Learning How to Listen with the Discovery Orchestra

The Discovery Orchestra, a classical music-focused program, aims to make centuries-old pieces more accessible and approachable to people of all ages.

George Marriner Maull, creative director of the Discovery Orchestra, instructs the audience to listen closely during the 30th Anniversary Concert at Drew University in April.
George Marriner Maull, creative director of the Discovery Orchestra, instructs the audience to listen closely during the 30th Anniversary Concert at Drew University in April.
Photo courtesy of Dan Hedden

Music is a constant in the background of our lives. While eating, reading and driving we hear melodies, but are we really listening?

“We’ve been trained to not give music our full attention,” says Bedminster resident George Marriner Maull, artistic director of the Discovery Orchestra, a nonprofit dedicated to improving listening skills.

The Warren-based organization was founded as the Philharmonic Orchestra of New Jersey in 1987. After years of performing symphonic concerts, the organization’s mission changed in 2006 when it became the Discovery Orchestra.

Now, the classical music-focused program aims to make centuries-old pieces more accessible and approachable to people of all ages. During interactive music lessons, or Discovery Concerts, Maull, 70, enthusiastically leads musicians on stage as the audience follows along with listening-guide pamphlets. During frequent pauses in the performance, Maull instructs concertgoers to listen for specific instruments and musical elements.

“Not everyone can become a virtuoso violinist, guitarist or pianist,” says Maull, “but everyone can become a virtuoso listener.”

This season, the orchestra is presenting three Discovery Concerts at Drew University’s Concert Hall in Madison. The GrooveBarbers, a barbershop quartet, will perform on November 19. Pianists Suejin Jung and Péter Tóth will play music by Hungarian composer Franz Liszt on February 25. The orchestra itself—almost 40 strong—will perform Italian violinist Arcangelo Corelli’s “Concerto Grosso Op. 6, No. 4” on April 29, with Maull conducting. Ticket prices are $30-$40.

For patrons who want more intimate instruction, Maull leads smaller performances at private New Jersey residences for the public throughout the season. These shows cost $35-$70.

The Discovery Orchestra’s award-winning television programs, Bach to the Future, Discover Beethoven’s 5th, Discover Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and Fall In Love With Music, are available through American Public Television and Amazon.

Music students everywhere can view condensed versions of Maull’s teachings through the Discovery Orchestra Chat videos on YouTube.

“Listening to music has given me, personally, more pleasure than almost anything in my entire life,” says Maull. “We want to share that with as many people as possible.”

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