Legendary maestro Leonard Slatkin provides personal insights and offers his ideas to solve the current dilemmas of classical music.
As the new millennium poses some of the greatest challenges to the relevance of the art form, Slatkin reflects on the modern evolution of classical music and presents ways for both music lovers and musicians alike to navigate these uncertain times. Classical Crossroads: The Path Forward for Music in the 21st Century addresses a wide range of relevant and provocative topics such as performance in the era of COVID-19, dwindling audience attendance, the lack of classical music in public education, broken audition systems, technology replacing live concerts, and diversity in the classical music world. While the new millennium has provided great obstacles, Slatkin emphasizes that there are also new opportunities—if there was ever a time for change in classical music, that time is now.
Internationally acclaimed conductor Leonard Slatkin is music director laureate of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, directeur musical honoraire of the Orchestre National de Lyon, and conductor laureate of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. He maintains a rigorous schedule of guest conducting and is active as a composer, author, and educator. A six-time Grammy winner, Slatkin is a recipient of the National Medal of Arts and holds the rank of Chevalier in the French Legion of Honor. He lives in St. Louis, Missouri with his wife, composer Cindy McTee.
Chapter 1: On Conducting
Chapter 2: On Orchestral Personality
Chapter 3: On Size
Chapter 4: On the Theater
Chapter 5: On Nationalism
Chapter 6: On Agents
Chapter 7: On Diversity
Chapter 8: On Soloists
Chapter 9: On Music Directors
Chapter 10: On Retirement
Chapter 11: On Repertoire
Chapter 12: On Media
Chapter 13: On Composers
Chapter 14: On Performance Practice
Chapter 15: On Rehearsing
Chapter 16: On Audiences
Chapter 17: On Forgotten Masters
Chapter 18: On Sound Health
Chapter 19: On Auditions
Chapter 20: On Education
The Road to Recovery
With this engaging title, Slatkin’s third volume about the music industry (after Leading Tones), the renowned conductor combines a handbook for music directors with thoughts on the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on musical organizations. Slatkin’s long tenures leading the St. Louis and National Symphonies, among other positions, provide ample fodder for a series of short chapters on learning repertoire, creating and rehearsing balanced programs, dealing with orchestral musicians and soloists, finding agents and managers, and hearing auditions. Attention is also paid to the role of the arts in schools and the impact of changes in marketing, and in recorded, visual, and online media on the profession. Excerpts from Slatkin’s own blog posts, which span from May 2020 to January 2021, consider how orchestras and other institutions are coping in light of the pandemic; responses from his audience add interest.
Though it has much practical value, Slatkin’s latest title isn’t a nuts-and-bolts guide to the conductor’s craft; rather it’s an informative, witty exploration of the role of maestros in developing their ensembles. It will appeal to anyone curious about classical music and those seeking to make careers in the performing arts.
Do we really need orchestras anymore? It’s questions like this one that Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra conductor laureate Leonard Slatkin poses in his newest book, Classical Crossroads. In it, Slatkin offers insights on how to solve the dilemmas facing classical music in the new millennium.
Leonard Slatkin has become one of the strongest writers we have about today's music world. This book is a real document in splendidly clear and lively prose. Notable is his perceptive and sobering analysis of what permanent changes in musical life we all might expect post-COVID.
Slatkin’s version of the 'new' American orchestra is one that looks more like 'us', plays more music written by 'us', and is led by more of 'us'. Classical Crossroads is chock full of real-world wisdom and is refreshingly hopeful, even optimistic, about the forces that will lead us to the next chapter in American music—a deep love of the musical arts themselves.
Leonard Slatkin has always been a most generous and sharing colleague. Classical Crossroads is truly an extension of his generosity, humor, insight, and immense experience. As a fellow American musician, Slatkin’s direct approach and honest appraisals, balanced with his humility and humor, resonate deeply with me.
Classical Crossroads is catnip for passionate fans of classical music who wish to know what really happens behind the scenes, how it’s all organized, and where it may be headed. Any professional or aspiring artist can learn from the wealth of knowledge laid out in these pages, often spiced with humane, wry humor.
Classical Crossroads delivers a stimulating discussion on an assortment of pertinent topics; however, the author’s experience as a music director does not necessarily lend itself to full-scale solutions for some of the more pressing issues of today. Several chapters are particularly helpful for relatively narrow subsets of readers, such as conductors and composers. Suggestions to arts administrators are also scattered here and there, which could spark ideas and plans for new initiatives. Ultimately, a lifetime of involvement in the orchestral industry has fine-tuned Slatkin’s intuition for many practical and artistic applications. While understanding that the issues facing orchestras are often more complex than presented, this book
should be read and enjoyed through the lens of respect for his contributions to the field. This book would make a worthy addition to any music library.
6/9/21, The New York Times: Read Leonard Slatkin’s Letter to the Editor about the future of American orchestras. Link: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/08/opinion/letters/racism-education.html
7/23/21: Author Leonard Slatkin discussed his book on The Carney Show.
9/12/21, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Leonard Slatkin was interviewed for a feature article about the release of his book.
9/15/21, HEC-TV (St. Louis.): Leonard Slatkin recorded an interview about the book.
7/28/22, Choice: This book was featured in a roundup of books recommended for community colleges.