Music is like wine — people know what they like, but if they immerse themselves in its history and process, they develop a deeper understanding.

Sezi Seskir

"The music program here is like any program at Bucknell: Students use all the knowledge they acquire, whether they're majoring in music or biology or French," says Professor Sezi Seskir. "The liberal arts system is a very strong one, and it feeds people who want a more well-rounded education. It's the opposite of the education I had growing up, and it's made me realize the value of interdisciplinary work."

Seskir came from a conservatory background in her native Turkey, which — though not without its merits — she calls a "very limiting" style of learning. The emphasis is largely on learning music, the instrument and performance, while the rest is music theory, history and general subjects.

"Interestingly, coming from the background I did has taught me how not to teach," Seskir says. "I use the critical-thinking approach that's fostered by a liberal arts education and apply it to every student I have, whether they're a music major or not. It helps students gain a deeper understanding of the subject — especially music, which can seem overwhelming to one who hasn't grown up playing an instrument or reading music."

To expand upon interdisciplinary learning, Seskir presents all of her students with a historical context for music, teaching them how it has evolved throughout human history and challenging them to understand why and how those changes occurred.

"One of the examples I use is how instruments themselves have changed," Seskir says, pointing to the working replica of a 1799 five-octave fortepiano — a precursor to the modern eight-octave piano — that sits in her office. "Why would an instrument change to include three additional octaves? What was changing about how music was being written and performed at the time? Examining how a musical instrument has evolved over time is a great way to cast that critical eye on history and utilize the liberal arts aspect of education.

"One of the things I love the most about Bucknell is that I get to know students who are not music majors, in addition to teaching classes catered to those who are," Seskir says. "It keeps me learning and growing as an individual, just as my students do."

Posted Oct. 6, 2017