Academy hits back at Nigel Kennedy: We teach violin, not robots

Jo Cole, Head of Strings at London’s Royal Academy of Music, has responded Kennedy’s recent outburst that music colleges crush the individuality in their students.

In a letter to the Observer today, Jo (pic, right) writes:


At the Royal Academy of Music, there are 24 violin professors, whose ages range from 30 to 92 and whose approach is enormously varied. What they have in common is a tireless dedication to nurturing young musicians and preserving at all costs their students’ evolving artistic personalities as communicators through music. We encourage students to take risks in live performance and follow their muse.

There are 103 violin students under my care, who are destined for multiple careers in music. I don’t recognise the perfectionist clones described by Nigel Kennedy, because they don’t survive as musicians.

Full letter here.

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      • Intelligent, well articulated criticism is a good thing. Attaching himself to right-on causes he doesn’t seem to understand and throwing around silly accusations like “fascist”, is not.

        He needs to get over himself.

        Has he actually left yet? If not, what is holding him back? He’s all talk, and not very illuminating talk at that.

        • Intelligent, well articulated criticism is a good thing.
          – True

          Attaching himself to right-on causes he doesn’t seem to understand and throwing around silly accusations like “fascist”, is
          – permissible, considering the United Kingdom is a free country.

          He needs to get over himself.
          – True (also in regard to the overwhelming majority of celebrities, personalities and others in the spotlight).

          Has he actually left yet? If not, what is holding him back?
          – I gather that, technically, he has been leaving frequently for some time now (spending part of the time at his residence in Kraków).

        • Its the same as all the idiots now saying how good Cuba was under Castro but not actually willing to go and live there themselves. Jeremy Corbyn should move there immediately.

          • Ah yes, the good old “if you like it so much why don’t you go live there”. Was wondering when some nameless right wing troll would roll out that old chestnut

    • Another of your own projections, actually. What you accuse others of actually reveals a great deal about yourself.

  • And they have 24!!! violin professors. Because why? A world wide shortage of violinists perhaps? Does it strike anyone else that that figure is insane?

    • Don’t forget that many teachers see their role as raising the next generation of music lovers, not (or not only) professional musicians, and take it very seriously.

        • Music Academies do not only train future members of top symphony orchestras and soloists; they also make sure we have music tutors, church musicians, wind band players, … The point is that amateur musicians LOVE music, and the academy is teaching them to fulfil at least part of their potential. Their work will “teach” others, e.g. their children, to love music.

          • I learnt the violin because I loved music, not the other round and let me tell you the lessons I received, from a well known and highly acclaimed teacher, came closer than anything ever has to killing that love.

          • No. Music Academies are high level education. They produce titles and degrees. They train professionals, not music appreciation classes. If you really fancy reading, you don’t go to Oxford to get a degree in literature as a hobby. It’s this kind of thinking and blurring the line between amateur and professional that is eroding professional classical music and devaluing degrees.

        • If you like something, the more you know about it, the more you can enjoy & appreciate about it. Kids generally like music; but IMHO you have to know something about a thing to really love it.

          With any skill or activity, becoming proficient may require more effort than a beginner/ enthusiast wants to commit to. There are coaches who have killed the love of sport, math teachers who have killed the love of math, etc. by demanding more from their students than some students were able or willing to give. Sometimes that love is strong enough to propel the student to change teachers, and sometimes it isn’t. There are also coaches/ teachers who have developed simple enjoyment into a deep & abiding love by pushing their students beyond where they thought they could go.

          Different students require different styles of teaching. Not every teacher can teach the way every student needs. (My teacher in college was very kind and supportive while also having very high standards: she would frame criticisms as “very good; here are some ideas to make what you’re trying to do even better.” I had a classmate who left that school because she thought the teacher didn’t care about the students, and went to a teacher who was famous for shouting profanities — “you sound like shit! what’s wrong with you?” — and throwing music stands; and she loved him. I’m pretty sure he would have killed my love of music.)

        • If you don’t know the answer to that question it surprises me that you know anything at all. Oh, wait….

  • Hard to hear the proof of Jo Cole’s statements in most of the violin playing emanating from that institution, or others in London for that matter.

    • Because I was young, impressionable and didn’t know any better. In classical music the first thing you learn is never to question.

  • I liked this

    “He also dismissed the idea that London needs to spend £278m building a new concert hall, arguing that he would rather see money invested in schools, giving children access to instruments and teachers.”

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