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Essay on the Class Divide in Classical Music

glassharmonicaglassharmonica 3300 replies54 threadsRegistered User Senior Member

Here's an interesting, nuanced essay on the problems of a classical music career by a young, former composer who is now a full-time writer.

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Replies to: Essay on the Class Divide in Classical Music

  • JeJeJeJeJeJe 147 replies1 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Thank you, glassharmonica for posting this article.
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  • JeJeJeJeJeJe 147 replies1 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    bridgenail—— Thank you very much for sharing your thought!
    glassharmonica—- Thank you, again for posting this essay!

    We always had a feeling about wealth that advances young musicians at their early years while raising an instrumentalist son. We are in lower-middle class in very high cost of living area. We drive over 20-year-old cars (still running!) and don’t even own a house. My son is a first generation musician. No one in our family can read music. We couldn’t afford a full-course of music major preparations in my son’s middle school to high school years. Participating music festivals with his public school bands weren’t even free! However, my son was awarded a full scholarship on his two instrument private lessons and ensemble fees since 7th grade by a local performing art organization for youths in underrepresented area. To return, he needed to perform locally (with lots of parental volunteering) at any events requested and mentor younger instrumentalists for 6 years. With those paid lessons and ensembles, we could manage to buy professional grade instruments (two instruments for different kinds of music), send him to summer camps that he could list in his artistic resume as well as paying for studio recordings for auditions for national-level ensembles and colleges plus traveling. Many parents can afford to hire the best instructors in the area or / and even famous musicians’ Skype lessons, purchase $10K+ instruments and send expensive summer programs or/and international tours with no financial issues for their musicians. My son was very lucky to be selected to tour internationally with a fully funded ensemble but he needed to audition “very hard” to get opportunities. So, it is unfair at some degree but it isn’t unreasonable. There is a way to make it through in many cases because music should be for everyone (for both performers and listeners)!

    My son is now a freshman at private conservatory (one of his top choices) studying jazz. He earned great amount of talent scholarship (from our experiences, most private conservatories didn’t seem considering us “financial need”) so we can manage to pay for the rest. He will have a debt (federal student loans) when he finishes BM. However, my husband and I plan to pay for him when he graduates in 4 years so he can focus on his career or MM. We decided not to tell him our plan because (1) We aren’t 100% sure financially (2) He should feel the weight of being in debt by his decision to attend private conservatory so should be very serious about getting his education. Hope, it all works out in 4 years.

    My son may be one of 95% of those middle class performers. But he will grow up as a person / musician he wants to be by having best opportunities he/we can afford in next 4 years at private conservatory. I am sure he will find his happiness as long as he has opportunities to perform. Music is one of his main characters which will stay in him forever.
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  • AsMotherAsMother 258 replies13 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    @JeJeJe , I love your attitude!
    We were quite poor for a long time, but my mother was kind enough to make certain in her will that my son's education will be paid for.
    But my son was a late musical bloomer, and when he DID bloom in early high school we could not afford anything but inexpensive local lessons and a summer jazz program at the University of North Florida, which was instrumental (no pun intended) in focusing his interest and allowing him to believe that he might have some talent (although it took a few more years for him to really start to feel that he was "good enough").
    But we, his parents, believed all along that music (as his high school chorus teacher said) "runs through his veins." (When he was a baby, the only thing guaranteed to get him to stop crying and go to sleep was playing a CD of Verdi arias--"aria" being one of his first words.)
    He's now a Composition/Film-scoring major at Berklee, and for the first time in his life I think he feels that he's where he truly belongs. Regardless of what he ends up doing as a musician, I would give both arms to make sure that he continues to do what he loves. He knows that the competition is fierce, but he is determined, and even if he comes nowhere near to becoming "the next Hans Zimmer" (his film-scoring idol), I will die happy knowing that he had the opportunity to do what he loves intensely.
    The NY Times just ran an article about a Yale grad and former very successful banker (I think) and entrepreneur who is now homeless in LA. So you never know. All we can do is do our best to let them try to do what is most meaningful to them.
    A Hopeless Idealist :)
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  • AsMotherAsMother 258 replies13 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    But DAMN that was a depressing article!
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  • makemesmartmakemesmart 1481 replies14 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    Thank you for your perspective. Everyone in my fam has read the article. I agree with you that the author sounded very bitter, might be totally justified. Maybe your composer kid could write about her experience and let other aspiring musicians to have some hope!
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  • compmomcompmom 10762 replies76 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    @AsMother Hans Zimmer as a role model may mean making a good living.
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  • AsMotherAsMother 258 replies13 threadsRegistered User Junior Member
    Hi, @compmom ! Having someone as a role model and achieving his/her level of success may be two different things, I'm afraid. :)
    I'm not even sure he'd pursue film-scoring if he thought he could earn a living sitting in his room composing sonatas (there, Beethoven is still pretty much his idol!), but I think he's trying to be SOMEWHAT more practical-minded. (I do think he enjoys the work involved in scoring, though.)
    By the way, I had JUST watched the last episode of "Mozart in the Jungle" last night when I came here and read the article. I doubt the show reflected many of the realities of that world, although it did involve strikes/lockouts, out-of-work orchestra musicians driving Ubers, injured musicians, desperate approaches to seeking donations to keep the orchestras going, etc. I wondered what people who are more familiar with that world thought of the show.
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  • stradmomstradmom 5031 replies50 threadsRegistered User Senior Member
    I hit "like" not because I like the message, but because it's an important perspective. Avoiding college debt is essential for most musicians, and even then, the field is fraught.
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