‘Julliard charged a whole lot more than us’ 

n his capacity as the Executive and Artistic Director of the Savannah Music Festival, Rob Gibson spends most of his year coming up with new and inventive ways to educate people (both locals and tourists alike) in the beauty and wonder of music in all its shapes and forms. He does this by planning, booking and seeing to fruition Savannah’s most prestigious arts-related event, a two-week-plus showcase of some of the finest musical talent the world has to offer. And yet, while those efforts are surely as educational as they are entertaining, that sort of work is a far cry from being in a classroom and imparting information, wisdom and informed opinion directly from teacher to pupil. That’s what Gibson did for nine years at both The Julliard School, and at New York University before relocating to the Coastal Empire – and it’s a type of work that he freely admits he misses from time to time. Now, with the advent of the Savannah Music Festival’s latest foray into continuing education, Music 101, he’ll get to take his place behind the lectern once more – but this time around, his classload will be far less time consuming. The series of eight weekly Monday night classes begins October 3rd, and runs through the end of November. They’ll be held at either the Coastal Georgia Center or at trinity United Methodist Church, and will cover an unusually ambitious range of genres, from opera to jazz and even motion picture soundtracks. Gibson says that so far, response to news of this upcoming series has been overwhelmingly positive. “So far it’s been great. As more and more people find out that we’re doing this, they want to be involved.” Gibson says the basic idea for Music 101 was his, and that while he won’t personally teach all the classes (he’ll welcome a couple of guest speakers – such as piano scholar Julian Friedman and retired Armstrong professor and opera fanatic Joe Killorin), the core curriculum is based around lesson plans he developed while at the aforementioned institutes for well over a decade. “I’ve been teaching the history of the blues and jazz for fifteen years. Those classes were sort of meant as continuing education for the adult public, but I taught a lot of grad students as well. It’s an overview of American music. Let me tell you something, Julliard charged a whole lot more than us! (laughs)” Gibson says that he’s not getting paid for his time, and that he views this as a way to not only raise funds for the Savannah Music Festival itself, but as a way to raise interest in – and awareness of – the importance of music. Promoting music as a nourishing force in life is also the main reason that the series’ private sponsors, Dr. Nicholas Costrini and his wife Coral (both longtime supporters of the local arts world) became involved. “My wife and I feel that the Music Festival has become one of the pivotal cultural events of our entire community,” Costrini says. “We’d been discussing how we might become more involved when this Music 101 idea was presented to us. We liked it for several reasons. First, it has a slightly different twist than just sponsoring a concert. Many people may be interested in opera or classical music or jazz, but shy away from them because they feel they don’t have enough background in the music’s history to fully appreciate it. This allows average person to learn from experts in a very comfortable setting. “I think that’s how best to improve the entirety of the Festival in the long term. The more people you have in the area who are knowledgeable about music, the more likely they’ll participate, and the more likely it is that their quality of life will improve. After all, that’s what music does – it improves the quality of our lives.” For the past few weeks, Gibson has been refreshing himself by pulling out old source materials and the rare archival audio and video recordings he’ll use as aids. He says he’s enjoying himself immensely and recommends the classes for anyone college age and older. “I’m not saying a high schooler couldn’t get something out of this,” he adds, “but they’d have to already be interested in a pretty diverse range of music.” Some area high schoolers may wind up learning this material by proxy. Gibson proudly notes that the Chatham County school system has approved sending over thirty teachers to the series so they can return and pass along the information they’ve learned to their own students. “With any luck,” says Gibson with a smile, “from now on out we’ll offer something like this every year.” For a complete schedule of classes and registration info, go to www.savannahmusicfestival.org.

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Jim Reed

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