Tango for Musicians at Reed College

A Unique Curriculum

Tango For Musicians at Reed College features a rigorous curriculum designed to maximize student learning within and across our many featured activities.


Tango sheet music

Designed in conjunction with the authors of the Metodo de Tango pedagogical book series, under the direction of artistic faculty member Paulina Fain, the curriculum will include classes on the fundamentals of tango melody and rhythm, instrumental technique classes tiered to student experience, sessions focused on the stylistic history of tango and the practice of analytical listening, and a diverse array of student ensembles. All of these activities will use educational materials produced especially for this event, utilizing concepts and techniques that are introduced, put into practice, and built upon over the course of the week.

Tango For Musicians at Reed College will also feature specialized tracks in tango arranging and composition for experienced students and a beginning bandeoneón track designed expressly for those who are still mastering that emblematic instrument.

All participants will receive instruction in:

  • The fundamental features of tango as a genre
  • Tango styles and history
  • Instrumental techniques (according to instrument and level of experience)
  • Educational ensembles, including: large ensembles with orchestrations, including the orquesta típica or tango big band format; wind quartets, guitar quartets, and improvisation-oriented ensembles using reduced arrangements (“organized parrilla”), among others

Tango Fundamentals

All students will participate in this series of group master classes.

Each class will introduce a core feature of tango music, including:

  • Expressive melodic interpretation: all phrasing types, including fraseo abierto and fraseo cerrado, fraseo básico and fraseo extendido, among others
  • Rhythmic articulation: short accents and long accents, staccato, portato and other rhythmic articulations that are characteristic of tango
  • Tango time-marking patterns, including: marcato en 4, marcato en 2, pesante, sincopa a tierra, sincopa anticipada, polirritmia, yumba, and others

Instructors: Paulina Fain, Ramiro Gallo, Exequiel Mantega, Hernan Posetti

Tango Styles and History

All students will participate in this series of group master classes.

The various musical elements that define the most important tango orchestral styles will be addressed through close analysis of recordings and original scores.

In each case, we will work on the identification of several key features, including:

• Use of tango time-marking patterns
• Tempo and dynamics
• Rhythmic and expressive melody, phrasing
• Tuttis, solos and solis
• Ornaments, variations and other effects

All musical and stylistic elements that define tango will be listened for and analyzed. The goal is for students to learn how to detect and understand the fundamental features of the most historically important tango styles, to be able to recognize them, and eventually to reproduce them.

Instructor: Ignacio Varchausky

Arrangements and Tango Composition

Special classes in tango arranging and composition are open to experienced students with the consent of the instructor. Please see the registration page for more information about how to apply. These classes will present and examine the core musical resources available to composers and arrangers working with tango, focusing on how to incorporate them into original arrangements and compositions. These courses will also provide an opportunity for students to share their original compositions and arrangements with the group.
Instructors: Diego Schissi (composition), Exequiel Mantega (arranging)

Instrumental Techniques

These classes will be organized according to instrument and divided into two levels of experience, which will be determined at the point of registration. Unique instructional materials will be provided to students in advance of the event, and all students will be expected to prepare this material before arriving at Reed. Musical exercises will be designed to address the technical and stylistic features that are both typical of tango as a genre and specific to each instrument.

Groups will be organized according to the following categories:

Winds (flutes, saxophones, clarinets and other wind instruments)
Instructor: Paulina Fain

Strings (violin, viola, cello)
Instructor: Ramiro Gallo

Bass (bass, electric bass)
Instructor: Ignacio Varchausky

Piano (piano, vibraphone)
Instructors: Hernan Possetti, Exequiel Mantega, Diego Schissi

Bandoneón (including a special beginning bandoneón track)
Instructor: Eva Wolff

Instructor: Adam Tully


Tango For Musicians at Reed College will feature a wide variety of educational ensembles. Students will be assigned to an ensemble in advance of the program. Ensemble assignments will be made according to students’ level of proficiency and will be determined after the registration process is complete. Once ensemble assignments are made, scores and parts will be sent out, and we expect students to prepare their parts before arriving on campus. Each group will have two hours each day to rehearse the repertoire. Rehearsals will include regular visits from different members of the artistic faculty in order to make the most of participants’ experience in the ensembles and to advise on the overall development of group performance.

Private Lessons for Individuals or Groups

Members of the artistic faculty will be available for private individual or group lessons for those who wish to work with them on specific material. Private lessons will be at an additional cost, are subject to the availability and discretion of the individual artistic faculty members, and will be coordinated by the conference staff.

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