Earlier this week we circulated a widely-read assertion by Robert Freeman, former head of the Eastman School of Music, arguing that ‘we’re graduating too many, too narrowly trained musicians’.
True, or false? Robert Fitzpatrick, long-serving Dean of the Curtis Institute and presently Provost and Dean of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, believes that one has to see the problem in a global, historical perspective. Here are his thoughts, written for Slipped Disc:
If musicians were generalists before the French Revolution, and would become specialists after those events, could we point to the founding of the Paris Conservatory around 1795 as the beginning of the current dilemma about which Robert Freeman polemicizes?
Leaving that argument aside for the moment, there are ongoing issues in the USA that have led to a decline in the quality of education in general, and an abandoning of the arts and arts education in particular. Federal, state, and local governments bear the brunt of the responsibility for this downtrend.
Public school music programs in large cities flourished in the period after World War II until at least the late 1960s. In most large east coast cities, every public senior high school and most junior high schools had a symphony orchestra, a band, and a chorus. Primary schools were lively incubators of artistic efforts serving a large and diverse population of students, some of whom were the first in their family born in the USA and educated throughout their teenage years. Each school had a staff of performing and visual arts teachers who made effective use of limited rehearsal and studio space. Most of these public schools also had the equipment, especially musical instruments, necessary for curricular and extra-curricular activities in the performing arts. In most current urban situations, the arts teachers are gone except for a few part-time travelling instructors who serve many schools, and the instruments have been vandalized, lost, stolen, abandoned in closets or warehouses, or simply sold. Fortunately, there are still pockets of resistance in some smaller cities and affluent suburbs, a situation which varies widely according to local resources.
A vicious cycle exists in American musical higher education that began between the world wars and continues today. The National Association of School of Music (NASM) was formed in 1924 by visionaries such as Howard Hanson, one of Robert Freeman’s predecessors at Eastman, to accredit and govern the education of musicians who would become the music educators of the future, especially in primary and secondary schools throughout America. NASM currently counts over 650 member schools, (too) many of whom offer a Bachelor of Music degree in performance which prepares students for a career on stage. Freeman may have a point: too many schools, too many graduates, too much specialization. Howard Hanson and his NASM co-founders expected the conservatories like Juilliard, Curtis, Eastman, Peabody, New England Conservatory and others, to provide the specialized “training” (I’m not a fan of the word) to talented music students destined for careers as professional performing musicians. Other schools would educate and form the teachers; I remember when many post-secondary schools were called “teachers’ colleges” and had excellent music education curricula. Today, some conservatories offer music education tracks and many of the former “teachers’ colleges” offer a Bachelor of Music in performance. Most encourage graduate education for a Master of Music degree (in performance or education).
Perhaps the greatest aberration of all was the creation of the Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA) in order to perpetuate and extend the educational model. This would allow students to get tenured university positions in performance so that they could teach future B.Mus, M.Mus, and DMA candidates who would then seek positions to create more performers and teachers for non-existent orchestra positions, and dwindling opportunities in primary and secondary arts education in the USA.
Instead of adding to the polemic, I propose that NASM re-examine its current mission which should include lobbying local, state, and federal governments to adequately fund public education in general and to enable the arts, including music, through better financial support.
Freeman’s book is interesting but hardly sufficient to change the direction of the descent of arts education in the USA. When 625 music schools speak with one voice and profess their faith in arts education, someone might listen.
UPDATE: ‘The US lags behind the world in arts education’. Click here.
Stefan Arzberger, leader of the Leipzig String Quartet, has been to hell and back since the day he was arrested without clothes in a New York hotel and charged with assault on a fellow-guest. He is unable to travel or pursue his profession during the course of the investigation. His lawyer has just issued the following summary of the case:
Renowned violinist and member of LSQ Stefan Arzberger while staying in New York the evening before a concert was the victim of a horrible attack upon his person. On March 26-27, Stefan was assaulted in his hotel and his personal belongings were taken from him. As a direct result of the assault upon him and while in an unconscious state, Stefan assaulted a guest staying in the next-door room from his.
While Stefan (and his family members, colleagues and friends) nevertheless extends his sincere best wishes for a speedy recovery to this hotel guest, we are able to update the following:
This unfathomable and, entirely out-of-character, incident and Stefan’s arrest stemmed directly from Stefan himself being the victim of a crime upon him. We have identified the person who stole items from Stefan and are working to develop what else was done, including involuntarily drugging Stefan with powerful agents.
Investigation revealed that an as yet unknown person left Stefan’s hotel room with his Ipad, wallet, including cash, credit cards and identification and began using Stefan’s credit cards around New York City, successfully and unsuccessfully, on items that Stefan would unquestionably never have sought to purchase. We have obtained a photo of this person and are working with the police to identify and locate the perpetrator of this horrendous crime.
Unquestionably, Stefan was the victim of a crime and he has no present memory of the events leading up to his arrest. However, we are hopeful that in the coming weeks we will determine the perpetrator of this offense against Stefan and consequently, the other hotel guest.
In light of identifying conclusively that others were involved in doing harm to Stefan, counsel is now working on the possibility of obtaining permission for Stefan to travel internationally and resume his duties with the LSQ. Stefan is exploring all options to expeditiously resolve these false charges, from offering the results of his investigation to the prosecutors to offering to undergo a lie detector examination. We have been offered the support of so many of Stefan’s friends and professional colleagues and we hope to use those recommendations in some capacity on Stefan’s behalf. Stefan welcomes all offers of assistance during this troubling period and thanks his colleagues, his family, his friends and his fans. This is an evolving story and we learn more about this ordeal as each day passes. However long this process takes, we’re confident that a the end of the day, Stefan will be found to be not guilty of these serious charges.
Levitt & Kaizer Attorneys at Law
New York, NY
Another fascinating essay has popped up on the Cozio site, illustrating how and why Benjamin Britten’s violin concerto took more than three decades before soloists stopped sniffing at it.
The March 1940 premiere in New York was not too badly received, but Britten was in bad odour back home for fleeing the country before war broke out and hostile British reviews virtually buried the piece for a generation.
The instrument didn’t help.
When he premiered the Britten Concerto, (the Spanish violinist) Antonio Brosa had relatively recently acquired the c.1730 ‘Vesuvius’ Stradivari. For some reason its previous owner, the Canadian player Jan Hambourg of the Hambourg Trio, had kept it for only a year in 1937–38. Brosa hoped to make a solo career in America with it.
That didn’t work out. The Vesuvius Strad is now in the town collection at Cremona.
In December 1935, Arnold Schoenberg was approached in Hollywood exile by Irving Thalberg to write music for his film of Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth. Schoenberg was penniless, Thalberg fairly cultured for a movie mogul. There are two versions of what happened at the meeting. In one, Thalberg mentioned hearing Schoenberg’s ‘lovely music’ in a broadcast concert. The composer flashed back: ‘I don’t write lovely music.’
In the other version, Thalberg began to describe a scene, a hurricane in a field where the heroine, pursued by her enemies, was giving birth. ‘With all that going on,’ said Schoenberg, ‘who needs music?’
It was not a meeting of minds.
Last night, ignoring indifferent UK reviews, we went to see Woman in Gold, which includes half a minute of Schoenberg’s music – Verklärte Nacht – being played in a Hollywood film. It was a reconciliation, of sorts.
The film was much more powerful than the reviews allowed and culturally authentic. The script was exceptionally authentic and Helen Mirren was flawless as the elderly emigrée aunt. The film relates the campaign of Schoenberg’s lawyer grandson, Randol, to claw back a Nazi-stolen Klimt painting from the Austrian Government. He wins, they lose. Out of the winnings, Los Angeles got a Holocaust Museum and LA Opera a huge endowment.
We spotted just one musical anomaly. On her flight from Vienna with her opera singer husband (played by Max Irons), the young heroine (Tatiana Maslany) tells a Nazi airport official that he has been summoned as a substitute to Cologne Opera by…. pause for celebrity effect…. Herbert von Karajan.
At the time of the Anschluss in March 1938, Karajan was barely known outside Aachen, where he was the young Generalmusikdirektor. It was not until he conducted Tristan und Isolde at the Berlin State Opera in October 1938 that the Goebbels press crowned him Das Wunder Karajan and his fame was made.
Even by the hyperbolic flights of the classical music sector, the self-advertisement of the Ying Quartet sets a new nadir in irony immunity.
To quote their website: ‘The Ying Quartet occupies a position of unique prominence in the classical music world, combining brilliantly communicative performances with a fearlessly imaginative view of chamber music in today’s world.’
The Yings, originally four siblings from Winnetka, Illinois, are quartet in residence at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester.
Ayano Ninomiya, first violinist for the past five years has just left the lineup. She is replaced as leader by Robin Scott, a soloist with several US orchestras. Uniquely.
The big news from Nielsen Music is that music consumption in the United States is up by 14 percent in the first quarter of 2015, a real uplift for the business. Streaming is especially strong. Digital has dipped. Albums are back.
And classical? Same as, same as, same as. Why does it have to be like that?
Written by Mrs Bach, a preposterous BBC pseudo-doc purporting to show that J S Bach’s cello suites were written by his wife, has been refuted, demolished and ridiculed by every expert musicologist in the field, as well as many music critics and practising musicians.
Last night it won Gold Medal in the Arts category at New York Festival’s World’s Best TV and Film Awards, in a ceremony in Las Vegas.
Just shows how little film critics know.
It has been four months since Darren Henley was announced as the new chief executive of foundering Arts Council England, but he hasn’t been able to take up the job until his longterm employers could be persuaded to let him go.
Darren, managing director of Classic FM (UK) , has worked for the commercial station for 23 years.
Parting can be quite sweet sorrow when stretched over four months.
The good news is that today is his last. Parties at Classic tonight. New broom hits ACE tomorrow.
The Leipzig String Quartet has announced that Matthias Wollong, principal concertmaster of the Staatskapelle Dresden, and Raphael Christ, leader of the second violins in the Lucerne Festival Orchestra, will stand in for Stefan Arzberger in the next two weeks.
Stefan is fighting charges that he assaulted a female guest at a New York hotel, where he was found wandering naked. He claims he was the victim of thieves who spiked his drink. His legal defence fund has reached 92 percent of its intended target, with contributions from 137 friends, fans and supporters.
‘We hope that Stefan can be back for his duties soon,’ says the Quartet’s statement.
The pianist Lars Vogt is about to kick off his term as music director of the Royal Northern Sinfonia.
At his first meeting with media and public in Newcastle-Gateshead, he announced that football was his life’s passion, alongside music. His father had played professionally, in the German second division, and Lars once made it into his hometown junior team – ‘I was very proud of that,’ – but gave up when he won a piano competition at 13.
‘I remember playing football and having melodies in my head and thinking everyone was the same,’ he said.
They need him in Newcastle for more reasons than music.
David Oei, 64, was charged on Monday with forcible touching and endangering the welfare of a child, aged 15.
Oei is an instructor at The New School. A former player with P.D.Q. Bach, he is married to a respected violinist.