From Lara Downes: Billie Holiday and me

BILLIEgardenia1

Saturday mornings, when I was a kid, were spent at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, with a rigorous schedule of what we called “Saturday Classes”: theory, solfege, sight reading, music history, chamber music, composition, and more. This regimen started shortly after I started piano lessons at 4, and by the time I was 7 those classes had prepared me to write an opera based on Charlotte’s Web, which got its first and only performance that year at the conservatory. And which was, by the way, the pinnacle of my career as a … [Read more...]

From John Steinmetz: A life-changer

comeagain

  From Greg:  John Steinmetz is one of several people I've gotten close to after meeting them online, because (apart from liking each other) we share an interest in the future of classical music. He's a bassoonist, composer, thinker, and (I think this is right) a musical activist, based in Los Angeles.  More than a year ago, I invited him to blog here, and though he was happy to do it, life took him down other paths. But I've now learned once again that all things come  to those who wait, because now John has a post about something he … [Read more...]

Don’t say it’s dead

slate dead NO blog

There's been a lot of fuss online about a piece that showed up on Slate, about the death of classical music. Well, maybe it meant to be about the decline of classical music, and certainly included a strong array of facts and figures, more than I've usually seen in writing on this subject, no matter what point of view the writer take. But because the headline on the piece was "Requiem: Classical Music in America Is Dead"…because of the graphic I've reproduced here, which led off the piece (and which I've crossed out, because I disagree with … [Read more...]

Commenting problem

This is from Greg's assistant, Caroline Firman. We believe that there may be a problem with the comments on Greg's blog and we are actively working to get to the bottom of the issue. We apologize to anyone who may have commented over the last several days and has not seen their comments appear. We will post again when the problem has been fixed, but for now, please hold off on leaving any comments. Thanks for your patience and happy Friday! … [Read more...]

The moral of the story

yesno blog

The moral, that is, of my critique of the Chicago Symphony's "Sounds and Stories" online magazine. It so badly disappointed me. Great idea, for an orchestra to provide the kind of classical music coverage we don't find these days in the media. But why make it so deadly dull? So drastically out of touch with the kind of lively media people find everywhere else? I was being interviewed by a British journalist about "Sounds and Stories." That's how I happened to look at the site, though I'm sure I would have looked at it on my own, sooner or … [Read more...]

Such a disappointment

CSO_Sounds___Stories blog

A British journalist wanted to interview me about the Chicago Symphony's  new "Sounds and Stories" online multimedia magazine. So of course I looked at it. And I was so very sadly disappointed. What a good idea, I thought, to launch an online magazine, so people interested in the CSO or in classical music can read things they'd never get in standard media, where classical music is covered less and less. From the moment I got the CSO's press release about this, I was cheering for them. But what they've done, I'm so very sorry to say, is … [Read more...]

Classical music in an age of pop

juiliard blog

That's the course I'm teaching at Juilliard this semester, as I have every spring since 1997. Which means I've been teaching this course — about the future of classical music — for 17 years. Which of course also means that there's been concern about the future of for 17 years. I gave a talk at Juilliard in 1996 as part of their Doctoral Forum, about classical music's future, and that lead to an invitation to teach the course. (I'm giving another Doctoral Forum talk next month, about the classical music audience, past and present. But later for … [Read more...]

Rafa says no

Rafa opening his stocking

My little son, two years old, was taking CDs off the shelf where we keep operas. Looking at each one, and handing it to me. One he took down was the old Joan Sutherland recording of Rossini’s Semiramide, with Marilyn Horne, and Richard Bonynge conducting, I don’t think I’ve heard it since it came out in 1966, when I'd eagerly awaited it  — I was, and still am a big bel canto fan — but then was disappointed. Too many cuts, I thought. (I was a snob about cuts.) And apart from Sutherland and Horne the singers weren't great. Even Sutherland … [Read more...]

With best holiday wishes!

Xmas card for blog

To everyone who reads the blog, everyone who comments, all our guest bloggers, anyone who happens to see this — my best wishes for a warm and happy holiday season, and a terrific 2014. Changes have been gathering force in classical music, and I hope we'll all track them here, with hope and joy. My warmest thanks to everyone in this blog community, and everyone working for classical music's rebirth. We're all in this together, and together we can work miracles. I'm grateful to all of you. … [Read more...]

Brush the issues aside

doc wallace blag

Here's a thought from my friend and Juilliard colleague David Wallace, a violist, composer, teaching artist, and — as Doc Wallace — a Texas fiddler. And much, much more. His subject? All the issues he, I, and so many others thrash out, about classical music, its problems, its future, its place in our culture. Everything discussed in my blog. At some point…but let David tell it: At some point, self-marketing that surfs the "What's wrong about classical music wave, and why I'm not that" is going tobe blown away by marketing that simply … [Read more...]

American Voices, footnotes and letdown

was blog

Followup to my post on Renée Fleming's American Voices festival at the Kennedy Center (which featured classical, pop, jazz, country, Broadway, and gospel singing): Pop, jazz, and classical singers have some of the same problems. As I said in my previous post, I couldn't attend the masterclass for classical singers, which Eric Owens taught. But Anne (Anne Midgette, my wife, who did attend, and reviewed the festival for the Washington Post) said he told the students not to pump out a big operatic sound, but instead to build meaning from the … [Read more...]

The walls are coming down

ben folds blog

That's a phrase you might have seen me use, when I've talked about closing the gap between classical music and the rest of our culture. But the person who said those words at the Kennedy Center in Washington the weekend before Thanksgiving ago wasn't me. It was Renée Fleming, who of course is one of the most famous classical musicians alive, and who's knocked down walls herself by recording albums of jazz (here, here) and even indie rock. She used the phrase at the Kennedy Center because she was knocking walls down again, this time by … [Read more...]

Instead of a press release…

press releases blog

A colleague teaching an entrepreneurship course at a major music school emailed this question: I’m planning my entrepreneurship class for the spring and I used to have an exercise (using your blog actually) that required students to write a press release. This now seems kind of futile to me, since press releases, well, they are so analogue. Do you have any ideas about what I could replace this with? I like the notion of students having to publicize (and articulate) their projects. Blog post? Personal letter? Here's how I answered: You're … [Read more...]

From Erica Sipes: Twitter in the concert hall?

Students and faculty at Virginia Tech's Tweet-seat event, photo courtesy of Virginia Tech

From Greg: Erica helps us here with a question many of us ask. If we break the traditional silence of the concert hall — and the sitting motionless that goes with it — will people still listen with the care and attention we expect? You'll see that she herself wondered about this, but by taking part in something she'd never tried before, she learned… But let her tell you.  I almost always play the role of the "good girl" but a few weekends ago I found myself in a position where I was being glared at with obvious distaste and disgust within the … [Read more...]