Do you Score Study?

It’s the end of March Break in Ontario. Our family is on the way home from a family road trip to the low country in South Carolina. It has been two years and three months since we last visited our second home near the ocean. Oh how we have missed it! 

On this trip I was reminded once again of the beautiful connection between the people and nature in the South. The tall towering pines, the sweet sound of the cicadas on a humid day, and the smell of the salty air all have a mystical presence. They embody and personify so much more than just an element of nature. Locals can tell you the weather just by the smell of the air and the feeling in their bones. This kind of relationship is something special that only a Southerner can truly appreciate. 

Being an artist is all about unique relationships. The relationship between musician and composer; musician and conductor; artist and music; artist and teacher; artist and audience; individual and the artist within. Relationships that are so much deeper and more complex than the theoretical elements of music.

The relationship between the artist and composer is an interesting one. Often the composer is no longer living or is a person we will never meet or have the chance to chat with. And yet, we study their music with reverence in hopes of conveying their intention for the work and seeking a sincere personal connection too. 

Score study is the way for an artist to build a relationship with the composer: to develop a deep understanding of the heart, mind, and design of a composer’s work. DO NOT underestimate the significance of this relationship. As musicians we often learn the notes and rhythms and away we go. But there is so much more – something deeper, richer. 

To become a confident, skilled, and authentic performer, we must build a relationship with the composer and their work through the clues they leave us in the score. 

This week I have prepared a free resource for you to begin your journey into score study. By colour-coding your music, you start to bring the music to life. Score study helps us to embody and personify the elements beautifully woven into a piece of music by the composer. Delve deeper. Connect with more than just the notes and rhythms. Be curious. Get to know the composer and the ways in which they have created and shaped the musical story.   

Symphony orchestra and opera conductor Kenneth Kiesler teaches that, “score study is the conductor’s [and artist’s] privilege and responsibility. It’s a lifelong task, and the process can be expected to mature with experience. Score study is not clinical, academic work; rather, it is a pathway to understanding the creative impulses of the human spirit.” 

As performers, our relationship with the composer inspires, clarifies, and ignites our connection with the music so that we can build a relationship with our audience that is authentic and meaningful. 

I encourage you to print the bookmarks below in colour and keep them in your repertoire books for quick reference. Use the suggested colours and markings to mark your score (aka music). Let the composer’s intentions and meaning come alive as you find a deeper and personal connection to the music and story. 

Happy score marking! 

Andrea “Score Study Queen” Donais


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