Exploring the many moods of music…. Reflections on my journey with outreach performance

Joseph Palmer is an extraordinary guitarist who has developed a passion for outreach performance and the study of communication through music.  This spring we have asked him to perform fifty concerts in our schools programs.  He wrote this reflection on his experience so far.


What a remarkable journey it has been – and it’s only the beginning!

It is so fascinating to me how unique the listening experience is to each individual. When you listen to music, connect with it, and generate your own meaning with it that is a creative process in itself. Each person connects with the music in a way that is personal to them and their experiences in life

The week before I arrived at each of the schools, I sent a recorded excerpt from one of my personal favorite works on the program “Invocation y Danza” by Joaquin Rodrigo along with a creative listening activity that I designed for the students.

In class, the teacher leads the activity and plays the two-minute recorded excerpt for the class several times without revealing any info about the music as they listen deeply and reflect. Among the listening activities, the students were asked to choose several words to any aspect of what they hear.

One student felt that the music was “exotic, smooth, calm, and exciting”. Another stated that it was “suspenseful, lively, creepy, and emotional”. In contrast, another student found the music to be “peaceful, celebratory, unique, and soothing.”

It’s amazing how the same music can make people respond in in so many different ways! And this was just a warm-up…

In the actual performances, the students had opportunities to…

Discover the music for themselves, converse with one another about their impressions from the music, and share their thoughts. (Listening in on their animated conversations is quite fascinating!)

  • “I really like how I was involved in the performance as well. I felt important and more in the music than just listening.” ~ Akins High School

To learn about how music could be arranged for the guitar, and the kinds of musical decisions performers have to make…

  • “I really enjoyed the piece you translated that was originally for harpsichord! It was interesting to hear about the problems you faced and how you solved them, and you have made me want to learn how to play guitar! Great job!” ~ Lamar Middle School


To connect with a composer’s grieving process as expressed through his music while others reflected on experiences in their own life where they had to say ‘farewell’…

  • My favorite piece was the farewell because it reminded me of someone that I lost a couple of years ago and it perfectly described how I was feeling.” ~ Travis High School

To make requests to hear me perform the solos that they had been working on in class from Matt Hinsley’s Classical Guitar for Young People…

  • “The most memorable part was when he played Light and Dark”
  • “My favorite part of the presentation was when he played the solos and we saw how the solos are supposed to sound.” ~ Paredes Middle School

They also heard wild stories behind the music, imagined what it might sound like, and experienced how vividly music can depict a story purely through sound…

  • “I liked Pedro and Diablo because there was a story behind it that I could see through the music. It was creative and it made me see it in a different way.” ~ St. Gabriels Middle School

St. Gabriels

Having the opportunity to perform for and interact with all of these students has been an incredibly rewarding experience so far! I’ve had a blast. They have too.