So as some of you have noticed, I switched themes for the blog. I’m not entirely sold on this one, but I wante something with a bit more color but similar functionality to the previous theme. This was about as close as I could get. Some things are a bit more clear in this template, but I don’t particularly like that there’s so much space in the header above. If I ever feel inclined I might go into the template and see if I can’t modify it some, but for now it will suffice.
And Ive been toying around with SoundCloud ever since I noticed it on Tony Woodcock’s recent blog post about Pushing Boundaries. I’ve noticed it around some sites before but it wasn’t until listening to some of the tracks he had posted by New England Conservatory students (in particular Goodbye Ben Ali by Yasmine Azalez) that I realized how it works.
Basically the track itself becomes a social networking system by allowing folks (who have an account) to make comments at specific points on the track much like how Youtube allows comments to be embedded into the videos now.
The best thing is the ability to embed the track onto websites individually which makes it much more useful (for me) than the more traditional artist audio sites out there right now.
For some time ASTA (American String Teacher’s Association) has been focusing on training string music teachers to develop Alternative String programs. Last year I had decided that I need to formally join the organization (which I haven’t done yet but still intend on doing) so that I can be better informed about the programs, literature and techniques being created by those involved in the organization.
ASTA apparently has an “Alternative Styles Award competition” which I learned about after reading Rory Williams “Report from an ASTA Roundtable: ASTA roundtable finds alternative-styles education moving a step ahead—slowly” in the Strings magazine from the conference in Georgia in 2009. Here’s what sparked my interest in the organization:
Vighnesh Viswanathan, 14, milled about the exhibit hall with his father and sister at the 2009 American String Teachers Association National Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. What set him apart from the several hundred teachers, dealers, and performers that visited that day in mid-March was not just his age, but his name badge, which proudly proclaimed “winner.”
“It’s for the Alternative Styles Awards competition,” he said, smiling from ear to ear.
One of 12 string players chosen out of 35 applicants, Viswanathan, of Westford, Massachusetts, won the Junior Division of the “Recognition of Established Traditions” category. His specialty: Carnatic (Indian) violin.
“He studies classical music, too,” his father says.
Viswanathan is part of a growing number of bilingual string players—those who can play both classical and alternative styles—who are seeking a well-rounded education. But nearly a decade after ASTA first embraced alternative styles as a viable pedagogy, the question remains whether teachers and institutions—from the elementary to the graduate level—can accommodate these students.
I wanted to post a quick note linking to Tony Woodcock’s blog post about the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and fundraising woes, Motown Blues. Some quotes are particularly relevant to the whole issue of Orchestras’ legitimacy:
I have been talking recently with some major donors and leaders prominent in the orchestral world…Donors are feeling fatigued by orchestras – the constant demands, the needs, the on-going and unresolved problems. They are questioning the role of “orchestra monoliths” whose consumption of a community’s philanthropic wealth is disproportionate to the value they produce. They are questioning musicians’ passivity within the symphonic organization and the community when, in fact, it is musician leadership and initiative that will be needed to make real change happen. They are asking these questions with a degree of serious concern that should make everyone think creatively about relationships, structure, and community for the future. Why? Because these are the investors rethinking their priorities.
[S]ociety has changed….Societal changes present huge challenges to our conservatively held views of what constitutes an orchestra. We can blame society and national leaders and the media but that’s not going to get us very far. We are where we are and everything is moving forward with or without us.
We are forever talking about the issue of relevance. Clearly, the performing arts’ relevance has declined as measured by the sheer drop in attendance figures as well as the arts’ ever more superficial penetration in the community. But I want to change the term from relevance to legitimacy which presents a much bigger issue. I use “legitimacy” here almost in the political sense of an organization deriving the moral right to exist from the approbation of the people. So when we consider “legitimacy for the performing arts,” we must ask ourselves the question: Is playing excellently enough? For too long, we have believed the maxim: “Play well… they will come.” Doesn’t happen–anymore. I have been to so many great concerts performed to empty halls. Legitimacy must be authentic. It is bestowed, not taken. It must be re-examined every single year and not taken for granted. It must address key issues such as why do the majority of people feel increasingly excluded from the arts, and also why do the arts matter?