Monday, April 03, 2006
God is in the Details
I just watched Live From Lincoln Center on PBS. It was a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Julliard School. While a number of their more illustrious grads appeared and/or performed, current students did most of it. They ran the gamut of the disciplines offered at the school including opera, string quartet, full orchestra, jazz, dance and theatre. Many of the performances were stunning. A 13 year old pianist played the first movement of the Rachmananoff 2nd Piano Concerto with full orchestra. A pair of dancers performed to a piece, the name of which I failed to catch, but both the music and the dance were, again, stunning.
After an opening orchestral piece by Schuman, New England Triptych: "Chester," played by the Julliard Student Orchestra conducted by John Williams, Rene'e Fleming sang 2 arias, "Merci dilette amiche" from Verdi's Vespri Siciliani and Puccini's "Vissis d'arte" from Tosca. She did so wonderfully and effortlessly.
Actor Kevin Kline a Julliard (and Indiana University) grad led an ensemble of student actors in Hamlet's instructions to the players.
There was more.
The cameras did all they could to pan through all of the student performers during the course of the show insuring that there must have been any number of proud button popping parents grabbing hands and screaming: THERE SHE IS!!! THERE SHE IS!!! as the camera floated by a girl with a french horn pressed to her lips or another swaying gently into her violin.
I recently commented on Zoe's A Complicated Salvation saying that progress is normally achieved via small, baby steps. It's all in the details.
I have just read Rene'e Fleming's The Inner Voice: The Making of a Singer. It is a great book as it details, at times exhaustively, all she went through in the development of her voice. She notes that she was not a natural. It took years and any number of failures before she finally realized success.
The students at Julliard and other schools are going through that process now. Not just in the arts. All disciplines - be it music or dance, genetics or computer engineering, take time and effort to achieve success. These kids have got what it takes.
It is dis-heartening to see things like what Jay Leno does in his street interviews asking questions like "What year was the War of 1812?" and getting really dumb answers leaving the viewers slack-jawed at their stupidity. Of course I realize that they may ask the question of a 100 people and show us only the 5 or 6 who embarrass themselves. Still, it is troubling at how many people seem to know virtually nothing about the world they live in. My brother saw something on the tube just in the last day or two wherein most of the people interviewed did not know what the American Civil War was. Presumably, these people will go far.
My younger son went to Northwestern in Evanston, IL. I met many of his friends and classmates while he was there. They were a bunch of the brightest and truly engaging kids I've ever known. They are handling the details. A close friend of my son is now in graduate school at Harvard studying genetic engineering. One of my son's roommates had a girl friend who had been a concert pianist - even soloing with the Los Angeles Symphony at age 14 - only to walk away from that to go to medical school. To counter balance this nation's uneducated, there are, thankfully, a lot of brainiacs out there. It's just a question of how they apply their intelligence and knowledge. Hopefully, most will do what they can to save our bacon. They can do a lot. Maybe we can come out smelling like a rose - or a petunia at least.