Juilliard alumnus Michael Thurber — visiting Dover Court on Tuesday from The Juilliard School in New York — gave five intimate workshops to students of Year 5 and Year 6, as well as to a group of promising Year 7 to Year 10 musicians.
Each workshop began with Michael introducing the anatomy of the upright bass, led by questions students had put forward.
The Juilliard alumnus then played his arrangement of ‘Blackbird’ by the Beatles. All the students were spellbound by the antiphony between the bass line and melody line that Thurber sang. This led to a call-and-response between Michael and the students, who used both syllabic scatting and triadic intervals in their echoing phrases.
Students were then introduced to an array of musical styles by watching Thurber’s YouTube video, ‘An Abridged History of Western Music in 16 Genres’, which included ‘What a Wonderful World’ in 16 different styles. (Click here to see video)
The video transitioned smoothly into a discussion about the characteristics of the blues, with reference to one of the Juilliard-NAE core works that Year 5 and Year 6 studied in Term 1. Thurber also showed how other music, such as Chuck Berry’s ‘Johnny B. Goode’, had the same characteristics as the blues.
In each workshop, a student volunteer performed a tune for Thurber (and the student audience) as a way of reciprocating the gift of music. In some cases, Thurber even performed an improvised bass line accompaniment with the volunteer.
Each workshop ended with a Q & A session that provided students the opportunity to ask questions about Michael's influences, inspiration, performances and other areas of musical interest.
The ‘Gifted and Talented’ (GAT) workshop, involving students from Year 7, 8, 9 and 10, finished the day of inspiring music in style. Mr Fernandez and Michael improvised on the tune of ‘Blue Monk’ as a starter to the topic, ‘Rhythmic Collaboration’. Michael led activities that focused on rhythmic and melodic elements that work well in improvisation. Once of these activities included a creation of a short impromptu rap over a bass vamp, whilst students maintained the pulse of the vamp as they improvised verbal subdivisions of the beat.
Michael Thurber was excellent, both in rapport with students as he quickly gauged what was relevant to their age group, and in his polished performances on upright and electric bass. All of our students came away with amazing new experiences in music, sound and rhythm.
Head of Music