Who We Are
The Musical Offering is a musical home for beginners to bloom and for more experienced musicians to explore their craft. We are proud of our process-oriented teaching philosophy, professional and friendly faculty, investments in local schools, and partnerships with arts organizations equally committed to making music more accessible to all. In 2007, we won the Evanston Mayor’s Award for the Arts in recognition of our history as an arts incubator and the quality of our programming.
The Musical Offering is an educational institution committed to the growth and development of the individual and community through music instruction and performance. It is our goal to provide a supportive and nurturing environment in which students, teachers and all lovers of music can explore and deepen their relationship to music and self expression. The Musical Offering also serves as a meeting place and forum for the musical community in Evanston and the surrounding area. The Musical Offering believes in the promotion of beauty, artistic freedom and self-empowerment engendered by the shared musical experience.
The Musical Offering provides students and teachers with collaborative opportunities to learn and perform. We hire gifted teachers who share a process-oriented teaching philosophy and the belief that students learn best in an engaging atmosphere. We carefully match teachers and students to maximize learning potential and enjoyment of music education. A process-oriented teaching philosophy guides students on a course to the joyful mastery of music. On this journey, they acquire and develop intellectual, emotional, and physical tools such as diligence, critical thinking, expressiveness, and dexterity to harness the potential of music to enhance their lives. This training translates into every area of learning and life.
The founders of The Musical Offering (the MO), Kirsten Hedegaard and Rick Ferguson, saw a dire need for high-quality music instruction in racially and economically diverse Evanston that would be accessible to all families. The crucial first task in implementing the artistic mission was to decide where to locate. South Evanston was grossly underserved and the local public school, Oakton Elementary, was struggling to provide musical instruction to its students. Thus, the MO located on Custer Avenue, south of Main Street.
From the beginning the MO has engaged only highly trained and active performers as teachers. These teachers perform with such ensembles as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Elgin Symphony, the Lyric Opera, the Chicago Philharmonic, the Northbrook Symphony, and others. A number of our instructors have been at the Musical Offering for 10 years or more. Because of the faculty’s dedication, the artistic quality of the program offerings at The MO is high across the board.
Central to the philosophy of The MO is providing artistic challenges both to the faculty and students. Collaboration and community partnerships have always been a part of providing those challenges. The Musical Offering has partnered with three local elementary schools—Washington, Oakton, and Dawes—to provide student composition workshops, in addition to a two-year residency at Lincoln Elementary in 2012-13.
Through a grant from Foundation 65, Artistic Director Rick Ferguson partnered with Chute Middle School in fall 2017 to create a multimedia musical performance on the theme of dystopia. This fall, Ferguson will undertake a similar project at Chute on the theme of economic equity. These partnerships further enhance our organization’s ability to provide high-quality arts programming to area Title One school children and the community at large.
Since 2010, the Musical Offering has presented an entirely student-written and –produced musical theatre performance each fall, offering students a unique opportunity to create and perform their own work and address the social issues that affect them through art. The City of Evanston has provided grant money for this program, and it has been featured in local press. In 2014, the MO launched its popular Plugged In & Live program, which offers students of all ages the opportunity to participate in small rock, jazz, and blues ensembles at affordable prices.
Starting in 2013, the Musical Offering began presenting Music on Madison concerts, which bring critically acclaimed musicians from around the country and the world to Evanston to perform in our beautiful Madison recital hall. These concerts are open to the community and offered for free to Music Offering students. In fall of 2018, the Musical Offering partnered with Y.O.U. to offer music programming to their students. MO voice instructor Dominic German is providing weekly lessons to a choir of about a dozen students as part of their after-school program.
J. S. Bach
The Musical Offering is a collection of canons and fugues and other pieces of music by Johann Sebastian Bach, all based on a single musical theme given to him by Frederick II of Prussia (Frederick the Great), to whom they are dedicated. The Ricercar a 6, a six-voice fugue which is the high point of the entire work, was put forward by the musicologist Charles Rosen as the most significant piano composition in history. This Ricercar is also occasionally called the Prussian Fugue, a name used by Bach himself. The collection has its roots in a meeting between Bach and Frederick II on May 7, 1747. The meeting, taking place at the King's residence in Potsdam, came about because Bach's son Carl Philipp Emanuel was employed there as court musician. Frederick wanted to show the elder Bach a novelty, the piano, which had been invented some years earlier. The King owned several of the experimental instruments.
During his anticipated visit to Frederick's palace in Potsdam, Bach, who was well known for his skill at improvising, received from Frederick a long and complex musical theme on which to improvise a three-voice fugue. He did so, but Frederick then challenged him to improvise a six-voice fugue on the same theme. The public present thought that just a malicious caprice by the King, intent upon humiliating philosophers and artists. Bach answered that he would need to work the score and send it to the King afterwards. He then returned to Leipzig to write out the Thema Regium ("theme of the king"):
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Two months after the meeting, Bach published a set of pieces based on this theme which we now know as The Musical Offering. Bach inscribed the piece "Regis Iussu Cantio Et Reliqua Canonica Arte Resoluta" (the theme given by the king, with additions, resolved in the canonic style), the first letters of which spell out the word ricercar, a well-known genre of the time.