About Keith Lawrence

Teaching Philosophy

My purpose in teaching adults about Classical Music is to develop their listening skills so as to deepen their enjoyment of the music and so become conscious listeners.

Keith teaching at SFU What is conscious listening and of what value can it be to you?

According to Aaron Copland in his book What to Listen for in Music, we listen to music on three levels: the sensuous, the expressive and the conscious (or purely musical) level. On the sensuous level, we experience the sheer beauty of the sound itself. The music of Ravel and Debussy lends itself particularly well to this type of listening (Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun, for example). On the second level, the expressive, our emotions are touched, we are moved by the music (Beethoven's Fifth Symphony is a good example of a piece of music that touches our emotions). The third, or conscious level is the focus of my work. On this level, we are aware of the musical form of the piece to which we are listening and the themes that form the framework of the piece. We follow the composer as he/she works with those themes, presenting, repeating, developing, varying and recapitulating them. And as a result, we come closer to the craftsmanship of the composer and to the true spirit of the music.

We have separated these three levels for the purpose of elucidation and explanation, but in practice, in actual listening, we operate on several of these levels at once. We function on the first two levels quite naturally, simply because we are human beings. To become comfortable on the third, or conscious level requires a little study and practice. When you have gained the necessary knowledge and skill, your conscious listening can then make possible a life-long journey of discovery and aesthetic pleasure for you. Pieces that were very familiar and may have become stale can now yield new insights and greater enjoyment with repeated listening and new music can be approached skillfully and confidently with the new tools you have learned.

It has been my experience in over 20 years of teaching, that conscious listening greatly enhances one's listening on the other two levels (the sensuous and the expressive). This will hold true for the new listener to classical music as well as for those with more experience.

Keith lecturing at SFU
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Keith holds an ARCT Diploma in Violin Performance from the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto and a Bachelor of Music degree from UBC. His violin teachers include Lewis Kaplan, Steven Staryk, Vaclav Benkovic, and Nancy DiNovo.

He is originally from New York City. He moved to Vancouver in 1970 to join the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra’s violin section in which he played for 16 seasons. In 1986 he resigned to join the Pro Nova String Quartet in which he played for 2 seasons. Since then he has played chamber music, given numerous solo recitals and taught violin students. He also taught Music Appreciation courses to adults under the auspices of the Vancouver School Board for 15 years.

Most recently he taught a course entitled "Masterpieces of Chamber Music Repertoire" [2012], at Simon Fraser University.

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phone 604-874-4230

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