5 Minutes With John Buehler

John Buehler

A: When I was in high school, I alternately had really good music teachers and not so good. So I was aware that there was a lot of room at the top. ... I knew that there were a number of levels of success in teaching music. And my family ­— my parents and grandparents and the rest of my family — always gave me permission to do those kinds of things. Music was one of the things that our family did without any stigma. They were active in church music but not musicians, not really teachers. They used music for their own comfort.

A: You know, I think it was, more or less, all kinds of music. As a kid, I really liked rock ‘n’ roll, and I really liked the personalities involved in that. But we didn’t learn that in school, and I like the music that we learned in school. And today, there aren’t very many kinds of music I don’t care about.

A: As a young musician, I was a trombone player, so I liked all of the jazz trombonists especially.

A: There are a number of stunning professional choruses in the world. Swedish Radio Choir, a number of nationalist choirs like that. There are some excellent choruses in the United States. The (Phoenix Chorale), the Kansas City Chorale, a number of organizations like that. And, quite honestly, many cities have great professional or semi-professional choruses that offer concerts to the public a number of times a year, and the Cannon Beach Chorus fits in that continuum, as do most community choruses.

A: Most of my favorite songs are whatever songs we’re working on in the groups that I’m involved with at the time. But if I had to pick only a few pieces to listen to forever, I would like to hear the choral works of Richard Strauss.

A: You know, there have been numerous students who were uncomfortable in some settings — academic or social or whatever — who were just so much more comfortable doing music and especially in a group, and especially in a singing group where there weren’t any music stands or instruments between that singer and the rest of the world. Yeah, those are stunningly gratifying times.

And now that I’ve got some time that I can look back on, there have been a number of students — I mean, a lot of students — who have made comments about the things that they remember of our work together that I didn’t realize were so important (to them) at the time. I can’t tell you the number of times a kid who now is a middle-aged adult would say, “You know I’ll never forget such-and-such a comment, or a time in class or in a rehearsal or whatever” that was just so deeply meaningful to them.

A: Music theory is the grammar of written music. Just as there are verbs and adverbs and adjectives and grammatical sense to writing, there is music sense to music writing, and we call that “music theory.”

A: I think it does ... and that’s another area in which I’m really interested: the psychology of music. What is it about a specific piece that gratifies us significantly in significant numbers? I mean, what is it about Richard Strauss’ choral works that I like? Well, there are a whole bunch of things that all come together in his works that really speak to me. You can take those things apart theoretically and explain why that’s pleasing. ... There are a number of elements in music: Harmony, dissonance, consonance, rhythm, unity, variety are all things that we find pleasurable, and the study of them suggests why we find them pleasurable.

A: It speaks to things that we can’t express in other ways as fully as music does. I think there are elements of music that make us more — more sensitive, more excited, more peaceful, more highly charged, that raise our blood pressure or lower it, that cause us to get emotional, whether it’s anger (in the case of war music) or whether it’s sadness. ... Music speaks to us in ways that other things can’t, and the more one is involved with it, the more it speaks to us.

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