There seems to be a big dividing line amongst musicians, the literate and the illiterate. Of course most non-musicians are illiterate, i.e., can't read (or play) music, but many many accomplished and even famous musicians cannot read music! They are even proud of it, and perhaps should be, since it must have forced them to over compensate in many ways! Yet it seems to me that not being able to read the music of the past and our peers limits one's understanding of music. It reminds me of teaching in the Peace Corps in Africa, where the kids I was teaching were the first generation in a millennium to learn to read. Their oral history was profound, but they were at a complete disadvantage with the literate world, there was no way their oral history could contain the depth and breadth of a single local library, let alone the wisdom, beauty and knowledge handed down for centuries in hundreds of languages.

In spite of the extraordinary few who achieve greatness without it, I think music literacy must be a foundation to musical understanding in the deepest degree. What do you all think?

Chris Salter

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