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As We Are Five

As this issue goes to press, MadAminA! and its publisher, Music Associates of America, mark their fifth birthday. It has been an exciting infancy and, just like most youngsters, we are learning and also eager to be of use. The institutions and individuals with whom we are associated grow in number and the areas entrusted to us deepen.

Elsewhere in these pages [p.22] is a partial index of subject matter which has been covered in our semiannual journal. From it one may get an idea of the broad scope which interests us and, we hope, our readers. What makes our periodical unusual is its broad-based readership whose only common denominator is an involvement in music. To us it is especially rewarding to find MadAminA! catalogued in music libraries all over the country, or the ideas it contains somehow reflected in the musical climate of our time.

Take a single issue of The New York Times, for Tuesday, December 4, 1984. In it one reads some provoking (and disturbing) remarks by the president of the New School for Social Research, Dr. Jonathan F. Fanton, on the meaning of an educated person. "Many people," says Dr. Fanton, "are not comfortable with the complexities and ambiguities of the modern world. Education isn't something that happens once. To be a truly educated person you have to keep working on it. You have to keep up."

In the same issue, there is an article by Harold C. Schonberg on Isaac Stem. The Pulitzer Prize-winning music critic does not review a concert or recording, but chooses to assess an artist who, in addition to being "the dean of American violinists," has also been a catalyst to keeping the standards of an entire art as high as they can be. Stern has served music by performing, recording, and commissioning new works, by helping to save Carnegie Hall, and by working with the National Endowment for the Arts and other groups committed to the dissemination of the arts. In 1984, he was honored by the President at Kennedy Center and by Columbia Records for whom he has recorded for 40 uninterrupted years. Now he is anxious to establish an institute for advanced performance at Carnegie Hall to bring about a mix of gifted young performers and experienced professionals. He feels that "too many talented young musicians have been pushed in the wrong direction, that they are too busy, too competitive, too interested in their own careers."

On the very same page, there is an article under the headline "More Americans Attend the Arts" which gives the results of a Louis Harris poll purporting to analyze our habits and attitudes towards the arts. At a news conference, Louis Harris stated: "The basic news is that live attendance at arts presentations continues to grow, despite the fact that many have proclaimed that ours has become a culture dominated by the electronic media, especially television. The arts are a real, positive thing in a time when all you have is bad news and stress." Most revealing are the poll's reports concerning the number of Americans personally involved in the arts. Eighty million people say they are "seriously involved" in photography as a leisure time pursuit; 75 million do needlework and other handwork; 53 million play a musical instrument; 50 million paint or draw; and 43 million write stories or poems.

The education column in that single day's Times has a piece on the misunderstanding of classical music by schoolchildren, as demonstrated by an informal survey conducted by the Association for Classical Music. The article contains the testimony of a number of professionals who paint a bleak picture. "In the New York City public schools there is no real program of music that starts uniformly in the earliest grades and goes all the way through high school," Marcia Friedmutter, director of the cultural arts unit of the school system's Division of Curriculum and Instruction, said. And acting assistant director of music education Herbert S. Gardner admitted that "the situation in the high schools is fairly grim." A more hopeful note was struck by Paul R. Lehman, president of the Music Educators National Conference and associate dean for graduate studies at the University of Michigan's School of Music: "I hope that the new obsession with excellence and the interest in standards and quality will spread beyond English, mathematics and science to include music programs." The columnist's most optimistic data lay in the article's conclusion, a description of the groundbreaking work being done by the Lincoln Center Institute in New York City. The Institute's director, Mark Schubart, is quoted: "If we develop a larger audience for classical music it is a dividend, but that is not the goal. You don't teach kids to read in order to sell books. They learn to read and then decide what to read. It should be the same in music. We should create musical literacy so that they can make choices."

What place do these seemingly unrelated thoughts have in an editorial? Only that we have expressed our own concern for these self-same ideas in the pages of MadAminA! over the past five years. We feel a great kinship with all those who, as professionals or amateurs, as music makers, players, and lovers, devote a significant part of their time and energies in perpetuating what Thomas Jefferson called "a delightful recreation which lasts us through life."

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