From Julia Villagra: Wooing my peers (1)

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From Greg:  Back in November, I spoke at a conference at Boston University on the future of classical music, an ambitious project of BU's music school, and its dean, Benjamin Juarez. I gave opening and closing keynote talks, a great honor.  But — without meaning to put myself or the conference down — I've given keynote talks before. What stood out for me, over this weekend, was (as is so often true at conferences) the people I met. When I gave a presentation last June at the League of American Orchestras annual conference, I met Virginia … [Read more...]

Behind the veil

behind the veil blog

A week ago, the fabulous opera blog Parterre Box ran a study of the Met Opera's shaky finances. Which was by far the best thing I've read on the subject, and the kind of reporting we don't see nearly enough of in classical music. The writer was Dawn Fatale. Which of course isn't his real name. (Or hers, but most likely she's a man.) Not to go deep right now into the exuberant Parterre Box opera queen culture, but the doyenne of the blog, James Jorden (one of the sharpest observers of opera around), goes by La Cieca, a character in La Gioconda. … [Read more...]

Falling in love

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…with a Mexican tenor, Javier Caramena. Not a young tenor. He's 37. Just making his Met Opera debut this season in La Sonnambula. But just watch and hear him sing "Una furtiva lagrima." In my last post I'd longed for the far-gone days when Mario Lanza sang without holding back, with full passion, without an overlay of classical-music respectability. I said I longed to go back in a time machine to be in a world where people did that, and where a large, popular audience responded. Caramena gives me that time machine. Well, not really. … [Read more...]

Why I cried

great caruso blog

I cried last weekend, when I watched The Great Caruso, the Hollywood film about Enrico Caruso's life, released in 1951, and starring Mario Lanza. I cried — spoiler alert — because of how unfettered Italian opera was when the film was made, and also for deeper reasons I'll get to, reasons that help explain why I do the work I do. But about the movie. It might be easy to dismiss, if you haven't seen it (or for some people, sadly, even if they have) as Hollywood fakery, sentimental and factually wrong. Caruso didn't die onstage (as he's shown … [Read more...]

Red herring

red herring blog

I blogged a month ago about an outburst of crisis denial — two highly emotional attacks on the idea that classical music faces a serious crisis. I commented only on the emotion, thinking that later I might rebut the arguments. But I lost interest in that. Seems like a distraction from what I think ought to be our main job, which is finding ways out of the crisis, a collaborative job that's spontaneously being taken up by people all over the western world. (Maybe Asia, too, though I know less about that.)  As someone who runs an iconic … [Read more...]

Hidden history

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"A Young and Lively Audience: The Hidden History of Classical Music." That was the title of a talk I gave last week at the Doctoral Forum, a lecture series at Juilliard. The talk is now online, and you can listen to it. The title was meant to be provocative, of course. I talked about two things: how young the classical music audience was in past generations, and how lively the audience was in past centuries, reacting audibly while they listened, and applauding the moment they heard anything they liked. (Go here for a page on my blog site … [Read more...]

Crossing over

go go blog

There's a lot of buzz in classical music these days about community — reaching out, if you're a performing group, to the community you're in, involving the community in what you do. There are endless examples. The Cincinnati Symphony has been doing "One City, One Symphony" events, involving  a gala performance of a piece (they started with Beethoven's Ninth), and listening parties around the city, all built around the theme of "our common humanity." (The link goes to a Huffington Post piece about the project, since, incredibly, the orchestra … [Read more...]

From Caroline Gilbert: Reaching the creative class

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From Greg: This comes from one of my Juilliard students, taking my course on the future of classical music. I asked her to write something about one piece of reaching we'd done, an excerpt from Richard Florida's book The Rise of the Creative Class. I assign this in a class session called "Classical Music and the Rest of Our Culture," and it's about what nightlife is like for youngish creative people (who might be artists, designers, tech people, entrepreneurs, filmmakers, you name it). Florida defines these people as "the creative class," … [Read more...]

Teaching

stavreva blog

My Juilliard course on the future of classical music is well under way, with a terrific group of students. Including four violists, which makes me wish we were giving a concert. Thirsting to hear music — maybe write music!  —for viola quartet. Such a sumptuous sound. I've offered to teach a shorter version of this course online, if enough people are interested. And we're almost there! Contact me if you'd like to join in. You can see what the Juilliard version of the course is about with these two links, to the course overview and to … [Read more...]

From Liza Figueroa Kravinsky: Living up to the hype

930-Club-Flyer blog

[From Greg: Full disclosure. I got to know Liza when she hired me as a consultant. But we worked only on a very modest plan to launch her project, a plan that turned out not to be needed. Maybe I encouraged her in some helpful way, but the stunning success she's been having comes from things she did entirely on her own. Go, Liza!]  In a series of  guest blogs, I've talked about my Go-Go Symphony,  a composition that combines original classical music with the go-go beat, Washington DC's iconic dance rhythm.  In my first post, I described how … [Read more...]

High Anxiety

anger blog

Emotions are running high. That's what I thought when I read the reactions of two writers I know, to the piece in Slate that I commented on here, at the end of last month. This was the piece that exaggerated classical music's troubles, with a title, graphic, and perky one-liners, all of which said that classical music wasn't just troubled, but was actually dead. You can read my reaction to see my own view, which is that classical music is plainly not dead, and that we need to be far more precise in talking about what its problems really … [Read more...]

From Lara Downes: Billie Holiday and me

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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

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  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...]