Meet the Press and more

I was very touched and impressed that Tim Managan, who wrote the original piece on Shostakovich and Bowles that inspired my recent essay got in touch to let me know more about the circumstances of Bowles’ original remarks. You can read his comments here. He has two more very interesting recent posts- one for musicians on how to give a good interview, and one (very good!) one on the evolution of pops programming into a purely commercial enterprise.  I would add one comment to his remarks on giving interviews- if you are lucky enough to be interviewed by a real, live classical critic, make the most of it. More often than not, you’ll get the community page editor or a lifestyles columnist who may not listen to classical music or even know that musicians do this for a living. There is something to be said, especially when doing an interview with someone who is not musically literate, for doing so via email. You can avoid a lot of confusion and misquoting this way. I have seen my own words butchered many times by well-meaning interviewers who didn’t know enough about music to reconstruct my remarks from their notes.

Radio interviews are even more likely to be given by someone with minimal knowledge of or interest in classical music. They may not have any idea how to pronounce the names of major composers (I’m talking Wagner, not Eschdlyjcz). They probably don’t know where the hall is (unless you’re at Lincoln center). You should be prepared to talk about the music in a way that will get your interviewer interested as well as your audience, and it goes without saying that you not only need to be able to talk about your interpretation of Mahler 9, but be able to give ticket prices, phone numbers and web addresses where audience members can by tickets or get information, directions and (when appropriate) YOU MUST REMEMBER THE NAMES OF YOUR SPONSORS and thank them, or be fired when you return to the orchestra office. (Always better to say to the interviewer something like- “yes, it’s going to be a really fun concert that we couldn’t put on without the help of- is it okay to mention them, thanks- our sponsors ….”)

As far as pops- I think orchestras need to be careful of getting too deeply involved in purely commercial enterprises, much as they may need the money. Orchestras obscure the difference between providing a public service as an arts organization and presenting a commercial entertainment product that competes with other for-profit companies at their peril, both artistic and financial. Fiedler’s Boston Pops were a powerful educational tool as well as a popular and successful bit of show-biz. Are we still looking for that balance?   


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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

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