We are pleased to publish your letters, but cannot include readers' email addresses since this can lead to problems of privacy. All letters should be addressed to me, John Woodford, at [email protected]. In association with Oxford University Press, we are pleased to give away ‘The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Music’ (4th Edition, Michael Kennedy) for each month’s most interesting letter. This valuable resource should be on any musician’s reference shelves.
From Ron Howe, Surrey
As a receiver of mail shots and a registered teacher with you I just wanted to make a few comments on the site and on your recent article regarding the state of music attendance in the Netherlands etc.
The site is good and I'm sure very useful although I don't think I have ever had a student who contacted me via the site. Nevertheless I'm not there for commercial reasons, I'm there to be available so I can give to the community at large. The site does have an identity crisis. What is it trying to be? Is it educationally based or is it there to provide a journal on various shrouded notorieties? Can we have a voice?
I must confess, I never read any of the feature articles. I don't have time and I don't recognise most of them. A lot of us operate in a different field of music. I am not an 'Art for Arts Sake' musician. I work in the field of Rock and Pop, teach multiple styles and love and listen to classical and jazz music as well as mainstream and classic/mainstream fusion. Successful purists are few and far between.
So on to your editorial. Many of us out there are struggling to broaden the musical horizons by fusing wonderful classic styles into more mainstream flavours. That's where John Taverner, Carl Jenkins and the Libera gang are heading. Carl Orff was the leader with cross over idealism and gift of education to children and the minions.
English people are broad in their likes, but dislike the purist disciplines. I spent many years working the European circuit listening to why live music attendance is better in Holland and elsewhere in the EEC. The simplistic answer is, there's a far greater number of local venues willing to put on music events and bring in more successful acts and, here's the crunch, the governments of other EEC states provide funding and support for local music!
Ultimately it is cheaper in Europe to go and see a known act, where the musicians are paid, looked after well and enjoy working. In the UK you're lucky to get your costs covered if you can get a gig. To be offered accommodation, food or even a ride is just so rare that it makes for a sad life as a performer. Under those conditions, it's no wonder that any lesser musician would want to come to the UK, if they were allowed to do so. You know the MU's policy. You must hire local musicians.
The UK is one of the largest exporters of live and recorded music but it is also the biggest musical graveyard!
The identity of the site is a tricky issue. I am sure you will agree with me when I say that as musicians, we are all teachers, whether we are actively involved in working at a hands-on level or as performers. My remit as editor of the Online Journal is, therefore, to provide a balance of items that would be of interest to both performing musicians as well as teachers. I think we cover this aspect pretty well: there is nothing more boring than a journal that is solely devoted to educational issues. Similarly, most musicians (performers and teachers alike) live, breathe and eat the subject; thus our journal tries to cater for all tastes, which includes articles, reviews of CDs, books and concerts, since, as a poll has recently shown, musicians are by far the most likely to buy new, superior recordings etc. A number of our readers teach at higher education levels; therefore, we also try to include reviews of academic texts where possible. But in every event, our articles and reviews are written by both professional performers and teachers – opinions we can accept!
It is a shame that you don't have time to read the articles – I think you would find that a good many of them have a pedagogical content, and those which aren't are still a lot of fun. We want readers to see what others in the profession do, how they approach performance, how they became who they are and the journal tries to provide interesting features on these people, no matter what role of the musical sphere they work in.
The issue concerning England being the biggest musical graveyard is important, especially when we consider the numerous gifted musicians we have in the colleges and universities. There is no immediate answer: education at a more fundamental level is important, to try to get the public to listen to any music and appreciate it, regardless of whether it is Art, jazz rock or pop. Teachers have a huge responsibility in this area since, with the right approach, they can make a Mahler symphony as exciting to young ears as the latest chart single; it is their duty to make sure this happens…it breaks my heart to see experienced teachers pushing only pop music down their children's throat in an attempt to make it fun. Let's not fall into the trap of thinking that beauty has to be rewarded with a laugh and a giggle – it is also poignant and moving and getting people to see that aspect of it is the most important thing that we can do. If we succeed with only a handful in the whole of their lives, then I think we must all agree that we have done an excellent job. JW
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