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.