Most compositions or songs begin with an introduction. It is the way in which a composer, songwriter or musician gets the attention of the listener and establishes an expectation for what is to come. This is my version of a musical introduction. My name is Dr. Tammy L. Kernodle and I’m a musicologist. I’m also one of the newest members of the Classics for Kids team.
I’m often asked what a musicologist is and what do I do. Well, that’s not as simple as it might seem. Most days I teach a range of classes on the history of music at a major university and occasionally I will perform with a small jazz band that I formed a few years ago. But much of what I do is behind the scenes. You don’t really see me, but you might read the words I have written or occasionally you might hear my voice on the radio or a podcast. A musicologist is someone who researches, studies, and writes about the history of music. While much of that work focuses on the music of the past, I also study the music that is happening now. There are people who specialize in certain forms of music, kind of like there are different types of doctors. My work focuses a lot on African American musicians, and composers, jazz, gospel, and blues. But I also work on American composers, women composers, and Western European classical music.
My work takes me into some interesting places like the special archives of libraries, the homes of famous musicians and composers and the venues where music is performed. I have also worked with some major museums you might know like the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City or the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. I’m often asked how I got into doing this type of work. Well, that’s a long story, but I’ll be brief. It began with me starting piano lessons at the age of 3. I grew up in a musical family where my paternal grandmother played piano and several other instruments, and all my cousins played piano, organ or sang. I took piano lessons for many years and eventually went to college and majored in music. My intentions were to be a music teacher, but when I discovered I could combine my love for history and music, my life took another direction. When I graduated, I moved to Ohio to attend graduate school and study in the field of musicology. And as they say the rest is history or HERstory.
Each month I will be using this space to talk to you about some of the “hidden figures” and “hidden narratives” of classical music. I promise not all of the conversations will be focused on the historical past as there are some really cool things happening right now as it relates to music. But for now, I just wanted to introduce myself and say Hello! Hola, Bonjour and What’s up? I’m looking forward to sharing what I’ve learned and continue to learn.