Rock and Roll Goes Classical

Tuesday, January 29: 10 a.m.
Posted by Kathryn Metz
A student channels Elvis Presley at 2013 "Teachers Rock" event that examined rock and other genres

Miami University of Ohio’s Dr. Ricardo Averbach believes that even seemingly disparate musical styles can come together in powerful ways. As the conductor of the University Symphony Orchestra, Oxford Chamber Orchestra, and annual opera production, Dr. Averbach also collaborates regularly with Miami’s world music ensemble director. Fusing classical music and world music poses its own challenges, but musicians are often even more reticent to mix classical and rock and roll, despite a long tradition of marrying the two. One need only listen to any Phil Spector, Gamble and Huff or Arif Mardin–produced songs for examples. In fact, the Rock Hall's education department currently offers a class called “Ambassador to the Orchestra: The Arranger in Rock and Roll,” where students listen to and examine the music of Maxwell, Dusty Springfield, Metallica and the Beatles to explore the intersection of classical and rock and roll. The Rock Hall had partnered with classical music organizations before, including Red {an orchestra}, Contemporary Youth Orchestra and Cleveland Orchestra, so when Dr. Averbach and CODA’s President Dr. Anthony Holland of Skidmore College approached us with the idea of a collaboration, we were excited about the opportunity. 

This month, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's education department co-hosted its quarterly teacher professional development workshop, Teachers Rock, with the College Orchestra Director’s Association (CODA). 

Naturally, Rock Hall staff and CODA directors thought that it would be a good opportunity to highlight the connections between rock and roll and other genres, with performances and creative arrangements of familiar popular music songs. More than 90 teaching professionals – orchestra directors and teachers from around the country – attended “Teachers Rock: Rock the Classical,” listened to the education department's abbreviated course before several ensembles from Miami University and Northern Kentucky University took the stage, playing classical arrangements of songs by the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel and Nat "King" Cole as well as an original piece inspired by Elvis Presley, which involved a bassoonist dressed as the King himself. Brahms lovers and Rolling Stones rockers equally participated in the event, proving that their respective musical worlds are not so far apart.

In this clip, Miami University of Ohio's Dr. Ricardo Averbach and Miami University's Oxford Chamber Orchestra performs the Beatles' "Penny Lane," in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's Foster Theater.



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