Training Future Orchestra Musicians and Audiences1

Eileen T. Cline

Training opportunities for orchestral musicians have burgeoned in this country in the past several years. People come here from all over the world to get this training, and renowned conductors such as Kurt Masur have "expressed...delight in the quality of American orchestras, professional and student..." (Finn 1989:44). The journey from childhood to orchestral musician seems both obvious and mysterious, depending upon the vantage point, and though there are laudable end results in terms of quality of players, something about the path from here to there reminds one vaguely of Russian Roulette. It seems worth taking a look at (1) what happens along the way, (2) how effective the training (educational) effort is in terms of the larger cultural picture and the prognosis for the future, and (3) what factors need to be taken into account in coming to grips with that future.

It is widely reported that, while there are increasing numbers of highly qualified applicants for orchestral jobs, orchestras are "dying." In many places audiences are shrinking. Major promotion campaigns are taking various approaches to boosting interest and sales—while operating and ticket costs skyrocket. When one publicity approach uses up its novel attraction, gears are shifted to search for a new one. Many efforts are hugely expensive and only moderately and temporarily successful. Players and management square off in fairly predictable cycles of contract squabbles as the players try to make a living and management tries to keep the ship afloat. That paradox is only one of the chicken-and-egg and "Catch-22" facets of the picture. In his article "The Symphony Orchestra: Death or Transfiguration?" Robert Finn, music critic of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, reported on the discussion that had been triggered by Ernest Fleischman's famous forecast of the demise of the American symphony orchestra.

Like seven lab-coated doctors gathered around the sickbed of an `interesting case,' a group of musical heavyweights debated the troubled present and future of the American symphony orchestra. ...There was serious discussion—and predictable disagreement—about the means for inspiring in younger people an interest in symphonic music in order to guarantee future audiences (Finn 1989:33).

Some noted the success achieved in some places by the process of involving children in musical activities and thus reaching the adults related to them. Others thought that "the battle is already lost on this side of the Atlantic" and that symphonic music is just not what the young in America want. One wonders.

Look at the profile of the typical instrumentalist in a professional symphony in the United States, as described in a 1978 Eastman/Rochester research project that involved almost five hundred instrumentalists from the Cleveland, Atlanta, Fort Wayne, Pasadena, Oregon and Denver Symphonies as well as alumni of Oberlin, Eastman, Indiana University and The Manhattan School. This typical player

...began life as the child of a middle class family—not the average middle-class family, but one where serious music was appreciated. A parent, grandparent or sibling played an instrument or sang, and the family encouraged the development of his musical talents...By around the age of eight, he has begun some sort of instrumental training. From then on, the growth of his musical life follows a remarkably orderly path—far more orderly, far more biographically specialized than the path into any other part of the occupational world (Shetler 1985:1).

The sequence of musical experiences was such that before grade six, almost all reported having played their first solos and having developed their "first serious interest in music." By then they also have begun to study their eventual instrument and to own one. By ninth grade they have played their first recital, decided to go to college, played in an orchestra, gone to their first professional concerts. By the end of high school almost all had their first experience of winning a performance competition and earned their first money performing. During that period, the player begins to see himself or herself as an orchestral player rather than a soloist. Shetler considered particularly significant the finding that

  1. Family background and related influences have more to do with early career decisions than one thought—that this decision was not determined by college training. The strongest support for their musical efforts came from private or studio teachers in high school and college—and from their mothers. Most striking to me was that more than half of the players in the survey felt that they were not popular with their peers as they were growing up. Also significant to this discussion were two other findings Shetler determined as important:
  2. The aspiration to play in an orchestra requires renunciation of individualism and virtuosity in the interest of a collective musical product.
  3. An orderly path toward the orchestral career is not much followed by children who find no social value in what they do.

Look a little closer at early training background. A University of Chicago study of one hundred young concert pianists, Olympic swimmers, tennis players and research mathematicians who reached the top of their fields between the ages of seventeen and thirty five indicated that there are certain conditions that stand apart from native gifts and appear crucial to producing excellence (Pines 1982:passim). Results of the study suggest that it is probably not true that "genius will out" in spite of circumstances. Apparently, most human beings are born with enormous potential in one area or another and parents have extraordinary power in determining the development of that potential. Factors present in all cases are:

  1. Parents who believe in the work ethic, who drilled into their children the idea that one always has to do the very best one is capable of; that anything less is not enough. Thus, the child is given a headstart in basic skills and a willingness to work hard—qualities later praised by teachers.
  2. A first teacher who is warm and loving, makes the lessons seem like games and lavishes rewards. This first experience must be on a one-to-one basis, with parents taking a great interest in it.
  3. A second teacher who emphasizes skills and self-discipline—again, with individualized instruction.
  4. A gradual change in child and family as both realize the progress being made and begin to focus their resources on developing the talent. In each family, only one child was chosen for the star role—not necessarily the one with the most innate talent, but the one with the greatest desire to excel.
  5. Access to a master teacher who knows how to train top professionals and open the right doors. No sacrifice in time, money or effort was deemed too great.
  6. At an early age, these children were picked out by teachers as favorite students and given extra attention. Consequently the children began to feel they were special.

Key motivating factors for the children were found to be: What does the home value? How much encouragement does the child receive at an early age? What are the normal parts of family life? Parents of successful musicians liked listening to music, bought the children records and musical toys, sang together, showed the children how to play and read notes. Then, once the child showed proficiency, family members made a big fuss about it. Thus, the children realized early that they were on the surest road to attention and praise.

None of the subjects were prodigies, nor pressured to learn a great deal at an early age. According to project researcher Benjamin S. Bloom, youngsters who are force-fed sometimes deteriorate as they grow older. His earlier findings in the investigation of the development of human potential showed that children's experiences during the pre-school years largely determine their intelligence and learning ability, the ideal condition being a one-to-one tutoring situation. Especially significant is the discovery that ability was developed as the result of instruction and attention, rather than having a child first show outstanding ability and then get special attention and instruction. A final perspective attributed to Professor Bloom was that:

...some form of dedication to a talent is good for the child and good for society. There is great satisfaction in excelling, ...and those efforts are the source of most human achievement (Pines 1982:C2).

These findings run counter to the notion that only a few will/can be "musical," and they hint at something more expansive about the possibilities for the larger society. Is it really necessary that people who develop their interests in "classical" music are in some way alien from the mainstream? Or that dedication to a talent needs to be the kind of isolating phenomenon that renders humankind strangers to one another?

Those questions touch on the related concerns about lack of black American involvement in orchestral life. While for a long time it was obvious that this country's segregationist history played a key role in this exclusion, in the past few decades some people have taken that lack of involvement to indicate that American blacks have had not the interest nor the training in classical music necessary for such involvement. D. Antoinette Handy's findings handily dispute that notion. The findings reported in Chapter I ("The American Orchestra: A Historical Overview") of her book, Black Women in American Bands and Orchestras, indicate that over a period of many years there have been many excellent black classical musicians in bands and orchestras around the country and in Europe, and that many have been educated at university music schools and historically black colleges (rather than conservatories). Although the bands and orchestras of which most have been members do not usually include the "front-runners," it has been said that the situation is not as bad now as it was twenty years ago. On the other hand, there has been a a nagging perception that when you see blacks in major orchestras, it is often because they have been hired for `special occasions' only, giving the appearance that they are regular members.

Now, if it is true (as clearly is the case) that black Americans share the same active interest and talent as their white counterparts—and considerable good training—why are they still so few in number that almost everyone knows of the "one or two" in each of a handful of major orchestras? And why are there none in some orchestras? Consider the oft-reported fact that fifty percent of the members of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra are graduates of the neighboring Juilliard School and that a similar connection exists between symphony orchestras and conservatories of music in other major cities. To what extent, in terms of preparation and cost, in reality or perception, do black Americans have access to such institutions?

The players in an orchestra have a great deal to say about who is hired, and they inevitably tend to relate to those who play with similar taste and style. That is likely to mean those who attend the schools where such players teach, or who have studied with their own teachers. Those seasoned orchestral players also can give the most up-to-date tips and advice on making audition tapes, preparing excerpts and making the talents of outstanding students known to their colleagues. Students at conservatories where symphony players teach also are likely to have ready access to places on the orchestra's substitute list and the most enterprising of those students will make it their business to be ready to take good advantage of every such opportunity.

Even though most auditions now are held by tape and, then, behind a screen, initial resumés are important. Some players never get past the paper stage. Once the taped and screened phases are completed and the identity of finalists is known, the ability to get along well with others in the ensemble can be a major factor in the decision to hire and/or retain a player. The affective contacts and conversance with certain social rituals come from shared experiences in school and summer music projects. I would submit that, while conservatories are not the only good training grounds for professional musicians, they are extremely important channels and black Americans must have greater true access to them. They must be so comfortably and normally a part of the network as to unmask the monotonous excuse of "preserving quality"— an "explanation" given in the face of sometimes quite bald evidence to the contrary.

First, however, minority youngsters must have the early training and affirming community experiences already noted as vital to ALL growing youngsters—and already noted as being in serious jeopardy. Why do the erroneous perceptions exist that American youth as a whole do not and will not find symphonic music of interest? How does this perception square with the increase and excitement of youth symphonies in terms of numbers and quality?

Let me step back in time to my own perceptions as a youngster growing up in Chicago. Because one could take piano lessons in the [segregated] public schools, many of us were part of a feeder system that supported neighborhood music teachers—those who taught music classes in the elementary schools and continued with the more interested children in after-school and Saturday individual or small-group lessons. This activity was a ticket to the larger social/cultural world of citywide music festivals in which we joined with children from other schools/neighborhoods in a common bond that might have been the one tangible evidence to all of us that we shared a human identity that transcended the more simplistically obvious ethnic appearances.

Few of us would otherwise have had access to "classical" music and the encouragement to develop our talents within a more universal context. Through these opened doors, a few of us went to hear the Chicago Symphony at Orchestra Hall—way up to the top floor. We were not sure we were welcome on the first floor as listeners, much less in the orchestra as players. In that particular urban setting, we were exposed to a fair number of singers and a handful of "serious" pianists; but most of us never saw a violin or a flute or an oboe, nor anyone we could relate to who played one, except for a rare lone fiddler playing a country tune for a few coins on a crowded sidewalk...

The image of ourselves and of people we knew was definitely not in a major symphony orchestra. Our psychic or perceptual reality was that we could look and hear—if we did not get too close—but we could not touch. We had to climb what seemed like millions of steps to the top of Orchestra Hall, from which vantage point the orchestra members were tiny specks with flailing arms and glints of metal.

In my early teens I had the good fortune of attending the University of Chicago Laboratory School where there was, for two years, a daily class in which we had the unbelievable joy of being required to listen to classical music for an entire hour in addition to personal stories from the teacher's own life experiences that connected with our own imagination. The expectation was that we would commit to memory all the musical themes and informational handouts. Although I still knew no classical instrumentalists, the orchestral literature became an intimate part of my aural being and the substance was mine.

When eventually I went to the Oberlin Conservatory, we few black students were taught well and encouraged fully to develop our musicianship within that ivory tower community. There was a good deal of kindness expressed therein but no one seemed to have a clue as to where to or how to direct us once we left there. The issue was simply avoided because no one knew. There seemed to be a tacit assumption that if we were given the basic musical training somehow we would figure out what to do with it. Certainly, by adding a music education major we would be able to teach in public schools somewhere.

Before the end of four years of conservatory study I became aware that there was a black person (read: someone I could relate to) who played in The Cleveland Orchestra. However, relative to the "real world" of most of us, you might as well have been talking about someone in outer space—somehow incomprehensible without having seen for oneself.

Two points from these experiences are particularly pertinent to this discussion. One was the not-surprising discovery many years later that many people from those high school music appreciation classes had become active adult music lovers. The other was what happened when I found a job teaching elementary school music in an all-black school in Gary, Indiana.

The thirty-years veteran music teacher who had preceded me there had been proud of her devotion to the children. She loved them and they loved music, I was told. However, what I found was that their musical horizons were defined in terms of singing songs familiar in their neighborhood churches and a few children's records such as "El Torito" (The Little Bull), set to the Music of Bizet's Carmen. The neighborhood environment of hopscotch and Double-Dutch and some families with indoor plumbing and some without and some with coal in the bathtub all winter was not dissimilar to my home environment in South Side Chicago; and at the ripe old age of twenty-one, I was not prepared to believe that those children had any less capacity for understanding and being able to relate to a larger world than did I.

I also had a sense of the keenness of their ears and imaginations, and the intensity of their energy. It followed that I had a consequent sense that they somehow had been short-changed along the way. Indicative of the extent to which most of their teachers' approaches to educating them was skimming across the surface of their very beings was a question posed by one of the children when they finally began to trust that I cared about and had belief in their capacities. Raising her hand one day as we discussed something relating to the meanings of words, she frowned and said: "Teacher, what's a Tizza?" Puzzled, I asked her what she meant. She said, "you know, like in `My country tizza thee.'" I told her and the lights of comprehension went on. The class learned about contractions, among other things, and immediately thought of all the other contexts in which they had heard the word "'Tis." The next time we sang America, I listened very carefully. What they had been singing was:

My country tizza thee,
Sweet land of liver-ty
Of thee I sing (or of thee I see);
Land where my father died
Land where the pilgrims fried (or cried)
From every mountainside

How long had their outer enthusiasm for the beauty of the music and their heartfelt and trusting investment in their own version of the words been accepted at face value by teachers for whom that surface happiness and lack of "making trouble" was comforting? Had no one seen the tragedy of the intellectual betrayal of those innocent, trusting, agile, curious, capable young minds and hearts?

Therefore, in addition to playing softball and jumping Double-Dutch with them and teaching them how to do the "cha-cha," I taught them folk songs and folk dances from all around the world. From an introduction about "a musician who had twenty children, who wrote small musical pieces especially for his children, and who walked from one town to another to apply for a job..."—factors they could relate to easily—they became fascinated with the music of Bach. They loved and quickly met the challenge of discerning the difference between the sound of a violin and that of a viola sometimes within three or four notes. They took pride in being able, quickly, to recognize the sight, sound, and learn the spelling of all the instruments of the orchestra. Equipped with that basic information, they got a great "high" out of hearing The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra and classical "standards" such as Mozart's Symphony No. 40.

I had somewhat innocently stumbled upon the powerful fact that people love what they can understand, and that the commonalities upon which universal understanding are based are vast. It was great fun to take the crowd of youngsters who invariably showed up to go with me to the Sunday performances of the Gary Symphony, sitting in the balcony so they could see every instrument they already knew so well by sound.

We still sang Rock-a-My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham and Jacob's Ladder. We still sang the traditional neighborhood favorites and jumped Double-Dutch and danced the cha-cha but those became treasured elements of a much larger love, and the children understood themselves as a viable part of a far broader world. One of the most rewarding experiences of later years occurred at a party in Cambridge, Massachusetts, when several of us were enjoying hearing the adventures of a young doctor and his wife who had just returned from a fascinating assignment in Africa. I had not caught his name but, as he was recounting what had triggered his interest in international concerns, he spoke of the things that had influenced him most as a child in Gary, Indiana, including "this music teacher named Miss Tate who [opened up the world to them]." It was then that I recognized him as one of my former fifth-graders, whose class had culminated the year by putting on a wonderful folk song and folk dance show billed as "Around the World in 80 Minutes."

I knew that at the same time all this was going on in my experience there were blacks, real people, performing "classical" instrumental music but this was not in the mainstream consciousness. We had very different media then: one recalls the "scandal" of a television network allowing Nat King Cole to have a television program which was, nevertheless, banned in many parts of the South. Many of us can remember not being able to sit in the same part of the train or bus as our white fellow-citizens, much less in the same orchestra. The effect of this on the interest and aspirations of black Americans then was little different from the experience today of children of all racial and ethnic backgrounds in vast areas of our country who are exposed only to what they hear on the streets and the most easily accessible commercial radio and television.


In the face of this magnitude of cultural deprivation, from where are the students coming who will choose to be instrumental performance majors? If there already are so many who are vying for a few spots, why should the question concern us? Why not just search diligently for the very most talented and highly motivated youngsters, assiduously weed out, as early as possible, those who are not likely to "make it," and concentrate precious resources on the remaining few who have a reasonable chance of reaching the top? Many people feel that is exactly what should be done and, all across the country, that is indeed what is done. I believe that is also one of the reasons why the cause of "classical" music is being weakened and a major reason that, concomitantly, symphony orchestras have to struggle so much for support. It is a reason that Howard Klein, in his outstanding keynote speech at the 1990 American Symphony Orchestra League meeting needed to discuss Congress' role in the NEA crisis in terms of "serenading a reluctant eagle." Why is our American eagle reluctant and in need of being sung a song that is not already a part of its heart? Where will the audiences be generated? Who will listen? Why should anyone care?

A periodic pitfall into which the music profession stumbles with some historical regularity is that of self-determined elitism. It is a source of some amusement to hear the mystique being perpetuated that a musician is an uncanny talent when one knows how many years of self-discipline, sacrifice, sometimes grueling study have gone into the end product. It probably seems justified to the musician to receive that kind of adulation after having experienced the tough-hoed road but such a posture unwittingly undermines the health of the culture. TALENT, when "scrambled," spells LATENT, which is a ready-state of most human beings and a fertile ground for artistic development. Consider that the word stands for:


Training, good teachers
Assurance, ambition
Learning, love
Encouragement, environment
Times being tested

If this is not recognized and galvanized in the masses, they think it really has nothing to with them. I suspect the situation has not been helped by the proliferation of special pre-college arts schools. Their purpose has been to give special nurture to artistically gifted youngsters, with the assumption that this would, in turn, enrich our society (or has it been, to some extent, a movement stimulated by the self-indulgent "do your own thing" orientation that surfaced in the late 1960s?). While artistic enrichment has happened in many instances, an at least equally powerful result has been that the larger segment of our young population has been deprived of the stimulation that might have bloomed in them regarding personal involvement in the arts. They have been deprived of learning and growing daily with the "gifted" or the intensely involved arts students. Both the "gifted" and the "others" have been isolated from vital elements of their own culture. Youngsters segregated and isolated for the sake of special arts cultivation, eventually having become strangers to their peers, are performing to gradually diminishing audiences.

It is of considerable importance to realize we need to be concerned not only with nurturing "special talents." The false perception that there is in the world only a small group of "gifted" people perpetrates a "we/them" attitude that cheats a great many others out of the likelihood of developing their own innate abilities. It leads many people to believe that certain musics are for others, not for them. For a while they will be attracted by a show of "magic," of virtuosity, of eccentricity, or of whatever is the latest promotional project. One is not unmindful of the frequent use of the term "Attractions" in musical advertising. In our imaginative world, that is all well and good in bringing people to concerts but, eventually, most people get tired of watching a circus. They want to be involved (even in the era of the "couch-potato").

It was telling to read recently of the demise of a regional symphony orchestra that was clearly not mourned by the people of the city in which it had been based. Common comments seemed to be that people were tired of "paying to see a lot of prima donnas take their solo turns while the rest of the orchestra sits." They not only felt they were missing a full orchestral experience but, in addition, they were simply bored with providing the audience for other people to show off rather than focus on making music.

If it is a question of watching others doing something, there is a point at which one can "take it or leave it." However, one is not so likely to reject something that, for oneself, has some history of happy personal involvement. Is the rage of support for baseball, basketball or football so surprising? Consider that virtually every person in this country has either played one of those sports at some time or knows someone who did.

People have a natural response to music. Note how children learn to walk and master other new motor skills while singing; note the sight of cars at stoplights, filled with people bobbing and swaying to music. What is the excuse for only a few really knowing the wider range of the culture's history and substance? Do we understand, too, the consequences of the self-isolation that results when people confine their knowledge and experience (and, thus, their appreciation) to "classical" music? Are we aware that people who do not know jazz, blues, pop, gospel, etc. (and who have no normal interaction with their fellow-citizens who do) are every bit as culturally deprived as those whose experience has not exposed them to "classical" music?

One of the most persistent and compelling findings of my exhaustive research study about the nature and effect of competitions (Cline 1985) was that consideration of either the narrowest or the broadest implications of the issues connected with competitions reveals that all evidence points not to disinterest in "classical" music but, rather, to the need for greater attention to the cultural education of the general population, as well as to the musical training of those showing the greatest talent and motivation at an early age.

In a free enterprise system, when choices must be made as to where to spend what is perceived as limited resources, benefactors want to spend their money on what they believe in and choose to promote. This may help to explain the persistent resistance to the whole-hearted government support of the arts. While a "hands-off" policy may be explained as a reluctance to have culture government-dictated, might it not be more organically due to the low priority placed upon arts development by Americans whose education and experience have not included sufficient involvement in the arts to result in a level of general sophistication? If, because of our particular point of view, we unwittingly adopt a patronizing attitude toward people whose sophistication may simply be different from ours, do we not widen the gulf that estranges us from one another?

Why would the public, either through government or private enterprise, give the support that is being asked for? The motivation would have to lie in the value-consciousness and conscience of the society. That has to come through careful, directed attention to the education of our citizenry. The tenor and success of symphony orchestras will be determined not only by the quality of the training of those relative few who play in the orchestras but just as powerfully by the educational and experiential perspective of the people controlling the funding, the legislative activity and their respective constituencies. Somehow, in our zeal for insistence upon quality, we have alienated our own communal selves. In a recent article in The Wall Street Journal Heidi Waleson described a scenario every one of us probably has heard:

When Lyle Davidson, composer and head of the theory department at the New England Conservatory [asked a number of passersby on the streets of Boston and Cambridge] to sing Happy Birthday...half of the people refused. They say, `I can't sing'; `My teacher told me I had no voice and I had to stand in the back of the chorus.'...Orchestras are not famous for innovation but this might be the test case: whether they can recognize the connection between the adult who won't sing Happy Birthday and the one who doesn't come to concerts. A commitment to education on a grand scale could go a long way toward mending the profound dislocation that most have with their communities (Waleson 1991).

In an interview published in the August 15, 1988 issue of Black Issues in Higher Education, Donna E. Shalala, Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, reminded us that "...children who are being born now and who will enter college in the next century...are the future of higher education. To succeed in educating the people of this nation, we must pay attention to the seamless line that runs from prenatal care through infancy to preschool and on into college" (Shalala 1988).

She goes on to note, as have many others, that the future of our country and, indeed, the world depends on the quality of attention and nurture we give to this issue and, particularly, to minorities. Minorities will have become the majority population in some of our states by the mid 1990s. Clearly we need to think about the impact that situation will have on the cultural complexion. In 1988 I warned that, if minorities do not have involvement with classical music, it will have a tremendous effect on audiences: there will not be any (Cline 1988).

Looking at it only in "minority" terms can be dangerously misleading. It can lull too many people into thinking it is "someone else's problem." Minorities are not the only people being deprived of a broader sense of the larger cultural heritage of the world. If the population in general does not have access to the learning of "classical" music as well as to the most easily accessible and obvious musical elements in their everyday experience, it will have a tremendous effect on audiences: there will not be any.

Furthermore, if the training of orchestral musicians is not approached with a sense of cultural conscience, those musicians will have little to say, will have meager communicative skills at a human level and, thus, fewer people to "talk" to, thereby increasing levels of "what's in it for me." These factors drive others away from involvement with "classical" music—which will have tremendous effect on audiences: there will not be any.


A powerful contribution orchestras can make toward changing this bleak picture is to use their considerable influence to support music programs in the schools. This initiative has to go farther than the appearance of the immediate goal of building their own audiences. The long view is essential.

The most convincing evidence indicates that musical talent and achievement are inextricably linked to environmental factors and that not only is musical education crucial for the specially gifted and motivated, but for the entire population as well. The foundation of our entire society lies in the kinds of experiences our children have and it is increasingly recognized that development in the arts is basic to human development. Music study is the best single vehicle I know for developing vital perceptions, sensitivities, joyful self-discipline, a capacity for astute analysis, etc. Far from being a frill, music study is a major discipline, in that it is one of the basic ways available to human beings to know about themselves and their world—a way to understand the nature of the real. As Abraham Maslow put it, the arts are so close to our psychological and biological core that they must become basic experiences in education, helping the person become the best he/she can. Development in the arts gives people a tremendous reservoir of sensitivity to what is going on, to be able to see more, hear more, continually expand and use their creative mental energies.

Interest in music study at the professional training level has everything to do with community attitudes toward the arts. In this context, higher education has a responsibility not only to educate (not merely "train") the youngsters who come to conservatories and college-level schools of music as performance majors but also to plant and till the ground from which they come, along with those others who become future members of the work force, policy-makers, business leaders, etc. It is imperative that orchestras, in partnership with institutions of higher education:

  1. Instill in performance majors the cultural conscience to share their musical insights with their local as well as global communities;
  2. Make close connections with community music schools and community-oriented Preparatory departments incorporated into the college structure;
  3. Support pre-college musical education by seeing to it that music majors learn to teach. They will all be asked to do so at some point and in some form. Knowing how will make them more likely to do it.

This is not to say students should neglect their performing goals in order to gain music education certification. Douglas Yeo voices a common worry about

...[the] aspiring performer who, because he has a music education `parachute' does not devote himself with all diligence to his primary goal and thereby fails to achieve it, or worse, a performer who, after failing in his primary objective, bitterly resigns himself to a career as a school teacher (Yeo 1987:40).

It is my belief that, in any case, the key goal is the development of musicianship with a purpose to share the revelations achieved with the larger society. There is not a need for a great many "methods" courses in order to learn to be a good teacher. The need is for a keen love for music, a high level of musical accomplishment, the desire to share it and some basic concepts as to how one goes about it. That fundamental pedagogical understanding has proven extremely valuable to one's own development as a performer. It is only when these fundamental considerations of skill and attitude have been satisfied that students who want specifically to attain public school certification credentials should be allowed to do so.


The work of learning theorists such as Piaget and Bruner, as well as the work of researchers and educators discussed in this article, make it obvious that we must concentrate a reasonable amount of time, money and energy on planned programs in the early grades, not just in high school or later. I know we are discussing an apparent chicken-and-egg challenge here but it is well to remember that when children are reached, so are their parents. Take the example of our local principal who was absolutely rigid about not allowing students to be excused from study hall for piano lessons—until his daughter began taking lessons and he saw the personal and intellectual blossoming that took place. He then did an absolute about-face. If music study and the enjoyment of the activities growing therefrom become happy elements in communities, children will develop their talents. When those who develop them to a high degree are ready to share them at a professional level, there will be audiences, law-makers, as well as individual and corporate philanthropists to support the venture and share in the experience, such an experience being meaningful to them to a degree that would be impossible if they had no personal acquaintance with the "language."

That which is true, vital, fundamental, is not always evident in the most obvious ways. Like the bamboo plant, even though there might be little or no evidence of above-ground "action," a great deal of development goes on in a healthy root system and this development, in turn, supports tremendous visible growth "all of a sudden"— and in abundance.


Cline, Eileen T. Piano Competitions: An Analysis of Their Structure, Value, and Educational Implications. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University Microfilms International, 1985.

Finn, R. "The Symphony Orchestra: Death or Transfiguration?," Musical America (November 1989): 33-34.

Handy, D. Antoinette.Black Women in American Bands and Orchestras. Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press, 1981.

Pines, Maya. "What Produces Great Skills; Specific Pattern is Discerned," New York Times (March 30, 1982): C1.

Shalala, Donna. "The Year Ahead," Black Issues in Higher Education (August 15, 1988) V/11: 5.

Shetler, D. J. "Family and Early Education Influences on the Career Development of Symphony Orchestra Musicians," International Society for Music Education Yearbook (1985): 42-46.

Waleson, Heidi. "Why We're All Afraid to Sing: Orchestra and Arts Education Professionals Gather at Symposium Focused on Reversing America's Musical Illiteracy," The Wall Street Journal (April 15, 1991): A12, col. 1.

Yeo, Douglas. "So, You Want to Play in an Orchestra? A Primer on Audition Readiness," International Trombone Association Journal, (Winter 1987): 38-45.


1An early version of this paper was delivered on June 14, 1991 during the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Symposium