Battisti orchestrates lecture for music education students

Frank Battisti, a conductor, composer and music educator, recently spoke to a group of music education majors at RIC about the importance of teaching good, well-written music to children from an early age.

Frank Battisti discusses music education at RIC on March 1.
“Before a child makes any kind of sound, they should have an idea of what they want to express,” Battisti said at his March 1 lecture, held in the Nazarian Center’s Marciniak Resource Library.

He had also conducted the RIC Wind Ensemble at a rehearsal the day before.

“Kids need to understand that we’re all the same, deep down,” Battisti continued. “Music is the only language that needs no interpretation. It’s how we’re wired as human beings.”

Battisti, who received an honorary doctorate of music from RIC in 2010, is conductor emeritus of the New England Conservatory Wind Ensemble, which he founded and conducted for 30 years. The critically lauded ensemble has performed at music conferences, recorded for Centaur, Albany and Golden Crest records and has had many of its performances broadcast on NPR radio.

Battisti not only demonstrates proficiency with a baton; he wields the pen as well. He is co-author of “Score Study for the Wind Band Conductor” (1990), and author of “The 20th Century Wind Band/Ensemble” (1995) and “The Winds of Change” (2002). His articles on wind ensemble, band literature, conducting and music education are featured in professional journals and magazines.

During his lecture, Battisti voiced his concerns about music education. He argued that if children aren’t exposed to well composed, technically challenging, “good” music from an early age, their creative processes will be hindered.

He argued that, more often than not, the music that high school bands learn and perform is “contrived, fast, loud, formulaic, tedious and stunningly mediocre.” Battisti also believes that if children study subpar musical theory, they cannot expect to be imbued with good musical values.

Battisti rehearses the RIC Wind Ensemble on Feb. 28.
Battisti was asked how an educator should go about finding appropriate compositions for students.

“You dig, dig, dig, dig, dig, dig, dig,” Battisti replied. “Very hard.”

His stringent approach to high school music education helped the Ithaca High School Band (N.Y.), which he directed from 1955-67, achieve serious recognition. Under his guidance, the band played at colleges, national music conferences and accrued prestigious accolades.

Battisti segmented his understanding of the musical process into three parts: the creative angle, the re-creative angle and the consumer angle. “High school bands are re-creative,” he chastised. “The process must be a creative one.”

He defined the consumer angle with a succinct metaphor about music education. “If I’m going to be a consumer all my life,” he said, “I had better learn something about bad food. Like brown bananas,” he added with a chuckle.