Meet Class Notes Artists The Vecchione/Erdahl Duo

by Claire Philpott, Minnesota Public Radio
January 29, 2014
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ST. PAUL, Minn. — Husband-and-wife duo Rolf Erdahl and Carrie Vecchione of this unique "oboebass!" ensemble do not have what one would generally consider normal full-time jobs. Instead, they travel regionally — and even nationally — giving their Pages of Music with Rolf and Carrie educational performances, and presenting at conferences, all while maintaining private studios at Luther and Gustavus Adolphus Colleges, and at MacPhail Center for Music, respectively.

In the past, Erdahl and Vecchione have held positions with several orchestras, including the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra (DSSO) and Winnipeg Symphony, as well as having subbed with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and Minnesota Orchestra. Prior to being Class Notes Artists, they have also been active in the SPCO CONNECT and the DSSO's Music to You education programs and have been Roster Artists with Young Artists of Minnesota and the Minnesota State Arts Board.

Some of their music is traditional folk tunes or classic orchestral pieces arranged for their unique duo, and some has been composed particularly for them, effectively creating new repertoire for the oboe-and-bass combination. Partial to all things Norwegian (folk music and Edvard Grieg especially), the Vecchione/Erdahl Duo published a musical storybook version of the Norwegian folk tale Askelad and the Silver Ducks. While reading the illustrated book, one can follow along on the accompanying CD, complete with narration and music provided by Vecchione/Erdahl (composed by illustrator Margi Griebling-Haigh).

In another children's book-related endeavor, the Duo were featured on MPR's Talking Volumes as the musical accompaniment to a live reading of local author Kate DiCamillo's The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.

All music has a purpose, whether it is to tell a story, to augment a celebration, or for someone to play at home for their own amusement. This is the lesson that the Vecchione/Erdahl Duo want their audience to take away from their performances. With music that reflects their respective cultural heritages (an Italian folk song for Vecchione and a Norwegian dance or examples of Grieg for Erdahl), to music that borders on jazz (a Scott Joplin rag, and music from the aforementioned The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane) there really is something for everyone to enjoy.

A unique aspect of this educational performance is a dramatization of the illustrated children's book Play, Mozart, Play!. The Duo expand on the text in the book by acting out their interpretations of child Mozart and his father Leopold on tour across Europe while adding musical examples of famous Mozart compositions. Erdahl reads the book and plays Leopold, and Vecchione plays young Amadeus. They aren't above being a little goofy to bring out some laughs in their young audience.

Also included in the show are detailed descriptions of the oboe and the bass, with a giant model of a double-reed as the highlight of the former and demonstrations of glissando sound effects for the latter. Both give plenty of information for a child to decide whether they would like to try either of these instruments.

After a performance at one school, the principal asked the children to raise their hands if they would now like to play either the oboe or the bass. More than half of the students raised their hands, demonstrating just how much impact even 45 minutes with two strong performers can have.

Here is what the Vecchione/Erdahl Duo had to say about giving educational performances:

When a young person sees us playing a musical instrument in front of them, they can see the blowing, bowing, and fingering that makes music happen. It is a far different experience from pushing a button on a computer to hear "automatic" music. I love when students eagerly come to talk to us after a performance to tell us that they enjoyed the music, or that they thought we were awesome, or that they want to play the oboe (something they probably weren't thinking when they entered the room)! In 45 minutes, we hope to provide a positive musical experience that will lead to a lifetime of choosing music!
— Carrie Vecchione

Music can reach deeply into places where it's hard for other forms of learning to make connections. It's inspiring and gratifying when we see music light up a spark in kids of all ages and abilities. It's a great testament to the power of music when you see kids get excited when they hear Mozart for the first time. It just works, and it grabs them every time!
— Rolf Erdahl

Audio:

  • Trad. Norwegian arr. Adrian Mann: The Plucked Halling
  • Edvard Grieg arr. Carrie Vecchione and Rolf Erdahl: Lonely Wanderer, Op. 43
  • Edvard Grieg arr. Carrie Vecchione and Rolf Erdahl: In the Hall of the Mountain King from Peer Gynt
  • Timothy Goplerud: Jangles Dances For Pennies

Schools:

  • Hayes Elementary — Fridley, Minn.
  • R. L. Stevenson — Fridley, Minn.
  • Saint Paul City School — Saint Paul, Minn.
  • Oak Grove Elementary — Bloomington, Minn.
  • Orchard Lake Elementary — Lakeville, Minn.
  • Rahn Elementary School of Arts and Technology — Eagan, Minn.
  • Oak Hills Elementary — Lakeville, Minn.
  • Nellie Stone Johnson Elementary — Minneapolis
  • Washburn Elementary — Bloomington, Minn.
  • Mississippi Creative Arts Magnet — Saint Paul, Minn.
  • Nokomis Montessori, South campus — Saint Paul, Minn.
  • New Millenium Academy — Minneapolis, Minn.

About the Classical MPR Class Notes Artists program this year

Now in its fifth year, the Class Notes Artists program at Classical MPR brings performers to elementary schools throughout the state of Minnesota to give educational concerts. Each performance includes a presentation about the Artists' respective instruments, as well as the style, technique, history, and traditions related to the music that they perform.

The Artists are selected for the quality of their musicianship, and for their interest in promoting music education. This year, the following Artists will collectively travel to over 50 schools in four different geographical hubs.

  • Lyz Jaakola — Greater Bemidji area

  • Silver Spruce Duo — Duluth, Cloquet, and the North Shore
  • Dolce Wind Quintet — Twin Cities
  • Artaria String Quartet — Twin Cities
  • Minneapolis Guitar Quartet — Twin Cities
  • Vecchione/Erdahl Duo — Twin Cities
  • Odelia Trio — Rochester

These performances are supported by Minnesota music education standards-based curriculum designed by Classical MPR's Curriculum Specialist. These lessons and activities are given to music teachers in advance of each Artist's visit, and are to be used as learning materials for before and/or after each performance.

Students at participating schools will also receive an MPR-produced compilation CD featuring the year's Artists, allowing students to experience a wide range of different musical styles and ensembles. The 2013-14 album, A Musical History Tour is also available to stream online.

Classical MPR's goal for the Class Notes Artist program is to create authentic and transformative experiences for young pupils that will inspire their creative pursuits, and be a meaningful addition to what they are already learning from their music teachers.


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