New conductor at Stanford

Paul Phillips has been named director of orchestral studies at Stanford, as well as music director of the Stanford Symphony Orchestra and Stanford Philharmonia. Phillips, 61, has been at Brown University since 1989.

 

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  • Congratulations to Paul! He is a terrific musician, educator and music director. Watching him firsthand with the Brown University Orchestra, he has a magical way about him which provides the young musicians with a sense of pride, strong work ethic, respect and love of music. No doubt he will bring these qualities to the students at Stanford.

  • I wonder how many music performance majors Stanford has. Though I’m not sure about Stanford, the large majority of the elite private universities in the USA have limited offerings in music performance. This is especially true in the Ivy League, the only notable exception being the Yale School of Music.

    Almost all performance professors are adjunct and are paid only according to the number of lessons they teach — if any. (The Stanford website indicates a similar practice.) The basic premise in much of the Ivy League is that performance majors would lower academic standards. Large student ensembles are comprised mostly of non-majors, and the quality usually undistinguished.

    The cultural and pedagogical concepts of this philosophy toward music education in elite universities have had profound effects on American society. Combined with the practice of elite schools catering largely to the children of the wealthy, these practices and attitudes become especially vulgar and harmful, but they have been little studied.

    • It is true that elite American universities (from Princeton to Chicago to MIT etc) take great pride in their music departments for their research and composition and not performance.

      They don’t offer performance majors, perhaps for fear of lowering academic standards, but mainly because:
      1) it is so expensive, you need a teacher for every instrument, and for both classical and jazz, and you need a lot of real estate for practice rooms and performance space
      2) it is so unprofitable, the teacher-student ratio is so low and the individual attention is so high, it is almost like a the relationship of PhD candidates to their advisors, and there is no federal or corporate grants
      3) so many nearby conservatories already do such a superb job and already exceeding market demand.

      Frankly, the elite universities have the right approach, I wish a lot of the rest of American universities would do away with their performance programs altogether.

      A casual search for “masterclass” on youtube reveals so many unsuspecting students coached by untalented teachers at second and third tier universities that leave one shaking one’s head, thinking, these poor youngsters, they’re never going to make it as a professional, let alone compete with the graduates of Juilliard or Curtis or Indiana.

      • That’s ridiculous. If schools like Indiana University, the University of North Texas, and Florida State can afford schools of music with over 2000 students, then Harvard and Co. with their endowments in the tens a billions of dollars certainly could too. Yale University and Northwestern are a couple concrete examples. One might also think of other public schools that aren’t so large that have great performance departments like the U of Michigan or the U of Texas at Austin. Performance schools are affordable as a far less rich public schools show.

        It’s also ridiculous for these elite schools to claim superiority while asserting that state schools or conservatories already do the job much better. The Yale School of Music illustrates the unique value of having a school of music in an top university. That sort of intellectual climate creates a special kind of performer that is much needed. The best example of all is the school of music at Oberlin, which has been the source of so much creative innovation in the area of performance. Eighth Blackbird is just one example.

        There’s also a very serious problem in the idea that composers can be trained in a department virtually devoid of performers. This has been a major source of America’s effete, disembodied world of new music, an art lost in the suffocating profounds of mind removed from the practical feedback of performers, an art that expresses an elitist, bodiless, condescending contempt for people.

        California suffers especially from this problem because the UC system takes a similar attitude of superiority and relegates larger performance departments to the “inferior” Cal State system. As a result, California in all of its wealth and privielege is infamous for its lack good schools of music for performers. And this in turn produces an astounding number of pompously mediocre nobody composers harbored in the UC systems academic cultural country clubs.

        We see that cost is not the issues, but attitudes of superiority, the idea that performers are a form of cultural riff-raff unbefitting of schools for the monied classes, a pollution of the mind by the impure body.

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