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In periods of high unemployment and economic recession, many parents panic when the child gets serious about a career in music. Who’s right? The kid with a passion or the cautious parent? A non-crazy woman in Denver makes her case.

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What’s In a Name?

November 29, 2011

This is More Like It

October 13, 2011

Not long ago an American orchestra on strike objected to the fact that they were being asked to spend, as part of their contractual obligation, time and effort on explicit communication with the community. On the other hand, we have a few artists who take that sort of relationship with the public as a pleasure rather than a chore. You’ll love this story: a class of fifth-grade children in Tulsa, Oklahoma were shown a video of Il barbiere di Seviglia in a Met production starring Joyce DiDonato. Their teacher, Charles Johnston decided to take advantage of having once met DiDonato, so he sent her an e-mail that caused her to suggest that the pupils send her some questions.

Rather than just sending an e-mail with her answers, this world-famous diva took time out from the strenuous Rosenkavalier rehearsals she was doing in Milan to send the kids this video:

Thanks to Robert Francks for pointing out this video.

“97-Year-Old Dies Unaware Of Being Violin Prodigy”: read the fictitious, but all-too-possible details from The Onion.

This New York Times entry on bilingualism and its effects on intelligence reminds me of the research showing that music study helps pupils in their mastery of other kinds of information. Is it possible that the two are related — that music acts in this context like another language?

“Accident? I think not,” suggests the indispensable Fred Child (via Twitter). “The vast majority of 2011 Spelling Bee finalists are also musicians (including…two violists!).”

One of the most discouraging aspects of American musical life for years now has been the state of music education for the great majority of children. One of the most encouraging has been the growing interest in, and heartening receptivity to, the success in Venezuela of El Sistema, the program that is taking hundreds of thousands of children to heights of accomplishment that might seem theoretically unlikely in meetings around a boardroom table but have become a reality in hundreds of cities and villages.

I was thinking of El Sistema when the recent unrest in Egypt caused the temporary closing of two of the training programs that the Barcelona Football Club (Barça) runs for young boys around the world. As I watch the new short video here and hear the head of the base school (La Masia) in Barcelona talking about the importance of both general education and training for excellence in helping children transcend what can otherwise be a life with far less purpose, I find it difficult to remember whether he is talking about producing a Lionel Messi or a Gustavo Dudamel.

UPDATE: Since posting the above this morning, I have come upon this article by a British journalist, published yesterday in an Australian paper, that goes a little more deeply into the process at La Masia. It still reminds me of a good conservatory.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The subject is commanding a lot of attention. A new video about La Masia is up. Being from Canal Plus, it’s in Castilian, but even those who don’t understand much of that language may find the video impressive.

Soon the posts here may return to their former frequency, since I’m in the homestretch of the biography I’m writing. In a way it’s unfortunate that I’m not blogging more, since — thanks to my subject, Xavier Montsalvatge — I’m probably having more interesting thought than usual. Here is Montsalvatge at the age of 80, talking about the difficulty, when he was a young student, of overcoming the overwhelming sway of Wagner’s music in the Barcelona of the 1920s:

Morera was a great harmonist and an even better contrapuntist; but, like nearly all the Catalan musicians of his generation, he composed all his works (very estimable, especially his sardanas and even more his choral works, although it infuriated him that people cited them, since he considered that he had most excelled in the field of opera) literally submerged in the Wagnerian esthetic [literalment submergit en l’estètica wagneriana]. At every moment he proposed for us as an example —as if it was to be treated as the composer’s gospel — the overture to Der Meistersinger, and it goes without saying that, for him, the music of Debussy was a symbol of decadent and bloodless art, that Falla wrote music for refined gypsies, and that some works of his pupils surpassed those of these composers.

This obtuse attitude, though, had a positive aspect. It bespoke, mainly, a blind faith it its ideology — which faith I consider to be in any case better than the agnosticism of the composers of today, which has made us lose fidelity to artistic principles, putting them constantly in question. And he felt for his pupils (me included) an affection that would have made him fight for us if the situation had presented itself. He was a great figure and, despite my not absolutely coinciding with his ideas, I took him for a musician of integrity [un músic d’una sola peça].