Embajadores y jefes de gobierno en conferencia de prensa.
Hoy, a eso de las 11 de la mañana en el despacho principal del moderno Palácio do Buriti se concretaba un decreto histórico. El Gobernador de Brasilia Agnelo Queiroz y la primera dama, afectuosamente tomados de la mano, le expresaban al fundador de El Sistema (flanqueado por un selecto grupo de embajadores, oficiales de gobierno, y otros invitados especiales) su deseo de hacer de la educación musical una política de estado en su gobierno. La meta—convertir la música en un derecho universal para mas de medio millón de escolares en el distrito federal. Ellos comenzaran ese sueño en Septiembre de este año atendiendo a 132,000 estudiantes con un plan ya estructurado y financiado. Con humildad y un semblante lleno de esperanza, el gobernador expresaba como una educación musical inspirada en El Sistema podría ayudar a erradicar la violencia, la pobreza, y la deserción escolar. En un dialogo franco el mismo Maestro Abreu le auguraba éxito y le compartía como un proyecto musical de acción social bien articulado no solamente era “una garantía de vida comunitaria para los niños y jóvenes mas pobres, si no también, una garantía del estado para formar una ciudadanía plena.”
Se hablo de ese proyecto como revolucionario. Otros maestros de la música Brasileños comentaban que era un momento histórico no solo para Brasilia si no para el país entero. La firma de ese decreto no paso desapercibida. La misma Presidenta del Brasil, la excelentísima Dilma Rousseff, luego de condecorar al Maestro Abreu con la Orden Nacional del Crucero del Sur, se dio la tarea de asistir al concierto de la Orquesta Simón Bolívar en el Teatro Nacional esa misma noche; y la orquesta, vistiendo medallas con los colores de Venezuela le dedico el himno nacional de Brazil (haciendo que el ambiente se sintiera como el preludio de una gran final de un mundial de futbol).
Ya se habla de la formación de una gran orquesta binacional que sea ejemplo de la suma de voluntades y de la consagración del trabajo en equipo. "La música es un instrumento irreemplazable para unir a las personas,” dice el Maestro Abreu. Y en ese marco, unirá a dos países que podrán atravez de la música, imaginar nuevas formas de lograr acuerdos. Completar la inmensa tarea que se han trazado no será nada fácil; pero existe una voluntad política verdadera.
Eso es un buen comienzo. Y gran ejemplo.
9 de Abril del 2013, Brasília.
La orquesta Simón Bolívar llego a São Paulo vía Buenos Aires en un vuelo privado de Lufthansa cargado de instrumentos y de grandes sueños. “Que tengan una bonita estancia y mucho éxito en los conciertos,” dijo la sobrecargo al despedirnos. Con un día de descanso (cosa que muy pocas veces se suscita en las giras), los músicos llegaron renovados a la gran urbe Brasileña. Otro país, otro publico—pero también conocedor y exigente. El primer ensayo previo a los dos conciertos que se celebran aquí transcurrió con la intensidad que caracteriza a la orquesta y a su director. Tras los primeros compases de la Consagración de la Primavera, la acústica de la sala (una antigua estación de tren) gusto a todos; especialmente al fagotista principal que le inspiraba un timbre muy especial en su solo introductorio. Todo sonaba perfectamente claro, los pianos nítidos; los fortes expansivos. El Maestro Dudamel supo aprovechar muy bien las cualidades de la sala y a su vez les pidió a sus músicos mucho mas disciplina rítmica y calidad de sonido. Este como todos, era un concierto importante. Debía de sonar como si fuera “el primero o el ultimo” que la orquesta fuera a dar.
En las recientes publicaciones alusivas a la gira, se ha descrito a la Bolívar como una orquesta audaz. Me llama mucho la atención el adjetivo. Audaz, según el diccionario de la Real Academia Española, se reduce a atrevido. Y si, es una orquesta muy atrevida que hace repertorios sumamente difíciles. Y valiente también, diría yo. Pareciera no le tuvieran miedo a ningún tipo de limite—seguramente por que ese concepto no figura en su estirpe. Su lograda perfección nunca es el fin si no bien el resultado derivado de esos dos elementos—valor y audacia. Esa misma audacia de lo indecible (por que la música se siente) es lo que provoca. Signo de todo eso es el publico incontenible. Se le escucha en el furor de sus aplausos, en el brillo de sus ojos. Es algo muy especial.
Mas aun es la cualidad empática con la que atravez de los años se ha forjado el carácter de su sonido tan propio y particular. Durante el intermedio del concierto en São Paulo, el Maestro Abreu me compartía que es “la solidaridad, y el amor incondicional que se profesan entre si los integrantes de la orquesta lo que define sus cualidades estéticas.” Para ser mas concisos, “la orquesta se ve reflejada colectivamente en un solo ser,” decía el maestro. Era hermoso ver tras bambalinas como antes del concierto Ismel Campos (el violista principal) tocaba a dúo música de Bach con uno de sus compañeros. O como Claudio Hernandez comentaba en su cuenta de Twitter el orgullo sin igual que sentía por sus compañeros tras finalizar el concierto.
De todo eso se trata la música. Eso es tan importante como un gran triunfo en una noche de concierto.
7 de Abril del 2013, São Paulo.
The winner of the fifth annual North Shore Star competition, back in March was classically-trained Sheree Dunwell, who belted out “I Believe in You and Me” by her idol, Whitney Houston.
“Whitney would be proud,” Bill Hanney, owner of North Shore Music Theatre, said during the judges’ commentary after the performance at the March 1 competition.
Dunwell, who sings in a wedding band, said her competition strategy was simply to perform one of her favorite songs.
“It was really easy to come up with a song,” she said. “I just really hoped that [the emotion] would come across, and I’m so glad it did.”
Fourteen singers performed at the competition, which was hosted by the Beverly Rotary Club and sponsored by North Shore Music Theatre. The event drew about 340 people to the Danversport Yacht Club in Danvers.
Joining Hanney and Kulhawik, president of the Boston Theater Critics Association, at the judges’ table was longtime radio and television personality Dana Hersey.
For $75 a person, North Shore Star attendees enjoyed dinner, an auction, and the singing competition. This year, the club raised $28,400 that will benefit North Shore charities.
Michael Harrington, chairman of the event and a Beverly Rotary Club member, said each year’s competition raises about $35,000.
“Our goal is to raise about $100,000 a year for charity, and we’re always trying to think of fun, creative ways to do it,” he said.
Auditions were held in January for the show. From about 70 hopeful performers, the highest turnout at an audition, North Shore Music Theatre representatives selected the singers to compete in the finals for the $1,000 cash prize and a crystal trophy.
Harrington, a former member of the North Shore Music Theatre board of directors, said compiling the list of 14 finalists was a challenge.
“We’re looking for star power,’’ he said, someone who gets on stage “and they kind of sizzle.”
He said audition judges sought diversity among the singers, as well as in their music styles.
Christina Jedra for The Boston Globe
This winner, Sheree Dunwell, with last year’s victor, Fred VanNess, after the contest at the Danversport Yacht Club.
Performers covered songs by Guns ’N Roses, Jason Mraz, Katy Perry, Martina McBride, Amy Winehouse, and from “Les Misérables.’’
And the contestants tried various methods to stand out before the judges.
Kayla Brennan coordinated her outfit, a white sequined evening gown, with a lyric in “If I Die Young” that refers to wearing white. Taylor Callahan confidently approached the judges’ table during her performance of “Sweet Child O’ Mine.”
And Amy-Jayne McCabe headed into the audience, dancing with no less than three male audience members during the instrumental breaks of her energetic performance of the Dixie Chicks’ “Sin Wagon.”
Despite the contestants’ best efforts, there could only be one winner. Kulhawik, an Emmy-winning arts critic, said Dunwell’s fusion of opera training and soul music made an impression on her.
“You wouldn’t think that those things have a lot in common, but in fact they do,” she said. “She held the audience.”
Dunwell said that she is thrilled with her win and that she will probably assign a portion of the cash prize to her Boston Marathon charity contribution.
“I am shocked, excited, really happy, but mostly shocked,” she said.
El Maestro Abreu, antes de iniciar el ensayo en el Teatro Colón.
Eran las dos y media de la tarde; casi doscientos músicos íbamos rumbo al mítico Teatro Colón. El trayecto del hotel al teatro fueron escasos 10 minutos. Todos en silencio. La algarabía que caracteriza a los miembros de la Orquesta Simón Bolívar de Venezuela o la Bolívar (como cariñosamente se le llama) quedo congelada en el salón del almuerzo. Por ahí, un músico solfeaba los patrones rítmicos de la Danse Sacrale de Stravinsky (tan complejos y tan riesgosos). Otro escuchaba el Quinteto para Piano de Shostakovich a todo volumen a través de sus audifonos. Cada quien con su propio ritual para prepararse. Ya no había tiempo de pensar en otra cosa mas que en el concierto—en el reto.
El Teatro, recientemente renovado, es un símbolo nacional y motivo de orgullo para los Argentinos. Ha sido escenario de grandes conciertos—las variaciones Goldberg con Barenboim, la Orquesta Nacional de Francia con Charles Dutoit; sendas y ya legendarias representaciones operísticas con Maria Callas y Enrico Caruso. La Bolívar ya había estado aquí. Bajo la dirección del Maestro Abreu y recientemente con Gustavo Dudamel quien ofreciera una Séptima de Mahler excepcional, y según me relato el concertino Alejandro Carreño, de memoria (inclusive la orquesta). Pero en esta ocasión el concierto quedo sobrevendido y se tuvo que abrir la sala durante el ensayo general. Ahí estuvieron los niños, los jóvenes músicos de Buenos Aires; sus maestros y otros conocedores de la música culta. Los asientos de platea para el concierto rondaban en los quinientos pesos. Pero todos ellos pudieron apreciar a la orquesta sin costo alguno.
A las tres y media en punto, el Maestro Abreu subió al podium y en un momento muy emotivo compartió la reseña previa del diario La Nación:
"Juntos estarán, y podrían ser nombrados en cualquier orden, la mejor orquesta latinoamericana (y entre las del mundo también), el director joven más talentoso y espectacular del planeta, el compositor más trascendente y cardinal de su tiempo (y, tal vez, de todo el siglo pasado) y uno de los compositores más talentosos y originales de nuestro continente. Sinceramente, pocas veces se da una conjunción tan extraordinaria. Podemos recordar infinidad de visitas al país de prestigiásemos y fantásticos organismos sinfónicos con directores sobresalientes. Pero pocas veces, o quizá nunca, una orquesta arriba a estas tierras con un programa tan sustancial, trascendental, contundente y riesgoso como el que hoy traerán Dudamel y sus muchachos."
Y comenzó el ensayo.
Cuatro horas de tremendo esfuerzo. “Si no se cansan, entonces esto no valdrá la pena, no funcionara,” les dijo Dudamel haciendo alusión a la coda de la Consagración de la Primavera de Stravinsky (el numero 177 de la partitura). La orquesta debía de dar todo, incluso en el ensayo. En la décima fila del teatro, Joshua Dos Santos (otro gran talento de El Sistema) y yo estuvimos muy atentos a cada gesto del Maestro Dudamel, a cada sonido que emanaba de la orquesta. Los balances debían de quedar perfectos. Había que reubicar a las percusiones en la Noche de Jaranas, el segundo movimiento de la Noche de los Mayas de Revueltas. Los encores estuvieron muy bien cuidados tambien. La "Muerte de amor" de Tristan e Isolda de Wagner recibio particular atención, sobre todo por la densidad de las texturas orquestales, los tiempos, los silencios. Los momentos cumbres debian sonar, como "olas de fuego."
Y al final, en el mayor momento de inspiración, Dudamel le dijo a sus músicos: “La Orquesta Simón Bolívar debe reconocerse visionaria; como la primera línea de batalla de un gran sueño, alimentado por la conciencia del trabajo en equipo.”
Por eso la orquesta cimbró el Teatro Colón. Por eso es ejemplo para todos.
4 de Abril del 2013, Buenos Aires.
As we prepare the young musicians of the 21st century for the professional world, it is vital to understand the new pathway that is emerging, that is different from the old paradigm, and that will utilize the very best of that astonishing skill set and talent that belongs to musicians. In this series of blogs, I have invited some of my colleagues to tell of their own experiences or discoveries as musicians, teachers, and entrepreneurs that shed light on the new pathway. Earlier posts in the series include my introduction, and an essay by Lyle Davidson.
After 11 years as Music director and Conductor of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, David Loebel joined the NEC faculty as Associate Director of Orchestras in 2010. In that capacity, he conducts both of our College orchestras and also works closely with the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, our Preparatory School’s senior-most orchestra. We are extremely fortunate to have such a gifted, warm, and collegial member of the team. In Memphis, David, the administration, and players were particularly prescient in understanding what orchestras needed to do if they were not only to survive but flourish in contemporary cultural life. In this post, he discusses these requirements and how orchestras must consider these needs in their selection of players. The Future of Orchestra Auditions ?
I’ve literally spent my entire life around orchestras. My father played in the Cleveland Orchestra for many years; not until the age of six or so did I realize that not everyone’s father dressed up in white tie and tails to go to work at 8 o’clock on Saturday evening. In addition to playing and teaching, beginning in the 1960s my dad was among the founders of a movement to improve the pay and working conditions of orchestra musicians. (His generation’s story is well told in Julie Ayer’s enlightening book, More Than Meets The Ear: How Symphony Musicians Made Labor History).
As I began my conducting career, the efforts of my father, his colleagues across the country, and the boards and staffs of their orchestras had begun to bear fruit. Seasons and audiences grew, musicians’ salaries increased, and orchestras in smaller cities improved exponentially in professionalism and quality. Sure, there were occasional downticks in ticket sales and every so often a “gloom and doom” article in some national publication heralded the imminent death of American symphony orchestras, but somehow they always got back on track.
To many of us, the well-publicized problems that orchestras are currently facing feel different and merely tweaking around the edges of our “business model” will not solve them. The causes seem obvious: new forms of entertainment and new means of delivering them, changing lifestyles, a new generation of philanthropists uninterested in classical music, and the decades-long devaluation of arts education in our schools. The symptoms are similarly obvious: aging audiences, revenue not keeping pace with increased costs, contentious contract negotiations, the occasional bankruptcy, and a mad scramble by all concerned to come up with the magic formula that will instantly and painlessly solve all our problems.
It’s impossible to know exactly what orchestras will look like in a decade or two, but the job description of most orchestra musicians will surely change. In all but a tiny handful of very elite orchestras, merely sitting on the stage in a magnificent concert hall playing highly polished performances of great masterpieces will no longer be enough. Musicians will need to add value to their orchestras in myriad ways: working with young people and under served audiences, passionately advocating for music in general and orchestras in particular throughout their communities, playing in small ensembles with both traditional and non-traditional instrumentation, composing, arranging and much more. In an increasingly polyglot world, those musicians who are multi-lingual or are comfortable with jazz, world music and other non-classical genres will likely have a leg up.
The good news is that conservatories and universities, including New England Conservatory, are proactively preparing their students to enter this new world. But how can orchestras identify those musicians who will fit into it?
Before joining the faculty at NEC, I was Music Director of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. Like many orchestras, we recognized that our survival depended on connecting with our community in new ways and that our musicians would be the most critical factor in achieving that goal.
It was obvious that every new member of the orchestra would have to be able to contribute to our community engagement initiatives, yet the traditional format of orchestra auditions made it difficult to determine which candidate was best suited for that task.
Our auditions looked like everybody else’s: a preliminary round consisting of a solo piece and the usual orchestral excerpts, followed by semi-final and final rounds. Auditions for positions whose occupants would also play in a chamber ensemble included a chamber music round. For principal chairs, the excerpt list would be a little more elaborate and, if possible, the winning candidate would play for a week or two in the orchestra before receiving a final job offer. If we had questions about a candidate, we might call a few references. There was absolutely nothing out of the ordinary about our process.
Things began to change when we had an opening for Principal Oboe, a crucial chair in any orchestra. After all the finalists had played the excerpts and done some sight reading, we gave them a “tuning audition,” asking them to play several A-440s in a row to check the consistency of their pitch. Then the audition committee and I probed their musical personalities a bit, asking about such things as which oboists they admired or which pieces they most enjoyed playing.
This brief post-audition chat quickly morphed into an actual job interview, which we jokingly referred to as the “Miss Congeniality” round. It became an integral part of all our auditions. Our purpose was not only to make sure that a candidate’s personality would be compatible with his or her future colleagues, although in a few instances it was painfully apparent that there were problems in that area. Rather, we primarily asked questions that would measure what the candidate could offer the orchestra beyond just playing well: “What experience do you have working with young people?” “Are you comfortable speaking to a group of strangers?” “Tell us about a performance you played that was especially meaningful to you.”
The answers to that last question were particularly revealing. Invariably, the most compelling responses did not involve performing in Carnegie Hall or playing under a famous Maestro. More typical were stories of playing for underprivileged children or starting a lunchtime chamber music series in a downtown office building; not the glamorous gigs, but those in which music touched people whom it hadn’t touched before.
Sensing that the Memphis Symphony’s future would be substantially different from its past, we wanted to use every possible means to insure that our new members were a good fit with our long-term goals. (For more on the MSO’s plans, see pg. 26—39 in this League of American Orchestras’ report ) When I described the “Miss Congeniality” round to business people on our Board of Directors, they were incredulous that such an interview was not already part of our hiring process. It was sometimes difficult to explain that in professional orchestras, a musician plays an audition and is offered a position; if all goes well during the one or two year probationary period, he or she pretty much has a job for life, barring catastrophic on-the-job behavior or other extreme circumstances. So if nothing else, the interviews helped us avoid hiring errors that would have been awkward to undo later.
It would be too simplistic to say that adding an interview to auditions will help assure orchestras’ future. What’s more, such a statement runs smack into the “elephant in the room,” namely the question of artistic quality. Some years ago, I raised the issue of looking at more than just a candidate’s playing with a group of musicians from fine professional orchestras. Their vehement response boiled down to: “The person who plays the best audition gets the job. Period.” [ For a gripping account of the audition process and the search for “the best,” check out this article in Boston Magazine. ]
But what if “the best audition” merely means “the most note-perfect audition”? More importantly, what if the nature of the job changes? Imagine that two players make the final round of an audition; they both meet the orchestra’s minimum musical standard, but Candidate A plays a bit more compellingly, while Candidate B can add substantially to the orchestra’s standing in the community. Who gets the job then?
Carrying that example to its logical extreme, imagine two orchestras of roughly equal budget size. Orchestra A plays outstanding concerts to half-empty houses and only pays lip service to the idea of broader community involvement; Orchestra B doesn’t play as well, but has deeply embedded itself into its community’s fabric. One day, there’s a recession and both orchestras hit a financial rough patch. Orchestra B’s street cred helps it weather the storm, while Orchestra A falls into a life-threatening downward spiral from which it barely emerges after several pain-filled years. How much does the difference in artistic quality really matter at that moment?
As long as I’ve been a conductor, it’s been a given that musical excellence is our sine qua non, the value to which all others must be subordinate. I, along with countless idealistic musicians and administrators, still stubbornly believe that. But can our idealism survive the new realities we face?
I remain optimistic that it can, because increasingly I believe that we may not have to choose between traditional excellence and the attributes that the Miss Congeniality round reveals. Every day at NEC, I find myself surrounded by amazingly talented young people. They come to us already playing at a nearly professional level and their open-mindedness and enthusiasm dwarfs those of earlier generations. More than anything, they want to have long, rewarding lives as musicians. And already many of them understand that such lives will contain more than simply playing beautiful concerts in beautiful concert halls before a stereotypically beautiful audience. I have faith that they will arm themselves with the skills to make those lives possible and, more importantly, with the will to help reshape our musical institutions to accommodate a changing landscape.
It is difficult for me to fully wrap my brain around the fact that March 7 was almost a full month ago! So much has happened it such little time…
The NEC Concert Choir, in collaboration with the NEC Contemporary Improvisation Department, Hankus Netsky, the NEC Wind Ensemble, and soloists Adrienne Arditti, Erica Petrocelli, Julia Partyka, Joshua Quinn, led by Maestro Charles Peltz and narrated by President Tony Woodcock, presented a fantastic performance of Honegger’s King David at the Church of the Covenant in downtown Boston. Though Mother Nature attempted to weigh in and make a mess of the evening, she failed. Miserably! The performers had a lovely, appreciative audience, and they entertained them with the professionalism we faculty encourage them to embrace.
In fact, you can witness the performance yourself! Thanks to Andrew Hurlbut and members of the NEC Public Relations department, you can view the concert in its entirety. Click, turn up your volume, sit back, and enjoy!
No sooner had we successfully finished the Honegger King David Project the NEC Chamber Singers had three final tour preparation rehearsals, and we were at the Boston-Logan Airport by 5:00am on Friday, March 15 for our Mid-Atlantic Tour (see interior plane pic below!)!
I cannot say enough wonderful things about the level of professionalism, and humanism, these 28 students displayed over our 5 days together as we traveled from Boston, to Raleigh, to Greenville, to Washington, D.C., to Baltimore, and finally, home to Boston. Not only did the unspoken musical dialogue between each of them grow (in leaps and bounds!), but despite how tired they may have been, they performed each concert with a renewed spirit, magnificent sound and musical maturity well beyond their years. Think I’m biased in my opinion? I can’t blame you. Every conductor usually is! Take a listen to a few of the audio clips below. These were recorded during the March 17 afternoon performance at St. Peter’s Catholic Church on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. Not only do they sound glorious, they also performed, at the last minute, under the leadership of my second year graduate choral conducting student Darrel Whidden (I, unfortunately, became quite ill the night before – but as we performers always say, “The show must go on!”).
Robert H. Young – Sing Me A Song
Diane Loomer, arr. – Frobisher Bay
(Joseph Anthony Smith & Timothy Ayres-Kerr, tenors)
And so, here we are in April. I am convinced that as we age, Time insists on going faster! The Concert Choir is in week two of rehearsals preparing for our final performance this season; A Tribute to Tamara Brooks, Monday, April 29 at 8:00pm in Jordan Hall. We hope that if you will be in the Boston area you might join us that evening. The Chamber Singers will also perform on the program and will share the opening portion of their tour program. We’re considering it their official “home coming.” Though I never had the opportunity to meet Tamara, from what I have learned of her, I believe she would approve of the gesture.
Keep checking in on our blog. We’ll keep you posted with the comings and goings of the lives of the students involved in the NEC Choral Department. And of course, we hope to see you on April 29!
Erica J. Washburn
The Simon Bolivar Orchestra of Venezuela.
At the invitation of El Sistema’s founder Dr. Jose Antonio Abreu, young Mexican conductor Jose Luis Hernandez-Estrada joins the Simon Bolivar Orchestra of Venezuela for their upcoming Latin American tour. Under the artistic leadership of Gustavo Dudamel, the tour takes the acclaimed orchestra to the principal concert halls of Buenos Aires, São Paulo, Brasilia, and Bogota. “I am honored to play a part in helping advance the ideals of El Sistema. This will be an inspiring tour and a wonderful opportunity to learn from Maestro Dudamel and his orchestra—a shining emblem of excellence, joy, and of the future of music,” Jose Luis said. For their April 1-12 tour, the orchestra performs a repertoire that includes Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, Revuelta’s La Noche de los Mayas, and Beethoven’s epic Fifth Symphony.
Por invitación del maestro y fundador de El Sistema Dr. José Antonio Abreu, el joven director de orquesta mexicano José Luis Hernandez-Estrada se une a la proxima gira Latinoamericana de la Orquesta Simón Bolívar de Venezuela. Bajo el liderazgo artístico de Gustavo Dudamel, la gira llevará a la aclamada orquesta a las salas principales de Buenos Aires, São Paulo, Brasilia, y Bogota. “Es un honor el poder coadyuvar a impulsar los ideales de El Sistema. La gira sera una experiencia inspiradora y una gran oportunidad de compartir y aprender del Maestro Dudamel y su orquesta—hermoso emblema de excelencia, alegría, y del futuro de la música,” comento José Luis. Del 1 al 12 de Abril, la orquesta presenta un repertorio que incluye La Consagración de la Primavera de Stravinsky, La Noche de los Mayas de Revueltas, y la Quinta Sinfonía de Beethoven.
In my first blog on this subject I endeavored to set forth the career challenges and outlined the skills that a young musician should possess in these ever changing and highly technological times. That foundation in place, I could then “open the microphones” to a number of different voices in the form of guest bloggers invited to contribute to this series. My first writer is Lyle Davidson, the much respected and long time member of NEC’s Music Theory and Music in Education faculty. I have had many discussions with Lyle, which, due to our respective schedules, always seem to happen in the parking lot. Lyle is a great thinker, completely alive to all the energy and innovations of our age. He expresses a unique point of view and one that has helped to shape my own ideas. In this blog he has written something which in many ways I consider to be profound despite its simple narrative and clear conclusions. I love that he is obviously learning with the students as well as teaching.
A brief word of explanation. Lyle mentions the “President’s Council for Entrepreneurship” which is a group of kindred spirits I convened from students, alums, faculty and outside organizations including the Boston Symphony, the Berlin Philharmonic, and the Royal Northern College of Music in the UK. We meet every year to discuss our progress in this field, to brainstorm new ideas and to challenge our thinking and direction. And I ADORE this group!!
NEC Sophomores discuss what contributes to success
When I met with my Solfege 4 class on Wednesday, February 13, the students were expecting to sing through Beethoven’s Symphony no. 4 and conduct selected sections of the first movement. Our typical class activity includes exercises in six clefs, transposition, and score reading. They were ready.
But I decided to change the agenda. I wanted to share with them some of the thinking that took place two days earlier at the President’s Council for Entrepreneurship meeting. Rather than give them the headlines, I posed the question we had discussed: What training, skills, or experiences have been central to your personal success?
I told them how valuable the meeting had been. I described the variety of participants, pointing out that this was not simply a meeting of a single group, but included trustees, faculty, staff, and students. I described the question of success and the issue of the role of music and musicians in society today.
I asked them if they would like to consider the question of their own successes. They quietly looked at one another. I decided to push on with my agenda a little more. They continued to be a little puzzled until I pointed out that as musicians they were (and I looked at each student), indeed, successes.
“Maybe you don’t think of yourself as being successful. You are in an environment where everyone around you appears to be better than you are, where your teachers are constantly — as they should be — pushing you to do more. It is difficult under these circumstances to feel successful. But . . . (I paused for dramatic effect) . . . you have applied to one of the best music schools in the world, and you were accepted, and here you are, working with the people in the environment you set your sights on! Each one of you is a success!”
I then reframed the question to focus on what they felt had made their success possible. I waited a bit before calling on a student I knew would have a thoughtful response.
“A vision,” he said.
That did it. I went to the board and began writing what I heard: Vision. I put the first word on the board. If you don’t have an idea of what you really want to do, you will never succeed—at anything.
“Yes, but you have to have more than just an idea, you have to feel passionate about it,” said another student.
(I wrote Passion on the board).
“Yes, it has to be the most important thing in the world. It needs to inspire you,” someone else commented.
Inspiration went up. These students had a lot to say.
“Without passion and inspiration, you can’t really be as motivated as you have to be to be successful,” another added.
Motivation was the next word.
The class was off and running. Vision had to be fueled by passion, inspiration, powerful motivation.
I offered no suggestions; one student’s comments flowed into those of another. One student’s observation triggered another line of thought in a classmate. I tried to keep up. I always checked to see if what I was writing captured the essence of the meaning of what was being offered. I made sure that every student had the opportunity to contribute.
“Love. Love is very important,” one of the more reticent students said.
There was a giggle. Another student followed up by pointing out that love meant support and that without the support and sacrifice of friends and family it would be impossible to be here.
That brought the next response about the importance of money as a support. That brought lots of laughter.
“Money and scholarship assistance is just another form of the love and support necessary for a musician,” another student pointed out.
“What about a plan? You have to have a plan,” someone else added.
“Well, you have to be determined to carry it out. It takes a lot of persistence. If you don’t have the determination you may give up on your plan.”
“Opportunity is also important. You have to have opportunities.”
One person then pointed out that you have to be open to opportunity. “Opportunities may be all around you but if you are not open to them, then you don’t see them.”
Another student thoughtfully raised the issue of risk, pointing out that it is so easy to fail.
“You have to be ready to fail and not give up.”
Immediately another person spoke of the need for courage, while a third observed that a great deal of confidence was certainly necessary too.
“The teacher is really important. You have to have a good teacher. A good teacher supports you in all kinds of ways.”
“What about practice?” another student chimed in.
There was a lull in the flow. By now everyone had spoken at least once—even the more reserved ones.
Suddenly, one of the quieter students exclaimed, “I don’t think all these ideas have the same value. I think that some are more important than others.” (Oh, I do love these students.)
She argued that Vision was the most important thing. Almost immediately, another student pointed out the importance of the teacher.
“Without a teacher, you can’t achieve your vision by yourself.”
“But practice is important too. Without practice and lots of it, it didn’t matter what your vision or who your teacher was,” someone else chimed in.
The class time flew by. The board was full. I thanked the class and told them how much they had given me to think about. Some of the students copied down what was on the board. A couple whipped out their smart phones and took photos.
I realized that I too could take a picture.