COMMENTARY

COMMENTARY

Now readers can collaborate with Leonard Slatkin on the development of his third book, Musical Chairs: The Changing Landscape of Classical Music in the Twenty-first Century. A new theme will be posted here every week, along with a prompt inviting readers to post queries on the subject and suggest avenues he might explore within that chapter. Several of these questions will be included in the book, thereby expanding his area of focus and provoking a more in-depth examination of the material.

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    On Education

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    Throughout my education as a student of the Los Angeles Public Schools, I was the beneficiary of a great system that included a rigorous arts curriculum. However, for more than two generations, there has been a steady deterioration of arts programs and a decline in how our young people are taught about the creative process.

    How did we lose this valuable aspect of education? As we raced to get to the moon, we slowed down in regard to the culture. I ask you to consider how we might change the current thinking and implement true change in our educational institutions. Please submit any questions or comments.

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    On Diversity

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    Musicians onstage do not look the same as they once did. More women have entered the orchestral workforce as have players from Asian backgrounds. The use of a screen to isolate instrumentalists from those judging their auditions has certainly been responsible for some of these changes. However, the number of black and Latino orchestral musicians remains disproportionately low, and in some cases, has diminished.

    In this chapter, I analyze the pros and cons of using the screen and offer a new method for the audition process itself. Please submit questions that address how we might find solutions that would increase diversity as well as keep artistic integrity high.

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    On Conducting

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    On the surface, this might seem like the most obvious chapter in the book. What I plan to consider is a set of Ten Golden Rules penned by Richard Strauss. Many are sarcastic, but some are right on the mark. I have added twenty more rules, ranging in scope from physical gestures to stage deportment.

    I focus on the nature of communication between the orchestra and the maestro. How far can the conductor get using words to convey ideas to the musicians? What do conductors show to the orchestra if they truly don’t like the piece or soloist they are working with? Let me know what questions or comments you have regarding the job of the conductor.

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    On Composers

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    There is a big difference between those who create and those who recreate. Pulling those notes, chords, rhythms and harmonies out of thin air requires skills that are both learned as well as instinctive. In this chapter, I examine the relationship between the composer and the performer.

    How do they work together, especially if the person who wrote the piece of music is no longer alive? What responsibility does the conductor have when presenting new or unfamiliar music to the audience? How can a composer have a direct relationship with the public outside of the concert hall?

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    On Audiences

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    During this period when COVID-19 is shutting down theaters and concert halls, many institutions are grappling with how to maintain and build relationships with their subscribers, donors and single-ticket buyers. But changes to audience development have been in the air for many years.

    Who constitutes the audience and how is an audience defined? What does the public expect from performing institutions, and furthermore, what do we as artists expect from those who see and hear us? Clearly it is important for arts organizations to expand their audience base. How do they achieve that?

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    On Agents

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    One of the questions I am most often asked has to do with managers. What do they do? Do I need one? How do I get one?

    In this chapter I look back at my own history with those who have overseen and shaped my career. One’s relationship with that individual can make or break even an established artist. Finding the right fit can be difficult, and I offer a few suggestions in terms of what to look for in the person who will take care of your business life.

    Please ask questions relevant to the role of music agents today.

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    On Age

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    We all get older. For musicians, aging brings a host of physical challenges and a set of decisions to make. Among them is figuring out what to do about retirement. When should I stop what I am doing, or is it better to keep going? Some conductors would just as soon collapse on the podium, while others determine that they no longer have the stamina to continue.

    This chapter is about understanding the choices available as we move along in the profession. Please weigh in with questions about the general subject of aging and how it impacts the individual musician as well as the organizations they work for.

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    On the Theater

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    I invite my dear readers to participate in the writing of my third book, Musical Chairs: The Changing Landscape of Classical Music in the Twenty-first Century. In each chapter, I will discuss a topic of interest to those who follow the world of music. I hope that you will submit questions and suggestions based on a summary of what I intend to cover. After I have received your input, several of your questions will be included in the final product. I will post a new chapter summary every week. Just so you have an idea of how a chapter will look and feel, I am including full text of the first topic, “On the Theater.” Perhaps it will help you formulate what you might ask. There are no limits. Please ask away using the “Question or Suggestion” box at the end of the chapter.

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