I was called a ‘waste of college space’. Now I’m singing at Salzburg

I was called a ‘waste of college space’. Now I’m singing at Salzburg


norman lebrecht

August 12, 2018

From the British tenor David Webb, presently singing three roles in the Salzburg Festival’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea:


Has English tertiary education softened much since David’s day?

David has written previously about his subsequent struggle with depression:



  • Nicholas Clapton says:

    I remember a good friend once remarking that one needed to SURVIVE music college, and once you’d done that, you could begin to learn to sing.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Great story.

    In my student days, I was not allowed to take the finalising exam in composition because I did not want to write modernist nonsense. I was mocked by the establishment and called names. I had to take the funding institution for commissions to court for incompetent, prejudiced handling of applications (which I won and lost in the same time). Now I get commissions from abroad and my work is performed by Jaap v Zweden. My book got a 2nd edition by Dover. The VPO has accepted a piece by me. But almost everybody on my way tried to discourage me and attack me. So: don’t get dishearted if people don’t like what you are doing, but follow your own inner compass, because that is there not for nothing.

    • jaypee says:

      Wow… Just wow… Talk about being an arrogant, full-of-himself, egomaniac, delusional, conservative, narrow-minded and bitter person…
      You’re slipped disc’s troll in residence and a fifth-rate composer.
      The only important thing about you is your ego.

      “I was mocked by the establishment and called names.”

      Hint, hint?!?

  • AndyB says:

    Unfortunately Music Colleges can be rough places – a mixture of fine encouragement and damning, destructive criticism at a time when young musicians are at their most vulnerable. I hope that the situation has improved over the years as there is much more available in terms of continued professional development for tutors. It really is a shame when distinguished performers turn to teaching whether they are temperamentally suited to it or not ( some are suited to it.) A misplaced comment can set a young performer back and even stay with them for years.

  • Patricia says:

    Bravo David Webb!! I wish we had not been so isolated in pre-internet time. Thanks for sharing!

  • Stuart says:

    Webby is aa truly fine singer and an even finer man. Proud to call him friend. Had similar words leveled at me by the GD of the opera house where I served my young artist days, personally, in front of my young artist colleagues, pretty much on a daily basis, for two years. As a young singer, just our of Grad school, it was a VERY harsh and soul-crushing experience. I can only echo David’s words. Do NOT let anyone else’s negativity impact on you. Not by accident, David has risen above those early experiences to become an excellent and successful singer, artist and colleague.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Why are there so many nasty people around in music life? It seems really a greater number, on average, than in the rest of society. The impression is that the art form attracts the most insidious, vile, heinous, vain, shallow, degenerated characters, fighting venomously for the shrinking resources and chances, prepared to sell their mother for a handful of gold or a minute of clattering applause. The best explanation seems to be that the field is strongly politicized because chances and opportunities are few, real talent rare, and there is an army out there with enough talent to feed unrealistic ambitions but not enough to really achieve something. So, the result is hatred, envy and charlatanism and it begins already at educational level. Miraculously, there is still a lively concert practice going-on, in spite of all of that. It should be a subject for cultural anthropology.

  • Dermot Agnew says:

    This is very impressive and I hope your posting will help many people ; it deserves to. We all need to read it. Bravo.