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Classical Notes

Classical Notes: August 2, 2006 Archive

Menlo: students and the pros

Posted at 11:19 AM on August 2, 2006 by Brian Newhouse (8 Comments)
Filed under: Concerts

You should see how the eyes on the Music@Menlo student musicians narrow as they watch the veterans here perform. The pros – all of whom have international careers touring and recording – make it look so easy. Last night for instance, the Orion String Quartet had us in the palm of their hand with Mozart’s haunting arrangement of Bach’s Prelude and Fugues from the Well-Tempered Clavier. Watch the kids’ faces during moments like that and you see this great mix of awe and determination forming: ‘I want to do that’ and ‘I will do that.’

In my talk to these students the other day I told them that, while they’re busy practicing and dreaming, give some thought about how they’re going to position themselves if the big record companies and promoters are a little slow in calling. How can you make your art, I asked them, how can you be useful to your community – which by the way is a pretty solid strategy for gathering great press and advancing your careers.

In a story taken from my own backyard, I told them about a Minneapolis elementary school that’s trying hard to keep music in the curriculum. I showed them Jerry Holt’s gorgeous slide show that ran with this Star Tribune article. Check it out yourself here.

Now go back and stop the show when the counter is 15 seconds from the end. What do you see in that photo?

That girl’s eyes have stayed with me ever since this story ran in the paper two months ago. She’s part of Minneapolis’ burgeoning east-African refugee community and most likely has seen things I hope never to see. But there she is, that bright shiny flute in her hands and she’s doing her best. I told the Menlo kids that, while you can see many things in that photo, something you can’t miss is plain, simple opportunity. This girl is waiting for us, all of us, including the future stars of Menlo, to show her how. Being useful to her could jump-start or be a whole career right there.

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Comment on this post

What Is Classical Music?

Posted at 1:45 PM on August 2, 2006 by Rex Levang

Brian Newhouse’s posting of a few days ago, bringing together classical chamber music and an Aly and AJ concert, reminded me of something I’d just run across.

A few years back, teacher and critic Greg Sandow taught a course at Juilliard on “Classical Music in an Age of Pop.” Many of the students were rock aficionados, besides having (presumably) a classical background. As part of the course, he asked his students for their description of what classical music is.

Rather than undertake the thankless task of defining classical music in 25 words or less, he asked them for a list of qualities or characteristics. The kids did a pretty good job, though I think they missed a few things. Sandow’s summary is here, and as always, there’s room for your thoughts below.