Monday, February 27, 2012

This Is Not Working

Thank you to everyone who came to my Doctoral Recital last week.  I hope to provide some recordings at a later date, but in general, I thought it went very well.  My voice was in good shape and I remembered the words!  Last week, I put together a video and wrote a little bit about the uniqueness of this concert.  CLICK HERE TO CHECK IT OUT!

Also, I was informed at half-time of the recital that the audience didn't receive the translation pages.  I was upset because it was a very complex and meaningful program - none of which would have been received by the audience unless they were fluent in German and French.  It turns out that they were left on a metal cabinet in their brown Kinko's bag back stage near where I gave them to the usher.  CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE TRANSLATION PAGE.

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I have a production of La Tragedie de Carmen next month at the Conservatory.  Today, I had a costume fitting, and had to run back home to get some un-holey underwear...good thing I remembered!  And all this opera work and my recital has had me thinking about education.  

I have had people tell me many times that as a professional musician, you shouldn't get higher degrees - they're worthless.  I have had people tell me to not get married, not wear glasses, not sing this or that, all for the sake of being a great musician.  I was even pointed-out in a room full of opera singers, as being the only one trying to get a Doctorate, and told that I am a fool for doing that.   I must say that the person who said that was a Canadian, and didn't have a Doctorate, but I certainly never thought that I would have to defend being educated.

A few things recently have sent my mind into a frenzy; the predominant cause being that our culture is anti-elite.  Being "elite" in politics is a negative thing.  Whatever is perceived as "elite" is somehow hated by many Americans.

The Simpsons recently showed their 500th episode.  The townspeople were voting to kick the Simpsons out of town because of all the trouble they have caused, and one person suggested that they reject their subscription to the opera.  Homer quickly replied, "but I hate the opera".  It was an obvious joke at the ridiculousness of owning season opera tickets, and Homer - with the stereotype of a stupid person - obviously hates the opera because it is opposite of the character that he portrays.



The TV show An Idiot Abroad also had a new episode last week, where Karl, the British "idiot", was sent on a road trip down Route 66.  The producers of the show make him dance in a show choir, because that was an American tradition (I suppose).  Ideally, the show tries to find experiences that Karl will hate, because it is funny to watch.  Karl dances and sings like a fool, and he feels embarrassed.



Finally, at the Academy Awards last night, the winner of my favorite category, Ludovic Bource won for Best Original Score with his 1920s silent film accompaniment of The Artist.  He beat two John Williams' scores and Howard Shore to take the prize.  As he walked up to the podium to claim the Oscar, the announcer bragged that he had no formal music training.

Amazingly, all three of these glorify an ideal that rejects art and education.  I am not necessarily complaining, but it is an observation that I hate to see.  Homer hates opera, Carl hates the performing arts, the Academy Awards idolizes Bource's lack of music education.

It is sad to see so much hate toward something that provides so much meaning and progress for the world.  If you think it is just an anomaly, I recently fielded questions from several hundred students.  One never had voice lessons, and asked if you could make it professionally without lessons.  I sighed, and said, "well, if you expect to make it 'big' in music, you should learn as much as you can about music".  I didn't expect it to be a negative response, rather it was pretty generic.  Another speaker followed me by saying that with respect to me, he had never had formal lessons, and he was a performer in a very popular singing group.  That response was followed by great applause.  It was absolutely incredible.  I later offered kids free voice lessons through KCVI, and everyone who applied from that event received free lessons.

I think that America's problem with education is not in the quality, but in our culture; it is so difficult to love learning.  America's education system requires students to perform specific tasks - this creates a perception that "learning" is reaching a goal.  Why can't learning be open-ended?  I think that when people are successful without "being educated", the public shows admiration because they also know that learning should be open-ended - they know that reaching a goal isn't learning.  Unfortunately, it would take a lot of work to change this culture, but I'm glad that I'm a musician.  Imagine how a scientist feels about the "evolution debate" - Evolution is universally accepted by scientists (near 100%) but by only 32% of the public - less than 48% of whom can even define evolution correctly...(according to a 2009 Pew Research Poll)

I try not to get too political on this blog, but I must post these clips from John Stewart's new episode tonight.  It is speaking about this same anti-education stigma:


On a lighter note, the Colbert Report featured one of the greatest living singers last week:


I'm off to Dallas this week.  I hope you all spend the week learning something new!

1 comment:

  1. Oh Bryan I couldn't agree with you more. I can't tell you how many times I got the stink eye for pursuing a grad degree in library science...'What?, you need a Master's to shelve books????' sigh! The love of learning every aspect of music, books, business, finance, or the flow rate of various ketchups...is meaningful and it gives one a better spectrum to draw from. I believe that somewhat narrow mindedness comes from not understanding the complete knowledge that comes from higher education. I liken it to those who don't have kids and say, 'my pets are my kids' no, no they are not...it's a completely different thing but you can't know that until you have been there.

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