Country Driving and Classical Conversation 

We call it “country driving” and anyone in Big Sky country knows what that means. Distances are relative, so driving 30 miles to buy your favorite brand of goat feed is normal procedure.

When Hank and I drive across country, we use “country-driving” concepts to visit our colleagues as often as possible. “You’re just 80 miles off the interstate? Great, super close. We’ll be there in two hours.”

greg-wilburEarlier this month we had a treat when Greg Wilbur invited us to stop by and see the marvelous things going on at New College Franklin. He was only forty miles off our route, so that’s practically next door! Greg is Chief Musician at Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Franklin, Tennessee, as well as Dean and Senior Fellow of New College Franklin—a Christian liberal arts college that he helped to start.

If you’ve never been to Franklin, Tennessee, get prepared for a treat. What a beautiful town. No wonder Franklin has become a favorite of artists and musicians from the Nashville scene.

And right in the middle of the historic square sits New College Franklin, a bold and exciting star on the educational horizon. Combining the best of the best (Classical curriculum, Christian liturgics and theology, small classes, and intense interaction with professors), this school has it all. I found myself wishing that I could be an undergraduate again or that my toddler grandchildren were old enough to attend. Okay, that’ll be a while.

We sat down in his office (filled with art, historical photographs, marvelous books, and treasures from around the world) to talk about the aesthetics and pedagogy of Classical education. I hope you’ll enjoy this conversation with Greg Wilbur.

Listen to Podcast.

On San Marco Square

san-marcoSaint Mark’s Basilica in Venice played an important role in music of the late Renaissance. Here Alessandro and Giovanni Gabrieli took advantage of the architecture by placing separate choirs of instrumentalists across from each other and thus pioneered a new antiphonal sound.

Listen to my short podcast from the square in front of Saint Mark’s with the sounds of Venice today.


A Tiny Orthodox Church in Weimar

orthodox-weimarThe bells are ringing at 6 p.m. in Weimar, Germany, as I look directly at the dome of a tiny Russian Orthodox church. This church is so small it would fit inside a lecture room at a university. It was built in 1860 to be the burial site of the Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, a Russian princess, the granddaughter of Catherine the Great. Maria Pavlovna married into a Lutheran line of Dukes known as the Saxon-Weimar-Eisenach line and came to live in Weimar in 1804.

maria_pavlovna_of_saxe-weimar-eisenach_by_f-durckShe did not convert when she came to Weimar. In a very unusual move for the time, she was allowed to remain Russian Orthodox. She brought with her icons and Orthodox priests, along with wealth, to her new home far from Russia.

Maria Pavlovna was extremely cultivated. She gathered around her the most important poets. Her support of the arts led her to bring Franz Liszt to Weimar where he would create the revolutionary new symphonic genre of the tone poem. That, plus the conducting techniques he created for the Weimar Orchestra, would change the course of 19th-century music history.

Her husband and the line of Saxon-Weimar-Eisenach dukes are buried in a stark, stucco mausoleum (along with a couple of commoners, Goethe and Schiller, who did so much to define the cultural life of Germany and this city in particular). In contrast to its simple architecture, this Orthodox church has the traditional golden domes and ornate features associated with Orthodoxy. And it is literally cemented onto the back of the mausoleum.

The church today remains an active Orthodox parish. Some people who come to visit the graves of Goethe and Schiller miss it entirely if they don’t wander to the back of the mausoleum. But here it is, a piece of history told in architecture.

Listen to the Podcast here.

Robert E. Lee and Winfield Scott


Robert E. Lee

Traveling through Virginia this week, I’m reminded about my own education in Virginia history while growing up in Roanoke in the 1950s and early 60s. It was a different era, of course, and those textbooks have long been replaced. Still, we were given a lasting love for the history of this state by a series of passionate teachers. And prime among the figures taught was Robert E. Lee.

Yet only recently did I learn about one of the most critical episodes in Lee’s life—the meeting between Lee and Winfield Scott in early 1861 in Washington where Scott tried to convince Lee to remain with the Union. Only the two men were present and no record exists of exactly what was said. But that’s where the creative power of drama can take over. Journalist Bill Arthur has written a stage play, bringing this meeting to life.

I interviewed Bill Arthur about his play and aspects of  history relevant to this turning point in Civil War. Lee was not the only man to be faced with the difficult choice between North and South and conflicting loyalties. The issues were not as simple as we imagine them to be today. Lee, like many Southerners, was a product of West Point education. He did not favor secession. Many in the North preferred to let the southern states go.

Winfield Scott (“Old Fuss and Feathers”) was the top general in the U.S. Army as the Civil War began, and he considered Lee to be the best soldier in the U.S. Army. He had long been Lee’s mentor.


Winfield Scott

On April 17, 1861, Scott offered Lee command of the U.S. Army, although Lee only held the rank of colonel. On April 20, however, Lee resigned his commission and three days later assumed command of the Virginia state forces.

While one encounters Robert E. Lee in any study of American history, it is much harder to find Winfield Scott on the same pages. But he figures prominently in the major historical events from the War of 1812 until his resignation from the Army in November 1861. Most notably he commanded the expeditionary force in the Mexican-American War in 1847 and was the Whig party candidate for president in 1852. He was defeated by Franklin Pierce.

So Arthur had plenty of history to draw on in reconstructing this pivotal meeting between Robert E. Lee and Winfield Scott. Listen to him explain how and why he wrote this play.

Listen to the Podcast here.


Art Is Empowering


Dr. Peter Mooz

In this episode of our podcast interviews with our favorite art historian, Dr. Peter Mooz explains how art is empowering.

How do you foster a love for the arts in children? What if you do not live close to “big city” resources? Dr. Mooz gives some practical pointers for building a rich appreciation for art and history. Along the way he offers some tips for teaching art at home, finding resources for teaching the arts, and moving beyond merely teaching young children to draw.

Peter offers some strategies for children of various ages. The goal is not to make them all skilled artists, but to instill an appreciation for art and to demonstrate for them how art is empowering.

Listen to the podcast here.

Storytelling with Jim Weiss

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Art as the Crown of Civilization


An Interview with Dr. Peter Mooz Is art an elective? In our continuing series of interviews with Dr. Peter Mooz, I asked him about art education and the ways children come to know art. Art comes about when civilization progresses […] Read more.

Religion in American Painting


An Interview with Dr. Peter Mooz Art Historian Peter Mooz discusses his new book “Religion in American Painting.” Dr. Mooz will be familiar to many of our readers through his involvement in Exploring America’s Musical Heritage and Early Sacred Music. I […] Read more.

Podcast Sampler

Have you missed the more than 70 podcasts created by Professor Carol over the past few years? This series of brief clips will give you a flavor of the programs, with Carol’s unique commentary, interviews with composers and performers, and […] Read more.

Music and Hardware

Elliott’s Hardware, a favorite institution in Dallas and a long-time sponsor of The Dallas Wind Symphony, inspires people to create things. Composer-in-Residence John Gibson is no exception. His latest composition, “Man Dreams in Hardware,” is played on instruments constructed from items […] Read more.