Spotlight On Cleveland Orchestra Music Study Groups with Rose Breckenridge

Friday, March 26, 2010 ·

The Cleveland Orchestra presents Music Study Groups at six Greater Cleveland locations in partnership with several community organizations — Cuyahoga County Public Library (four branches), Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library, and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church — as part of the Orchestra’s Community Music Initiative.

Dr. Rose Breckenridge teaches these classes for adults, in tandem with the Orchestra’s subscription concerts at Severance Hall. We recently spoke with Rose about her experiences teaching the Music Study Groups, and what participants take away at the end of the season.


What do you enjoy most about teaching Music Study Groups?
I’ve always loved to teach – I have a passion for classical music and I love sharing that with the amazing people who come to learn more about the music that The Cleveland Orchestra performs. When we’re talking about a complicated theme or an hour-long symphonic work it’s so exciting to see the lights come on when someone understands something for the first time.

I try to inspire the students to become even more interested in classical music and help them learn that it’s not just background music. There’s always something going on and they can follow it and understand it in new ways. The thrill of inspiring students to dig deeper is very exciting for me. People in the classes give me feedback, and I’m proud that over the past 15 years we’ve worked to improve the program every year.

Another part of my job that I love is presenting some of the Concert Previews that the Orchestra offers – for free – an hour before each Cleveland Orchestra subscription concert at Severance Hall. These previews offer a wonderful lineup of speakers including music historians, composers, artists, and others who provide insight into each concert’s program. It’s always a pleasure to participate.

What do participants take away from the classes?
I think for many people it’s a very meaningful experience. It’s not about Rose teaching in the classroom – it’s about people who have a love for classical music coming together to share that and learn more. It’s also a place to meet people who share similar interests.

Students have a varying degree of interest in classical music, and I try to inspire them to appreciate it more and also to learn more about The Cleveland Orchestra and all that it does. Many people start out in the Music Study Groups as students and later want to get more involved in the organization in other ways. I can recall many students who have gone on to volunteer for the Orchestra as ushers, store volunteers, and on the Women’s Committee.

Are Music Study Groups for advanced listeners or beginners?
Students of these classes are people who both love the music and also want to learn more about what’s going on in the music. We have both experienced music lovers who have studied music their entire lives and people who are new to classical music and don’t read a note of music. During class we go into depth about the composers, the lives they lived, and the historical context. I do my best to be a good storyteller and frame my presentations so that everyone can learn.

Talk about a part of the Music Study Groups about which you’re very proud.
For 20 years we’ve partnered with the Cleveland Sight Center to reach members of Northeast Ohio’s visually impaired community, who receive special services in the Music Study Groups with the support of the Cleveland Sight Center and the Orchestra’s Cull Endowment. We’re very proud that this outreach is part of the Music Study Groups.

Listen to an excerpt from a recent Music Study Group class during which Rose spoke about Richard Strauss’s tone poem Thus Spake Zarathustra (audio courtesy of Second Story Productions).

Music Study Groups are held each fall, winter, and spring at six partner locations in Greater Cleveland: Cuyahoga County Public Library (Beachwood, Brecksville, Fairview Park, and Orange Branches), Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library, and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church of Cleveland Heights.


Participants each receive a Listening Guide – a booklet with program notes, musical themes from featured compositions, and detailed information about the works that the Orchestra is performing at Severance Hall throughout the season. For more information, call Education and Community Programs at 216-231-7353, email education@clevelandorchestra.com, or download the brochure.


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