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NGI Recipient: Nico Osborne

Session Attended: Country Dance and Song Society - Early Music Week (2015)

I just returned home from a place where positive creativity is alive and time stands still. Pinewoods Early Music Week was unlike anything I expected, and I am so thankful that my NGI scholarship allowed me to come learn in a balance of excitement and challenge for a week in this most open and welcoming community.

Since finishing undergrad a couple years ago (as a musicology student), my interest and curiosity in early music has only grown, but I have found it quite difficult to find situations to really explore the stuff in a hands-on way. At Pinewoods, not only was I able to hear and play music with the instrumental ensembles I only see in my dreams or (rarely) in concert, but I got to try my hand at things I have never had access to before. A new friend gave me an introductory lesson on the cornetto, and another let me try and practice on a viol for the first time. One evening I will never forget was in the living room of Pinecones, three wonderfully musical and experienced viol players invited me to play with them for a couple numbers, even though I had just picked up the instrument for the first time the day before. They let me scratch through the cantus firmus, and even though my tone was pretty questionable they made it really feel like music for me. They were so welcoming and generous with their time and knowledge, and that is the best way to learn.

I attended Early Music Week as a vocalist, and I felt like I was in a week-long applied singing lesson with the perfect teacher for me. I came out of the week not only with a strong feeling of improvement in my own voice and musicianship, but (more importantly) with so much to work on and bring to my musical studies at home. I can’t wait to hit the ground running with my own small singing group in Philly with new repertoire and approaches to ensemble playing.

The one thing I was a bit apprehensive about before Pinewoods was the whole dancing aspect of the week. I have always loved to move to music and I know that’s one of its most powerful uses, but the idea of learning English Country dance did not really speak to me – it would be something I would have to get through to get to the next music class. I was way off base, and I was an instant convert. It is a place to throw away inhibition, where any energy you put forth is given back to you in droves, in surprising and smooth and comical and beautiful ways. In my young life loving music and dancing to “the beat,” I never really realized that dance can engage and express music in a way that isn’t just with the beat, but with the shape of the melody, the tension of harmonic movement, and the ecstasy of unity when the phrase reaches its end and comes to its new beginning in the same moment.

I know my week at Pinewoods will stick with me, and I can’t wait to come back for more next summer.