Spring Break 2017: Musings

As I have some time this spring break, I thought I might write about a couple of thoughts and concerns regarding the classical music world that have been on my mind for a while, but haven’t really been clearly elucidated (scroll down to the bottom if you don’t want to read all of the rant haha).

Now, I just couldn’t miss Maestro Muti’s last concert of his March residency, especially with the extravagant Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 3 w/ Uchida, so I, with my sister (who last saw Maestro Muti/CSO perform at her school in the Krannert Center) headed back to Symphony Center last night to hear this unique program. As a bonus, we got to go backstage to see Mitsuko Uchida, John Adams, and of course, talk to Maestro Muti!

After the concert, my sister and I were lucky enough to head backstage to say a quick hello to Maestro Muti, as did some other enthusiastic students. This group of other students (3 of them) were waiting in front of us in the line to meet Maestro Muti. While they were saying their goodbyes to him, Maestro Muti mentioned for them to come back again, as he would love to see them again. However, they had mentioned that even though they had been to many of his concerts before and have tried to go backstage to say hello, they have always been denied. Maestro Muti, who was confused and somewhat upset that the CSO staff would prevent students from going backstage, told them to ignore the staff and simply declare, “The Maestro is expecting us!” However, while Maestro Muti really has the best of intentions (seriously, this guy is the best), it’s impossible to convince some of the CSO staff that he actually likes and wants to meet students.

Now, I’ve been extremely fortunate to have been able to go backstage many times at CSO to meet some of my favorite artists – Maestro Muti, Wynton Marsalis, Maestro James Levine, Murray Perahia – the list goes on. There have been a couple of individuals in Chicago (and Salzburg, for that matter) who have been a huge help and really understanding to let me have these experiences, for which I will be forever grateful. However, these instances still lie in the minority: most of the time I’m turned away from the backstage door (or my emails are ignored) simply because I’m a student and not some rich donor/VIP. How do I know this is the case? Well, many times, I see old, well-dressed patrons who are also not on the list (I’ve confirmed this by the way), just walk in backstage without being asked by the security if their name is on the list. They simply just sneak in, whereas if I were to do that, I would surely be stopped because of my age and the fact that I’m not wearing such fancy clothes. Plus, some of these old patrons take up an enormous amount of time, whereas all I would like to do is to just say a quick hello…this is entirely contradictory to the proposed notion that the artist has limited time and thus cannot meet with and talk to students, which I have been told many times. (But for some odd reason, they have enough time to listen to some old people drone on and on about their own lives?)

I totally understand that artists are busy and have no obligation to meet people afterwards. I definitely got a taste of that when I was hosting Professor Martin Karplus a couple of weeks ago (I will blog about this eventually!) because everyone wanted to meet with him, so I unfortunately had to turn away some people in order to keep his schedule intact. But to claim that Maestro Muti isn’t at all interested in meeting with students is really outlandish – I think that just runs entirely counter to what he stands for. I just cannot believe that  Why else would Maestro Muti create an entire Opera Academy and spend weeks teaching and giving back to students/the public? Or why else would he say that back at La Scala, on the opening night of December 7, he knew that all the celebrities and supposed “VIPs” were just there to be seen, and not really there for the music, which is quite the opposite for students? I could list a lot of other things Maestro Muti has said and done, that would clearly refute the claims that the CSO staff have mentioned, but alas to no avail. If the classical music world is so worried about the aging population which makes up the majority of their audiences, then I would suggest that they be just a little bit more welcoming to students (now this may not be the case in other places of the world, but it sure is here at CSO…). If everyone could all just follow Maestro Muti’s suit, then perhaps this problem would be eliminated…

tldr: Some CSO staff claim that Maestro Muti only wants to meet VIPs and isn’t interested in meeting students – which definitely IS NOT true! In the words (tweets) of our President: Sad!

Anyways, I can’t wait for September to come because I’ve been accepted as a student listener at Maestro Muti’s Opera Academy in Ravenna, Italy (even though I’m not formally studying music at a conservatory 😀 )! I got to tell Maestro Muti this last night, and he was super excited to hear about it (once again, I’m not sure why some of the staff is dubious of his wanting to meet w/ students?). We’ll be studying Verdi’s Aida, going through the entire process of what it takes to prepare a performance (in the traditional process of the old Italian school), starting from piano rehearsals all the way to the final performance. It’ll be my first time ever in Italy (and second time in Europe!), and I’m pretty sure it’ll be a lot more welcoming to students than here in Chicago…

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