I didn’t wrap up the Amherst experience because I was busy
writing the evaluation form. And by the time I was through with
that there were other things I wanted to think about.
But I did promise to let you know how it turned out. You’ll be
glad to know that the Saturday concert was really good, and lots
of people (including world class faculty members who didn’t even
know me) came up to me at the party and told me how good the
serpent playing was.
I’m not going to give you the parts from the evaluation about
individuals, but here’s something I wrote about the workshop in
This is from the section that asked for comments about the
daily schedule and kinds of classes. I wrote:
I was concerned that there didn’t seem to be any classes in anything
suitable for beginners. I don’t mean beginners in the sense that they
don’t know the fingering of a soprano recorder, but people who haven’t
previously had the opportunity for the kind of ensemble experience
that Amherst offers. I notice a lot of the people who were beginners when
I first came 20 years ago are now populating the advanced classes.
But we’re all going to die sometime, and if you don’t do beginner
classes now, where will the advanced classes come from 20 years from
I would think the faculty should be more aware of this problem, since
presumably most of them make a substantial portion of their income
from teaching, and if there aren’t places where people who want to
learn something can meet the teachers, where will they get their
Those questions come from someone who doesn’t have an association with
a university. I’m aware that if you know as a teenager that music is
something you want to study, and you go to the right kind of high
school (I didn’t) and college (I did, but of course nowhere was that
good forty years ago for early music), you can get a lot of what I’m talking about from
your academic experience. But one of the strengths of Amherst, and
the early music movement in general, used to be that people who
hadn’t had that experience in school could take it up later in life.
It’s not clear that that’s still happening.
And of course if there’d been brass ensemble classes for beginners,
there would have been a place for a low-level cornetto player, even if
nobody wanted to touch a serpent. My cornetto playing isn’t
performance quality, but if you had a beginning loud wind ensemble
with people who couldn’t count, it would have been easier to teach
with me in it.