Bucket Course trains ears in music appreciation

By Miriam Asaad

As one of the many “Bucket Courses” offered so far this year at the Drake Community Library, Associate Professor of Music Eric McIntyre’s “What to Listen for in Music” class presents an opportunity for local participants to gain critical skills and musical knowledge.

The course focuses on reexamining types of music that are sometimes seen as dry or academic. Program participants signed up to seek a deeper appreciation for music that is not on “America’s Top 40.”

“Bucket Courses,” named after their focus on “everything you want to learn before you kick the bucket,” are opportunities for lifelong learners to explore sometimes-overlooked topics for a nominal fee.

McIntyre, who describes teaching as his passion, was invited to conduct this course after having already taught adult education classes as well as a course at the prison, in addition to his job at the College.

“Any time that I can teach people about listening to music in general, it’s great, so I just kind of went with it,” he said.

The classes McIntyre has conducted so far have included examining musical form, aesthetics of the Classical Era, the exploration of early Beethoven and the emancipation of dissonance and move towards atonality. He describes his classes as attempts to make people reconnect with music that is no longer regularly appreciated.

“I kind of just want to make people listen with a new ear, to listen to music that’s maybe longer than your average song on the radio, that might not have lyrics, that’s not necessarily being made to make money, and its working,” he said. “I have [students] coming up to me and telling me that they finally understand songs that they’re hearing on the radio!”

One of the best parts about teaching the course, according to McIntyre, is that it attracts people from different musical backgrounds.

“There are people in the course who have extensive backgrounds in music and then there are some people who have no experience,” he said. “That’s one of the best parts. I can teach so that everyone’s almost on equal footing—they’re required to listen in new ways.”

Besides his various undertakings in teaching, McIntyre directs an orchestra at the College as well as one in Ames and another in Fort Dodge, and all these orchestras are made up of different sets of people. In Ames, McIntyre works mainly with professionals, and in Fort Dodge, the orchestra is comprised more of blue-collar workers. He acknowledges and appreciates the variety in the demographic makeup of the people he works with.

“I enjoy the difference between the crowds, [that’s] what keeps it fresh,” McIntyre said.

The final Bucket Courses of the year will be offered on the topics of “World War I: Causes and Consequences” and “U.S. Environmental History.” All members of the community, including College students, are welcome to sign up and can do so at Drake Library.