Closing our Conservatories? Outrageous!

It might not have occurred to our politicians that many of today’s high profile musicians – no matter the domain – have a background in classical music. Celine Dion, for instance, did not get where she is today on her own. She did extensive voice training in addition to having a great voice and looking super in tight jeans. You can say the same for a great number of musicians, there are too many to list actually. But Jacques Brel, Anne Murray, and a host of them are out there, you just need to know which questions to ask. Every single one of them had talent, but they needed education and the will to unlock it.

To see what is happening today to classical music institutions, particularly the conservatories at the provincial level in quebec, is sickening. Music training takes years and years to bear fruit. I have over 34 years of formal musical training. I don’t think that any of my friends who are not musicians can say that. This represents over 85% of my life. The set of career skills I possess has taken nearly my whole lifetime to achieve, and takes significant time to maintain.

As you can well imagine, this did not come without a cost. My parents footed an enormous expense to get my music career going. And I made all that money back in my first year as a conductor, but not before 17 years as a violinist and 10 as a singer. Being a musician can be lucrative if you can make it. I made it on the third try.

I could probably have 3 or 4 separate careers going in music if I had the time to devote to each of them, and I know I’m not alone in this. Many conductors (not me) are great pianists, many singers have a background in another instrument, etc etc. Music is one of the most important voices for compassion left to us. It provides a rare opportunity to touch emotions and remind us that we are not alone in the world and that there is something out there that is worth more than a standard of living or our national debt ceiling. These are words that powerful people who have lost touch with their humanity use to justify actions that lack compassion or fairness. Words that they hope will keep them in public office, rather than serving the greater good.

So what about those kids who have not got the money and have the skills? They deserve an opportunity to pursue music. In fact, they are the ones with the most to say. Many of them find their way into rock bands. Graduates from Julliard played on Bob Dylans last tour, I bet you didn’t know that. The Neville Brothers let their kids and nephews play on tour with them because they are just so good, and they surely have taken lessons. The distance between classical and pop music is the smallest it has ever been. The way that new pop musicians are playing their instruments, it is pretty damn certain that they learned to play from an early age and have spent lots and lots of time on it, just like I did. And along the way we all got lessons.

Music is a privilege that should not be confined to the wealthy. The wealthy already have everything else.

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