Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Music we’re thankful for

By Alyssa Bender


Thanksgiving is upon us in the US. Before the OUP Music team headed home for some turkey and stuffing, we compiled a list of what we are most thankful for, musically speaking. Read on for our thoughts, and leave your own in the comments. Happy Thanksgiving!

“I am thankful for my primary school teacher’s unshakeable belief that everyone has some musical ability. She encouraged everyone to sing or play an instrument, and if you showed any inclination to continue you knew you had her full support. Music was fun, and I don’t think it crossed our minds to question whether were any good at it or not: we just assumed we all were because she told us so! I’m thankful to Mrs. Jones for instilling that self-belief into my six-year-old self.”
Anwen Greenaway, Promotion Manager (New Music), Sheet Music

“Recently, every time I sit down at the organ to play my Sunday postlude (usually a selection from J.S. Bach’s Orgelbüchlein), I’m so thankful that I have an instrument to practice and perform on, which is something I did not have for the first four of my eight years and counting in New York City. Playing organ music, especially organ music written by Bach, activates parts of my brain that otherwise remain pretty dormant, and the physicality of playing the instrument is intensely satisfying for me. Thankful for the training I received to play this instrument, thankful for having an instrument at my disposal!”
Meg Wilhoite, Assistant Editor, Grove Music Online/Oxford Music Online

“Now that the Internet has come to dominate music, it’s much more difficult for people to find a single artist as a touchpoint. Your friend goes nuts to American hard-core as you silently appreciate shoe-gaze. Artists that dominate the music market are often defined more by love and hate than by a unified opinion. You love Lady Gaga and hate Justin Bieber, or vice versa. Arguments about the merits of either artist are likely to lead to no friends, so common ground must be found only in the opinion of meat dresses and hair styles. So when “Gangnam Style” became a viral video hit, I expected the same divisional arguments. But something odd happened – everyone liked it. In a language most listeners don’t understand, Psy satirizes overly-stylized pop videos and the culture of an affluent Seoul neighborhood, and presents one of the goofiest dances known to mankind. The song and video are fun and making fun of themselves at the same time. Endless parodies and imitations appeared. Gang wars broke out over the dance. And you can’t hate it.”
Alice Northover, Social Media Manager

“I’m thankful for my parents encouraging me to start taking piano lessons (and talking me out of quitting) when I was five. Playing piano — and music in general — ended up playing a major role in my life growing up and enabled me to make a lot of great friends through the groups I accompanied. While my piano is still at my parents’ house in Pennsylvania, I look forward to the day when I have an apartment big enough to move it in with me!”
Alyssa Bender, Marketing Assistant, Academic/Trade

“I am thankful for the many great dance venues in New York City — from Lincoln Center, to the Joyce Theater, to Dance New Amsterdam, to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, just to name a few — and the staff and especially the volunteers who make it possible to see fantastic performances in each of these places. If you are planning to visit New York City this winter, or if you live here and enjoy dance, will you let me know what you plan to see?” (Email Norm at norman[dot]hirschy[at]oup[dot]com)
Norm Hirschy, Editor, Music and Dance

“It recently dawned on me just how grateful I am for the music of Benjamin Britten. Fortunately for me, Britten’s birthday falls on Thanksgiving this year, so I have the perfect excuse for publically expressing my gratitude. I was lucky enough to sing his music when I was a kid—I have particular fondness for the song “Cuckoo!”, which Britten wrote in the 1930s and was recently featured, with several other of his works, in Wes Anderson’s film Moonrise Kingdom. It was little pieces like that that showed me how magical songs could be, however simple they appeared, and I have been dedicated to Britten’s music ever since. I’ve also found that several other artists I admire were also exposed to his music at a young age, and discovering the incorporation of Britten’s music into the works of Anderson and Jeff Buckley was thrilling.”
Jessica Barbour, Associate Editor, Reference, Oxford Music Online/Grove Music Online

“I am thankful for music, which has surrounded, consoled and inspired me since before I can remember.”
Carol Barnett, composer of Angelus ad virginum and ‘Shepherds, rejoice!’ in An American Christmas

“I’m thankful to my Gran for introducing me to ballet dancing and for taking me to see so many Tchaikovsky ballets as a child. It was the love she instilled in me for Swan Lake and The Nutcracker that encouraged me to take an interest in classical music. Without her, I might never have learnt the flute, studied music at university, or started working in the OUP music department!”
Emma Shires, Editorial Assistant, Sheet Music

“I am thankful for the music of Tchaikovsky, in particular The Nutcracker Suite. Even though my dreams of becoming a ballerina are over, whenever I hear his beautiful Ballet Suites I am reminded of that little girl in her tutu and her sheer excitement of being taken to see The Nutcracker at the age of four (that little girl was me, once upon a time).”
Ruth Fielder, Sales Administrator, Sheet Music

“I’m thankful my 11-year-old son still lets me play guitar with him, even though I’m now relegated to back-up.”
Anna-Lise Santella, Editor, Grove Music/Oxford Music Online

“I’m thankful for my neighbours who don’t seem to mind the noise that comes from my flat when I’m practising. I can imagine that living above or next to musicians can be awful, but they are always pleasant and have never complained, making my life a lot easier!”
Lucy Allen, Print & Web Marketing Assistant, Sheet Music

“This Thanksgiving season, I am especially thankful for my piano teacher Mrs. James K. Bence for providing me the opportunity to take piano lessons as a child. You see, Mrs. Bence was white and I am black — living on different sides of the track. In small town Alabama, USA, during the late 1960s and 1970s, it was still culturally unacceptable in the minds of many southerners for blacks and whites to share life experiences. But every Saturday, I was welcomed into Mrs. Bence’s home for my piano lessons. I didn’t find out until I was an adult the difficulties and harassment Mrs. Bence experienced from her neighbors because she gave lessons to me and other black children. Mrs. Bence was a tender but brave-hearted woman. She’s gone now but a part of her lives in every song I compose.”
Rosephanye Powell, Co-editor of Spirituals for Upper Voices

“My life and career seem to be continually in a state of learning and growing. This is thanks to the examples shown and benchmarks set for me by many significant mentors in my life. I’m happy to thank them! Roger Wischmeier was not only an organ teacher but also a complete church musician who taught me accompanying, hymn playing, choir directing from the organ, and the priority of text. Eleanor Murray taught me that keyboard improvisation was most effective when it was as musically compelling as the spirit within the soul of the words. Alexander Fiorillo, my piano teacher, valued my expressivity but did not allow me to get by with that at the expense of accurate technique. He also knew exactly how far to push me before I lost my spirit! Robert Page is still my finest example that cross-over repertoire of all kinds should be prepared and performed at the highest level of performance practice and enthusiasm, thus blending musical integrity with stylistic diversity. Dale Warland is the benchmark for pristine and exacting choral preparation while exploring the cutting edge of new repertoire and the interaction between artist, performer, and audience. Finally, Wesley Balk gave insight and specific curriculum to blending the technique and artistry of the Complete Singer/Actor into an amazing complete performer! I continue to learn from and am grateful for these mentors’ gifts to me and hope to pass them on to those with whom I interact.”
Jerry Rubino, choral director/arranger/pianist and editor of OUP’s A Merry Little Christmas and An American Christmas

“I will always be thankful for opportunities I was given as a member of my county youth orchestra. I started playing the violin in the string training orchestra when I was 11, moving on to the full symphony orchestra of c. 100 players at 13. In this orchestra I discovered the most amazing music, including symphonies by Mahler, Elgar, Walton, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, and Shostakovich. We also visited some incredible places, with tours to South Africa and Chile. Perhaps most of all, though, I’m grateful to have been introduced to like-minded people, many of whom are still great friends today. I even met my husband in the orchestra!”
Robyn Elton, Senior Editor/Music Department

“I never thought I would admit to this, but I am thankful for my sister’s incessant singing. Growing up, recitals and other various performances were always big family outings, and until I was old enough to stay home by myself, I was forced into a party dress, shoved in the minivan, and instructed to sit still and be quiet while my sister took the stage. To this day, I have the entire Christmas program of her singing group, the Colorado Children’s Chorale, memorized. (I think I may remember more lyrics than she does.) Fifteen years later not much has changed, except for my appreciation. My parents are still first in line to attend any and all performances, but now they make the trek from their home in Denver to my sister’s new home in Baltimore. I hop on the bus from New York City and meet them at the theater, thankful that we can still do these things together just as we used to, even though we live so far apart.”
Victoria Davis, Marketing Coordinator, Online Reference

What are you thankful for? Leave your thoughts in the comments. And in the meantime, check out our Spotify playlist of Thanksgiving-themed music!

Alyssa Bender joined Oxford University Press as a marketing assistant in July 2011. She works on academic/trade history, literature, and music titles, and tweets @OUPMusic. Read her previous blog posts.

Oxford Reference is the home of Oxford’s quality reference publishing, bringing together over 2 million entries, many of which are illustrated, into a single cross-searchable resource. Newly relaunched with a brand new look and feel, and specifically designed to meet the needs and expectations of reference users, Oxford Reference provides quality, up-to-date reference content at the click of a button. Made up of two main collections, both fully integrated and cross-searchable, Oxford Reference couples Oxford’s trusted A-Z reference material with an intuitive design to deliver a discoverable, up-to-date, and expanding reference resource.

Subscribe to the OUPblog via email or RSS.
Subscribe to only music articles on the OUPblog via email or RSS.

Recent Comments

There are currently no comments.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *