On Thursday, April 11th, students in Dr. Galit Gertsenzon’s Honors 390 class “Forbidden Sounds, Music of the Holocaust” will hold a concert to preserve and share the music that holds the stories of the Holocaust. In the concert, Honors students from a variety of majors and backgrounds will come together to share and revive the voices of composers whose music had been banned, composers who were killed or faced with discrimination during the Holocaust.

A Different Approach

The class, “Forbidden Sounds: Music of the Holocaust,” changes the model of a history course. Like in most Honors classes, students step outside traditional lecture structures in search of a deeper understanding. Instead of studying history as a series of causes and effects, students explore historical causes and feel the humanity of the effects within the music.

In learning the history of the Holocaust through music, students connect with the emotions and textures of that history from the composers who endured the pains of the time. The course culminates with students organizing a concert to offer the community a glimpse at the constant process of preserving, researching, and writing about this music.


History Embodied

Connecting to history by interpreting and listening to music has a certain power, but when students engage with a piece in hopes of performing it and doing justice to it and its composer’s experience, it creates a lifelong relationship with the past.

When students find a piece of music that speaks to them and aligns with their skills, the experience becomes much more profound and visceral. As they go about embodying such emotionally and historically charged music, the research comes naturally. In taking that deep dive of connecting to the circumstances and inspirations of the music, students find their role in preserving and affecting history.


“The concert on Thursday is just a glance at the important research work going on in the Honors College”
– Dr. Galit Gertsenzon


The memory of the Holocaust shouldn’t be relegated to museums or a few designated spaces. This class and this concert are about bringing that memory to the community and making it accessible, present, and tender, not a lingering tragedy we try not to think about. It’s a process of experiencing and reconciling humanity at its worst and at its most resilient.


Creating a Community

This spirit of connection that comes from this empathetic, humanized version of history translates to the everyday dynamics of the class. Dr. Gertsenzon and her students have managed to create a community that reaches beyond the classroom. Students who took the class previously still engage with the group; musicians help arrange and transpose pieces for the concert; audience members and community partners donate to help expand the group’s efforts.


“This concert is a gathering to share music you likely wouldn’t hear on a regular basis”
-Dr. Galit Gertsenzon


As their network and resources grow, the future of the class looks bright. With new funding, future sections of “Forbidden Sounds: Music of the Holocaust” hope to bring in guest performers, visit museums and memorials, and perform for other communities–all in an effort to preserve this music and its place in our societal consciousness.

“Forbidden Sounds: Music of the Holocaust” is offered each semester in the spring. The course thrives with students of varying backgrounds and skills. It is not exclusive to music majors; some students opt to recite passages from books or poems, while others contribute by helping plan and organize parts of the concert.

We encourage you to join in their mission and, more importantly, their community.


Dr. Gertsenzon will also be teaching a section of Honors 189 called “Music and Political Power Plays,” offering Honors students another chance to engage with history through music.