Mason Gross Dean shows ‘why Bach matters’ in lecture, upcoming book


Members of the Rutgers community filed through the atrium of Richard H. Shindell Choral Hall on Douglass campus last Wednesday to listen to a presentation by none other than the dean of Mason Gross School of the Arts, George B. Stauffer.

The dean lectured on the importance of Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach and how his music is still relevant in today’s society. It was the first musical lecture Stauffer has given at Rutgers in 18 years.

“For some reason, the interest in (Bach’s) music is growing, not diminishing, and the question is why? What makes this music so important to people today?” Stauffer said.

The presentation included examples of how Bach’s compositions are still very much alive today. His pieces are played at concerts and festivals, samples can be heard in popular songs today, they are used in the soundtracks of various movies such as "The Pianist" and "Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World" and they are even played as elevator music. We just can’t get enough of Bach.

The presentation also included various viral videos from social media that featured Bach’s well-known pieces.

The event was hosted by the Rutgers University Musicological Society, a graduate student program where students present research in musicology, ethnomusicology and music theory and develop skills to prepare them for careers in academia.

Michael Goetjen, president of the Musicological Society and a Mason Gross School of the Arts third-year doctoral student, said that the consensus was that it would be a good idea for them to host the lecture in order to show the department and the rest of the Rutgers community what the dean has been up to.

The society also used the event as a platform to showcase what the club is all about because some people have never heard of them before.

“(Dean Stauffer) has given (the lecture) in a couple of other places as well, most recently on an international tour that he did recruiting international students to come to Mason Gross,” Goetjen said.

Stauffer’s passion radiated during his presentation, and it was obvious that he has done extensive research.

“It’s my belief that its solidity — that is, it’s extremely well-constructed — and also Bach’s confidence in life comes through in the music and today things are so uncertain, politically and socially, that we seek that kind of solace, that kind of comfort that his music can offer,” he said.

Stauffer has also been working on a book to go alongside his research. He stated that it will emerge from his lectures as well as from material from the Bryne Seminars that he teaches.

One of Stauffer’s Byrne Seminars, entitled “Who Needs Music?!,” studies the reasons why humans could never live without music and how it is essential to life. A topic of conversation from a class was the works of Bach. Stauffer mentioned his project in one of his classes — almost two years ago in Spring of 2016.

“When one writes books, it often takes years,” Stauffer said.

Members of the Rutgers music community anxiously await the release of the book but are going to have to wait a little while longer.

“If I weren’t a dean, it would be finished,” Stauffer joked. “(But) I have to write a little bit at a time … and I’m hoping that it will be finished probably in the next two years.”

The book will be titled "Why Bach Matters" and is under contract with the Yale University Press located in London. At the time if its completion, the book is planned to be released worldwide.


Georgette Stillman

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