Though I was known for many years as a critic, most of my work these days involves the future of classical music — defining classical music’s problems, and finding solutions for them.
To find solutions, I’ve worked with individuals and institutions, often as a consultant, sometimes as a friend, often as a speaker (for instance giving keynote talks at conferences, and commencement addresses at Eastman and the Longy School of Music). And I teach at Juilliard, where I’m a member of the Graduate Studies Faculty.
My courses: How to Speak and Write About Music, and — my flagship offering — Classical Music in an Age of Pop, about the future of classical music.
I’m also a composer, with a master’s degree from the Yale School of Music. In the years just after Yale, I had an active composing career, and among other things wrote four operas, all successfully performed.
When I became a critic, I put composing on a shelf, emerging sometimes with a commission or performance, and then pulling back once more. But at last I reemerged for good last year, with a triumphant evening of my music at Strathmore, the big performing arts center just outside Washington, DC.
Now I’ve got to get my composing career going again, maybe moving outside the classical music world to build an audience of my own.
One of my specialties, both as a teacher and as a consultant, is branding — helping musicians to define what’s in their hearts, and then find ways to communicate that to others. One of my clients touched my heart when he said, “I finally see that I can be myself in the classical music world and have some success. That means a lot.”
I love to work with young musicians, including students — at conservatories, conferences, wherever — helping them plan their careers in the new era the classical music world is entering.
And now, briefly, my thoughts on the future of classical music:
Classical music won’t die, but instead will be reborn, reconnecting with our larger cultural life to become a truly contemporary art.
That will bring great changes, including — and I think this is crucial — much less emphasis on our old, beloved masterworks, which of course now lie at the heart of our repertoire.
Is that a drastic change? I’m sure it will be, for some of us. But classical music can’t connect with the current world if it’s lost in the past. Once we do reconnect, I think we’ll find we’ve been missing a lot. We’ll explode with new life, becoming not just more relevant, but also more vital, more diverse, and more deeply artistic.
And — as I’ve chronicled in my blog — the changes have already started.
For much more about my thoughts on all this, go here.
To conclude, a quick shoutout. I’m tremendously helped in my work by a network of people honeycombed throughout the classical music business — musicians, composers, orchestra managers, administrators, marketers, radio broadcasters, publicists, teachers, students, members of the audience, critics, and more — who think that classical music needs to change.
It’s amazing how many people like this there are. They aren’t necessarily in touch with each other, and many of them may underestimate how many people like them there are.
But their number is growing, and — in the not too distant future — we ought to reach a tipping point, when suddenly people with strong ideas for change become the ruling force in classical music.
About the rest of me:
I’m happily married to Anne Midgette, the extraordinary chief classical music critic for the Washington Post. We live in DC, of course, though at heart we’re both New Yorkers, and have a lovely country house in Warwick, NY, a surprisingly rural town just 50 miles from the city.
Our son, Rafa (short for Rafael), just turned five. Smart, independent, funny, headstrong, full of life in every way, and with a wild imagination — he’s the joy of our lives.