Modern Art, Modern Music; armed for a modern life

WordPress challenges us to blog about our favorite college courses.

Easy to answer, as long as I can name two.

Oberlin College, the early 1960s.  A course in modern art, making great use of the Allen Memorial Art Museum.  A course in modern music, drawing on the resources of the renowned Conservatory of Music.  Great teachers, inspired collections, historical perspectives.

In each course, I learned about not only the key players (Kandinsky, Picasso, Brancusi, Neel, Stravinsky, Berg, Hovhaness), but also the evolutionary roles they played.  I learned that critics often get it wrong.  That “not getting it” is not an excuse to stop looking and listening.  That the arts need our support.  That our eyes and ears are often more comfortable with the masterpieces of previous times, making it difficult to appreciate cutting edge art and music of our times.

Did these courses contribute to my French major? Rarely.

Did they prepare me to be a career counselor? Well, yes.  They taught me that my way is not the only one, that my perceptions are only mine, that standards of expression are constantly moving on.  And they gave me an abiding sympathy for the artists and musicians around us, who have trained intensely and who now compete for the few jobs in their fields.

Did they prepare me for other aspects of my life? Yes, they turned me into a concert-goer and museum attendee.  And for the past decade, I’ve been a docent at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC.  Here it is my pleasure to introduce visitors to a collection of the works of women ranging from the Italian Renaissance to today.  I could not do this work unless I had learned to grow comfortable with discomfort.  This I learned in my favorite classes a long time ago.

Thanks for asking, WordPress.  It’s a fascinating question.  Do you suppose they ask this sort of thing in job interviews?

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