The Globalized Musician

The world is entering a new economic period, which the experts have chosen to call globalization. Although it seems as though we are already in the heart of this new world, chances are that we are only in a transition phase; indeed, this new period could eventually be summed up as a series of transition phases, as humanity struggles to keep abreast of a technology that seems to be changing at an ever increasing rate. This new technology seems to be bringing with it a sort of extreme, even subverted social Darwinism – the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, and both can happen at amazingly fast speeds. Not only that, the rich and the poor (or at least the middle class) can change positions in a day or even an hour or less (witness the incredible stories of wealth with the Initial Public Offerings of a new company, and contrast that with the .com catastrophes of the recent past).

As a composer, teacher, and player I first thought that this new transitionera would have little or no bearing on what I did personally; after all, music is for the soul, and globalization certainly doesn’t seem to have much to do with matters of the soul. But if one follows the news closely, it ispossible to see that globalization has already had a huge impact on the music business, and will continue to have an even bigger effect in the future. Consider the headlines: major recording labels are dropping their star conductors and orchestras and are downsizing their classical musical departments; many orchestras themselves are expiring or, in certain cases, merging with other orchestras in the same city; many extremely talented musicians are having to leave the business because they can’t support themselves, while a few superstars are making obscenely huge sums of money for delivering a product that has very little to do with the original intentions of the composer; orchestras (and composers) from around the world are beginning to have one basic generic sound; and on and on.

If these developments have anything in common, it is that all of the news seems to be uniformly depressing. If one wanted to be a fatalist, it would be easy to say that we are seeing the end of classical music, to be replaced by a popular culture that is growing increasingly shallow, superficial, and materialistic. This may be the case, but I don’t think that it necessarily IS the case. Although we see big labels dropping their major stars we also see orchestras forming their own labels or new entreprenurial relationships; we also see certain orchestras thriving where other orchestras of the same economic status are failing. And many musicians are becoming entrepreneurs and creating opportunities for themselves through the internet.
So we are indeed entering a new era, one filled with more extremes than before. But it is possible for classical musicians to prosper, even to thrive, in this new era, if they can take advantage of the opportunities presented by the new technology. If there is a common thread, it is this: individual musicians must be much more responsible for their careers than before. In the past a talented student would study with one or possibly two teachers, get a job in an orchestra, and would then have a relatively secure life for the next 30-40 years. But in the future we may find our talented student having one or two teachers who guide the student to a great many international teachers through the internet, and once this student has a job he or she may take part in a more synergistic relationship with the orchestra, in addition to creating more opportunities for chamber music and other performing opportunities on the outside.

There are certain qualities that an individual, group, or orchestra (or company or country!) must have in order to thrive, rather than fail , in this new world. Since technology is changing so rapidly, anticipating these changes can be very important, or at least being in the first wave of these changes. Get caught in the second wave or undertow, and you may drown. In tandem with this idea is the concept of being as connected as possible to the new technology (at this moment it is the internet). Increased flexibility and openness will also become more important in the future. A teacher, musician, or group that is inflexible or closed will simply become a dinosaur. And, if something is not working, even if it worked in the past, it will have to be abandoned for a new and better approach. Thinking will be more global, rather than being limited to a city or country. If you have a computer with internet, you are already global. The only question is: How connected, how globalized, are you? With a search engine you are able to reach a huge number of people around the world. And if you have a website, a huge number of people can reach you. This can create agreat sharing of knowledge and information, which is one of the major advantages of the new technology.

STUDENT/TEACHER RELATIONSHIPS

This sharing of knowledge and information will have a profound effect on the student/teacher relationship. Although globalization has many drawbacks, it can also present the student with opportunities never before imagined, if only the teacher is willing to adapt to this new system of thought. As with many businesses, teachers have a tendency to be either closed or open. The open teacher allows students to do their own thinking, encourages them to broaden themselves and their horizons whenever possible (including lessons with other teachers), and in general is open to new ideas about playing and teaching. A closed teacher, by contrast, tends to take the “my way or the highway” approach, which in essence is stiff and inflexible. Quite often the teaching is in accordance with a thought-out and formulated plan, and free thinking is not encouraged. Students beware -take a private lesson with another teacher at your own risk!  The open teacher adapts to the strengths and weaknesses of the student; the closed teacher insists that students adapt to their pre-formulated program.

In this new period open teachers will thrive, while closed teachers will find fewer and fewer students who are interested in studying with them. The reason for this is simply that information is so readily available. For example,whereas in the past a closed teacher, in discussing a modern work,could say “it must be this (my) way” and not be contradicted, now a student can go directly to a living composer through the internet. But this can also of benefit to the teacher, as I learned several years ago. While working on a modern work for trumpet solo entitled Times, by Frank Campo, a student from Italy and I found that we were approaching the piece from opposite sides of the spectrum – he thought that the piece should be played with a free, romantic type of phrasing and my thought was that it should be played with a strict rhythm, exactly as it was written on the page. This kind of disagreement I find very healthy (I would hope that Icould be called an “open” teacher), but this students only defense of his position was “because I like it that way.” So I said, “Frank is a good friend of mine, and even though he lives in Los Angeles he speaks fluent Italian (he studied with Gotfredo Petrassi in Rome). I’ll call him and you can ask him directly,” which is exactly what we did. (As an aside, Frank’s spontaneous reply was wonderful and can be applied to every epoch of music.When the student asked if he could play his piece romantically, Frank replied, “Of course you can; you just won’t be playing my music).” As a composer, I have had numerous students go on my website to ask about certain aspects of my music. Depending on my schedule I am sometimes late in answering, but I always do answer. And I have sent emails to other composers and performers who I don’t know and have almost always gotten cordial replies.A student can now also make contact with great teachers through the internet. As with composers, there is no guarantee of an answer, but it never hurts to try.

Technology is advancing so rapidly that soon the current teaching format which has served us so well for so many years (centuries!) may well be out of date. One possible scenario is that in the future a student could have alesson with virtually anyone in the world at virtually any time, through something similar to video conferencing. A student from one country could pay a fee and then be connected with the teacher in a different country. In this scenario the main teacher would be more like a coach or guide, not only teaching but also directing the student to teachers who specialize in certain specific areas of music (Baroque or modern interpretation, performing the music of a certain nationality with the correct interpretation and feeling, orchestral interpretation, solo or chamber music interpretation, specific technical problems, and so on). Thus the teacher would be a person who is not only highly qualified as a teacher but also aperson with a great many connections around the world. Once again, this points to an open, rather than closed, student/teacher relationship.

Some music schools in Europe already have computers for the student to use, but schools in the United States seem to be further along in this area. As Douglas Lowry, dean of the Cinncinnati Conservatory of Music, explains, ” At CCM we have a number of what are called “smart” classrooms. These rooms are equipped with televisions, computers, computer outlets and inlets, audio-visual consoles (DVD, video, CD, DAT), MIDI hookups for electronic demonstrations, as well as computer link-ups to the internet for applications like Blackboard, a program that allows faculty to post assignments, grades, lectures, photos, film clips, audio clips, even digitally stored lectures (visual and audio).” CCM has already given master classes live over the internet, through a process called video streaming.

It is interesting to note that schools not only in Germany, but throughout the world, find themselves accepting more foreign students than in the past. Miriam Nastasi, the Rektorin at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik Freiburg, where I teach, recently told me that 48% of the student populationis now foreign. In my trumpet class, for example, in addition to my German students I also have students from Scotland, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg, and South Korea. This makes for a wonderful sharing of ideas and cultural traditions, but it presents a financial dilemma in that the state is often sponsoring non-German rather than German students. In the future it should be possible for teachers to have combination masterclasses; for example, a class in Germany connects one week with a class from France, and the French students play German solo or orchestral literature,while the German students play French repertoire. In this scenario the students and teachers of any given country can preserve and even pass along knowledge of their own traditions, while at the same time gaining insight into the traditions of other counries and styles. These types of masterclasses could also center around physical and technical problems; in other words, the weekly master class could address every possible need of thestudent.(A master class could even be devoted to a conversation with an agent about the business aspects of music).

In a certain way the future student/teacher relationship could parallel the consumer/investor business relationship. More and more businesses are being forced to become open and transparent. A wise investor in the era of globalization is not interested in investing in a business that is closed and inflexible. Only the strongest and most transparent businesses will survive. And just like the best businesses, the best teachers will seek ways to become more creative, open, and connected.

THE SOLO AND CHAMBER MUSICIAN

It has become increasingly difficult for solo and chamber musicians to carve out a place for themselves in today”s market place. The sad irony is that the only way to get a major agent is to already have so many concert dates that an agent is not necessary, or at least not necessary for booking concerts. At the same time, smaller agents seem to have no real power with presenters, no matter how hard they work. And there always have been and probably always will be agents who are basically just scam artists. Today, more than ever, this aspect of the business of music is like a pyramid – the upper 2-4 percent controls the lower 96-98 percent.

Although this is a condition that has existed before globalization became such an important force in the musical world, with globalization everything seems to be more extreme. But musicians can use globalization and the internet to their advantage. As an example, I would like to examine two chamber groups, the Chicago Chamber Musicians and the brass quintet Spanish Brass Luur Metals. These two ensembles are very different groups with different goals, yet they share a number of commonalities.

The Chicago Chamber Musicians is a well-established group of musicians from the Chicago area. All have other jobs which supply their main source of income – some are members of the Chicago Symphony, some are professors, and some are top Chicago freelancers. The group is a flexible and revolving group, meaning that they can supply a presenter with either strings, woodwinds, or brass, or a combination of these possibilities. All are wonderful musicians, and the group represents entrepreneurial musicianship at its best. In terms of business there are certain aspects of CCM that could serve as a model for aspiring chamber music groups. They work very closely with organizations in their community. They commission composers for a great variety of projects, and because of their outstanding reputation have been able to commission some of the top American composers. And they have a detailed website (www.chicagochambermusic.org) that has many features, looks good, and invites the visitor to sample more of the group. Although the group does very little touring, it is in complete control of what it does. Because of their work in the community they have a very loyal subscriber base, with an 85% renewal rate. They have their own management, and their executive director, Amy Iwano, believes that the web “will be more of apresence every year.”

Spanish Brass Luur Metals (www.spanishbrass.com) is a relatively new group that was founded in 1989, but burst on to the international scene by winning the Narbonne International Brass Quintet Competition in 1996. At that time they were all playing in different orchestras in Spain, and on free days traveled some 400 kilometers to a central meeting place to rehearse intensively, before then driving back to their orchestral jobs. Finally in 1998 they quit their orchestral positions to pursue their dream of being a full-time, touring quintet. Unlike most groups with such aspirations, their story is a happy and successful one – already they are one of the few great brass quintets in the world.

So how did they do it? Well, of course, they have worked extremely hard following their dream, and have taken the risk of leaving their secure orchestral jobs. They seem to thrive on the adage, “there is no security,only opportunity.” Like CCM they do not rely on a manager – they book almost all of their own concerts. And also like CCM, they rely very heavily on the internet, with almost all of their business being done by email. What makes this group so special and so successful is the fact that they are willing to take risks and to set trends rather than follow them. Their trombonist and manager,Indalecio Bonet Manrique, says, “one of our most important objectives is opening up our formation. We try to improve our possibilities – collaboration with other groups and soloists, such as brass quintet with jazz trio, brass quintet with multimedia, brass quintet with soloists like Christian Lindberg, or doing children’s concerts, also theatrical collaborations.”

Are these groups an indication of a future trend? It is difficult to say, but to pursue this path a group or individual has to work very hard, must seek to be a trend-setter rather than a follower, and must always remain flexible and open to new possibilites. While this can at first glance seem daunting, it can be tremendously energizing to be completely in control of one’s destiny.

ORCHESTRAS AND MANAGEMENTS

Many orchestras have found if difficult to adapt to the demands of globalization. Unfortunately a great many European orchestras have managements that tend to be conservative, short-sighted, and thoroughly lacking in vision, so the distance between trend setters and followers will probably become even greater in the future. However, it is still possible for orchestras to be innovative and to thrive where others fail.
One example of innovation is the San Francisco Symphony. This orchestra is a trend setter in several different areas. First, they recently embarked ona project of recording all of the Mahler Symphonies. Nothing new there,except that they are recording the symphonies on their OWN label, an example of synergy among the orchestra management, players, and community. They also have a very fine website (sfsymphony.org) that displays various projects that are interesting, invigorating, and stimulating, and the new addition of a Kids Corner to their website is visionary. I would invite the reader to compare their website to the websites of most European orchestras,which will seem dull and uninteresting by comparison. And if you are a parent, since the future of music rests with the young, have your child check with you as well. Many orchestras would do well to copy the strategy of innovative and successful orchestras such as the San Francisco Symphony.

Over the past number of years we hear more and more that (perhaps due toglobalization) orchestras are beginning to lose the style and traditions that have made them so unique. Until recently, great orchestras of each country had their own style and way of playing, and excelled in playing the music of their own national composers. Some shining examples were the Czech Philharmonic playing Dvorak or Smetana, the Vienna Philharmonic playing Bruckner or Brahms, and the New York Philharmonic playing Copland or Gershwin. But it now seems as though Dvorak, Brahms, and Copland are performed by conductors and orchestras in a way that is too often colorless, lacking in passion and tradition, and generic. These orchestras are finding it difficult to maintain their traditions, and to pass these traditions on to younger players. This does not necessarily have to be. The fact that we have immediate access to all types of information does not prevent an orchestra from playing the music of its own country as beautifully and committed as before ,while at the same time playing the music of a different tradition better than before. But both conductors and orchestra members must be committed to maintaining their traditions while working to improve their skills.

One big change in classical music over the past 20-30 years has been the practice of playing Renaissance and Baroque music on original instruments or replicas of those instruments, and with the originally intended phrasing, balances, and so forth. Instead of being a short lived fad, this practice of playing old music in its original style has permeated many facets of music making today. And justifiably so – with the old instruments and phrasing the music “swings” in a way that it simply can’t with modern instruments and concepts. Already some orchestras are beginning to incorporate either original instruments or at least authentically correct performance practices when performing Baroque music. With the opportunities to learn and assimilate that have been created by globalization, I can imagine a day when a major orchestra might play a Bach Suite on the first half of a program with original instruments, and Stravinsky or Bartok on the second half with modern instruments. What a revelation that would be!

RECORDING

The recording industry has seen a tremendous amount of turmoil in the past few years, much of it negative, so that the recording business alone seemingly points to the demise of classical music. Some experts have even declared the recording industry dead (for classical music; Britney Spears is still doing fine, thank you very much).An indication of this came to me personally from my friend Michael Sachs,who for 14 years has been solo trumpet with the Cleveland Orchestra. From1988, when he first joined the orchestra, to 1997, Michael recorded 125 different pieces; from 1997 to the present he has recorded exactly eight.Depressing news indeed, but…..concerts are still sold out in Cleveland and they have a committed, interested audience. Certain attitudes and events have brought this on – conductors have glutted the market by recording the same repertoire over and over again, and at times to extremes; important labels have been bought by giant corporations only interested in the bottom line; and the big labels these days have made mistakes in handling their money (witness the Mariah Carey debacle, where EMI paid 70 million English pounds to sign her and after her first album sold poorly bought her out for 19 million) . So this is our doom and gloom scenario, and it seems as though things could not be worse.

Yet not all signs are negative. As mentioned before, the San Francisco Symphony is recording all of the Mahler Symphonies on its own label. The Philadelphia Orchestra is the first orchestra in the U.S. to broadcast their subscription series through the internet, and together with the Vienna Philharmonic and the London Symphony has formed a partnership with Andante.com. The London Samphony, by the way, is also making its own recordings. So some orchestras are already becoming more innovative. I spoke recently (by email) with Robert von Bahr, the brilliant owner of BIS Records (www.bis.se). For many years BIS has had a reputation for presenting interesting repertoire, especially Scandanavian repertoire, in which artistic performances are beautifully recorded. BIS continues to move forward while the big labels fade. When asked to explain his success, von Bahr’s response is that it is simply “by our one-track concentration on quality in all its aspects: recording, repertoire, artistry.” Unlike most companies, BIS has done very little business thus far on the Internet, but will soon have a new website up and running and expects that to be an integral part of its future. What is interesting to note is that, even though von Bahr has yet to fully use the advantages of modern technology, he has something else – he cares passionately about what he does. With the big labels these days the thinking seems to be that, first and foremost,classical music loses money while drivel makes money (which brings to mind H.L.Menkin’s comment that “nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” (these days substitute global for American). Contrast that with von Bahr’s concentrating on “quality in the minutest detail. We have a love for what we do, which is more a personal lifestyle expression than a commercial enterprise. This is audible, and the discerning customer can hear that.” So I personally do not think that the classical recording industry is dead. But no one will be able to be successful by repeating the mistakes of the past, and even if the big companies fail there will always be room for top quality recordings from smaller companies.

COMPOSERS AND PUBLISHING HOUSES

Globalization could very well have a radical effect on the relationship between composers and publishers. Until now, the relationship has been fairly well defined – the composer would write music and the publisher would first engrave and publish it and then market the published version. This is, of course, a very simplistic summary, and there are many subleties and variations involved. No two composer-publisher relationships are the same, but essentially publishers put their faith in composers by saying “I believe in your music or your potential to be a commercial success”, and composers put their faith in publishers by saying, “I believe that you are the best person to publish and distribute my music” (although in some cases, to be more realistic, the composer might really be thinking,”I believe that you are the only person that I can find at this moment who will publish my music, so I am willing to take a chance with you”). With this sort of relationship, there have been many happy stories, many sad and angry stories, and probably most have been somewhere in between.

But now we are at the beginning of a long and perhaps painful transition to a very new system. Inherent in the composer/publisher relationship of the past was the truth that a composer needed a publisher, since a composer was not able to do professional engraving, much less be responsible for marketing, distribution, and so on. That was the responsibility of the publisher. Now, however, a great many composers engrave their music in a manner that looks as professional as if it were done by a major company. And in the future all composers will have the ability to engrave their music, as technology and engraving become easy even for composers who are technologically challenged. Indeed, some of the major publishers are now accepting new composers only if the composer can submit a computer-engraved score, ready to be published. This demonstrates that advanced technology has already eliminated one of the two main areas of the composer/publisherrelationsip – the need to engrave a professional looking score.Distribution and marketing is the other main aspect of this symbiotic relationship, and this is also entering a transition period. Composers are now finding that they can be more responsible for their own marketing, and that it makes no sense being with a big company only for distribution and marketing needs. The noted American compoer Stephen Paulus asks, *Why should you be with a big publishing company that will probably be bought out by an even bigger vodka company that only wants a tax write-off?” Paulus is one of a number of composers who are now self-publishing, and thus far his results have been impressive. In his first year of self-publishing, 1997, he sold 35 units of music ; in the calendar year 2002, through October he had already sold 600 units. Paulus believes that*with a web site you become a global enterprise. On a scale of one to ten,I would rate it a ten in importance.” Music already can be downloaded off of a website in the future, and Paulus agrees that “the delivery of printed and recorded music in the future will be radically different from now.” Paulus has a staff of three part time and very dedicated people, and in some ways is able to market his music better than a major publisher because his staff markets only his music – he is not competing against hundreds of other composers. It is impossible to say with any certainty just exactly what the new composer/publisher paradigm will be, but it is clear that the relationship is in flux. And it surely seems that composers must and will exert more control over the business side of their careers than ever before.

CONCLUSION

So what does this all mean for the musician of today? Certainly all indications point to the fact that there will be less stability and security in the music business than ever before. But there will always be opportunity for those who are willing to be flexible, who are willing to dream, and who are willing to look for opportunities. In fact, it could be that to be have success in the future a musician will need primarily to have a far reaching-imagination and a good grasp of the current technology. And let’s not forget that while this statement may at first seem simplistic and naive, the chair you are sitting on, the light you are reading by, and the magazine you are reading came about as the result of somebody imagining something that had yet to be created. With the new technology we can all put our dreams to practical use, if only we choose to do so.The discussion thus far has been about one aspect of globalization, the practical and material advantages and disadvantages. But perhaps the more important question is “How can we use something which is material, such astechnology, to further the cause of music, which is of the spirit or soul?” We must never lose sight of the fact that the very greatest music will never be outdated or passe, simply because it speaks to that which is eternal -what is beauty, what is the meaning of our existence, why are we here? Today it seems as though these questions, as posed by music and all forms of art,are being smothered in an avalance of materialism, superficiality, and ambivalence.Yet all of us still seek meaning for our lives, as stated eloquently by the late scholar Joseph Campbell: “People say that what we’re seeking is a meaning of life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being” ………ultimately this is the bottom line, not profit or technological advances.So our real target through the ages has not changed and will not change, even though material and technological advances are coming at us in an ever-increasing speed. It seems as though globalization is taking us further from this target, but that need not be the case. Instead of being part of an era that is witness to the decline and perhaps even the end of classical music, we can use this new technology to bring us ever closer to atime when music is once again an integral part of our lives.