Juilliard Must Modernize, or It Will Disappear
Never heard of Springsteen?
Less than 30% of students go on to work in the same field they studied in college. So is it a problem that the vast majority of those who study music at Juiliard don't go on to work in the music industry? Probably not.
I don't think not knowing Springsteen is a SIN, or a sign that you are musically illiterate in the modern world. Just because you like Bruce and he is very famous does not mean you have to be living in a hole if you don't know him. Indeed I love it, I love that people whose profession is music doesn't know someone that is musically so famous. I love people that focus on the things they like and don't care about what's famous, what's on the radio, what's on the news, what's news today, etc, etc, etc...
With all due respect, Jason, a degree in violin performance requires a lot more work than a degree in French or other humanities. The humanities are the degrees that account for the majority of people who end up pursuing careers in other fields. Moreover I believe that degrees in the humanities provide more transferable skills than in music (or in the sciences for that matter). You learn how to learn in college. Violin students spend the vast majority of their time learning and fine tuning a set of specific, hard to learn manual skills.
Easy, Paul N:
At the end of the subject article (if you bothered to read that far) you will read that the author "is a violinist and writer based in Manhattan. She has performed on the motion picture soundtracks to Bruce Springsteen’s Western Stars, as well as The Greatest Showman, and Joker."
Well gol-dang it, if the writer is a New York gig musician who has performed once or twice in a backup role for Bruce Springsteen, what higher level of violin playing could there possibly be? LOL
David, in terms of hourly wage, probably not much!
You all are revealing your age. She graduated from Juilliard in 2013. Someone who was born around 1990 and hadn't heard of Springsteen? It's not that unusual except if they're from New Jersey. In the 2000s, he was already an old guy that dads with beer guts listened to. He was irrelevant to the mainstream tween, unless the kid was a rock snob who was discovering the oldies.
Juilliard has some gas left in the tank. It’s goal of training highly skilled musicians is being met.
I don't listen to rock music at all, but I have heard of every musician or group so far listed on this thread. I'm not sure I could name their biggest hits in every case, but at least I've heard of them.
Bruce Springsteen is just an example. I think the main thing is that colleges are not preparing musicians to be versatile or even set them up for a career.
I still think that it is the wrong perspectives be to look at this from the perspective of employment. It simply makes no sense to spend inordinate amounts of time as a child and adolescent practicing, going to conservatory and then getting a masters to earn 25k. The employment stats are abominable. Many college music departments are closing or being reduced on this account.
@Albrecht, I studied classical guitar in college, but like most, chose a different career path afterwards. While I did spend countless hours refining my skills, I also learned a great many other lessons in class as well as life lessons outside of class. Time management, independence, dedication, work ethic, critical thought... While the subject matter itself did not relate to my current career, the experience and knowledge gained enabled me to achieve what I have.
Being in a music program right now, I'd say many of the kids my age have a pretty good awareness of actual music trends. A couple of em are into prog rock and funk and all sorts of other genres. A few of them also like 20th century Russian music, which should be a theoretical impossibility. All in all, a fairly diverse group, although they all have great enthusiasm for classical music (obviously) and little interest in actually playing that other stuff.
As far as Springsteen is concerned, it would be better knowing Ella Fitzgerald or other jazz players.
Perhaps, to keep Christopher happy, perhaps Juilliard could engage Roberts Balanas, Lyndsey Stirling, or Tessa Lark, or all three, to give some masterclasses? Or someone else I've forgotten? (I doubt that either Yo Yo Ma or Kennedy would be available).
Lindsey Stirling could probably give a music business masterclass!!
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I'm not a music major, just an amateur, but from the article alone, I fail to see how exactly did Julliard failed to prepare people for employment.
The part about Julliard not surviving is obviously headline hyperbole and not worth contesting as such. At the very least it would survive as a degree printing institution on the basis of its supposed name alone.
I had no idea Beethoven had a sell by date. I am going to start sniffing my scores.
Buri, don't panic - It's only a sell by date, not a use by date! And third world countries will still accept some goods past their use by dates (e.g., USA and UK, Germany, etc.)
Well fermented composers are good for gut health.
But then they are decomposing.
You know, I just don't see the absence of multigenre music teaching, although I acknowledge that this might be because I live in the bubble of a big, multicultural city with a rich musical life that crosses genres.
That's good to hear Lydia hear and yes, things are changing gradually. One thing I'll add about Suzuki and any other method involving a book is that you will never see copyrighted tunes in them. I think this is a problem because it is always going to be public domain music from the past as copyright lasts 75 years or so now.
"One thing I'll add about Suzuki and any other method involving a book is that you will never see copyrighted tunes in them."
Yeah yeah Paul. I'm going to personally see to it that all Beethoven music at Julliard is burnt and replaced with scores of Bruce Springsteen - obviously!!!
I don't see how an institution that already has plenty of applicants and interest around it (and that is all PURELY because of its classical music education) is going to die out? If Julliards already is successful based solely on that, why would they need to expand into other forms of music? The talented prodigies who are interested in classical music training are still present in droves, and there is no proof that they are dying out. So... why would Julliards die again? Because they don't feel the need to branch out into other forms of music in order to have mass appeal? Julliards was never aiming for mass appeal anyways. They want PRODIGIES and super hard workers, and that audience will already know about these schools through their teachers (who guide their talent) or self-conducted research (out of their passion for the art).
I don't know exactly what the author is suggesting but I don't think it's so much the lack of study of other musics but more a problem of being blinkered to the world of music making outside of the classical repertoire. Personally I think strings education is too focussed on preparing somebody to be a soloist with a second prize being a career as an orchestral player - or bust... It's just not so imaginative career-wise or even artistically.
So Julliards should prepare violinists to play folk and pop gigs in bars, weddings, and the like for minimum wage?
Juilliard’s objective in the classical music division is to train classical musicians, and not the next Britney Spears. If you want to pursue non-classical music studies, you can go to Berkelee College of Music in Boston. Why should Juilliard be something it is not and compete with other schools in an area they don’t specialize in? Would you go to a Chinese restaurant and order pizza or lasagna? The author of the article didn’t illustrate why Bruce Springsteen is so important to know about other than the fact her husband thinks he’s great and that Springsteen is a famous and popular living musician. Should schools like Juilliard form their curriculums based on those arguably shallow principles?
One thing that the pandemic has brought home-- there will be the need for some literacy with on-line technology. Teaching, chamber music, business meetings, etc. I am guessing that most traditional conservatories didn't necessary nurture that kind of knowledge.
Mike Liu said:
Most of my friends Christopher, who have a classical training at top conservatories, know who those popular artists are. It was thanks to my classical training (which I’m very grateful for) that enabled me to perform with Sting and to record on many Hollywood soundtracks for Paramount and Disney with Grammy Award winning composers, while sight reading the whole time!
Sorry, the second post of mine was a little driven by frustration. There are definitely more jobs in pop than just small gigs. I hate the idea that a lot of people have of classical music, that it's just old, obscure, and that pop music is what all modern music will be. These people criticize classical musicians for not knowing pop yet they themselves don't know anything outside of pop. I thought this conversation was perhaps going down that road for some reason.
I think this conversation has got too sidelined into pop and Bruce Springsteen! I personally just think that musicians should have a broad awareness of what the rest of the world is doing that's all - not just pop. World music was important to me - it wasn't always about what I was going to play but I do think that by looking at other approaches it puts into stark relief what you are doing yourself and highlights any assumptions you have about making music.
It's unfair to criticize classical music conservatory teachers for doing their work. Many of the students won't necessarily be gainfully employed but that is not Juilliard's fault, but the way life in music is. You can do well, and some really do, but it is not a guarantee. It is also a problem with the smaller name schools.
Stephen - I hear you. It's an interesting topic of discussion though. You mention classical players not being able to improvise. I've commented on this before but I think one of the main points is that string players are told that if you have consummate technique then you can turn your hand to anything. That's not really true - it doesn't give you the ability to improvise, authentically play another style or even play by ear necessarily. If you haven't worked on those things then no amount of technique is going to make them magically happen.
One could have a sort of linked classical-pop study modules: e.g., Samuel Coleridge Taylor linked with Taylor Swift; Heinrich Biber with Justin Bieber; the two Engelbert Humperdincks. etc.
I think classical players can improvise, but it is not often required for classical music itself, save for a few ornaments here and there, added notes, and cadenza playing. Telling an accomplished Juilliard student to "improvise something for me!" and expecting a jazz or charanga improvisation for someone who does not personally cultivate those styles (for instance) is not going to have the best results. But I bet the same players would be able to improvise in whatever genres they are familiar with (including classical). Great technical training is not the enemy of improvisation. Anti classical music schools thinking tends to go to extreme lengths to (mostly unsuccessfully) prove its point.
I would think that the ability to improvise would be dependent on one's familiarity with the music.
It's also a very different skill that involves inhibiting a lot of conscious control and monitoring in our brains. Classical musicians will have a leg up because they have the technique to know how to make a particular sound, but since classical musicians are training very conscious control, they don't have the skills built up in the other direction as a result of their training.
There was a book out 20 or more years ago called “The End of History” :) Cyclically, in the art world, the “End of Painting” is announced. I make pottery for a living, deeply rooted in the past and have heard prediction of its death repeated throughout the 40 years I’ve been doing it. As far as I can tell that community through Instagram and other strategies is doing better than ever. A decision to follow any path in the arts is a risky one.
Wow, so many really thoughtful comments on here!
I do think that most programs should offer a high-quality multigenre survey course as an elective. It's useful for all kinds of things if you're gigging, and there are some techniques used in nonclassical styles that are worth learning. Ditto a course of improvisation.
I agree wholeheartedly with Tracy. Some ethnomusicology in the elite classical musical programs might open a few minds, but I won't be holding my breath.
The ironic thing in all this is that Juilliard and the other elite schools are in zero danger of disappearing because they are the most prestigious. It's like saying that Harvard, Princeton and Yale might disappear if they don't change what they're doing. Nonsense--the elite institutions are are on a fine footing. Look at their billions in endowments.
Tracy - good comments and from a Julliard alumnus! Yes, it's about attitude.
I think Nate Robinson makes an excellent point that if Juilliard wants to improve in some way, more academic rigor is the better direction than remedial course work in non-classical-genre-appreciation.
I got to play with the Moody Blues! So fun! Except I was sad they/we didn't play "The Voice," my fave, at that concert.
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