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FROM OVERGROWN PATH: CLASSICAL MUSIC NEEDS TO GROW LISTENERS NOT AUDIENCES.  “With a piano in most homes, music education used to be about teaching people how to play an instrument. Now with classical music available to everyone via the internet, the focus should have shifted to teaching people how to listen. But it hasn’t. In fact it has shifted the other way, to embrace the doctrine preached by Roger Wright at the BBC and Mathieu Gallet at Radio France of increasing availability at the expense of understanding. Which is foolish. Because audience data has shown time and time again that the key to the future of classical music is not changing the way it is presented – it is changing the way people listen.”

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THE ULTIMATE MAHLER EXAM:  This listening test is really tough, and some are downright impossible.  A major second?  an octave?  How many can you get?

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OUR YOUNG CONDUCTORS–CONDUCTORS OR AUTOMATONS?: “There was something to be said for the old European model of bringing up young conductors through provincial opera houses, rehearsing with singers, conducting performances. There they had to learn something about music’s emotional import, about expressive give and take, and that singers have to breathe.”  I like the connections to musicality and singing.  I am not sure if it really is a result of conductors’ training (doing much more conducting in their field today as opposed to work on their individual instruments), or simply a product of their youth that will eventually fade.  By the way, here’s a great video about a real automaton.  (There are also these cool pistols here as well)

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THIS IS PROBABLY MY LAST ERIC ERICSON POST FOR AWHILE, BUT YOU NEVER KNOW: “while one may not want or be able to copy Eric’s exact technique, his concern with mastering technical elements of conducting and (more importantly) making sure the body reflects what a singer needs to sing well should concern all of us.

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REBECCA SCHUMAN ON WHY PROFESSORS INFLATE GRADES: “If I graded truly fairly—as in, a C means actual average work—the ‘customers’ would do their level best to ruin my life. Granted, there exist professors whose will to power out-powers grade-gripers. There are stalwarts who remain impervious to students’ tenacious complaints, which can be so single-minded that one wonders what would happen if they had applied one-fifteenth of that focus to their coursework. I admire and cherish those professors, but I am not one of them.”  This is a real problem for college choir faculty as many students assume that choir ensembles (and sometimes even voice lessons) should earn an A as long as they show up.  And, to be honest, I don’t know of any choir directors who grade on a curve–D’s and F’s are rare.  After all, we’re trying to get as many students as we can.  What should we do about grade inflation?

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WHAT I’VE LEARNED FROM TEACHING: “[T]he most frustrating thing as a teacher is trying to figure out the boundary between I’m not trying hard enough and they’re not trying hard enough. I try to console myself with ‘I can’t put more work into a student’s grade than the student does’, but there’s still some residual guilt from students doing poorly. Even when I don’t have the slightest clue who the student is because said student hasn’t bothered to reach out to me in anyway.”  It is always a delicate balancing act, and you never feel like you always get it right.  When students fail, you feel like you have let them down even while you acknowledge that they need to be doing so much more.  That’s certainly one thing I did not realize when I started.  

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ARNE LUNDMARK ON ERIC ERICSON: “It was quite frankly ‘messy’ at rehearsals sometimes, and I have to admit that sometimes he spent so much time of tuning the choir so that learning the notes was a bit neglected! His conducting was very much about phrasing the musical line with the most undescribable gestures that everyone for some reason understood. In the concert itself I often had the feeling that all his love to music suddenly was shown and we were willing to give him all he asked for.