Monday, October 3, 2011

Response to editorial in USA Today about choruses, orchestras, music education

We will be sharing many updates about The American Prize all this week, but before we do:

A student from Oberlin College has a big bully pulpit in today's issue of USA Today concerning high school music education and classical music. His opinion is, in my view, so well-meaningly misguided that I had to respond. I wanted to share my comments on The American Prize blog, whether the newspaper prints my letter or not.

Here's the article:

And my response:

I agree with David Sall that music education in America needs to better embrace technology in an effort to broaden its appeal and its offerings—but not to the exclusion of classical music.

To imply that Shostakovich (and by extension Beethoven and Mozart, choruses and orchestras) are now irrelevant because people can create their own music through Garage Band means students are not learning the fundamental value and importance of art. Music education in high schools is not, nor should be, primarily vocational, nor recreational. The greatest classical music (of any period—and from any culture) contains nothing less than the emotional history of mankind.

To not know Shostakovich, Beethoven, Mozart, (or Villa-Lobos, Revueltas or Ginastera, for that matter) means to be that much more ignorant of empathy—to understand less about how hope, oppression, joy, beauty, fear, love have molded humankind since the beginning. I would not wish that on any young person. In a world where interconnectedness is more about electrons than personal interaction, we downgrade the teaching of the classical performing arts at our peril.

David Katz, chief judge
The American Prize

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