Admiration for classical music inspires new club

By Jessica Barzilay

Four students stroll into choir director Rodger Guerrero’s office, dump their backpacks on the ground and chatter excitedly about their weekends and their workloads.

“Guess what? I beat my high score on Temple Run!”

“Do you understand that physics lab?”

“All right guys, let’s listen to Haydn’s concerto,” Michael Zaks ’13 says, bringing the weekly meeting of the Classical Music Club to order.

Zaks founded the Classical Music Club at the start of the year, after recruiting Guerrero as his faculty adviser.

“I felt like there needed to be a place where people could relax and learn about the essentials of western classical music,” he said.

The desire to study and engage with the works of famous composers was the result of an overwhelming admiration for the classics. No prior musical experience is required, but Zaks has familiarized himself with some of the pieces the club reviews by playing piano and participating in Wolverine Chorus. In particular, he cites Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s overture to the opera “Don Giovanni” as an example of musical excellence.

“Once I began to see how truly genius the works of the great composers were, appreciating how beautiful they are came naturally,” Zaks said.

Although he acknowledges that for most students, Classical Music Club isn’t the most exciting of clubs, Zaks can rely on a few similarly interested classmates, Elias Aquino ’12, Brandon Chong ’13 and Nicholas Ramirez ’14, to attend meetings regularly.

Aquino joined the club due to his interest in classical music, but he also looks forward to hearing Guerrero’s professional opinions on specific pieces and musical theory.

“I want to be able to hear what he has to say outside of the classroom about music,” Aquino said.

Guerrero likewise enjoys the club’s weekly meetings, although he sees his role as secondary.

“I think that it’s important in a student-run activity for adults to be supportive but silent partners when possible,” he said.

At the outset, Zaks prepared a list of classical composers to address throughout the course of the year, but the dynamic of meetings is very relaxed, giving members the freedom for personal exploration. The majority of the names on Zaks’ list — Mozart, Bach, Handel, Beethoven — have been repeatedly revisited.

“Without a doubt, my favorite part of this experience has been the observation of an unbridled passion on the part of the club members for classical music,” Guerrero said.

Since club membership is voluntary, conversation does not generally stray from the topics of classical music, which “warms my heart and causes me to continuously smile,” Guerrero said.

Part of Guerrero’s joy in supervising the club comes from his conviction in the importance of musical scholarship. He said he believes the study of music is analogous to the study of the world: immersion in music from all cultures during all eras enables personal growth in the same way learning about world history enables greater perspective. Studying the history of music enriches the musicianship of today’s artists and students, he said.

“I believe that the enjoyment of all types and styles of music is concomitant to self-understanding as well as a balanced education,” Guerrero said. “We discover ourselves through music. We understand the present via the musical looking glass of the past.”

Although the club has not yet organized any events, Zaks, Guerrero and Aquino have expressed interest in attending classical music concerts. Guerrero looks forward to the growth of the Classical Music Club in the future.

“I was and am wholly enthusiastic about Michael’s idea and hope that it is the beginning of something wonderful,” he said.