Advocating for the Music of Villa-Lobos
Dr. Scott Holden, School of Music
My ORCA project was an in depth study of the Brazilian composer, Heitor Villa-Lobos. Villa-Lobos is revered in Brazil as the father of Brazilian classical music. What is not well understood, however, is the major contribution that Villa-Lobos made to music pedagogy and even to public policy related to music education in the public school systems. Many of the composer’s writings are inaccessible to the general public. As part of my project, I visited the Villa-Lobos Museum in Rio de Janeiro. I translated important pedagogical writings from Portuguese to English, studied correspondences between Villa-Lobos and the Brazilian federal government, and I studied original manuscripts of Villa-Lobos’s compositions.
Most of my work for this project happened before travelling to Brazil. I read several biographies, scholarly articles, and other books about Villa-Lobos, his life, and his career. I also watched several documentary films portraying the personality of the composer.
I learned thirty minutes of solo piano repertoire, comprised of pieces by the composer. This work allowed me to understand the broad range of skill levels that Villa-Lobos’s music satisfies. The music ranges from beginner to professional level, with adequate coverage of all skill levels.
While in Brazil, I studied original documents, correspondences, scores housed exclusively at the Villa-Lobos Museum. I also consulted with teachers at local music schools to assess the impact of Villa-Lobos’s teaching philosophy on contemporary pedagogical practice. After returning from Brazil, I wrote a scholarly journal article about the pedagogical philosophy of Villa-Lobos and its benefit for Western-trained musicians and pedagogues. I also presented a lecture-recital showcasing the versatility of Villa-Lobos’s piano works.
The three products of my project are (1) the translation of Villa-Lobos’s writings, (2) the journal article prepared for submission, and (3) the lecture-recital presented on Villa-Lobos and his music.
The two textual products will need to undergo significant revision and refining before being presented to an audience.
While I do believe that I have been successful at promoting Heitor Villa-Lobos’s music, there is still much to be done. The European-based pedagogical system is heavily rooted in piano teaching. For teachers to accept and/or integrate Villa-Lobos’s teaching philosophies into their own teaching will require several things: access to Villa-Lobos’s writings in a familiar language (i.e. English) and first-hand interactions with applied teaching methods.
By submitting my article to the American Music Teacher’s magazine as well as submitting my lecture recital for presentation at national conferences, I hope to reach a wider professional audience, influencing them to explore Villa-Lobos’s pedagogical pieces and philosophy.
This experience has taught me that although the internet gives us great access to materials, there are still many things that are wholly inaccessible due to language barriers. I have realized that there is a greater need for musicians and music professionals to arise in all places of the world. This will give us the ability to draw upon musical heritages from across the entire world.