Thursday, June 30, 2005

Reader Response -- National Orchestral Institute

Sarah took issue with my advocacy for the
incorporation of more American music in the
programming of the prestigious National
Orchestral Institute, held at the University of

"I disagree with your position. As students
facing a future of orchestral auditions, our
audition repertoire consists of - face it -
pieces like the Brahms, Mozart, and Strauss.
It was nice having the experience to play a
Mahler symphony that is rarely programmed
(besides that, it's nearly impossible to work
up a Mahler symphony in a college orchestra
to this level during the school year).
Appalachian Spring is an important, difficult
piece of standard rep we will all probably
need to play at some point. If the programmers
had wanted a "token piece" they would have
chosen something less difficult. Many of these
pieces, not new American works, show up in
the final audition rounds of orchestra auditions
as sight-reading. We need the exposure to these
works, performed under the best conductors.
Since we only have three weeks, only a limited
amount of repertoire could actually be learned.
The point of NOI is to prepare us for careers
in music, not to make a political music statement."

My response:

" Thank you for your comment, Sarah.
You state your position very well.
However, I will stand by my professional --
and not political -- position that young
professional American musicians should be
exposed to a wider variety of American
orchestral music. I disagree with you that
Mahler symphonies are rarely programmed
by school orchestras during the academic
year, and that it is impossible adequately to
prepare such works under academic conditions.
I have heard Mahler symphonies performed by
the university-level orchestras of the University
of California at Berkeley and Harvard-Radcliff
Colleges. Also, two of the high-school youth
orchestras that I was associated with performed
Mahler symphonies -- symphonies #1 and 4.
I will agree with you as to the importance and
difficulty of Copland's Appalachian Spring.
I performed it with my college orchestra during
my freshman year. Comparable works, in my opinion,
should have been on the other NOI programs.

I am also aware of the extract books that
aspiring professional musicians use to prepare
for orchestral auditions. I know that these references
currently feature extracts -- including solo passages
-- from composers such as Mozart,Brahms, Mahler,
Strauss, and Copland. (I do not believe such texts
include extracts from works such as Boulez's
Notations, which was programmed by Mr Robertson.)

I believe that prestigious, high visibility,
publically-funded programs such as the NOI
should strive the reflect the best that the American
orchestral tradition can offer its various current
and potential audiences -- and that includes
some outstanding music from the 19th and 20th
century American symphonic tradition, as well
as newer works -- such as the work by
Gabriela Lena Frank, Three Latin American Dances,
that I mentioned in my orchestral post
-- which reflect the best of 21st century America.

I wish you well in securing a post in the high-paying,
but certainly economically-troubled,
American orchestral industry. (I hope that you read,
on a daily basis, Drew McManus's excellent blog posts,
at -- I will assume you do.)
Alternatively, I wish you well in a career in
chamber music, music teaching, or anything else
you choose to pursue. Thank you again for your strong

By the way, later this morning I plan to post
a comment concerning lack of American
symphonic music on the Baltimore Symphony
Orchestra's special summer season at its new
Strathmore Hall home outside of Washington, D.C.


Here is a link to young American composer Gabriela
Lena Frank. Perhaps you, or other young orchestral
professionals, may be interested in her thoughts
and feelings as reflected in her American works:


I hope that other readers will post a comment if
they also feel strongly about either Sarah's position,
or my position.

Link to my National Orchestral Institute post of June 21:


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