I’m a thinker, a teacher, and an artist. Always learning, always expanding what I do. Always trying to help.
I write music that’s probing and varied, unique and appealing. Hear what I’ve done.
My latest news:
I’ve started my spring semester course at Juilliard, “Classical Music in an Age of Pop.” About the future of classical music.
What it’s like teaching remotely: In some ways, warmer and closer to the students than teaching in person. I wouldn’t have expected that! But I take so much extra care to reach out, to find ways to keep the students involved. Especially with short weekly assignments, things for them to write, based on the discussions we have in our Zoom class. I find this gets me close to the students, lets me know more about them, and gives me more chance to engage with what they’re thinking. I’m likely to continue this when we’re back to in-person classes.
The big topic for us this week is advocating for classical music in the larger world. Where people don’t care about it! I’m having the students give reasons why they think classical music is important, why it should survive, why people should care about it, even if they don’t care now. And then I’m asking them in class to role-play, to pretend I’m a teacher at a school, and they’re persuading me — or trying to — to add classical music to my curriculum.
One observation about this. It doesn’t do much good to say that classical music is better than other music, or that it brings depth to our civilization in ways that other things don’t. Or even that it helps students with other work, teaches them to focus. Because other things can do that, too!
And in a multicultural society, it’s tricky to say — true though this is — that classical music can teach our history. Because it’s European history! And our culture has many strands in it that aren’t European. So classical music can teach only part of our collective history, and if we emphasize that too much, we’ve focused way too much on only one part of what makes us who we are.
My own view: That what makes classical music unique is that it’s created in advance of performance by a composer. Which lets it unfold over time, the way a novel or a film does. That’s something we don’t find in other music.
There’s more, too. The discipline of playing music by a great composer, meeting them at every moment, reaching toward every height they reach.
And then the personal love and delight classical musicians find, in playing the music they love. And that listeners find in hearing it. Just talk about that, I’d say, and don’t worry about the larger issues. Your enthusiasm can be contagious.