Sometimes, I’m sick of "classical" music

Yesterday, the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and Meridian Music organized a terrific event: a “college prep day” for area high school students. String faculty from 6 or 7 Indiana college music programs listened to about 20 or so students play “mock” auditions. We each wrote a comment sheet which will go to the student and his or her teacher. They also took theory and ear-training tests, and at the end of the vent was a reception in which the students and their parents got to speak with the teachers, view displays from the various schools, etc. And it was a wonderful networking event for we teachers, who rarely gather in one place.

What a great opportunity for the students to get all this feedback before taking “real” auditions.

Despite being delighted by the event itself, I also found myself a bit frustrated and depressed. The music is all the same. A movement of solo Bach, if the student is up to it, or an easier Baroque sonata if not. And the most standard of standard string repertoire. Bruch G minor violin concerto. Faure Elegy for cello. Koussevitsky bass concerto. J C Bach as arranged by Cassedesus for viola.

They’re all wonderful pieces, and new to the kids. But I’ve heard these same pieces at SO many auditions over the years that I don’t know how much longer I can go on hearing them.

So many of the students are so talented and I didn’t get the impression, speaking with them, that any of them are doing anything truly creative (improvising and composing) outside learning all this music by dead Europeans. One of the cellists “doesn’t like” contemporary music–a response given when we were talking about the challenges of professional life for classical cellists and I was speaking about the great opportunities for people who are entrepreneurial and creative and work to develop new repertoire and new audiences.

As a while, we string teachers are doing little if anything to develop our students’ creativity, to interest them in new music, to encourage them to create new music that people will like.

And we wonder why “classical music” seems to be in deep trouble.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Sometimes, I’m sick of "classical" music

  1. Elaine Fine

    The whole “audition dance” seems to have the same steps for every instrument–the same repertoire, the same standards upon which auditionees are judged, and the same need for a kind of de-sensitization when it comes to playing for a group of judges who are there to determine the future of the person auditioning.

    This workshop sounds like it was a great opportunity for students to put themselves under the kind of pressure they go under when taking college auditions (or even professional ones), but I too wish that there were some other way to allow people who want to play and are willing to do what they need to do to play well to get into music programs.

    Maybe a system of playing chamber music with the faculty for auditions would be an alternative. One movement of a Mozart Quartet would make it clear whether the student is cut out to devote his/her life to music. It would also give good students a chance to decide whether the faculty members of a given school were the kinds of musicians he/she would like to work with for four years.

  2. freeman

    Thank you for this post. As a parent of a N.C. senior high school cellist facing looming college auditions, it is refreshing to hear your point of view from the other side of the fence. The mock auditions is a fantastic idea.

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