4 Things I’d Love to Not Hear in 2018

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The Best and Worst Moments of 2017 have been decided.

The Resolutions of 2018 have been made and, with few exceptions, will be broken in the coming days.

We’ve all opened up to the first day of our “365 Adorable Pugs” daily desk calendars.

Happy New Year, Reader!!

You didn’t ask for it, but here are things I’d love to never hear this upcoming year. Admittedly, I write this post wearing my Grumpy Pants. But I’m also donning my Optimism Cardigan.

So join me for another list. Because hey, anything to distract you from that champagne headache, am I right?

 

Woman covering her ears. She has short, reddish brown hair, raised eyebrows, wearing a denim shirt, big necklace and a bracelet.

1. All the great opera singers are dead.

We’ll start with an easy one.

Since I play in an opera orchestra, I find myself around this piece of conventional wisdom from time to time, and it simply isn’t true. Ok fine, Luciano Pavarotti, Renata Tebaldi, and Maria Callas are no longer among us, at least in the physical sense.

But you know who is alive and well? Nina Stemme. David Cangelosi. Diana Damrau. Andreas Schager. Anna Netrebko. Bryn Terfel. Joyce DiDonato. Alan Held.

Some of you might have other suggestions for who to put on this list. But the point is, the world continues to be graced by many exceedingly beautiful, stunning, captivating voices. It’s time to lay this falsehood to rest once and for all.

2. I listen to classical music when I want to relax.

Ok, my beef here isn’t about the actual sentence; it’s about the context.

If someone unwinds at the end of a tough day and turns on classical music, or if it’s used so someone can chill out during a two-hour commute, then by all means. I think that’s awesome, and I am totally onboard with it.

Consider this, though. As a well-raised Midwestern extrovert, I easily conjure up small talk with people. For example, a cab driver, to use something somewhat frequent. Most often, s/he will ask what I do for a living, and I’ll say I’m a classical musician. I’ll ask the driver if s/he enjoys classical music, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten the dreaded response, “When I want to relax.”

So then I’ll answer with, “Great, what pieces or composers do you go to?”

The inevitable answer is either “I couldn’t tell you”. Or, the stereotypical listing of composers, “Beethoven, Mozart, Bach…”. If this happens, I’ll follow up with “Which pieces?”. I don’t recall an instance in which s/he could think of one.

I don’t judge these people for not knowing composers and titles; to be perfectly clear, I’m not here to be an elitist. What bothers me is that either s/he is BS-ing me (shame on them), or even worse, this person is an untapped classical music fan/patron (shame on us).

So in the spirit of advocacy, at this point in the conversation, I usually suggest checking out the local venue(s) and maybe throw out the title of a piece of music that is easily enjoyed and easily found. Some people seem to appreciate it. But the people who are BS-ing me and don’t want to hear about it can deal with my sales pitch for the remaining 2.3 miles to my destination. (That’s what you get for lying to an extrovert.)

Classical music is so much more than relaxation. It’s expression. It’s story-telling. It’s acoustic picture-painting. It’s all the feels.

And sometimes it can scare the ba-jeezus out of people:

3. Classical Music is dying.

If you stay current with the Classical Music Industry, how often do you come across an article that has something like this…

Classical music has been circling the drain for years, of course.”

“Classical music is dying. Or, at least, it’s failing.”

“In a time when the majority of classical music audiences are graying…”

…and yet the writer cites no verifiable evidence to support this claim. We the readers are expected to take this at face-value as truth. This is unacceptable journalism, friends. We deserve better, and we should demand it. Because at the moment, it’s hurting our cause.

I’m not here to pick a fight today. Don’t get me wrong—I firmly believe that the above quotes are terrible tunes in the key of B Manure. But that retort deserves its own separate post, complete with verifiable evidence.

If the writer isn’t going to back up his/her assertions, I’d really just love to not hear them this year. (And as not to look like a hypocrite–yes, all these quotes came from actual articles.)

4. Anything that degrades women. 

One of the greatest things to come from 2017 is the #MeToo Moment, in which people, mostly women, came forward and spoke out against gender-related and sexual injustices they have endured. Sexual assault, sexual harassment, sexism, sexual misconduct, and other crimes of a similar nature. We’ve seen it reported in many professions. The Classical Music Industry is certainly no exception.

There is a growing list of men in positions of power in classical music who have been confronted by those they have preyed on, or attempted to prey on. In addition to stories published in virtually every news source, there are also wonderful articles such as this one that brilliantly contribute to the #MeToo Moment.

Some of us are looking in the mirror and asking very important questions. Are my words and actions respectful? Am I doing something that takes away from a healthy work environment? How can I advocate for and help promote the influence of women in classical music?

And then some believe that sexism is justifiable. (For example, that women shouldn’t be conductors. Or female performers shouldn’t wear “provocative” attire, whatever that means.) Others say that there are people coming forward who were somehow asking for trouble. And some deny the existence of any chronic problems in the Classical Music Industry in the first place.

They are wrong.

I want to express my sincerest solidarity to any woman reading this post. I’m listening. I stand with you. I hope you never stop being empowered. And if I am saying or doing something that needs correction, addition, or omission, I’m all ears. That is something that I do want to hear in 2018.

It’s the least this man can offer.

About Doug Rosenthal

No one told Douglas Rosenthal to give up playing music. Not even his patient siblings, who endured many early-morning practice sessions; even they encouraged their brother to follow his passion. As the years passed, that passion evolved from simply playing music to advocating for music, musicians, and music-lovers. Douglas is based in Washington, DC. He is the Assistant Principal Trombonist of the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra/Washington National Opera Orchestra. He currently makes his home on Capitol Hill in DC with a pug named Jake, who serves as a constant reminder to relax, eat well, and sleep plentifully.

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8 thoughts on “4 Things I’d Love to Not Hear in 2018

    • Wow, wow, wow!!! I am so grateful you shared this article, and bravo to you on being such a driving force for the art-form!!! I hope this isn’t the only time we connect, I’m VERY interested in learning more.

  1. I am troubled by people who make those kinds of blanket statements in the context of any debate/discussion, and don’t give reasons for why they said what they said. It is often because they’re only repeating conventional “wisdom,” haven’t really thought about it, an don’t have any ideas of their own.

    A recent example: The Syfy channel shows a Twilight Zone marathon on NY Eve and NY Day. I am on a few discussion groups that talk about TZ, and someone makes a new post and says “I don’t like episode X.” That’s fine. They’re entitled to like and dislike what they want, but how about telling us why.

  2. In the mid-70s I attended a concert of the Dearborn Symphony Orchestra. The music director snuck in one of Webern’s set of orchestra pieces. Now, these are regular folks in Dearborn, Michigan thinking they’re going to a nice community event. But the Webern pieces? It was kinda like showing “Caligula” to a convent of nuns. In a passage where Webern goes from pianissimo in a long stretch there is a sudden tutti sforzando, and an old lady springs up like somebody goosed her and yells out — “WELL THAT WILL BE ENOUGH OF THAT!!”

  3. Oh, yeah, that Stravinsky always gets a reaction! I heard a musician in the MN Orchestra once talk about how the musicians liked to keep an eye on the audience during that piece to see how many were dozing off because they knew that they were going to get a BIG wake-up soon!

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