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I: The Alum – Jon Green
Jon Green is a tailor, but better to say a bespoke designer, or, best to say, a clothier — a master of the international style, as was his father. Indeed, Green is one of the best clothiers in New York City, as well as one of the more expensive. His suits are drawn up in minute detail on paper patterns, cut with the finest shears, sewn with the utmost care, and start at $9,000. In Jon Green’s mind, a well-tailored suit is a measure of the man, not his physique.
He also holds a master’s degree from Juilliard, where he studied piano and composing in the 1970s. These days he returns regularly to 155 West 65th Street to impart the nuances of self-presentation to both students and faculty. Nothing irks Green more than going to Avery Fisher Hall to watch a slovenly, obese violinist with his belly bubbling over below his PK waistcoat.
Jon Green in his Bespoke store on Madison Avenue He has the same aversion when he goes to the conservatory to give a talk to Mary Cox’s ear-training class, where students arrive in platform heels, nose rings, tattoos, and chains, along with an air of careless brilliance and spiked hair. Incidentally, Mary Anthony Cox is a legendary figure at Juilliard. She’s been on the faculty since 1964 and always receives top marks from the Rate this Professor website, along with comments such as “Wow. A methodical pedagogue, a thoughtful performer, a terrifying authoritarian, and a genuinely compassionate person — I think.”
You can imagine the scene when the ever-so-elegant Mr. Green comes to class, the clothier and the pedagogue, two from a New Yorker cartoon,
Ah. this is who I am. They don’t get the fact that the people buying the tickets are not like them. But the point is that part of your job is not to be offensive. And if you want to put tattoos all over your body. Well. So why rub it in and stick it in their ear?” Green sighed. And so what? The truth is that most audiences can’t hear the music anyway. most people don’t get past that. Green is that young musicians don’t seem to show respect for conductors. lamenting days gone by when Toscanini put you out on your ear if you didn’t perform up to his impossibly high standard. a trade school. “When you ask them. Look at Lang Lang. as long as you don’t show it. the old standards. And if you’ve spent the night in sexual bondage. They don’t know what’s good. but for the days when quality was revered and authority respected! So different from the now-now when young musicians are beginning to question the traditional career arcs. If you’re dressed in a certain way. but much worse by the illusion of their talent. “But this city is filled with great performers. in effect. “This is the problem. because as Mr. but guess what? Nobody cares. but we don’t need to know that through your expression or the way you present yourself. Green points out not only are musicians protected by the union. they say. and the notion that their talent entitles — that’s the key word — entitles them to appear however they wish. you could say it’s a class thing. and when music professors all over the country are urging entrepreneurialism. yet people outside the city think he’s the greatest thing. and so yes. “So many kids these days think they should be accepted because they’re great performers. there were a dozen great . you’ve gone to what is. no matter who they are.” he continued. that’s fine.” he went on. Lo of the piano’). But what bothers the likes of Mr. As a musician.shaking their heads at the way the world has turned. for that matter. or the audience. who gets nothing but bad reviews in New York (‘the J. … “Now. OK. trying to impart the old values. that’s fine. In the ’70s. the world’s run by a few people who pick even fewer people to be superstars and dismiss the rest.
Audience members as customers. or teachers. charismatic lord of sophistication. When I was a child. not just shop-talk to other musicians — even when the presentation is right. but rather as the portal to a livelihood. music as a widget. dappery down at Toots Shor’s. and isn’t done until their music lives in someone else. What’s new in Jon Green’s crusty lament. or as judges in yet another competition. I went to hear music played by a certain conductor. The fact is. the moody. Which sounds crass.” II: Joining Old School to New School Jon Green’s is the quintessential New York perspective. how many? Carter Brey and Yo Yo Ma. and even in New York. but less so when expressed by. the audience may not hear you the way you’d like to be heard. how many can you think of? Seriously. that slightly quaint Upper East Side /West Side. their work can’t be done alone. How many people do that anymore? What has classical music become but another commodity — like a Monet exhibit. it’s an event sold as a commodity. Yo Yo Ma when he describes one of the values of this new coda. or one of the Mad Men in your Brooks Bros. The same for pianists and violinists.” . is the call for more compatibility between the performance of music and the business of music. composers. perhaps worthy of a badge in a social gamification app. so long as you’re not seen as a pretender. New York has always been about presentation — whether you were Joe Namath in his full-length fur coat out at Shea Stadium. and they may well remember you only as an event. Brooklyn Heights snobbery — cynicism mixed with truth. Of course.cellists. the musician’s meme is to see the audience not as a vanity mirror. say. in his raspy voice and tails. and just a little heartbreak at the irony of it all: the irony that even when you do dress appropriately — and after you’ve learned to talk to donors. Today. at least new in this era. you’ve always been allowed to be whomever you want in New York. nostalgia. In the new world. or Leonard Bernstein in “the Hall” (Carnegie). the “citizen-musician initiative”: “Whether as performers.
and Chris Thile in The Goat Rodeo Sessions. there’s an odd optimism among musicians — news of foundering orchestras notwithstanding — an optimism based partly on new music and entities but more on a new sense of how music can encourage community. it’s a matter of redefining success. choosing her words carefully. in fact young musicians are not put off. which is the average rate for the labor force as a whole. but as one assistant dean for enrollment put it. the prospects for jobs as a musician over the next several years are reasonable. The bottom line is.” Moreover.” – Jon Green Ma is himself a great example of this renaissance musician. Competition is expected to be “keen. for example. “Top-tier schools continue to see robust numbers of applicants and good selectivity. The numbers are mixed.“So many kids these days think they should be accepted because they’re great performers. simultaneously “old school” and new. You think of his collaborators Stuart Duncan. are expected to grow at 10 percent. A recent NEA study projecting arts employment through 2018 shows that jobs for music directors and composers. III: Surprise: The Dream Lives Despite an unemployment rate of around 11 percent for musicians right out of college — and despite news that the percentage of adults attending a classical music performance declined from 12 percent in 2002 to 9 percent in 2008 — just when you’d think dreams of a career in music must be fading. and it wouldn’t be accurate to say students are flocking to conservatories and music schools. always looking outside the comfort zone. Edgar Meyer. In sum. and not simply in monetary terms. It may be about helping corporations to brand themselves. or about helping NGOs reach new clients or an orchestra to become the bedrock for a small town.” . if not good. ever beyond the parochial.
they can collaborate. The most successful orchestras — and you can see this going back to the 1890s — are the ones where social relationships between musicians and all the different constituencies in a community are strongest. so go with what you love. and at a school like this we have all these ‘winners. “their experience in music is all about competition. “I think it’s partly because of a sense that there’s no sure thing right now. Theater.” Clague continued. Mark Clague is an associate professor of musicology and director of research in the School of Music. then. “For many students. finding success as a performer is harder than ever. Another factor is that there’s a growing recognition that these skills are transferable. about me being better than you. who is also a music historian. so go with what you love. is there continuing interest in studying music? Dr. age groups. I know an HR director at a startup firm who actively recruits musicians because they’re self-motivated and disciplined. they can work independently. students and faculties alike need to see the importance of service. We’re talking about building ‘the big tent. Yet for that to happen.5 percent. incidentally. and interest groups. income groups. where.Why. energetic. and they’re just smart. They’re competitive. points out that other broader changes are afoot that could afford still more opportunities.” – Mark Clague Clague. the undergraduate selectivity rate in 2012 was 21. Clearly.’ but our obligation as an institution is to emphasize the service component and to show how music can improve the emotional quality of a community. but these skills are highly respected in other fields. a relatively low number over the last 10 to 15 years.” “There’s no sure thing right now.’” IV: The Dean: Bärli Nugent . and Dance at the University of Michigan. We’re talking about community groups.
what you’d really like to do is put your violin down and go to the New Jersey Coliseum and listen to some rock ’n’ roll. Someone puts a piece of wood at your neck and then has you twist your hand around to hold another piece of wood. And this becomes your life. you have to follow the teacher.A young musician with Dean Bärli Nugent at Juilliard For 11 years Bärli Nugent has been teaching at the Juilliard School. because for all your life you’ve been led to be committed to nothing but your music. “but inevitably as graduation approached there were always a certain number of hysterical students who became terrified. while they may be more aware. not knowing exactly what was going to happen next. you have to trust the teacher. Nugent says they still suffer from “legendary-teacher syndrome. I see this again and again with teachers. I think the difference now is that students are more into who they are. These days she spends a lot of time thinking about mentoring and career development. she said that when she arrived a decade ago students blithely assumed they would be gently escorted through one of the finest conservatories in the country. “They just figured it would happen because they were good enough. And then years go by and you end up teaching this same model. She’s an assistant dean and director of chamber music.” she remarked. and beyond simply shining themselves up to be a Lego piece that can be fitted into the appropriate Lego-sized opening. To accomplish that. But you don’t. and sent out the door to their careers. “Think of it. Asked how students had changed.” However.” . And when you’re 12 years old and the next piece to conquer is the Brahms’ concerto.” following ever so carefully each word and instruction of some master teacher. carefully polished. though without the real confidence to activate their own interests and passion. and so you stifle the rock ’n’ roll idea.
They made a similar argument to Lewis Kaplan.In fall 2011. “What you realize as a teacher is that these kids have never improvised in their lives. among many others. both in the classroom and out. Nugent gathered some colleagues to build rapport and talk about the curriculum. And what does that mean? . “was that there was a lot of stuff we could hold up to faculty members as examples of entrepreneurship. in a “surgical strike. “The point. The problem was to convince some of the more revered faculty. many teachers don’t think of what they’re doing in those terms. why don’t we show these faculty members how they are themselves examples of great entrepreneurs? Which is something students don’t often appreciate — that these distinguished performance artists are also entrepreneurs. if not a sea change. who were holding fast to the conviction that nothing should come in the way of practice. well.” And so now there has been a swell. beginning with Itzhak Perlman. He too readily agreed. they come out of the studio glowing. in the Juilliard community in acknowledging the significance and role of entrepreneurship. and Pinchas Zukerman.… Inevitably.” – Dean Bärli Nugent “We thought. From those conversations it became clear that there was a common desire to encourage students to explore entrepreneurship. whose students have included.” So. Yo Yo Ma.” Nugent said. Emanuel Ax.” they began talking up the idea. a senior professor in violin and chamber music. explaining to him that his music program was itself a great example of entrepreneurship. He readily agreed.
“I’m just a kid who went to Juilliard. I’d say this and some students would burst into tears at the idea of leaving the building. as though you’re sitting in the cafeteria with friends.’ that you’re at Juilliard and you’re exploring places where you could offer a free performance. Drop the ‘J bomb.” .’ And you know what? Inevitably.” In another example. ‘Think of it this way: You and your instrument are going to have a conversation. and they realize. And you realize. that they’ve been imprisoned for decades by very old ideas about playing music. ‘Just do it. she brings into class a filmmaker who needs some background music for a series of short films.’ Now. persuade people however you can. One is in the context of performance venues. “You have 15 minutes. One day you come into class and she tells you that you have just one hour and 15 minutes to go out into the streets and line up as many free performances as you can. The instructions are roughly these: “Go anywhere you want. nobody bursts into tears.’ I’d say. they come out of the studio glowing. The assignment is to go to the recording studio and develop four takes.” V: The Entrepreneur: Kimball Gallagher Kimball Gallagher with Students Elham and Milad at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music in Kabul The superstar of music entrepreneurs and the epitome of the “portfoliocareer” musician is Kimball Gallagher.Nugent has adopted the mantra “Take action now. much less persuading strangers of their talent. And so I told them.” “What you realize as a teacher is that these kids have never improvised in their lives. ‘Go. and you’re just going to see what happens. “A few years ago.” In her classes she’s developed a series of exercises to make the point. when I make this assignment.
It’s all very personalized showmanship. and new connections. most recently flying around the world doing a series of 88 concerts. The critics were on top of their seats. the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. And literally all over the world. whether businesspeople who have started their own businesses. who are receptive are people with entrepreneurial spirits themselves. “salon concerts. including one not long ago in Tunisia. He also does private consultation on career development and coming up with project ideas. For the last 10 years Gallagher has been a young man on his trapeze. For kings and commoners. He’s become a motivational speaker. Gradually. He’s always thinking about new audiences. in which the topic might be “shifting from a student mentality to a professional mentality.” where he brings business and law school graduates together with a select group of young musicians playing in Manhattan apartments. In his mind. It sold out. The first concert was in 2008 at Carnegie Hall. He’s even started a gig called “Cocktails and Counterpoints. And before that. And at each performance Gallagher provides a gift to the host: a piano work written just for them spelling out the host’s name in music notes. And so began a journey doing private concerts. In effect. development people at NGOs who are often looking for creative ways to reach the audience and thank the donor base. or the founders of NGOs looking for solutions to the issues they are trying to address. “Sure. From the German Embassy in Afghanistan to the King’s Palace in Thailand to a drawing room in Manhattan. whoever is open to a creative partnership. He composes and plays rock ’n’ roll music.he’s quick to say. it could be the hedge fund. he’s added variations on a theme.” in people’s homes and in unusual venues. ranging in age from 5 to 77. there are many more venues than musicians to fill them. the fire department. anyone or any organization becomes either a venue or a link to a one. …” .” He does fund-raising concerts. I find. “The main people. He has a private studio where he teaches 15 students.
It was the first time all of them had ever seen a piano in person and the first time they had heard of Beethoven and certainly the first time they had heard the Moonlight Sonata. as well as a violinist from the . the piano was provided by Furtados. this environmental issue is an obvious issue for Stree Mutki Sagathana. “If a renowned person like you will talk about zero waste. He was 15. The name of the organization that works with the wastepickers in Mumbai is Stree Mutki Sagathana [women's liberation movement]. We were happy that we were the first in India to experience this. Gallagher received a note that read. They have a long history of using art to promote their cause.” VI: The Practical Musician: Sean Ang Sean Ang remembers the moment exactly. They listened to some Beethoven. in his sophomore year in high school. Since 90 percent of wastepickers are women. Some reactions afterward were that the first movement sounded peaceful and it sounds like a fairy with a white dress is moving in the moonlight. the way you introduced Susheela. wrote a play that has been performed hundreds of times. Their founder. in part. Before the concert was the first workshop with wastepickers. Thanks again. as [for] many of them [it was the] first time [they had] seen such an instrument from so close a distance. the people definitely think about their responsibility toward Earth. It was [a] lifetime experience for them. He sent me a description of one of the concerts. the biggest music store chain in India. an accomplished singer.His most recent concerts have been part of a tour to India. Jyoti Mhapsekar. A beautiful auditorium. and those who touched the piano were thrilled. I listened to some of their songs. on behalf of an environmental organization that organizes “wastepickers” in Mumbai. The Russian Cultural Centre was the sight of the first concert. The play portrays the treatment of Indian women and promotes efforts to change perceptions and conceptions about what is possible for women. Women were excited. After the concert.
age of 6.” At the core of the question was the devil’s reminder that if you don’t get into Juilliard by the age of 10. to be absolutely sure he was faithful to the challenge. along with Do you want to do what you love. Music seems like such a personal pleasure. That had never occurred to him. always the word underneath “income.” Of course. he would have said.” she said. “Music.” his mother reminded him from time to time after that trip. with the singing gondolier in his striped shirt and straw hat with a red ribbon. And in the beginning. in music camps. practicing every day. But also in that moment there was a long. to see the “shoppes” along the ersatz “Grand Canal. not once in all the years he’d been singing in the chorus or playing violin — first in a Suzuki school and then in the youth orchestra and after that in ensembles. his voice echoing through the fakery.” – Sean Ang . “If things don’t work out. slow shock from the whole idea that there might be stigma attached to the practice of music. “Part of me is always about making things meaningful for someone else. his mother was right there next to him. or do something that can get you steady income and food on the table? And get you prestige. She was the one who had brought him to music in the first place. not least because it was his mother saying such a thing.” And so began Sean’s entry into the “real world. “you could end up like that. Why would you even ask? He and his family were on vacation in Las Vegas and one day they visited The Venetian.” While watching a gondola pass back and forth. Sean’s mother turned to him. “For every Itzhak Perlman. If you had asked him then what he would most like to do with his life. “there are 10 singing gondoliers. you’re not going to the top and so better not to go at all. in competition after competition.” Sean was dumbfounded. and the next. under the painted ceiling.” What does music really mean to you? became a recurring question that year.
now 18. you must do what we tell you to do. I asked Sean whether his story. At the same time. Sean’s parents are from Singapore. but everyone else gets to do what they want when they go to college. between San Francisco and Palo Alto. but then he felt that would be dishonest and insincere. and if they want to be an art history major they can! But in Asian families the expectations are set and the approach is. I feel like it’s true that Asians see music as extremely important in itself but also important as a way to get into college.In his junior year at Carlmont High School in San Carlos. This fall Sean. which is so common. But. Yet all the while. his mother majored in psychology in college and studied piano for many years. the Chinese are very practical. He’s on his preMed track. began his studies at the UC Davis. It’s important to have a career that provides a happy household and a family. he kept seeking advice. But at the same time you look around and think. His father is a computer engineer. hey. He largely gave up other pleasures. the pressure relentless. He thought about submitting music tapes with his applications. Sean took five AP classes and at the same time kept up with his music. The music department is small. with a minor in music. he wrote about his dilemma and how he wanted to emulate his family doctor who was a musician himself and insisted that you can meld medicine and music. it’s better if you study medicine or law. reflects a particular truth about the role of music in Asian-American families. that you can have it all. The year was unexpectedly difficult. There are . because there is always the expectation that one day your children will take care of you. Incidentally. including martial arts and figure skating. As my mom says. he maintained a compromise with his parents made at the end of his sophomore year: that he would go to college and focus on pre-Med and perhaps minor in music. once in college. relatively speaking. In his college essays.
but once I establish a career I can pursue it on the side.” He paused. He still takes private lessons and tries to practice an hour each day. he noted that perhaps his favorite piece of music is Ralph Vaughan Williams 1910 Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis (1910).” But not in music? “If you were to teach. That’s how I feel.” I asked if there was anything that would change his plans. he devotes 15 hours a week to music. …” VII: CODA . Music seems like such a personal pleasure. or if I thought I could make a real impact.” he told me one day in his dorm room. music will have go on the back burner. in the center of which stood his music stand. In med school. “It would also take someone that I thought very highly of to tell me that this is a real possibility. I suppose that’s the ideal. That’s what I like about medicine: you can made a direct difference in people’s lives. “That really resonates with me. When I found him. that this is really something I could do for the rest of my life. calculus. “I think if I were a better musician. “At least until I get my undergraduate degree.few performance majors. He plays in the local orchestra twice a week and in a string quartet two other days a week. But it’s kind of selfish. Because part of me is always about making things meaningful for someone else. if I could play in a good orchestra. and psychology. “I feel I can do both. along with classes in (honors) chemistry. he was watching a classic music video on his laptop and singing to himself. Altogether. I suppose.” Later in our conversation.
and may have done their 10. When I last spoke to Kimball Gallagher.000 hours of deliberate practice. . And could you ever persuade students who love music. He previously served as the public information officer for the San Francisco District Attorney’s office. and personally satisfying. as he was going out the door to India. they could still do something highly creative.com. What do you really want to do in your life? Who do you want to meet before you die? Who do you want to help?” Mark MacNamara is a writer and journalist living in San Francisco. I asked him what sort of curriculum he would construct for a class on entrepreneurship. but his doubt. raises the question whether you could ever put the study and performing of music on a par with the study of medicine or engineering or law. interesting.What an odd thing: Classical music as a guilty pleasure! And therefore unworthy of such a daring commitment. and in music culture in general. and more recently has been an Internet media consultant. Sean Ang’s feeling is partly a commentary on the work ethic in Asian-American culture. “I would begin by asking them. that even by not performing for the New York “Phil. “Well. and his dilemma.” as Jon Green calls it.” he replied. or even by not teaching but by adopting an entrepreneurial spirit that they could still affect people directly and in a very positive way. His website is: macnamband.
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