Being famous

February 2, 2007

Fame is a bee.
It has a song—
It has a sting—
Ah, too, it has a wing.

— Emily Dickinson

It seems there is an unspoken pressure in the education of young musicians to be “world famous.” In the mind of the masses, a classical musician wears a tuxedo, is male, has longish, tousled white (grey) hair, and is likely a composite of Leopold Stokowski, Arturo Toscanini and Arthur Fiedler. America has long had an inferiority complex about its classical musicians and music, sadly lasting to today, assuming that the only “real” composers, musicians, and conductors come from Europe, and nowadays from Finland.

I like to tell my students to not worry about being world famous. Bach wasn’t world famous in his day, nor were many of the “great” classical composers. They were known in their own country, and sometimes known in the major European cities that fostered classical music, but rarely were they truly “world famous.” They are only world famous now that our music history books have made them so.

In my humble opinion, to have a musical community to which you contribute and belong is tremendously satisfying, whether it be in Oshkosh or Vienna. If you want to touch the world with your talents, follow your passion and start with your own world first.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

arturus February 2, 2007 at 2:03 pm

I agree, and love the Dickinson quote. I think Toscanini would agree, too, though from his letters he did enjoy the freedom and money fame provided for him. Stokowski, I think, wouldn’t agree. He relished being famous too much!

Previous post:

Next post: