Last week torrential rains tore through most of the state of Minnesota. Many roads are still closed and countless citizens are waiting with their hearts in their throats to see if sandbags will hold while the rivers and Minnehaha Creek crest this week. This dire condition is consistent with the events transpiring surrounding me and die zauberflote.
Early in the MO lockout I sent very respectful letters to Michael Henson and Osmo Vanska describing why I consider myself to be a part of the MO family and asked to be heard again on the stage at Orchestra Hall, where I once was regularly encouraged to practice. I even recently sent a last letter to Gordon Sprenger, asking for his help in bringing me and die zauberflote to the public at the level of the press. I have not been granted the courtesy of a reply, so have no choice but to move forward on my own. Still, it seems somewhat ironic that they insist on staying mum about the player one of their own has let slip is the “most exciting musician since Mozart.” Other players in fact, made similar dazzling statements before running away as fast as they can.
So no I am starting to prepare a group of concerts that will be, appropriately, called “Locked-Out Concerts.” They will feature, I hope, the music of some whose suffering makes my experiences look utterly superficial — the women composers who were interned in camps in the Holocaust. And the program will also include pieces by Mozart, for yes, he was indeed locked-out of his rightful position and financial security by those who deemed him, alive, to be a threat.
As we enter this new year with excitement and perhaps a bit of trepidation, we find ourselves almost automatically in sympathy with anyone who is without work in their chosen field. And so it is with any musician locked-out of their place of work, unable to fulfill the contract they believed would provide them with a steady income. And so we should. Nevertheless, is there even more to a situation such as this than what we are being told?
The public tends to view professional musicians as gentle, giving souls who have sacrificed all for their art. The reality, however, can be a bit more grisly. First of all, anyone who starts their employment by having not only to fight their way to succeed over countless other contenders, must then fit in perfectly with a pre-existing organization led by a conductor who makes ordinary micro-managing look blase. In other words, these players are on the firing line every day. While they may love to tell the public how soothing and uplifting the music is that they perform, the fact is that much of it, in a large ensemble anyhow, is far too loud for most ears, and can even create permanent damage.
To be realistic — these people are tough as nails. They have no choice. If they were not, they would fail. One of them even said to me, “You have to have the killer instinct to survive in this business.” Yet these are the people we welcome into our schools, blissfully turning our children over to their tender care and instructions, proud that we have managed to give our child lessons with a professional musician. The truth is, some of these people are hardly angels. They may choose to teach one student and refuse to teach another (while keeping your money). They may even appear to nurture those with ‘promise’ while doing their best to weed out any potential competition. They may have such little self-esteem that they could even deliberately try to lead a potential star of music astray. One would certainly hope most players would never behave in an unethical manner, but if even a handful did, must we not do our due diligence and ask about those they may have themselves locked out? How much concern did they give to those people the players themselves may have locked-out? What about the children of those people?
It does seem that with the latest blows, this may be the case. Just the same, I can assure you that the moment this lockout ends the MO publicity machine will be filling the airways with buzz about just how wonderful the ‘new and improved’ MO is, assuring us that everything is ‘just fine’, and perhaps even hoping the public will be listening with their heads instead of their ears. :-0