Listen while you learn

David Rhoderick brings another round of “Classical Music Is For You!” to the West Tisbury library.

Pianist David Rhoderick plays Bach during rehearsal. —Gabrielle Mannino

David Rhoderick is on a mission to do all he can to make sure others have the opportunity to enjoy classical music. Launching the second season of his popular “Classical Music Is For You!” series at the West Tisbury library, Rhoderick has scheduled a tantalizing array of intriguing topics and engaging guest presenters. He envisions both demystifying classical music for the inexperienced or timid listener, while enhancing understanding and appreciation for more established fans.

Rhoderick of West Tisbury is an organist, pianist, singer, and scholar for whom music has been a lifelong companion since he began piano lessons at age 7. He believes many people feel daunted at the prospect of listening to and understanding classical music, and are missing out on a wonderful, uplifting opportunity — to enjoy the vast and varied wealth of musical experiences that surround us.

“No previous knowledge is required, just a desire to listen and learn,” Rhoderick emphasized. “Explore classical music in a ‘paddling pool,’ where we explain ideas and terms in plain English with plenty of listening.

“With today’s smartphones, computers, high-speed Internet, and the increasing proliferation of

low-cost or free streaming services, it’s never been easier or less expensive to access and

listen to top-quality classical music,” Rhoderick pointed out. although he especially recommends live music.

In a telephone conversation, Rhoderick described his aim in the course as twofold. Encouraging people to attend live music performances is his strongest message. Along with the pleasure audience members reap from live music and musicians, he believes in supporting these performances. He said concert attendance everywhere is lower than in past years, but he is gratified to see an interest by younger people in learning about and playing classical music.

Although we may not have the wealth of performances found in a city, the Island offers a variety of classical music, Rhoderick said. He cited the M.V. Chamber Music Society’s Summer Festival and off-season concerts. Vineyard libraries and churches frequently enlist local and visiting musicians for programs from chamber music to solo and vocal presentations, and the Island Community Chorus often features classical pieces. High on his list are “Live at the Met” programs at the M.V. Film Center, and Boston Symphony trips, organized by the Tisbury Senior Center.

“To make classical music accessible to anyone interested, irrespective of knowledge level,” is how Rhoderick described his second goal. “The class is for people who can read music and those who have no idea. I don’t want to exclude anyone!”

Questions are encouraged; Rhoderick and other speakers will be glad to clarify anything that is confusing. “I don’t want to have anyone feel intimidated by terminology,” he stressed.

Far from being stuffy lectures, the sessions include videos, PowerPoint, recorded and live music, and open discussion.
“Classical Music Is For You!” got underway Jan. 9, drawing 30 participants to hear Rhoderick’s knowledgeable introduction to Austrian composer Anton Bruckner. One observer said the class featured a perfect balance of lecture and music listening.

Also led by Rhoderick, the Jan. 16 meeting focuses on Vivaldi’s familiar and much-loved “Four Seasons.” He is tentatively scheduled for a March 26 presentation on “The Orchestra.”

Joining Rhoderick will be several well-known Island musicians, each with his or her own expertise and perspective to share.

Ed Merck, a longtime recorder performer and devotee of early music, is also an author, Reiki Master, and meditation teacher. On Jan. 23 he offers “The Relative Nature of Beauty: Becoming a More Discerning Listener,” an experiential examination of how we appreciate beauty in music. Merck returns Feb. 20 with “Improvisation in Classical Music: The Changing Role of the Performer over the Centuries,” highlighted by live and recorded demos.

Wendy Taucher, choreographer, director, and arts journalist who brings her world-class Dance Opera Theater events to the Island each summer, presents an in-depth look at “Porgy and Bess” on Jan. 30 as a preparation for its “Live at the Met” screening Feb. 1.

Piano enthusiasts will welcome Adele Dreyer, presenting “What Composers Do for Your Listening Pleasure” on Feb. 6. Dreyer, an exquisitely proficient and spirited pianist retired from teaching the instrument in suburban Boston, now appears frequently on Island stages as soloist or accompanist.

Phil Dietterich, another well-known talent in the Island music community, will be on hand on Feb. 27, when the class takes place at the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury. Dietterich, an ordained Methodist minister, skilled and gifted organist, composer, and singer, will explore “Scales and Modes.”

“It sounds good to me, but is it really ‘good’ music?” is the thought-provoking title of Bill Peek’s session on March 19. Peek, organist and choir director at the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury, and summer organist and choir director at Union Chapel, will raise challenging questions about whether there is such a thing as “good music,” and whether classical is any better quality than contemporary popular genres.

Rhoderick promises to add more topics and another special guest or two to the lineup, so music lovers should stay tuned for news of upcoming classes.

He added a note of deep appreciation for the West Tisbury library, the accommodating and helpful staff, their assistance with arranging and promoting the classes and promptly responding to logistical concerns. He said he is particularly delighted with the new, upgraded audiovisual system.

An accomplished pianist and organist, Rhoderick has served as director of music at the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury, and is a current board member and former president of the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society. He is a Fellow of the Royal Schools of Music, and holds a postgraduate diploma in music from the Open University, a U.K.-based distance learning institution through which he is now working toward his master’s degree in music.


“Classical Music Is For You!” Thursdays, Jan. 9 through March 26, 10:30 to 11:45 am, West Tisbury library. (Feb. 27 session at First Congregational Church of West Tisbury.) Free. Questions and suggestions: Contact Rhoderick at