The Future of Music

Classic Arts Features   The Future of Music
The Weill Music Institute brings the future to Carnegie Hall.

"Only in popular education," Andrew Carnegie wrote, "can man erect the structure of an enduring civilization." That philosophy was a founding principle of the hall he created in New York City: Carnegie Hall had barely opened when, in 1891, Walter Damrosch, the youthful music director of the New York Symphony, led the first Young People's Concert here, seeking to create a love for great music among the children in attendance. The New York Philharmonic and Leonard Bernstein expanded the concept in the 1940s and '50s, introducing American music to schoolchildren and, eventually, to a worldwide television audience.

After Isaac Stern helped to save the historic building from the wrecking ball in 1960, education became even more central to Carnegie Hall's mission‹because of Stern's personal passion for musical education and also because of the Hall's new status as a city-owned landmark. "It's part of our giving back to the city, being good citizens," says Hollis Headrick, who became the first director of Carnegie Hall's Weill Music Institute in December. "It's an important dimension for us to share what we have here in as many ways as we can."

The Weill Music Institute is the latest milestone in the history of education at Carnegie Hall. Created late last year with a major gift from chairman Sanford I. Weill and his wife, Joan, the Institute aims to integrate and expand Carnegie Hall's education, outreach, and training programs. For the first time, Carnegie Hall's impressive roster of educational initiatives, from concerts for preschoolers to workshops for teachers and professional musicians, are coordinated by a single entity.

The Institute, Headrick says, allows Carnegie Hall to "combine the world-class artistic resources we have here, and the education programs, and to develop those programs at the highest level." The Hall has always had strong education initiatives, as well as unparalleled artistic programming, but the resources provided by the Weills and other donors have "provided us with the opportunity to integrate the artistic and educational resources in a much different way‹to conceive of the education programs from both perspectives." The funds also give Headrick and his colleagues a chance to take the long view, "to ask the institutional question: what really is the education mission of Carnegie Hall, and how do we want to develop that, given these new resources?"

The creation of the Institute came just months after the opening in September 2003 of Zankel Hall, Carnegie Hall's subterranean third stage. Expressly designed to be conducive to education, Zankel Hall has a flexible seating configuration and the capacity for interactive audio and video. This past season, in the first National High School Choral Festival, choirs from New Jersey, North Carolina, Arizona, and Washington State were chosen to participate in a performance of Mozart's Requiem. After separate rehearsals in their home states, led by conductor Craig Jessop, the choirs observed each other's rehearsals through a video linkup, with Jessop coaching the groups from the stage of Zankel Hall. Finally, all 250 students came to New York and performed the Requiem. Last year, the Global Encounters program for high school students also made use of video technology, connecting kids in New York City and Johannesburg, South Africa, for an interactive concert featuring trumpeter Hugh Masekela, who examined the place of music in South Africa's struggle against apartheid.

All of these events reflect the Weill Music Institute's determination to go beyond the "musical appreciation" model and develop a broader approach to music education. "We don't want students to come and hear a concert and then simply talk about understanding the musical components," Headrick says. When Jessop visited the different groups in the Choral Festival, for example, he helped them to understand the background of the Requiem. "He talked about Mozart as a composer; he looked at the time when Mozart lived, and he placed it in a historical context," Headrick explains. "He deconstructed the music, did the score analysis of the Requiem, and then rehearsed the piece. It was really a much more holistic way of looking at it: you're placing the music in context, and then you're also understanding the music in its strictest sense, from its musical form and content."

Carnegie Hall's LinkUP! program, which brought some 22,000 New York City fourth, fifth, and sixth graders to Carnegie Hall this season, also provides materials to teachers and orchestras in other parts of the country. This season, Carnegie Hall staffers helped orchestras and teachers in Juneau, Alaska, and Canton, Ohio, bring LinkUP! programs to local youngsters. The Juneau students even participated in an event at Zankel Hall through a video link. "Carnegie Hall serves as the hub, with spokes radiating out," Headrick says.

The Weill Music Institute also oversees programs aimed at adults, including Carnegie Hall's Professional Training Workshops, which match up-and-coming players with world-class musicians for intensive instruction and master classes. Last month, composer John Harbison and soprano Dawn Upshaw led a workshop that paired young composers and singers to create new vocal works; after a second session in October, the pieces will be premiered at Weill Recital Hall. A new Professional Training Workshop planned for next season was created in collaboration with Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Project and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Participants will train at Tanglewood, the BSO's summer home, before coming to Carnegie Hall in September for panels, performance workshops, and concerts.

Also on the 2004-05 schedule is a "Discovery Concert" for adults, scheduled for January 2005, devoted to Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring. In the first half, composer and conductor Pierre Boulez and the London Symphony Orchestra will "unpack" the piece, examining its musical themes and the context in which it was created; after intermission, Boulez and the LSO will perform the revolutionary work in its entirety. And next season, the Institute will release a DVD performance guide to the Bartók string quartets with the Emerson String Quartet.

More initiatives are on the way. "As we really launch the Institute, I would say that, in the 2005-06 season, there will be some new dimensions," Headrick says. "We're just starting on this journey."

Ben Mattison writes frequently about the arts.

Recommended Reading: