Greetings from Rome!
I am fortunate to be teaching on CUA’s Rome Program this fall; now just past the midpoint of our semester, this is a good time to recollect and look ahead.
Our family is settled in an apartment in the neighborhood of Prati, on the west bank of the Tiber, not far from Vatican City and Castel Sant’ Angelo. The CUA Rome Program hosts students from our own university as well as Loyola College Baltimore, so students from both schools appear in our classes. This makes for an interesting and vital blend of viewpoints. My wife Dr. Sarah Ferrario (Assistant Professor, Dept. of Greek and Latin) is teaching on the Rome Program, as well, and our 18-month old son Oliver is loving Italy, flirting shamelessly with Italian ladies and learning a few words of that beautiful language.
Classes take place each weekday, most meeting once per week, and there are several class outings and trips. This fall, the group is taking overnight trips to Tuscany, Venice, Naples and Pompeii, and day trips to Assisi and Florence. There are also opportunities to see the ancient cemetery under St. Peter’s, the Catacombs of St. Sebastian, and a papal audience with Benedict XVI.
As the resident faculty members this fall, Dr. Ferrario and I have organized additional optional outings to enrich the students’ experience. For example, we offered a night at the opera; about a dozen students joined us in seeing Ponchielli’s magnificent La Gioconda at the Teatro dell’Opera. A few weeks prior to that, we led students on a bicycle tour of a portion of the ancient Appian Way. And, together with CUA alumna and staff member Rachel Barham, soprano, and baritone James Rogers, I presented a recital in the St. John’s College Chapel in Rome. The program included a piece by School of Music alumnus Kyle Gullings (DMA, MM Stage Music), currently Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at Tyler.
The classes I am teaching this semester are Roman History and Opera, team-taught with Dr. Ferrario; and Silent Film Music, which included a trip to Le Giornate del Cinema Muto, one of the world’s most important silent film festivals, in Pordenone, near Venice, to see me accompany a film, as well as visits to the Cineteca Nazionale and the famed film studio Cinecittà. The class is designing some short film scores which I will then realize according to their design; these films and scores will be accessible on the Library of Congress’ website, as part of its online paper print collection.
I am also team-teaching Liturgical Art and Architecture – a completely new venture for me – with Rome Program Director Dr. David Dawson Vasquez. I bring a special focus on sacred music to the course, which includes visits to churches around Rome at almost every class meeting. On our upcoming Florence trip, I will be preparing the students by teaching them the famed motet of Guillaume Dufay, Nuper Rosarum Flores, an excellent example of the linkage of music and architecture.
While the Rome program in its current state is relatively new, it has been difficult, if not impossible, for Music students to study on the Rome program in the past, mainly because of the need for private instruction. However, I am pleased to report that I have been able to make arrangements with a faculty member of the Conservatorio Santa Cecelia in Rome to have one of our BA Music majors take weekly cello lessons. This is an important first step in creating a system whereby future School of Music students can come to Rome being able to take many of the courses they need to graduate while studying with an approved teacher, and I am proud that this door is being opened to future music students.
In addition to teaching, we have been able to attend some very interesting concerts, see some amazing sights, and eaten at some great restaurants!
I have also been able to write a little music while here; my newest piece, Vistas of Rome, for cello and piano (a commission from the Maryland chapter of the Music Teachers National Association) will be premiered at the MTNA conference at the University of Maryland in January 2013.
Dr. Andrew Simpson
At the Pantheon.
The Opera di Roma.