Out From Under The Burden

A heavy burden

This morning I listened to Greg Sandow’s 2010 Commencement Speech at the Eastman School of Music. He speaks about the future of classical music and how classical musicians can find new audiences, reach people their own age, and share their love of classical music and others people who don’t listen to classical music. I was struck when he said classical musicians must:

“Get rid of the heavy burden of ART.”

I’m not surprised that he and I are on the same wavelength once again. I agree that it’s time for classical musicians to stop thinking that classical music is somehow a higher art-form and we have to educate our audiences in order for them to “understand it.” There’s no reason to keep classical music on a pedestal. Why not just play, and let the music speak for itself?

When we let go of that burden and stop playing music we think we should be playing; stop thinking we aren’t ready or that a piece isn’t polished enough, or difficult enough, or is overplayed, or underplayed; stop waiting to read more performance notes, or listen to yet another interpretation of a piece, or to get another (expensive) coaching on a piece with this or that master teacher; stop relying on judges and juries for feedback about our music; and by all means stop thinking that our audience isn’t going to appreciate what we have to offer because they won’t understand it …then maybe we’ll find what it was that drew us to our instruments (and favorite composers) in the first place.

Maybe that’s when we’ll find that our enthusiasm is so infectious that we’re able to draw audiences to us (for example him and her) no matter if we choose to perform on stage in tuxes and gowns, in a restaurant in jeans and sneakers, in a private home for a house concert (or even by recording and uploading to YouTube and Soundcloud.).

And, by the way, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is also a path to finding the elusive feeling of musical spontaneity that keeps audiences coming to hear jazz and improv but is often missing in classical performances.

***Listen to Debussy’s Sarabande from Pour le Piano – Week #10 of the Go Play Project.

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