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Matthew Obszarny ‘17

“Moravian Music: Creating Performance Editions of Anthems and Choral Works”

Major and Minor: Music Education & Music Performance
Hometown: Metuchen, NJ
Project Advisor(s): Dr. Hilde Binford and Gwyn Michel 

Briefly describe your project.

This past summer, my project involved selecting manuscripts of compositions written by the Moravians from over 200 years ago and transcribing them into a modern format that can more accessible and performed by the general public.

Why did you decide to turn your idea into a SOAR project?

This SOAR project had been done in previous years and as it involved music I was naturally drawn to the concept. Fortunately, the previous students just scratched the surface of the rather extensive collection the archives had to offer. In addition, there were a few works that coincided with the 275th anniversary of the Moravian settlement in Bethlehem. The prospect of this intrigued me so I contacted Dr. Binford with the possibility of pursuing this as a SOAR project.

How did your faculty advisor guide you through your research?

The best part of working with both Dr. Hilde Binford and Gwyn Michel is they are both exceptional in their respective fields.  They helped groom me on how to think more as a musicologist. I was guided to find clues to help me reach to a final conclusion on the compositions I was working on

What has been your biggest obstacle so far?

My biggest obstacle during this experience was the deciphering both the writing and the musical script.   Specifically some of the hand writing and notations had to be interpreted based on historical norms. These norms could be somewhat inaccurate when viewed from the personal characteristics of the composer. 

What has been your biggest takeaway from this experience?

Archival research and the opportunity of working with those who maintain the Moravian Archives gave me an incredible sense of history and the continuity of the Moravian community in the United States. Working with documents that were older than our country helps to bring into perspective how the freedom of religion helps to make our country great and continue to grow. 

What was the result of your project?

The results of my project were that I was able to transcribed 6 compositions in their original orchestral format and completed one of these compositions into a piano/vocal score that had its premiere at the Moravian Music and History Conference this past October

Will you expand on your research after this summer is over? If so, where would you like to see it go?

Now that SOAR is over, do you plan to expand upon your research? If so, where would you like to see it go?

This past fall semester, I have volunteered at the Moravian Archives twice a week to start producing piano reduction scores from the orchestral scores I’ve completed this summer and hopefully having one published for the following winter

In your own words, how do you feel about being awarded this opportunity? 

I feel grateful and honored that I was to receive this opportunity. I am very grateful to both my advisors Dr. Hilde Binford and Gwyn Michel for help guiding me along the way.  I am also grateful for everyone at the Moravian Archives for all their help and support and their gratefulness for letting me work in their facilities.  I would also like to give a big thank you to Dr. Sarah Johnson and the committee board of SOAR for granting me this once in a lifetime opportunity