MULTI-MEDIA EDUCATION PROJECT “DVORAK IN AMERICA”
BRINGS AMERICAN HISTORY TO LIFE
“We took a trip back in time and learned more than any book or movie could offer.” –– Eleventh grade student, Columbia high School, Maplewood, New Jersey
“Dvorak in America” is a multi-media National Education Project sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities. Designed for middle schools and high schools, the project uses a book, a DVD, poetry, and live performance to explore a spectrum of topics in American history, including the Indian Wars, slavery and the slave trade, Buffalo Bill, and The Song of Hiawatha. The essential context is the search for American identity at the turn of the 20th century. The essential questions are “What is America?” and “Who is an American?”
“No less than Alexis de Tocqueville, Dvorak in America illustrates how an eminent foreign visitor could clarify the American experience” –– Jay Gavitt, Social Studies Subject Chair, Columbia High School
Middle and high schools integrate the materials into history, social studies, music, and language arts classes. As overseen and facilitated by Joe Horowitz, the project is tailored to flexibly address local needs and capacities. Horowitz supports curricular development, takes part as a classroom instructor, and helps to coordinate school activities with symphonic programming that brings the music to life.
“Dvorak in America” has been filed-tested by the NEH in both inner-city and suburban schools with multi-ethnic populations.
“Dvorak in America” was evaluated by the Center for Educational Partnerships in Music (Georgia State Unversity). The findings included:
“student and teacher enthusiasm, student learning, and positive changes in student attitudes toward music.”
“increased interest in music generally, and symphonic music specifically, as well as greater curiosity about music's role in American history and culture."
The evaluators praised “Dvorak in America” for furnishing “unique and effective tools for depicting the contribution of African Americans to American music and culture, and for studying the contributions of other minority groups.”
“Learning about a founder of American music shed light on the music that we listen to today. This experience has been an unforgettable one that we will remember for years to come. Music is the international language and something everybody can connect with.” –– Claire Hyman and Alex King, Columbia High School
Horowitz has also overseen “Dvorak in America” instruction in History and Music classrooms in Boston, Brooklyn, and Elgin (Ill.). A similar outreach effort is pending in Bridgeport, Ct. (via the Bridgeport Symphony). His various “Dvorak in America” projects have been initiated by the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Elgin Symphony, the Nashville Symphony (in association with the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University), the New England Conservatory, the University of Texas at Austin (in association with the Austin Symphony and the Bullock Texas State History Museum), the New Jersey Symphony, the Pacific Symphony (Orange Co., Calif.). In 2004, he received a certificate of commendation from the Parliament of the Czech Republic, “for his exceptional explorations – both as a scholar and as the organizer of Dvorak festivals throughout the United States – of Dvorak’s historic sojourn in America.”
Horowitz’s classroom work has typically linked to symphonic concerts – sometimes Young People’s Concerts, sometimes mainstream subscription concerts, sometimes in-school student concerts. Frequently, such concerts have incorporated the visual presentation for the Largo and Scherzo of the New World Symphony Horowitz created with Peter Bogdanoff of UCLA, and/or the seven-minute “Hiawatha Melodrama”Horowitz created with Michael Beckerman of NYU.
⇒ Use the controls below to listen to the Hiawatha melodrama
At the Schuyler Middle School in Brooklyn, students hosted their own “Dvorak in America” program, as performed by the school orchestra supplemented by members of the Brooklyn Philharmonic. One seventh grader impersonated Dvorak and declaimed his famous endorsement of “Negro melodies” as a sermon.
“The writer and consultant Joseph Horowitz has long urged orchestras to re-invent themselves as miniature conservatories and cultural centers. Horowitz and the musicologist Robert Winter have created a set of teaching tools, focusing on Dvorak’s American residency. The great Czech composer, who grew up in abject poverty, heard African-American spirituals in 1892 and predicted that African-Americans would shape the future of American music. Jeannette Thurber brought Dvorak to America, and invited African-Americans to study with him free of charge. One student was the composer Will Marion Cook, who later helped invent the African-American music, became an early jazz bandleader, and served as a mentor to Duke Ellington. Because one woman in the Gilded Age decided that music should be taught differently, a new tributary opened in American culture. More people should learn this story in school” – Alex Ross, The New Yorker (Sept. 4, 2006)