Academic journal article Notes

The Crisis of Classical Music in America: Lessons from a Life in the Education of Musicians

Academic journal article Notes

The Crisis of Classical Music in America: Lessons from a Life in the Education of Musicians

Article excerpt

The Crisis of Classical Music in America: Lessons from a Life in the Education of Musicians. By Robert Freeman. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014. [xxv, 243 p. ISBN 9781442233010 (hardcover), $95; ISBN 9781442233027 (paperback), $45; ISBN 9781442233034 (e-book), $44.99.] Illustrations, appendices, bibliographic references, index.

American musicologist and educator Robert Freeman offers a personal yet authoritative look at classical music education in America in his book, The. Crisis of Classical Music in America. This book tells the tale of Freeman's journey to becoming a professional musician. Raised in a musically-talented family, Freeman taught at Princeton University and MIT, served as director of the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, president of the New England Conservatory, and dean of the College of Fine Arts at the University of Texas at Austin. His background uniquely qualifies him to write about and critique classical music education in America. Written in first-person narrative, this book is a collection of Freeman's ideas and thoughts from his lifelong professional musical training and over four decades of leadership in academia. Freeman is undoubtedly one of the most respected and influential scholars to provide insights on the past, present, and future of classical music education in American colleges.

The foreword, written by Leonard Slatkin, music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, is the personal reflection of an industry' insider on the challenges facing classical music education in the United States. Like Freeman, Slatkin is apprehensive about the disappointing changes in music education in public schools in America: "More than a quarter century ago, Dr. Freeman began to address the educational issues that have today reached nothing less than crisis proportions, from the disappearance of music education in the public schools to the glut of single-minded musicians who have learned to excel at competitions rather than at music making," Slatkin writes. "Today we see a vast migration [to study music] here [in America] from East Asia. ... A principal question that concerns Dr. Freeman is where all these talented kids from all over the world are going to go when they graduate" (pp. xi, xiv). Freeman explores and addresses these issues in his book.

This book is divided into two sections. The first section discusses the development of the American classical music industry and education, while the latter section presents the author's advice and recommendations to people associated with the industry. In chapters 1 to 3, Freeman looks at the historical context of classical music education in America and its challenges, and discusses his experiences related to classical music education. Chapter 1 is an overview of higher education and the classical music industry in America from the mid-1950s, when Freeman was in college, and how these relate to the social, political, and technological developments in American society. He points out that the environment and survival of the classical music industry is dependent on the economy. This is directly related to the elite image of classical music: that it is only for people who can afford to go to concerts, own musical instruments, and take music lessons. While many music graduates become music teachers, Freeman argues that music students and musicians need to face the reality of shrinking markets and audiences created by social and technological changes.

Chapter 2 explores the development of classical music education. Freeman traces the earliest thoughts on music education to the ideas of Plato and Aristotle, which concern "music's role in society and the development of a harmonious personality rather than instruction in performance" (p. 13). In addition, classical music and education have an impact on social and gender roles and are important to religious communities, particularly the Roman Catholic Church, which played a large role in disseminating music education to the public. …

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