Nathaniel Brickens ITF

Some Private Thoughts on the History and Future of Race and Music in America

The essay which follows is written by a Caucasian-American in his mid-80s, summarizing his thoughts on where we have been and where we are heading as he approaches the end of his life. He has been privileged by superb parental guidance, the privileges of his race, an excellent education, and hard work, to rise from the lower middle class to the upper middle class, while leading three of the nation’s most respected professional schools of music for 34 years. This

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Music School Library

A Brief Guide to the Appointment of Visionary Music School Deans

Certainly, we would all agree that the world of music has changed markedly since the time our nation was founded 244 years ago. Many would agree that we have gradually developed a remarkable series of collegiate music schools and departments, all over the country. But the academic world changes slowly, and as a result we tend to develop young musicians trained for the societal needs of yesterday rather than for tomorrow. During the period 1865-1965, when most of our collegiate

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A student laughs during a clarinet lesson. Photo by Daniel Jean-Paul

How to Rank the Best Music Schools

Norman Lebrecht’s ever-controversial blog, Slipped Disc, has just posted a list of what Lebrecht calls the world’s ten leading music schools, “based on our readers’ recommendations and disapprovals.” This list is followed by several dozen comments from Lebrecht readers from all over the world. Inspired by similar lists with entirely different results drawn up in the past decade by US News and World Report (since replaced by an unranked list of schools specializing in the arts), USA Today, Digital Music

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Members of the Ying Quartet smiling and looking at the camera.

Resident Chamber Groups at American Universities: How to Foster Effective Relationships

Guiding Principles for Agreements It was the spring of 1975 when Paul Katz, cellist of the Cleveland Quartet, sat down to work out the details of the Quartet’s appointment as members of the faculty of the Eastman School of Music, whose director I was at the time. We both understood at the outset that the members of the quartet would appreciate the economic base of faculty tenure and that any university would shy away from a situation in which one

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Orchestra playing in big hall with empty seats

Saving American Orchestras from Themselves

The Community of Musicians Proposition It was May 1987 when Ernest Fleischmann, the champion executive director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, gave a famous commencement address at the Cleveland Institute entitled “The Orchestra is Dead—Long Live the Community of Musicians,” a speech that long roiled the musical world. Its principal argument was that orchestral musicians, especially those without inspired musical direction, grew easily embittered, disgruntled, and bored by their too often under-rehearsed work. Twenty-one months later there followed a symposium

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Organ with six keyboards and many switches

Music-Making and Neuroscience

Pianists: Air-Force-Certified Masters of Complex Tasks Several years ago I had the privilege of listening to a talk by Lex Braun, Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force, at an annual Advisory Board meeting of the Texas Medical Center in Houston’s National Center for Human Performance. The Pentagon, Mr. Braun told us, was concerned that the drones we were using in the Middle East crashed much too often, not only causing all sorts of unintended collateral damage, including innocent human lives,

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Louis Armstrong playing trumpet, with focused expression

Paying Attention and Musical Learning

I’m not sure when I first learned to pay attention—or, in fact, whether at age 83 I am truly paying attention to the extent I would like to. I certainly learned as a child that, if I wanted to play even a simple piece on the piano, it was important to be able to hear in advance, in my own imagination, how the piece proceeded. I remember being put off in the 10th grade when my English teacher declared to

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Harry Caray catches a foul ball in a net

What Music Educators Can Learn from Baseball Commentators

I was ten years old when my father joined the Boston Symphony and I went to my first Red Sox game, a mile from Symphony Hall at Fenway Park. That game took place in the summer of 1946, when the Red Sox won the pennant and should have beaten the Cardinals in the World Series! (I wept when they did not.) In the game I attended Ted Williams hit a home run, Dom DiMaggio tripled into the right field corner,

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Shinichi Suzuki (pictured left) helps a girl to learn violin

Who Should Study Music and Why?

Most parents understand that it is a good thing for even very little children to study music, and for all sorts of reasons besides one day becoming a professional musician. Dalcroze Eurhythmics was developed early in the 20th century by Swiss musician and educator Émile Jaques-Dalcroze (1865-1950), teaching concepts of rhythm, structure, and musical expression, using movement. It focuses on allowing the student to gain physical awareness and the experience of music through training that takes place through all of

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