Comment Of The Day: “The Classical Music Critic Of The New York Times Thinks That Symphony Orchestras Should Choose Members According To Race, Gender, And ‘Other Factors’ That Have Nothing To Do With Music”

The Comment of the Day that follows by David Rohde is welcome for many reasons. First, he is a professional musician, and a skilled one. Second, he defends the author of piece I criticized vociferously (and will continue to). Third, I think this is an important issue. Fourth,, a new voice here is always welcome, and we haven’t been getting as many as I would like of late. Finally,, as required for COTD, it is well written and worthy of considerations and debate.

Not that I agree with it, but that has never been a criteria for Comment of the Day honors. Here’s David Rohde’s Comment of the Day. on the post,The Classical Music Critic Of The New York Times Thinks That Symphony Orchestras Should Choose Members According To Race, Gender, And “Other Factors” That Have Nothing To Do With Music.”(I’ll be back with my reaction at the end.)

***

It may be that using blind auditions has elevated the performance level of symphony orchestras. Or it may be serious overkill in an era of a supply-demand imbalance for classical musical talent. But either way, simply rolling this issue into what I know is this blog’s current obsession with – in other words, against – identity issues misses a lot that’s going on here.

First of all, you have to admit that hiring people without knowing who they are in ANY field is kind of strange. In particular, you certainly wouldn’t use blind auditions to cast people in a show, now would you? I know I know, different genres, different requirements. Roles in theater are individual, while 30 or 40 violinists in a symphony orchestra are doing much the same thing.

But I would argue that live classical music IS showbiz, and the sooner that people in that field realize it, the better. If the product is just “the music,” and many people assert that the overall technical performance level is higher than ever, then why is classical music struggling at all?

Second, I think you have to remember what the main impetus of blind auditions was in the first place. While I’m oversimplifying, the essential problem was (or shortly became) the inability of women to secure places in symphony orchestras. A quick check on YouTube of recent orchestra performances now versus 30 or 40 years ago will demonstrate the resulting change. Part of Tommasini’s argument is not to let solutions to problems become so institutionalized that they run past their sell-by date while different problems fester.

Third, you’re caricaturing Tommasini’s valid argument that different people may bring different skillsets that blind auditions by their very nature ignore and bury. Why shouldn’t certain people’s aptitude or talent for communication and outreach to younger and different audiences be a factor in hiring? In classical music, organizations from symphony orchestras on down often do a superficial form of “outreach” that I personally consider worse than doing nothing at all. Kids of all backgrounds know when they’re being patronized.

I’ve witnessed classical musicians who thrive in this sort of environment, and those who look like they wish the ground would open up and swallow them. If an ensemble is actually called the Anywheresville Symphony Orchestra, how is consistent and comfortable engagement in the real community of Anywheresville not a valid consideration in hiring?

Finally, I think that the usual analogy to sports is off when considering the specific issue of staffing a symphony orchestra, compared to other slots in classical music. In particular, basketball is a poor analogy because of the lopsided nature of won-lost records in that sport and the reality that superstars consistently and predictably do outshine mere stars. If we were talking about soloists performing violin and piano concertos with orchestras, then I could possibly understand the connection and the analogy. But interestingly, there seems to be far more developing diversity in those slots than in the staffing of the orchestras as a whole, so it’s valid to wonder why it doesn’t seem to be filtering down.

I don’t know if I agree with Tommasini, and many people in the instrumental classical world – including even minority musicians – doubt his argument and say either that “blind” auditions end up not being entirely so or that it remains hard to get past the filtering that puts certain candidates and not others in the pipeline. But the assertion that at least considering what he’s saying will automatically make orchestras “worse” is cheap and unsupportable and elides other issues that classical music needs to address to grow its market. I hope this helps.

_______________________________

I’m back!

I know David and respect him. People are always accusing me of being too harsh on new commenters, and I certainly don’t want to discourage him from commenting here often and on a diverse (!) set of issues. On the other hand, I don’t want to prove that I treat friends differently than how I treat commenters I have never met (although, I admit, I have in the past.)

Does it help? Getting a well-articulated rebuttal always helps. It also helps me realize the power of peer group marinating, because the vast majority of those in the arts have a knee-jerk reflex to agree with really bad ideas like Tommasini’s from the Land of Woke. David’s smarter than most of them, thus he is only at the “I don’t know if I agree with Tommasini” stage. There is hope for him. But to be blunt, I still don’t see a valid argument here. Let me examine each of the points raised.

First of all, you have to admit that hiring people without knowing who they are in ANY field is kind of strange….

That’s a straw man. Orchestras don’t hire a complete cipher and throw a hood over his/her face. The musicians get the chance to audition based on a review of their experience and qualifications. If they have a record of leaving other orchestras after short periods, that will be a red flag. If a background check reveals that they are escapees from the Federal Pen, they don’t get hired even after their audition is aces. Presumably if someone “wins” a blind audition and it is discovered that they play the viola with their toes, they still won’t get the job.

“But I would argue that live classical music IS showbiz, and the sooner that people in that field realize it, the better. If the product is just “the music,” and many people assert that the overall technical performance level is higher than ever, then why is classical music struggling at all?”

I’m not certain what his point is here. Sure, it’s show business: is that supposed to mean that symphony orchestras should hire according to appearances? Beauty? Bust size? It’s not a visual art, for the most part: an orchestra that looks great and sounds lousy has no appeal whatsoever. The implication, I think, is the increasingly frequent “audiences want a cast/show/ Presidential Cabinet/jazz band that looks like them” argument. That is itself an anti-American, anti-plurality, anti-democratic mindset that has been weaponized to justify discrimination and bias, and if that IS part of David’s argument, the goal should be to stop encouraging people to think that way. That’s encouraging and validating tribalism. If someone really is less likely to enjoy an orchestral performance of the Carmen Suite because there are not enough Hispanic musicians playing (or too many Asians), then that person doesn’t belong in a concert hall.

“If the product is just “the music,” and many people assert that the overall technical performance level is higher than ever, then why is classical music struggling at all?” There are lots of reasons, and I would put “the racial identity of the musicians” around 7,654 on the list, if it makes the list at all. Schools don’t teach classical music education like they used to. Parents don’t play recordings of Beethoven and Mozart like they used to. The music is old. Modern orchestral compositions, with a few exceptions, have never reached the popularity of the classics of the 19th, 18th and 17th centuries. Orchestras are expensive, thanks to the musicians union. That makes tickets expensive. Live performance arts are declining in all genres, as the public becomes satisfied with electronic and remote–and inferior—equivalents. Hoping, as the comment does, that having “diverse” musicians will make a dent in these impediments is the Mother of All Hail Marys.

On David’s second point: “Huh?” Why is the lack of female musicians a problem, if there 1) aren’t sufficient numbers of them and 2) if they aren’t good enough to succeed in a blind audition? This is a tell: David believes, or has been conditioned to believe, that demographic variations in certain pursuits and occupations due to human preferences and proclivities are a problem that needs fixing. It isn’t. Most dentists are male, because women aren’t drawn to dentistry as often as men are. In the law, most litigators are male, most domestic law specialists are female. Is that a problem? The only problem occurs if lesser qualified and talented people are shoehorned into challenging jobs for the wrong reasons—their chromosome mix or their melanin content.

The third argument, “Why shouldn’t certain people’s aptitude or talent for communication and outreach to younger and different audiences be a factor in hiring?”, deserves the response, “Why should it be?” Orchestras have staffs, fundraisers, PR experts and more. They have their primary jobs. Musicians’ primary job is to play music—and again, I reject the idea that we should encourage a society where people, including kids, must always be taught and communicated to by those who “look like them.” That’s programming bigotry. Unethical…and foolish.

Again, with the fourth point, I’m neither persuaded nor sure I understand, or hope I don’t, what David is getting at. What do won-lost records have to do with anything? In pro basketball, a majority white spectator base supports, and pays for, teams that are 95% black. They care about whether the team can play basketball, not what color the players are, and that’s as it should be. An orchestra is no different. His question evincing suspicion of “why it doesn’t seem to be filtering down,” unless I’m misreading it, seems to be the classic, “Never mind that we can’t see what it is, if there isn’t diversity, there’s racism involved somehow,” in which the intellectually dishonest assumption is that “unequal results” are sufficient to prove systemic injustice. Presumed racism again.

Yup, this blog is focusing on that a lot, because its a society-killer.

Finally, on this:

But the assertion that at least considering what he’s saying will automatically make orchestras “worse” is cheap and unsupportable and elides other issues that classical music needs to address to grow its market. I hope this helps.

I didn’t say that “considering” Tommasini ‘s argument will make the orchestras worse. Considering is fine: I consider lots of terrible arguments, every day. No, he wrote, “To Make Orchestras More Diverse, End Blind Auditions.” That means that making diversity a priority over demonstrated skill is desirable. If diversity is given priority over ability, then orchestras will sound worse, meaning they will be worse. I guess the scare quotes around “worse” means David thinks, like Tommasini does, that a more diverse orchestra can be better than one that sounds better.

That’s woke nonsense, or if it isn’t, neither Tommasini nor David has made the case that it’s not.

16 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “The Classical Music Critic Of The New York Times Thinks That Symphony Orchestras Should Choose Members According To Race, Gender, And ‘Other Factors’ That Have Nothing To Do With Music”

  1. This blind audition discussion has reminded me of attending a national luthier’s association competition. All the instruments were played by the same musicians without the judges knowing who the makers were. The instruments were simply graded by an identifying number. Should the judges have been advised as to the identity of the makers? To ensure some women won? Preposterous.

    Also, it’s called an audition. You know, “audit?” To listen? “Audio?” sound?

    Interesting that as a professional, David did not make more of the argument that “everybody at that level is incredibly good so why not go out of the way to hire less represented people” beyond saying there is an over supply of really accomplished professional musicians. I think that’s a very dangerous argument for a musician to make. Mrs. OB and I spent almost three years in Amsterdam, The Netherlands and attended countless concerts by The Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, considered among the top three or four orchestras in the world (and performing in one of the acoustically great halls). The Orchestra is the pride of The Netherlands and Amsterdam in particular. How on earth could an outfit like the Concertgebouw Orchestra maintain its reputation with anything other than the most top flight players? I’m essentially shocked by David’s saying: “If we were talking about soloists performing violin and piano concertos with orchestras, then I could possibly understand the connection and the analogy [to sport].” That’s crazy talk. Top flight orchestras are staffed with all stars. You can’t have anyone in any section who has to just fake certain passages or has an inferior tone. Every instrument is crucial to an orchestra’s sound. All of which is brutal for people who can’t find work, but let’s not just destroy a meritocratic tradition centuries in the making. Listening to classical music live is like time travel. Let’s not ruin it. Please.

  2. “It’s not a visual art, for the most part” means it is a visual art to some extent. Couple that with the thought that at least a part of the orchestra’s objective is to inspire a love of music, especially among those who may be new to orchestral music. That love comes more readily when an audience member can picture himself performing. Racial likeness may not be essential to that visualization, but it helps. So, if you have several violinists of very nearly equal talent, differences that 99% of your audience would not notice, why not peek behind that screen and choose the one who will help that small part of your audience picture themselves on stage in your concert hall. How exactly is that un-American? And, will that make the performances worse? Well, no, not for the vast majority of audiences. And even among the elitist of the elite, there is not unanimity in what is best.
    If it’s just about the very best music and nothing else, then put the orchestra behind a screen for the performance so the audience is not distracted by what they see.

    • “if you have several violinists of very nearly equal talent”

      I could agree with this position, as long it’s understood that if you have several violinists of near equal talent, and you have one that’s beneath them in ability, you go with the ones that actually cut the mustard, even if they’re white while the inferior player is black.

    • “It’s not a visual art, for the most part” means it is a visual art to some extent

      No, it means the orchestra is not invisible. I was primarily thinking of flamboyant conductors like Leonard Bernstein, whose energy had entertainment value; otherwise, I’m pretty sure all high level orchestras look the same while playing.

      Couple that with the thought that at least a part of the orchestra’s objective is to inspire a love of music, especially among those who may be new to orchestral music.

      By playing the music as well as possible, not by having affirmative action musicians.

      That love comes more readily when an audience member can picture himself performing.

      Prove it. In high-level musical performing, that’s the last thing a typical audience members does.

      So, if you have several violinists of very nearly equal talent, differences that 99% of your audience would not notice, why not peek behind that screen and choose the one who will help that small part of your audience picture themselves on stage in your concert hall.

      A sneaky way of justifying not choosing the best musician because of color. That’s discrimination. No way out.

      How exactly is that un-American?

      Awarding distinctions based on group membership rather than merit? Read the Declaration and the Constitution.

      And, will that make the performances worse?

      Of course. And in the arts, the logic of “eh, it’s not as good as it could be, but it’s good enough” is anathema to all genres.

      “Well, no, not for the vast majority of audiences.”

      “It’s inferior, but most suckers won’t be able to tell.” What an argument!

      And even among the elitist of the elite, there is not unanimity in what is best.

      A rationalization. Those who choose the players are the only authorities who matter at that stage. Those who disagree can assemble their own orchestra.

      If it’s just about the very best music and nothing else, then put the orchestra behind a screen for the performance so the audience is not distracted by what they see.

      If an audience member is “distracted” by counting skin shades, they need medical intervention.

      • Funny thing is, looking back over the original comments before Rhode’s, I pretty much agree that blind auditions should remain the standard, but by gosh someone besides Tommasini has got to make the counter argument lest this site become a collection of nodding heads. As the resident dumbass, that task falls to me.
        “For the most part” apparently has a different meaning for each of us; for me that means yes, it is a visual art to at least some extent, and not just when there is a dramatic conductor. Symphony orchestras do look a lot alike, but the visual is there, especially when a soloist is featured.
        “In high-level musical performing, that [picturing oneself being a performer] is the last thing a typical audience member does.” I was not thinking of the typical audience member, but of the child, especially a minority child, who has shown some interest and may be getting a first exposure to live classical music. There is a fair amount of evidence that race plays an important part in role-modeling.
        “A sneaky way of justifying not choosing the best musician.” No need to be sneaky, just tear down the curtain.
        “That’s discrimination.” Yep. Making a choice always is discrimination.
        “Awarding distinctions based on group membership rather than merit?” Ah, yes, the Declaration and the Constitution. But, also the Civil Rights Act and the Supreme Court rulings in United Steel Workers v. Weber and Johnson v. Transportation Agency. Just browse the images of the major U.S. orchestras, and it becomes obvious that there is some room for redress of historical imbalances.
        “Of course [it will make the performances worse].” I’m not so sure about that. Presumably, the selection is being made (by a musical director?) from among several musicians who all have been rated very highly by the audition committee. If we’re talking about one violinist in a section of a couple dozen or more, or one viola out of about 10, who would notice a very slight difference in musical ability?
        “Those who choose the player are the only authorities who matter at that stage.” I have heard it’s a myth that orchestras are dictatorial, but there is a grain of truth in that myth. I can almost hear the music director stating, with just a hint of arrogance, “So what if the audience can’t tell; I can, and it’s my decision!” True enough. And, perhaps there is a musical difference detectable by the most highly trained and cultured ear. But, I would think the musical director’s responsibilities go beyond that.
        It’s a fallacy, I think, to say that symphony orchestras have exactly one purpose, to sound as good as possible. Appearance does matter and the evidence is there in every formal photograph of a symphony orchestra. Why is it wrong to choose someone based on appearance (in a very close call on ability), yet it’s acceptable to reject someone based on appearance? There is a reason orchestras (mostly) look somewhat alike and faces like this one are not seen: https://ethicsalarms.com/2020/09/29/discrimination-diversity-and-the-tattooed-teacher/

        • I’ll give you this: that’s about as good a shot at making an impossible case as I can imagine. Just a couple of notes in what could be many more…

          1. “That’s discrimination.” Yep. Making a choice always is discrimination. But discrimination based on gender and race is both unethical and usually illegal discrimination.

          2. Children attending symphony orchestra performances, especially black children, is a mighty slim foundation to use to justify discriminating against a superior musician because he’s the wrong shade.

          3. Accepting less than the best is a slippery slope…one of the best examples there is.

          4. Contrived argument, I think. Lawyers have to appear professional and can’t interview in the pajamas, but absent extremes, no, lawyers are not chosen on their appearances, but on how well they practice law. Same here.

  3. “audiences want a cast/show/ Presidential Cabinet/jazz band that looks like them”

    Doesn’t that statement justify whites wanting all white performers or Blacks wanting all Black performers and so forth. That statement does not say that audience members want diversity at all. If that is the case, each member of the audience is wanting to entertained by people of their racial characteristics so the claims by non whites that whites seek to dominate the arena is simply a projection of their desires to dominate. Thus, every race wants supremacy. Therefore, BIPOC supremacy is no different than white supremacy. I don’t think audiences care who is delivering the goods. They are there to be entertained.

    I believe we have far too many who lack the talent to be stars or even average performers who simply choose to find fault in the system so as to elevate themselves to their own sense of personal stardom.

    I will say that for organizational survival it would be necessary to cast as broad a net as possible. so outreach to minority communities is a worthy endeavor. However, if it is decided we must use those whose racial characteristics reflect that of the members of those targeted communities I believe that any interest generated in training to be a member of an orchestra will be short lived if race is the deciding factor. I would wager there will be far fewer kids in the Black community willing to forego excelling in sports so they can excel in music. The same is true about white kids.

    Perhaps the best, if not only, reason to promote diversity in orchestras is that it will require an long term outreach effort to successfully change the psychology of the young of all races to resist the pleasures of immediate gratification, learn patience, and focus on the work of training to being the best at whatever instruments they choose to play.

  4. “Third, you’re caricaturing Tommasini’s valid argument that different people may bring different skillsets that blind auditions by their very nature ignore and bury.”

    This statement seems to fly directly in the face of the purpose of the blind audition: to prevent past discrimination against the skillsets that women brought to an audition. In the past, the abilities of certain candidates were apparently ignored because visible auditions revealed those candidates possessed the skill to bear children, and they were summarily excluded. That’s discrimination.

    David’s statement above is incorrect because Tommasini isn’t really arguing that blind auditions hide certain skills. He is arguing that blind auditions hide just one thing: skin color. He is suggesting that the orchestra selection process remove a barrier that prevented discrimination (based on sex) in order to create a barrier of discrimination (based on skin color). That’s discrimination. That’s also racist.

    So if a black male candidate and a white female candidate audition playing the same instrument, who wins?…the man because he’s black or the woman because she’s female? The blind audition removes this ridiculous “woke” decision by allowing the ears to make the decision rather than the eyes.

    Just my two cents. Chew carefully before swallowing.

  5. In the current edition of the League of American Orchestras’ “symphony” magazine, there is a panel discussion entitled “Rethinking Blind Auditions”. You can download a pdf of the article here: https://americanorchestras.org/rethinking-blind-auditions/

    Here is an introductory paragraph that establishes the *need* for “rethinking” the audition process:

    Particularly in terms of gender, blind auditions changed the face of orchestras. In 1970, according to a 2000 Harvard study, women comprised about 6 percent of musicians at some larger orchestras. In 1978, according to the League of American Orchestras’ 2016 Racial/Ethnic and Gender Diversity in the Orchestra Field study, the percentage of women musicians at orchestras was 38.2 percent, and in 2014 women comprised 47.4 percent of orchestra musicians. The League study reported that the percentage of musicians with Asian/Pacific Islander backgrounds rose from 5.3 percent in 1980 to 9.1 percent in 2014. However, the percentage of musicians identified as African American/Black in 2014 was 1.8 percent, and 2.5 percent identified as Hispanic/Latino. Those percentages had not significantly increased over time, and they have risen only marginally since. Orchestras continue to be among America’s least racially diverse institutions.

    TL;DR: “While blind auditions resulted in increased percentages of women and Asians in orchestras, Black and Hispanic/Latino musicians still aren’t where we want them.

    As you might expect, given such a lead-in, most of the opinions expressed in the forum are a typical Woke word salad of aspirations and virtue signalling. It is obvious that the only way to meet their expectations is to institute quotas – without calling them “quotas”.

    And nobody explains how changing the current process will improve the quality of the performances – my primary criterion for attending orchestral concerts.

    • That introduction also fails to answer the most important question – a question Jack has already asked: what percentage of auditioning candidates are African-American?

      • And where would these candidates come from? For the past 30 years, give or take, local school budgets have been in trouble (for a variety of reasons, some better than others) but a casualty of that has been programs dealing with the arts, music amongst them. Without music programs in the public schools, the only youngsters receiving instruction in the classical (for want of better term) instruments are those whose parents insist on it and can finance private lessons. That two-step hindrance skews the minor leagues, so to speak, toward those of means. The lack of certain segments of society at the all-star level should not be surprising.

  6. Here comes Technology to the rescue of the wokerati!

    Just imagine (or, “re-imagine,” like the wokerati are trumpeting every day now):

    We now have auto-tune for lousy voices. “DRECK Alert, Major DRE-E-ECK Alert!” (recalling and mocking a recent TV commercial, where I thought I heard an auto-tuned singer – maybe it was all fakery, I don’t know; maybe I am confusing auto-tuning with something else)

    I might be behind the technology-awareness times; technology might already exist that can auto-tune (and auto-rhythm and auto-anything) for any instrument that doesn’t, in its player’s raw performance, sound like a virtuoso’s performance, for any musical genre, tune, rhythm, etc.

    So, when that day of Technology For The Wokerati arrives, if it hasn’t dawned already, orchestra conductors can just look at various people holding various instruments, and say: “I’ll hire THAT one because her skin is so dark…and THAT one because she has completed her gender transition…and, THAT one because I remember looting a store with him in Minneapolis in 2020…annnnd…THAT one because he voted for Biden…(and on and on)…DONE! My very own diverse orchestra!”

    I don’t go to classical music concerts, for reasons Jack has explained well in his post. I would rather wast- er, spend my money going to a baseball game and celebrating how some unseen, unnamed person in New York gets to determine the outcome of the game by reviewing video re-plays of action on the field. At least Technology has not completely replaced umpires yet.

  7. Thanks to Jack for amplifying my comment. As a preliminary matter, perhaps I should clarify what I meant when I said that blind auditions have served to help female musicians win positions in orchestras. My use of the word “inability” may not have been the best choice, and it appeared to confuse a couple of people.

    I most certainly did not mean that women were unable to qualify musically. I meant the reverse – that they were actively discriminated against. I “know” this website community and I urge you not to get your hackles up about this observation. It’s simply a fact although it’s increasingly historical at this point, so don’t worry about it. Symphony orchestras were traditional all-male or virtually so until a comparatively short time ago in musical history, and it was a problem that needed to be solved.

    More substantively, let me illustrate what I mean when I say “it’s not just the music” with a concrete example. If you’ve been to symphony concerts, you know the routine where at the end of a piece, the conductor motions to individual orchestra members who are perceived to have had a prominent role in the piece, either via a solo line or other key part, to take a bow in advance of the entire orchestra.

    The way in which this tradition is executed by American orchestras is often, in my opinion, absolutely terrible. The conductor frequently hasn’t notified everyone who he’s going to invite to be specifically acknowledged, and kind of overdoes the singling-out. Some of the individual musicians then do a kind of “who, me?” back at the conductor. Finally they stand up and instead of looking happy about accepting the audience’s applause, they grimace in embarrassment. (European orchestras are MUCH better at this tradition.) I’d be surprised if Jack doesn’t agree with me, but as a theater person myself, I consider that being on stage means something, regardless of the genre. At the very least, all the performers should look happy about being congratulated! Not to do so is a real buzzkill.

    More generally, there’s a fantastic orchestra and opera company consultant based in San Francisco with a record of increasing rather than decreasing audiences in classical music organizations. Her name is Aubrey Bergauer and she has extensive, data-based research that indicates that it absolutely is the total experience of attending concerts, not just “the music,” that makes a huge difference in audience attraction and especially audience retention.

    The connection with auditions? Holding them entirely blind may well defeat SEVERAL valid – and quite possibly correlated – considerations for employment of a person in the performing arts, including community engagement. Perhaps Anthony Tommasini means this much more explicitly in terms of diversity than I do, but he’s the chief classical music critic of the New York Times and I’m not, and I also want to be fair to the conversation. If there’s a major city orchestra and it seems to have virtually no African-American members – which you do see – then I do believe at a minimum that it’s indicative of something “off” about the process. Look up the Sphinx Organization for their work in this area, especially if you doubt that there are very qualified musicians out there who ought to slot in somewhere.

    On some other points raised:

    1) The etymology of the word “audition” is irrelevant as it’s clearly a false cognate that’s come to mean something broader. Tryouts for parts in theater and ballet companies are also called “auditions.” I especially know this as a theater music director who wouldn’t dream of demanding that only the very best singer be hired for each part in such a collaborative endeavor.

    2) I appreciate the reference to the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, but the Netherlands is not the United States (no country is) and in any case, nobody is “faking passages” in top American orchestras, except for the following:

    3) I hesitate to raise this with this crowd, but when you DO hear about struggling musicians in American orchestras, the issue is not race but, very often, age. There’s your sports analogy if you need one. I’ll just leave that one hanging …

    4) The points by “Here’s Johnny” about visuals are in my view valid that I honestly think were trivialized by Jack as “affirmative action,” which at least to me means “lower qualifications” which I don’t think anyone is suggesting.

    5) I agree with the points by Jack and others regarding various reasons for classical music’s lesser overall popularity, except for one big one, and I admit I’m an iconoclast on this. Even more important than “education” is the all-American issue of viral opportunities. There are ways to make almost anything take off in America, and then even the demand for music education, including in the public schools, may well increase. Based on the tenor of many comments here, I assume that readers know of the website The Federalist. Look up my December 2020 article there titled “What Classical Music Can Learn From The Queen’s Gambit.” That’s a reference to the hit Netflix series about chess, and what could be more “boring” than chess? Which in fact is soaring in popularity, including among minorities. Think about it.

  8. One thing I did nor mention in my rebuttal to save for the comments: EVERY American should be “obsessed” with the effort to institutionalize racial and other identity biases at the expense of merit and objective ability and excellence. It constitutes a direct attack on liberty and democracy. David’s comment suggest an “Oh, THAT! What are you making such a big deal out of a little discrimination when it’s for a good cause?” attitude, which should be recognized as repugnant.

    • I really don’t see where I made any such comment or affected any such attitude, Jack. But I’ll trust in the opportunity you’ve provided for extended discussion for readers to decide.

      • “But either way, simply rolling this issue into what I know is this blog’s current obsession with – in other words, against – identity issues misses a lot that’s going on here.”

        I apologize if I misread that, but “obsession”—“a persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling”—seems pretty unambiguous.

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