Monday, October 8, 2012

The Importance of Amateur Musicianship: An Interview

While our efforts are well intentioned, discussing the meaning and future of our own art comes laden with baggage and bias; and in this process, it is important to realize that we cannot gauge how meaningful our art is to greater society. Many can enjoy, appreciate, and even enthusiastically support its survival as an art and an institution, but it is of little consequence whether or not classical music flows with the mainstream. It makes those of us in the arbiter position wonder – do we have to try so hard? Can we exist eternally in the elite – and is this necessarily negative? In pondering this, I- as composer and performer from a non-musical family – decided to interview someone who strolls along the periphery of the classical music world, who can speak to the manifestations of classical music in the United States, Europe, and Latin America for both the performer and the audience member.

Lucas Eaton is a talented violist who has enjoyed training from age 9; he has played semi-professionally and as an amateur in quartets and symphonies in Washington, Montana, and Luxembourg. An astute world traveler, he has lived for extended periods in Luxembourg, France, Chile, and the US, and traveled far beyond each locale, witnessing classical and non-classical music performances in endless permutations. With a uniquely musical public school K-12 education, B.A. in Anthropology and Linguistics from the University of Montana and an M.A. in Learning/Development in Multicultural and Multilingual Contexts from the University of Luxembourg, plus years of work as a translator and foreign credential evaluator, he approaches every topic in his life with an impressive cultural sensitivity and awareness of social and economic issues. As such, his views on classical music as a global force are specific, passionate, and invaluable to the modern musician. (He is also my brother.)

In this interview, I asked him to discuss his background as a musician, his global experiences, and his thoughts about the future. It is important that we, as professional musicians and conservatory students, listen to the words of a global mind that has never been entirely in our world, but understands the importance of our art. He can contextualize its relevance, something that is extraordinarily difficult for insiders.

I highly suggest you take a few moments to listen to this interview clip – Lucas advocates for public school funding for the arts, cheaper concert tickets, and, most importantly, the preservation of an amateur musical culture in our society. Lucas, as the ultimate cultural relativist, surprised me in his conclusion: that classical music, while perhaps representative of a white, European, imperialistic power structure, is still just music, and it shouldn’t die out. Based on his entirely public education sequence, from preschool to graduate school, he learned that public funding for the arts – especially in elementary schools – is key for the development of the children and the preservation of arts in our society. As an avid Northwesterner in many respects, he is, of course, a fanatic of the Seattle indie rock scene and the great history of grunge, in addition to his life as classical violist; but he sees no reason for either genre to change fundamentally. The solution is to allow everyone access, and move on from there.

[I am working on a  transcript; 20 pages is overkill for this blog, so do take the time to listen to the audio file!]

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