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Monday, June 24, 2013

With Music Education to the Top

When we came back from a visit to something we saw a huge van parked in the street. A colorful van, advertising itself as the 'Classic Express'.

The Classic Express is the van of the 'Prinses Christina Concours', a classical music (and jazz, nowadays - which shows that jazz has become classical music in many ways) contest for young musicians. The van is a mobile stage which drives around the country offering concerts  to primary schools.

Great. Why not give every child the possibility to regularly hear live classical music? And when played by young musicians the possibility of identification grows, of course, which is good too. I can imagine what goes on in the heads of the inventors of the van. An initiative, I think, to be picked up by the rap world, the pop world, the Dutch schlager world, the bluegrass world and the shanty world too. Wouldn't it be great to have dozens of vans cruising the country, providing primary schools with live music?

But there is that one little thing at the back of my mind, and that is the way this vanning around reinforces the general discourse about what music is supposed to be. All those vans whisper at you: music is meant to be a performance. It is done on a stage, by someone who is Really Good, and this someone is playing for an audience who are Slightly Less Good. Music is something to be performed on a stage by Those Who Can, to be listened to by Those Who Can't.

It's just a whisper, I know. There is nothing against listening to a great performance, and much in favor of it; I will be the first to acknowledge that. And of course everyone has the right to witness a concert of great quality if possible, rather than a mediocre one; yes, yes, I agree totally. And of course all this should be balanced by other musical activities in schools where children are encouraged to sing and play themselves - even if they will never be the prize winners of our musical competitions; and we do our best for that, too, I know.

But sometimes it's more than just a whisper, and then I notice my eyebrows raising themselves involuntarily. See the picture below, and see what it screams at you: "Classic Express, The mobile concert stage; with young top talent to the schools."


Sounds like a one-way street, doesn't it? And: "Young top talent", rather than "great music". What's the message here?

For sure, it will also be meant to please those who finance the van with grants - nowadays the only way to acquire grants is to mention the world 'talent' in every other sentence. But I guess it's not only that - it is also expressing what we, what 'our culture', thinks about music in general. Which is the same as what we think of everything else:

BIG IS BEAUTIFUL; BIGGER IS EVEN MORE BEAUTIFUL.
EVERYTHING MUST ALWAYS BECOME EVEN BETTER.
INNOVATION FOR GROWTH.
WHO IS BEST GETS THE BIGGEST PART OF THE CAKE.
LIFE IS SPORTS, REALLY.

Having said all that, I also want you to know that my kids really liked the concert in the van.

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