On A Life in Music


I’ve had the great good fortune of spending much of the past fifteen years of my life helping to found and grow a community music school here in my current home of Evanston, IL. The name chosen for our organization was ‘The Musical Offering’. My co-founder (musical dynamo and genuinely beautiful person Kirsten Hedegaard) and I shared a belief in the ability of music to transcend all types of perceived boundaries–cultural, religious, age, what have you. And, for us, the music and person of JS Bach represented this transcendence at its most profound. Bach’s music communicates in a way that gets right to the heart (literally and figuratively) of what it means to be human–challenges and speaks to our intellect and our emotions. He was a master of his craft; a deeply spiritual man with a belief in his own personal mission of magnifying that which is good and beautiful in this world through a musical medium.

His musical world-view helped shape our approach to teaching–fostering a deep love of music combined with rigorous skill-building components. Challenging our students to learn and grow via basic elements of music–solfege and other ear-training, note and rhythmic reading skills, technical development…. In other words, musical literacy.

In future posts, I’ll trumpet the wonderful work of brilliant researchers such as Dr. Nina Kraus at Northwestern University–and those teachers who incorporate this fabulous research into their teaching. We’re growing brains and increasing auditory development, in addition to nurturing artistically-aware and expressive human beings.

During these intervening years, I’ve often been asked about our name. Are we a religious organization? (Depends on your feelings about Bach, I suppose…) Are we a yoga center? (No clue about that one.) Are we a retreat center? (I like to think so, from a musical perspective–folks seem to feel very much at home here–it’s nice.)

No, we’re a community music school in every sense of the word. All ages, all levels of skills–catering to and supporting many types of musical interests. But at the heart of it all is my belief that music study and performance creates a very special type of community–beyond words or the commonplace. Music study allows us to find our perceived limits and, with patience and perseverance, expand beyond them. Music study allows us the opportunity to connect more deeply with our humanity. Music study cannot be rushed or forced–it takes its own sweet time and never ends. Always something new and interesting to explore around every corner.

Just like the music of JS Bach.

Great guy. Highly recommended.

Rick Ferguson