Muffitt to speak on students as 21st-century musicians

Emma Morehart | Staff Writer

Students in Chautauqua’s School of Music have more to learn than technique, intonation and timing. They also have to grasp time travel.

“The difference is that, whereas the Beethoven symphony hasn’t changed since it was written in the early 19th century, the context in which it’s being performed and heard is dramatically different,” said Timothy Muffitt, music director of the Music School Festival Orchestra. “So we, as musicians, have to have an awareness of that.”

Muffitt said the school trains students to be 21st-century musicians. This type of musician faces a new set of responsibilities, challenges and opportunities, but all are actively engaged in it every day.

At 2 p.m. today in the Hall of Philosophy, Muffitt will explain these differences, how the arts have engaged with society historically and how that engagement continues to evolve. His lecture will be called “Chautauqua and the 21st Century Musician: Preparing Emerging Talent for the Challenges and Opportunities of Today’s Artistic Climate.”

Muffitt himself is a 21st-century musician and conducts the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra and the Lansing Symphony Orchestra during the off-season. In these roles, Muffitt learns the same skills he teaches to Chautauqua’s young musicians.

The way students perform the music does not change, but the approach to marketing, education or program planning has to cater to a different era and audience.

“I think all of us are trying to realize the composer’s intentions when we approach a piece of music,” Muffitt said. “And now as we look back over those hundreds of years between choose-your-favorite-composer and now, what has happened is what we, as musicians, can offer that will shed light on understanding and creating … a deeper and more powerful experience for the listener.”

Chautauqua is one of the best places for this kind of music education. The Institution is uniquely conducive to developing the 21st-century musician because of its global perspective, Muffitt said.

Chautauqua also can be a place for spiritual growth, which is made clear by the Department of Religion’s outreach to the art departments. Part of the benefit of studying at Chautauqua is the interdisciplinary perspective students can learn from lectures like the “Art and Soul” Interfaith Series this week.

“The two go hand in hand,” Muffitt said. “Art is not without soul.”