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The Crisis of Classical Music in America

Lessons from a Life in the Education of Musicians

Robert Freeman

The Crisis of Classical Music in America by Robert Freeman focuses on solutions for the oversupply of classically trained musicians in America, problem that grows ever more chronic as opportunities for classical musicians to gain full-time professional employment diminishes year upon year. An acute observer of the professional music scene, Freeman argues that music schools that train our future instrumentalists, composers, conductors, and singers need to equip their students with the communications and analytical skills they need to succeed in the rapidly changing music scene. This book maps a broad range of reforms required in the field of advanced music education and the organizations responsible for that education.

Featuring a foreword by Leonard Slatkin, music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra,
The Crisis of Classical Music in America speaks to parents, prospective and current music students, music teachers and professors, department deans, university presidents and provosts, and even foundations and public organizations that fund such music programs. This book reaches out to all of these stakeholders and argues for meaningful change though wide-spread collaboration.
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Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 270Size: 6 x 9
978-1-4422-3301-0 • Hardback • August 2014 • $100.00 • (£70.00)
978-1-4422-3302-7 • Paperback • August 2014 • $47.00 • (£31.95)
978-1-4422-3303-4 • eBook • August 2014 • $46.99 • (£31.95)
Robert Freeman is a musicologist, Steinway artist, and a professional musician. Having taught at Princeton and MIT, he served as director of Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester for over two decades. He has also served as president of the New England Conservatory and dean of the College of Fine Arts at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is presently the Susan Menefee Ragan Regents Professor of Fine Arts.
Foreword by Leonard Slatkin
Chapter 1: The Winds of Change
Chapter 2: Where Did Musical Education Come From?
Chapter 3: My Education
Chapter 4: Advice for Parents: Should Your Child Play the Cello?
Chapter 5: Advice for College Music Students: What’s Your Goal … Really?
Chapter 6: Advice for Music Professors: Should All Your Students Aim for Carnegie Hall? Should They All Teach at Harvard?
Chapter 7: Advice for Music Deans: Building Education Programs Appropriate for the New Century
Chapter 8: Advice for Provosts and Presidents: Who Should Lead Your Music School and How Should that Person Lead?
Chapter 9: Advice for Foundation Directors and Civic Leaders: What Do We Do to Balance the Supply of and Demand for Professionally Trained Musicians?
Chapter 10: Epilogue
Appendix I: How to Evaluate Music Faculty
Appendix II: Convocation Address by Robert Freeman
About the Author
As its title suggests, this book exposes a serious situation, one Freeman is especially qualified to address. A graduate of Harvard and Princeton, he served as director of the prestigious Eastman School of Music, president of New England Conservatory, and dean of the College of Fine Arts, University of Texas. But he is also a successful performer, so he is able to offer an insightful assessment of the world of classical music as a professional musician as well as an academic insider. He examines in depth how universities and conservatories are graduating numerous fine performers, conductors, and music scholars who endure arduous training only to find, upon graduation, that few job opportunities exist. Freeman issues a clarion call for honesty and realism from the educators and other stakeholders who help music students decide where and what to study and what to expect. Thinking outside the box, he offers constructive advice for everyone from parents and students to deans and provosts who seek to improve conditions. He also suggests ways of enhancing musics benefit to society. This is an invaluable resource for potential and current music students, music professors, administrators, and professional performers. Summing Up: Essential. All readers.

If you’re planning on going to music school or if you’re the parent of a child who is thinking of majoring in music, I’d highly suggest reading this book. And if you’re on the faculty or in administration at a music school, I strongly recommend that you read this book. Changes in the way we do things need to be made, and Dr. Freeman’s recommendations would be a great place to start.
Classical Music Today

[Freeman] is undoubtedly one of the most respected and influential scholars to provide insights on the past, present, and future of classical music education in American colleges. . . .Freeman’s writing is accessible to readers both inside and outside of academia. Some of the issues discussed in the book are quite personal (growing up in a musical family) and specific to the schools where Freeman worked (certain curriculum reforms). This book benefits, however, from Freeman’s experience and positions in professional classical music circles in America, and is valuable documentation of the development of classical music education in this country. Compared to other available books on classical music education (many of which focus on teaching methodology or the educational perspectives involved in sustaining a performing career), Freeman’s book provides more well-rounded insights. Lay audience members who are interested in the classical music industry and music education in the United States, as well as prospective professional musicians, will find this book extremely informative.
Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association

Freeman is the most complete ‘package’ of musician/educator/administrator I know. He understands the issues in greater depth and with greater clarity than the majority of his colleagues. Perhaps annoyingly to some, he doesn’t hesitate to articulate improvements that would make any musical institution work more efficiently, economically and with greater impact on the constituencies and communities they serve. Yet, in one chapter of the book he describes his own education, 'the better for the reader to identify my own prejudices on the subject.'. . . .Most of Freeman’s chapters profer advice, respectively to parents, students, faculty, deans, provosts and presidents, and foundations. When parents wonder if their child can really make a living as a musician, Freeman says, 'You can if, while still a student, you can begin to compare your own unique skill set with those of your competitors.' These are of course life lessons and, if I may say, refreshingly retold.
Performing Arts Monterey Bay

Along with wisdom that only a leader like him can have, I like much of what he says in passing. For example, he points out that though music is more widely disseminated than ever before and more people are studying it, the range before and more people are studying it, the range of interpretation has actually narrowed . The standards are higher than ever, but few are willing to take risks or put much personality into their playing. He also mentions that music historians (his training) have contributed to that by narrowing interpretive possibilities. He says that in any style or period 'there is a broader latitude of dynamic, articulative, and agogic possibilities' than the musical notation can possibly indicate. . . .[Robert] has pointed out problems in a very convincing way–as only a top music educator could do. For that he deserves our thanks.
American Record Guide

Any involved in music or music education will find fascinating and revealing this survey revealing how an overabundance of classically-trained musicians in America is causing employment issues for all. It considers the underlying causes of the dilemma, maintains that music schools need to include wider education if they are to succeed in changing the poor results for classically-trained musicians after graduation, and it considers a range of reforms in education.
Midwest Book Review

It is crucial that we begin to reexamine the mission of traditional classical music education. As I tour the country and meet hundreds of young aspiring singers, it’s disheartening to ponder how few will actually be able to earn a living in their chosen profession. Who better than Robert Freeman, whom I have known since I studied piano with his aunt as a child, to take an honest look at how we educate musicians and offer solutions for making the arts more relevant today?
Renee Fleming

Robert Freeman, from his vantage point as performer, scholar, and educator offers some hard truth in The Crisis of Classical Music in America, his comprehensive, quasi-autobiographical study of music in America. He focuses especially on a false promise made by our schools and conservatories – their claim that they are properly preparing young musicians for the music careers at hand. Freeman insists that the “everyone can be a star” approach must end, that training with opportunity. This new paradigm, so effectively introduced by Freeman while he was director of the Eastman School, requires new thinking―practical, realistic, tough, but thanks to the author’s inveterate optimism, confident.
John Harbison, Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, Professor of Music, MIT

Robert Freeman’s long and distinguished career at the highest levels of music making and teaching enable him to give a clear-eyed account of a world that has changed irrevocably. Everyone who participates in that world should pay close attention to his observations and advice.
Don M. Randel, trumpeter, president, Andrew W Mellon Foundation and president emeritus, University of Chicago

No music educator has been more prescient or humane than Bob Freeman in confronting the myriad challenges of our transitional moment in American musical culture.
Joseph Horowitz, Music Critic and Historian

America’s university music schools and free-standing conservatories are turning out more and better musicians than ever before. Sadly, talented young people hoping to make lifetime careers in music are finding it increasingly difficult to secure employment that yields a decent livelihood. Robert Freeman, who has given a great deal of thought to this dilemma, now offers his imaginative and educationally sound ideas on improving the situation.
Bryce Jordan, flutist, president emeritus, Pennsylvania State University

Robert Freeman is a thought leader in music education, having led three of America’s most distinguished arts institutions. America’s music schools and conservatories are the best in the world, as evidenced by the glut of foreign students who compete for a place in one of them. The irony is that this comes at the moment of the almost complete demise of public school arts education in the United States. Major arts institutions in America–symphony orchestras and opera companies–are fighting for their very survival. It is a truly Dickensian moment, the best and the worst of times.

What is the future for professional musicians in America?
The Crisis of Classical Music in America offers important advice for parents of students contemplating a musical career; for those students as they prepare for a college degree; for music faculty; and ultimately for the deans, provosts, and presidents of our institutions of higher learning. This is a must read for anyone who cares about the future of music in America.

James Moeser, organist, chancellor emeritus, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

This book delivers on its core premise, which is to offer a critique of contemporary musical training and education and advice on improved approaches. But it is also autobiography, wide-ranging social commentary, and a critique of American higher education. All of this is delivered by one of the most important living leaders in music and music education―a genuine authority, an active thinker always, a senior statesman who observes on the basis of rich experience, but is not trapped by the past. It is a valuable book.
Larry R. Faulkner, , president emeritus, University of Texas at Austin