Fresh Look: The Symphony Exposed

Adult Education classes this summer in Lafayette

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If you’re “classically curious” and you’d like to increase your enjoyment of classical music and all things orchestra, this four-part introductory course is for you. With award-winning instructor Scott Foglesong as your guide, you’ll explore:

  • How an orchestra works – What a conductor does, plus the instruments that make up the orchestra.
  • Beethoven! Class 2 will be devoted to a deep dive of the composer who changed everything…
  • Fall in love with the Romantics—Schubert, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Mahler, and more.
  • 20th Century and beyond.

Enroll with a friend or come alone and meet other local music-loving adults in class.

What people are saying about this course:

“Most enjoyable, very accessible to all, and PACKED with good info and good listening!”

“Scott Foglesong is so knowledgeable and enthusiastic.”

“I love his sense of humor and breadth of knowledge.”


When: Wednesdays, 6:30 to 8:00 PM – July 10, 17, 24, and 31, 2024.

Where: Don Tatzin Community Hall at Lafayette Library, 3491 Mt. Diablo Boulevard, Lafayette. ADA accessible and free parking onsite.

Who should attend:  Anyone with an interest in learning more about classical music.

Cost: $30 per person for the entire course, which you get back as a voucher towards your first purchase of any adult-price California Symphony ticket for a 2024-25 season concert.

Can’t make it in person? Enjoy the wit, wisdom, and wealth of knowledge of award-winning Instructor Scott Foglesong in this five-part ONLINE version of the course—all in the comfort of your own home! Learn more here.


Course Outline

Class 1: Setting the Stage

We begin with the basics, the fundamentals, the nitty-gritty of it all. Up first, just what it is that conductors do up there on the podium, and how their decisions can transform the music. Then we move our attention to the musicians who make up the orchestra and the instruments they play. We’ll go over how the orchestra developed into its current form, and we’ll listen to the instruments of the orchestra, both alone and together.

Class 2: Beethoven, Etc.

He’s the Head Honcho, the Big Enchilada: Ludwig van Beethoven practically invented the modern conception of the artist and wrote a series of orchestral works that stand at the very summit of Western art music. He’s all about the symphony—that substantial composition that serves as the kingpin of many orchestra concerts. We’ll also bring in his beloved and utterly distinguished predecessor, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who also had a lot to do with orchestral music in general, and symphonies in particular.

Class 3: Romantic Heroes

Beethoven ushered in the Romantic age, a time of triumphant individualism that saw a massive expansion of the orchestra. This was the era when the modern civic orchestra came into being, and with it arose bigger, grander, and more expansive symphonic works. We’ll look at Beethoven’s younger contemporary Franz Schubert, then move ahead to late Romantic masters who play such an important role in today’s concert halls: Brahms, Tchaikovsky, and Mahler.

Class 4: 20th Century and Beyond

Here we are in the third decade of the 21st century and the orchestra is still going strong. But a lot has changed. We’re far more inclusive nowadays than in the past, with women and minorities playing an increasingly important role in the musical scheme of things. Music itself has gone through massive changes, the orchestra has grown and evolved, but through it all we’re still making music with the same joy as our predecessors. And as a capstone to our Fresh Look series, we’ll have a performance by members of the California Symphony.