Written by a violinist and Juilliard graduate named Emma Sutton-Williams, the article begins when she nearly misses out on a gig -- playing with Bruce Springsteen -- because she doesn't know who he is. It goes on ask "why is (Juilliard) continuing to prepare brilliant students to only enter the world of dying orchestras with downward spiraling funding without helping them explore other genres or expand their skill set to survive a changing market?"
She suggests that "classical schools should teach technological advances as survival skills — and introduce different genres to their students, audiences, and donors alike." She also suggests that "crossing over musical boundaries and integrating technology" should be viewed as core accomplishments rather than extracurriculars.
Fair enough, but toward the end is this sentence, "Classical purists clutch their hearts in disgust at the mere suggestion of their holy shrines teaching business skills like freelancing or contemporary styles like pop, rock, or electronic music."
Really? As a professional classical violinist myself, I actually don't know many colleagues with this attitude. Most actual musicians see the merit in many different genres -- for example, Itzhak Perlman at age 70-something played for a Billy Joel concert; Rachel Barton Pine loves heavy metal music. "It takes one to know one," and good musicians recognize that excellence is not exclusive to "classical music." The attitude she describes is the attitude of a dilettante.
When it comes to music schools teaching business skills, I can can give you at least one example: my own alma mater. I received my Bachelor of Music at Northwestern University, where I took a business course through the Music School, specifically about the music business. It was eye-opening and helpful, and even though the music business has changed a great deal in the years since, it gave me a foundation for understanding and dealing with the business side of music. So I agree that music students benefit from business courses, but I disagree with the idea that no music schools offer them - this course existed since the 1980s and possibly before. And I'm pretty sure Juilliard currently has such courses as well.
Also, I do think it's important for young musicians to know how pop music and film scores are produced in the modern world, if they wish to participate and have power in the industry. I think some classical musicians underestimate the importance of being adept in the technology of music production - and how "out of it" you'll be today, if you are not. I have seen some of this first-hand: my son is a young filmmaker who has scored a number of his own films, recorded and produced music and made quite a number of music videos of various genres. Despite the 10 years of piano lessons I foisted upon him, many of his most important skills are completely separate from those lessons, and they are rather complex: running a digital audio workstation, knowing recording technology, etc. I have recorded with him and his friends and I greatly respect what they do. Anyone "clutching their hearts in disgust" at learning such skills does so to their own detriment. That said, I feel that a lot of classical musicians would be open to this new world, given the chance to learn about it.
So the ideas in Williams' article provide some good food for thought and raise a number of questions, at least for me:
I would invite you to participate in the vote below, and then share your thoughts about those questions.
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