While you were all enjoying Chicago's lovely February weather last weekend, Jim Palermo and I hopped on American Airlines and joined forty of our classical music colleagues in equally lovely Detroit for what was "billed" as a classical music think tank. The group was comprised of artist managers, music education professionals, classical music presenters, orchestra managers, record label executives, writers, composers, and musicians. There was even a classical music "futurist", Jean Cook (she's the sideways one), who has promised to guest-blog for me soon.
So what do all of these people talk about when locked in a conference room in the Marriott Detroit Renaissance Center for two straight days? Pretty much what you would expect.
Lots of talk about audiences; who they are, where they are coming from, how the next generations of classical music audiences differ from those we currently serve; how music education seems to be failing to adequately prepare young musicians for the challenging reality of the 21st century workplace; how language and classifications are rapidly evolving, especially among younger segments, and what that means to the field; how market forces will shape how we operate, what we present, and how we present it; and much more.
I'm hoping that some of the colleagues who joined us might comment on this blog, or write their own and link to this. Daniel Wood, a musician who performs with a group called Quadre, participated and said that he was going to blog.
After waking up on Friday at 4:30 a.m., flying to Detroit, and sitting through the first meeting until 5 p.m., we were bussed to a performance of young, mostly African American children and teens presented by an organization called Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit. Most of us were pretty wiped out by 8 p.m. when the curtain raised, but it only took a few moments to get swept away by the quality, energy, and emotion of their performance.
I never cease to be amazed by what participation in the arts can mean to kids. According to Rick Sperling, Mosaic's Founder and CEO, most of the children who participate in this program enter with grade point averages in the 1.0 range. By the end of the first year, most have raised their GPAs to 3.0 and 90% of these kids go on to college, as compared to 50% for the entire Detroit system. Hmm... maybe investing in arts is a good idea.
In any event, I'm hoping that the Mosaic students can perform with the Chicago Sinfonietta sometime in the future and share their talents and boundless energy with our audience.
And finally, the Sphinx Competition was being held in Detroit the same weekend. For those of you unfamiliar with Sphinx, it was founded ten years ago by Aaron Dworkin to help identify and nurture young soloists of color. The Sinfonietta has presented a number of Sphinx winners including cellist Patrice Jackson and violinist Melissa White. You should check out this fantastic program.
Okay, this is really long today so I'll shut up and let my colleagues fill in some of the things I missed. I must thank Sandra Gibson, President and CEO of Arts Presenters, for sponsoring this gathering. As always, I invite you, too, to join in the fun.
This week's guest blogger is June Matayoshi, an active free-lance oboist and English hornist in Chicago. She is a member of the Chicago Sinfonietta and the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra.
After I received my master's degree in oboe performance back in 1983, I took on a full-time administrative job once I returned to Chicago with the thought in mind that this would only be temporary until I paid down some college debt and started to build my free-lance oboe career. With the help of my oboe teacher, I was hired for my first few orchestra jobs. Over the next five years, I also won two regional orchestra jobs by audition and accepted any gig I was called for, as long as they were slated in the evening or on the weekends. During the week, I would get up at 6 a.m. to make reeds and practice, get to the office by 8:30, make reeds on my lunch hour, and get off work at 5:00 p.m. On many evenings, I would grab some fast food, jump in the car, and make my treks to numerous gigs 20-50 miles away for 7:30 p.m. rehearsal starts. When I got home at 11:00 p.m. or so, I sometimes had to go back to the reed desk to do more work. My weekends also filled up with teaching on Saturday mornings, followed by afternoon rehearsals and concerts, as well as church jobs on Sunday morning.
Despite all my performing work, I was still not able to afford to give up my day job. My job also provided me with health and disability insurance and a pension, something many free-lancers do not have. I continued at this hectic pace for the next fifteen years.
How did I balance a full-time day job with performing? Simply stated, I didn't. My love of music drove me to perform, and to do so, I had to make numerous sacrifices. Socializing only occurred in car-pools getting to gigs or on rehearsal breaks. I was single most of those years, and if I went out on a date, it would be after 11 p.m. or on a sporadic night off. Shopping for food was accomplished late at night at the 24-hour grocery stores. I had my laundry done through a service. Even practicing my parts for performances was greatly curtailed by lack of time. Much of my technical ability to play well was attained through all the hard work and hours of practicing I did when I was in college.
Blair Tindall, a professional oboist turned journalist, wrote Mozart in the Jungle, a book describing her free-lance career in New York City. While my own experience is nowhere near as colorful, she provides an interesting account of her free-lance life. She also includes detailed analyses of the recent difficulties in the symphony, opera and ballet arenas and talks about the current state of musician employment. It would be good to hear from other musicians who visit this site. Is your experience similar to mine or different? Leave a comment and share your story.
Thanks to all of you who filled out the chicagoclassicalmusic.org survey. The feedback we received will help us make some changes on this site that you will see in the near future. Thanks also to Jim Ginsberg and Cedille Records for their generous incentive of a free CD to all who filled out the survey.
I quickly read through the survey comments and was struck by the fact that some of you feel we are being too polite in our writing about our colleagues and the field, and that a little more "spice" would improve the site. Many of us who write for this site have discussed this among ourselves and have tried to add a little controversy every now and then. The fact is, we really can't go too far out on the limb because our boards expect us to represent our organizations in certain ways - and that most definitely does not include taking shots at individuals and other organizations in the field.
If you guys want more controversy, that's what the forums and comment sections of this site are for. I, for one, always welcome a good tussle among people with different points of view, and if you start something, I will jump in with an opinion, fact, or other comment.
Also, if there are subjects that you want to see represented on this site, you can post articles, email any of us, or even write a guest blog (I'm inviting you now).
The other feedback we received through the surveys was that we use our blogs too often to promote our upcoming events. Therefore, I won't mention our February 9th Chamber Music concert at the Adler Planetarium featuring the string ensemble, FAQtet, for an unbelievably low price that includes admission to the museum and an after-concert Q&A!
By the way, did you hear about the compromising position Brian Dickie was caught in the other night with a cellist, a soccer player, and an accountant? Seriously folks, have at it!
Yes, its Oscar season again. America's obsession with celebrity, fashion, money, "Branjelina", "TomKat", and related nonsense is about to go into hyper-drive, so why should I be immune?
Classical music has long played an important role in the movies, but according to the recently released book, Hitchcock's Music, written by Jack Sullivan, never more so than in Alfred Hitchcock's films. He worked with some of the best film composers of his era, and more fully integrated the score into the plot and character development of his movies than previous directors had done. Who can forget the music from Psycho?
Does classical music still play a central role in the movies? I think so. Stanley Kubrick's use of classical music is well documented, and I personally believe that his Blue Danube scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey is the best use of music of any kind I've ever seen. More recently, the Lord of the Rings has been held up as a successful integration of the musical score with the visuals. The music, arranged for full orchestra, toured the US as a stand-alone concert selling out large venues in many markets.
Here are a few of my other favorites, in no particular order:
A Clockwork Orange - Kubrick brings new meaning to Beethoven.
Platoon - Who can forget Barber's music in this Viet Nam film (though it's been used in seven other movies)?
And what do the moviesThe Bachelor,Citizen Kane, andSpace Jam all have in common? All used Chopin's Piano Sonata No. 2 in their sound tracks. Space Jam??
I love lists and invite you to post your favorite "Music in Movies" choices in honor of the upcoming Oscars. Need some help? Check out this site that lists every piece of classical music used in the movies.
Last night we performed the second of two concerts honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We haven't seen any reviews as I write this, but one thing that became apparent to me in the days leading up to the concerts, and at the concerts themselves, is that 17-year old piano prodigy, Jeremy Jordan is a walking advertisement for the value of music education (and good parenting). He is an amazing young man.
Last week's blog elicited a lot of comments because I included a line or two about the Bears game. Some people felt that it was inappropriate to include sports on a website dedicated to classical music. After spending a week with Jeremy, I thought about how we relate to young people involved in sports and the arts.
Every Sunday I read the Chicago Tribune and there are two or more pages dedicated to high school athletics. While the accomplishments of these students are laudable, where are the pages in the paper dedicated to kids like Jeremy? He is bright, unbelievably poised for a 17-year old male (note: I have a 17-year old son so I claim expertise in this subject!), articulate, and T-A-L-E-N-T-E-D.
It's clear when you meet him that his years of studying music have had a huge impact on his maturation. That, and the fact that he has great parents. We debate the value of music education in our schools; we de-fund it, while spending who knows how much on the football team. I'm not saying athletics aren't important. I'm saying they are no more important than giving our children the best music education we can afford. If we do, there will be more Jeremy Jordan's running around, and trust me, that's a good thing!
So here is my suggestion to the powers that be. When the Bears celebrate their February 4th Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots, put Jeremy Jordan on a float in the LaSalle Street parade performing his variations on the theme from Bear Down Chicago Bears.