More about IU: What I learned and said

More about my IU visit (to the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University).

I found the school, overall, to be an open and welcoming place. With a lot of emphasis — in the composition department, for instance — on student initiatives.

Of course, as I said in my last post, I only got a taste of what’s there. Certainly there were some old-fashioned things. I’d love to go back, and get to know things better.


I mentioned in my first post about my visit that the school benefits from being part of a major university. Because, for instance, the university has a business school, with a top-ranked entrepreneurship program. So the conservatory’s Office of Entrepreneurship and Career Development can partner with the business school.

But here’s another benefit. The music school;’s IT department doesn’t have to do some of the more mundane IT tasks, like maintaining an email system. The university’s IT department does that.

So this frees time, staff, and money at the music school to — for instance — put video cameras and microphones in every performing space, permanently installed. Whenever there’s a performance, IT people sit in a central IT studio, recording the event, controlling the cameras with joysticks.

Thus every performance can be recorded, archived, streamed (if they want to). Including the talk on the future of classical  music I gave in their small concert hall. Which soon enough will be online, so you can watch it.

One possibility I love — that all student recitals could be dreamed. This would help, a lot, with something I wish would happen: That students would develop their own fan base, building audiences of their own, which would come to their recitals or watch them online.

Hot topic

At lunch with people from the Jacobs School administration I was asked many questions. Picking my brain on things I hope I know about.

One of those things was students speaking at recitals they give, and elsewhere. I’m all for that, of course.

But these students have to be mentored. They have to be taught how to speak, how to make what they say more focused, stronger, more helpful both to them and to their audience.

And this goes beyond students. I once watched a much-admired chamber ensemble (one of the new-style kind, that presents classical music in new ways) tell the story of L’histoire du Soldat at a concert where they played it. And, sadly, speaking without much life, almost in a monotone, so the story didn’t ring out.

And I’ve seen the director of a major presenting organization speak in far too diffident tones about a (terrific) concert she was presenting. Saying, well, you know, I try to program interesting groups, so you’ll know what’s out there.

While what she might have said was that this group is fabulous, that she’s thrilled to present it, that she tries to bring her audience the very best, the most exciting, the most path-breaking of what’s available. You want your audience to be excited to be at your shows, and to think they’ll be just as excited when they go to the next one.

Example of how to do that, from the director of the Folger Shakespeare Library, when their performance series presented Roomful of Teeth.

He came out, and told the audience (paraphrasing now) that he;’d never heard of the group. But then a friend who runs the performance series at Dumbarton Oaks (these are important Washington, DC venues) called him one day, to say that there was a group performing there that the Folger guy had to see. Roomful of Teeth.

When he went to their concert, the Folger director continued, his jaw just about hit the floor. Roomful of Teeth was wonderful. So he couldn’t wait to present them himself.

How could his audience, hearing that, not be on the edge of their seats, excited to hear what made the director so thrilled?

I’ve known both students and professionals, making presentations, to slur their words, or speak too fast, so we can’t hear what they’re saying. Mentoring in public speaking — it’s crucial!

About my talk

In future posts I want to write about the talk I gave. In particular, about what I’d love to see conservatories do, to build a future for classical music.

And about pop music’s deep and sustaining role in our culture. We in classical music underestimate that, I think.

And about classical music in the past, how free and exciting it was, with the audience clapping whenever it heard music it liked (right in the middle of performances!), musicians improvising, musicians empowered to be individuals, to make music the way they wanted to do it.

Understanding how classical music was in the past can help to empower us, help to free us to make classical music what we’d like it to be right now.

(A big topic, I might add, this week and last in my Juilliard course on classical music’s future.)

Original Source: More about IU: What I learned and said


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