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Academics & Education: March 2008 Archives

National Classical-Music Summit

Seattle Symphony music director Gerard Schwarz

Education is the future of classical music

By Melinda Bargreen
Seattle Times

During the past decade, reports about the impending death of classical music have arrived with such regularity that doom-saying is practically a full-time activity for several arts journalists.

Today's pop culture, they say, with the idol-of-the-moment TV spectaculars and the cult of celebrity – combined with the serious decline of music education in many school districts – has built a society in which classical music is terra incognita to most people. Concert activity, buoyed up by a handful of aging donors, is confined mainly to blue-haired dowagers who make their increasingly decrepit way to the halls in order to hear the same stale pieces performed by the same bored musicians.

Or so they say.

Attendees at a national classical-music summit held at Seattle University last month, however, had a whole span of quite different views. Presented jointly by Seattle U. and Bellevue Philharmonic CEO Jennifer McCausland, the summit brought in representatives from coast to coast – Carnegie Hall, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the San Francisco Symphony, The Washington Post, and several others – and described a classical-music industry that is doing considerably more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Most of them, in fact, took a line pretty close to that of moderator and Seattle Symphony music director Gerard Schwarz, whose introductory remarks included this observation: "This is the most positive time in my career for classical music. When I came to Seattle 25 years ago, the Symphony had 4,000 subscribers; now we have more than 35,000." And when you count education and community programs, the Symphony reaches 315,000 people a year.

Read more about this at the Seattle Times website:

Glimmer of Hope for Classical Music

William Wolcott

Classical music is enjoying mini-comeback thanks to the Internet

by John Pitcher
Omaha World-Herald

William Wolcott's violin studio is about the size of a large broom closet, yet it's often the site of amazing master classes.

Virtuoso Itzhak Perlman has held court there. Pinchas Zukerman, Sarah Chang and other fabulous fiddlers also have squeezed into the room.

They all fit because of a miraculous little invention: the Internet.

"There's an incredible amount of classical music now on the Internet, and it's really helping me teach my students," said Wolcott, an instructor at the Omaha Conservatory of Music. "We can sign on to YouTube right here in my studio and watch the world's greatest violinists perform and give master classes."

Visit the Web and you'll find thousands of classical musicians, critics and fans chattering away in a rapidly expanding classical blogosphere. Internet radio also is streaming performances from major opera companies, orchestras and concert halls. And perhaps most surprising, the Web is fueling a mini-boom in the classical recording industry.

Sales at ArkivMusic, an online classical CD emporium, rose 30 percent in 2007, an astounding figure considering that CD sales in general were down more than 15 percent in the United States last year, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Classical downloads likewise have been brisk. At eMusic, the world's second-largest digital music service after iTunes, classical music now represents 12 percent of its overall European sales, and its business in the U.S. is not far behind. That's a big increase for a genre that rarely made up more than 2 or 3 percent of total sales in record stores.

Read more about this at the Omaha World-Herald website:

Rescued from the Synthesizer

A.R. Rahman

Global Digital Classical

The Telegraph Calcutta

Indians, according to A.R. Rahman, have to be rescued from the synthesizer. But they could be brought back to it once they are musically better educated. No one would know better than Rahman the complex relationships among music, entertainment, digital technology and globalization, particularly in the context of contemporary film-music. But in all this postmodern music-making, what is the place of the Classical? This seems to be the idea, question and problem at the heart of Rahman's new brainwave – the KM Music Conservatory at Chennai and the national symphony orchestra that would come out of it.

Calling it a "conservatory" suggests a rigorous education in classical music in the Western mode. And this is what Rahman wants to initiate with both singers and instrumentalists, according to proper international standards. But he is equally interested in teaching his students state-of-the-art music technology, and how to "market" themselves professionally. The other synthesis he wants to bring about is in teaching both Western and Indian classical music in this conservatory. So, what his symphony orchestra will play, and what the newly trained composers will compose for it, would be not only Western classical music, but also more hybrid work incorporating elements of both traditions, and then "modernizing" each in different ways. The significant thing here is that Rahman sees a proper grounding in the classical traditions as essential for such forms of musical synthesis.

Read more about this at the Telegraph Calcutta website:

The Beautiful Music that Surrounds You

John Work III

Exhibit revives musicologist's work

By John Gerome
Associated Press

When people say John Work III had "big ears," they're not being unkind.

Work, who died in 1967 at age 65, had a gift for finding and collecting black folk music. He traveled the South recording blues singers, work songs, ballads, church choirs, dance tunes, whatever struck him as showing the evolution of black music.

And yet what might be his greatest achievement went largely unnoticed for 60 years, stashed in a file cabinet at Hunter College in New York. Now, with the opening of a new exhibit on Work's life at Fisk University and a companion CD, some say Work is finally getting his due.

"He was seeking out music that many African-American academics at the time had no use for," said Evan Hatch, a professional folklorist who helped compile the Fisk exhibit, "The Beautiful Music that Surrounds You," which runs through May 11.

A classically trained musician and composer, Work taught at Fisk University, a black college founded in 1865 to educate newly freed slaves. He also directed the school's famed Jubilee Singers and ran its music department.

Read more about this at the Louisville Courier-Journal website:


Call for Submissions
(Papers, Panels, and Tutorials)

The Ninth International Conference on Music Information Retrieval will take place September 14-18, 2008 (Sunday through Thursday), at Drexel University in Philadelphia, USA. Since its inception in 2000, ISMIR has rapidly become the premier venue for the multidisciplinary field of accessing, analyzing, and managing large collections and archives of music information. The expansion of the music information retrieval (MIR) community reflects the enormous challenges and opportunities presented by the recent and tremendous growth in available music and music-related data.

Throughout ISMIR 2008, space will be available for publishers, software companies, booksellers, service providers, system vendors, and any other businesses interested in exhibiting their MIR-related products.

Read more about this at the ISMIR website: