Imagine my daily workout that would be : )

For a bit of brief history on some 19th century French cellists from, stop by here to read about their accomplishments and old-style of bow holds!

image: Amedeo Modgiliani, Cello Player, before 1920