08. November 2010 · Comments Off on Jade Simmons Responds · Categories: Ageism

… to my ageism post. Check it out.

I do commend her for her gracious reply. I disagree with this:

We do highlight the “stuffy,staid” quote because, like it or not, that is the stereotypical IMAGE of what classical music is, even though it is NOT what Classical music is.

I don’t care to highlight a quote because of a stereotypical image. I wonder what would happen if someone did that about, say, a particular race or gender preference stereotype.

But I do thank Ms. Simmons for responding as she did. 🙂

The Juilliard Orchestra is no longer an orchestra made up of young talented musicians who all want to become soloists and have no respect for the orchestral canon. These students I worked with last week are all musicians who are sensitive to their colleagues and to the conductor. They move and breathe together; they share a wonderful work ethic and a sense of humor. If this is the future of orchestral music in the States, I am not worried at all.

So, let’s make room for them! I have conducted too many orchestras where individuals can’t play their instruments anymore. I know this is a very controversial statement, but if we want the public to love classical music as much as we do, we have to invigorate the field with these young, talented musicians. (I want to digress and clearly explain that younger does not mean better. While being the assistant conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, I had the privilege of spending time with some “older” musicians. One colleague and friend comes to mind – Emilio Llinas who shares a stand with the principal second violin, Steve Rose. Emilio was actually hired by George Szell, and he continues to be one of the most dedicated and passionate players in the orchestra. I learned so much from his experience and I joke with him that he has been my main conducting teacher!) Obviously, there is a bigger picture to this argument and it’s easier said than done. We can’t play God and tell people when to retire, still, I’m hoping that some changes may come to the system in the near future to encourage the timely turnover of orchestral chairs. As much as it’s a touchy subject, these days there are too many talented musicians and too few jobs.

-James Gaffigan

You can’t comment over at Mr. Gaffigan’s blog entry, so if you want to comment here instead, feel free.

Mr. Gaffigan has opened the blog entry to comments since this blog was originally posted.

Update #2
Comments have been closed again.

Some of us have talked about the retirement thing. (Of course we also discuss the fact that our retirement plan isn’t exactly something we could live on.) Many of us fear hanging on longer than we should. Some of us make pacts, saying we will be honest when “it’s time”. But should there be some way to let people go so that the orchestra can “invigorate the field with these young, talented musicians” because we have to bring in a younger audience and everyone knows they don’t like to hear and see older people? Mr. Gaffigan at first seemed to be suggesting that we aren’t playing well and should quit, but then he says “older” (his quotation marks, not mine) musicians can be mighty fine players. It seems, instead, that he’s suggesting we owe these younger players a position in an orchestra and should stop down so they can have a gig. (Hmmm. Will these younger musicians kindly help us out financially, then? Or maybe we’ll just be put on an ice floe.)

Is this something we oldsters should be pondering? Am I misinterpreting Mr. Gaffigan? Or is this more ageism?

(For the record, Mr. Gaffigan is 31.)

Think all classical musicians are old and dusty, playing sonatas in symphony halls somewhere? You haven’t met the musicians slated for this year’s Impulse Artist Series: The Alter Ego Season, a weeklong slate of concerts that will take place in various locations throughout the city. There’s Kris Becker, a pianist who’s played Carnegie Hall and who tours as a rock keyboardist and composes nu-classical music. He’s joined by fellow pianist and multimedia artist Phyllis Chen, who often performs the works of 20th-century composers on toy pianos, boom boxes and other nontraditional instruments. Suresh Singaratnam plays both classical and jazz trumpet. “He does ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ and all that,” says pianist/Impulse Artist Series executive director Jade Simmons, who organized the series. “But he does so much more as well.” And finally, there’s Brandee Younger, who plays the harp. “You think of that as an instrument for only classical music, but she makes the bulk of her living as a jazz and hip-hop musician.”


I might be older, but I am not dusty. I am now a bit grumpy, though. This is not the first thing I’ve read that disses older musicians.

Found at the site for Impulse Artist Series:

“Replacing the stuffy, staid collection of classical music dead guys in white wigs with fresh, young, cutting-edge musicians.”

Gee, I’ve YET to see any dead guys in white wigs play in any concerts I’ve been in. How ’bout you?