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This is Isaac Stern. It is perhaps a little difficult for people to realize that one can talk about job security and art in the same measure but contrary to most experts most ideas artists and performers musicians and artists are human. They do have to live they do have to buy food and pay rent and raise families and they will have to live just like everybody else and not on hopes and promises and artistic ideas and a garrote that would only be at the end of the meeting century. Michigan State University radio presents the music makers. Today Isaac Stern is our guest in a series of conversations with prominent Americans whose art and business is music. Mr. Stern who is unquestionably one of the leading violinists of our time was born in Russia and brought to the United States by his parents in his second you hear. His music training began early and he made his debut as a guest artist with the San Francisco Symphony.
At age 11 he's performed in concerts all over the United States Europe South America Israel India the Soviet Union Australia Japan Iceland and elsewhere. His great concern for the Arts has been demonstrated on many occasions. He was largely responsible for rescuing Carnegie Hall from being raised and now serves as its president. With Isaac Stern is host for these conversations Pat Forde. Do you feel we're losing a great deal of talent each year because of inability to continue education or at least to continue our high quality education. In music. The problem is a little different. We have some very major weaknesses we have some strengths. The major weakness is that we have today and which are very serious for us concerned primarily the standard of teaching in primary and secondary schools.
The standard of of those whose responsibility it is to attend to the musical artistic cultural education of the young people is not always very high. They do they very often will not have that quality of personal excitement or awareness enough to be able to interest young minds in an in an exciting way to form them to understand the wondrous n'est of the art forms in relation to their personal lives. This is partly due to the fact that for a very large part of it is due I should think the fact that the school systems themselves do not consider. Art or cultural factors in education as being very important and relegated to the secondary teaching of perhaps the physical ed teacher or the or a mathematician who happens to have a record collection at
home or someone like that without realizing that as much as they need trained technicians in the sciences and in in the in history and in languages they need them even more in the arts because the arts are more diffuse and therefore need a higher trained complex of focused minds to be able to give direction to young minds. This to me is a very great weakness in our general setup. We do not generally speaking have proper education for young people except in isolated instances. There are several projects already underway and some others being planned I understand geared to introducing high school and even grade school music students to cover contemporary compositions contemporary composers and even having contemporary music performed. Oh yeah I grade school and high school musicians. Now this is certainly not the average situation this is very
particularized cases. This kind of program would not be possible unless very highly specialized trained people were leading the program. This they're doing out of self-defense because the actual school system does not provide that kind of technical training. What is a help is that school systems are beginning to realize that they will have to ask technical assistance from the professional field because they themselves do not have people proficiency enough to lead the education in those fields in the normal school system set up. One of the exciting factors of course is the enormous growth of music both in concert series and in music staffs and faculties at the universities. This has been the most important development in the United States in the last 20 years and to an extent because of the standards of universities because at the university level there is an exchange of knowledge amongst the universities that cannot exist at the lower levels of education
because of the. The state's control over their own primary and secondary educational systems where each state where a state will have to two states next to each other will have widely divergent standards and have no contact with one between the other as to what they are doing with the young with the people at the younger levels. Therefore to me the university is the key to our development in the United States and certainly it's the key in and other areas. The graduating student who has been exposed through the student student participation at concerts which is growing more and more in the United States through the through the willingness of universities to accept. Professional musicians who do not have degrees. The artist in residence in residence concept
means that these graduating students will come out in a very short time and become two things First of all they become parents and they will naturally want that much more for their children than they had but which they become acquainted with in the university. And secondly they become voters so that they can then begin to influence the direction of their local school systems and in fact the whole approach of the community in which they live towards the arts in general. The government got together with your university last summer and had a week long seminar including a great number of composers conductors musicians educators and so on to attack this problem of education in the in the school systems because one must remember the music educators themselves are in need of education from our professional point of view. Too often they will be willing to settle for book terminology book teaching teaching by rote and
teaching in standards which have no relationship to the enormous vitality that really exists in the music world today. And it would then follow naturally that the professional musicians who are interested not only in in their own careers but in the continuance of the art form which has served them well have a responsibility to get together and establish a procedural method by which these standards can be improved. Let me give you an example. This country went through a violent catharsis of reaction at the time of the first Russian Sputnik when our. Up until then completely blindly accepted leadership in all things technical was taken for granted. When this backwards and grammarian people suddenly came forward with technical accomplishments that were of the
first magnitude it was an immediate outcry. What's wrong with our educational system that we could have let this happen that we are not always ahead and their consequent became it became a great push for scientific and technical training. It was then discovered that the textbooks that were used in the high schools for example in physics were very very much outmoded and were not in fact preparing the students sufficiently for college courses to the point where the college professors and the experts in the field could take them and and create new strong material for research and for technical work. The National Science Foundation was established in Washington and one of its first acts was to give MIT Massachusetts Institute of Technology the job of examining and revamping the basic textbooks used in high schools throughout the country this was
done and it has proved to be an enormous success. They were completely updated and a lot of the old misconceptions thrown out. New techniques introduced understanding of modern developments put into forms that would be available to younger minds but in line with what they would have to learn as they went into college and university at the same time a series of seminars was established between high school teachers and ranking scientists to refresh the teachers themselves in summer courses so that when they went back to the classes they could bring the latest ideas in clear form to their students. Now we all know the result has been first rate. The same thing can be done in almost any field you want to mention. It is so easy to let lethargy and settle in and say well what was good enough the same things hold true in art is old and what was good 400 years ago is good today and so on. This isn't of course is patently untrue.
And I hope that eventually we can do the same thing in music. This conference that was held in Yale University last year posed some very intelligent and very probing problems and came to some very good conclusions. I'm not going to try to summarize it here because it's much too long and much too complex. But I will say that it was a step in the right direction. The American Federation of Musicians the organization of professional musicians has probably taken a step in the right direction with the Congress of strings. Yes which they attempt to to assist promising strategist lancing here during the summer. That's right. They come from all of the kind I know I know they have very good staff and other people and those are very good ideas and it's well worthwhile. It begs a little bit. The real problem which is the outlet for the student once he's trained because the money that he can earn today in a symphony orchestra still
not enough to encourage the parents to have the student spend 10 or 15 years just to learn how to adequately play a very fractious and difficult instrument and then not be able to earn a decent living. I think Stanley Ballard told me that the average pay for a symphony musician in this country is around $100 a week. This is averaged out of course this is not the top average I doubt I would say that average would almost be a little high. Could be because the averages are wrong. The districts in this case do not mean very much because if you have ten thousand people working and two hundred fifty are getting a very high salary a nine thousand seven hundred fifty or getting a low one and you then take an average which comes out of fairly decent means does that really doesn't mean anything to them to the majority. However I can say that this too is beginning to to to be ameliorated because the
Boston Symphony is virtually on a 52 week basis. The Philadelphia and Chicago orchestras will will be within. The Philadelphia Chicago and New York will virtually be on a 52 week basis within three years and naturally other offices will have to go a little more towards the longer seasons in their areas around the country. Apparently this is already having some backlash in the number of students who are entering the field because Peter meant in the now president of the Juilliard School said that they have had a 40 percent rise in string registration and number of students they've had more students in strings for this year than they've had in the past four or five which is again a sign because they are aware of the growing number of job securities. It is perhaps a little difficult for people to realize that one can talk about job security and art in the
same measure but contrary to most experts most ideas artists performers musicians and artists are human. They do have to live they do have to buy food and pay rent and raise families and they will have to live just like everybody else and not on hopes and promises and artistic ideas and I guarantee that at the end of the meeting century Well they probably they they can do this fairly well in the top seven or eight symphony orchestras in the country. But what about in the smaller cities that would tend to have some sort of cultural life for the symphony orchestra. What do they do I suppose that the whole thing behind this is that the usual method of financing a symphony orchestra. Well this is the major problem I think is more and more people are addressing themselves today. I still feel very strongly that the eventual answer lies in the smaller groups smaller cities getting together
the continuance of the voluntary contributions that are not always very voluntary but which contributed plus a certain amount of municipal county and state aid plus foundations and labor unions. Without counting on federal support which at this moment is not possible. It may be possible a few years hence but only as an added factor to that which has already been established by local initiative. Let us say that 80 percent of the money has been raised through various means locally and for another 20 percent the government might come in this would be something in the future. It would also be very helpful in fact in spreading the economic base would not allow any single group to have any control over the artistic merit and standing of the of the organization. There are many kinds of works of the major orchestras like the Boston Philadelphia New York Chicago
Cleveland with budgets of two million dollars or more than the Orks is like Washington Detroit and Pittsburgh. So our budget is perhaps a million dollars. We have twelve hundred fifty two offices in United States out of which about 900 60 are more or less what we call community orchestras where the butcher the baker the candlestick maker in the local local dentist and everybody else plays which is very very healthy because this personal participation is is the most interesting development and can always help the local scene what is necessary there however is the quality of the conductor because these workers play pretty much in in direct ratio to the competence and Suzi ASM of the conductor of the orchestra. And it is I think the leader who should be subsidized possibly by foundations. There are a lot of young Americans who do not have an outlet. And who need a training period and who have a who are who are capable and who do know music and who and who would be take part in community life
and could be a very effective. Development for the local town which could possibly be given by the foundation other with the conductor's salary and living standards paid for from the outside. But he works with a partially amateur or wholly ometer group in the city. How do we encourage. Composers and how do we get their works performed. Well I think the modern composer is doing relatively well at the moment. The long stepchild of music is getting a lot of friendly help from performers from or from from concert courses especially in the major centers and found a lot of foster uncles and aunts too.
To create a greater outlet and I think more and more the conductors are accepting new music. There are there have been enormous grants made for studies of electronic music and matter of fact there been some proposals made for a center to train musicians and teachers with composers to understand the new languages and in fact to try to separate the chaff from the wheat. Because in all. New experimental media there's a lot of tomfoolery going around that is not very accurate and there's very little apparatus to determine which is the honest direction which isn't as an abstract painting in a way very much so. I am not completely convinced. It is natural that I would not be convinced of the validity of electronic music because it eliminates the very basis of what I believe in the human being which to me is the necessary can comment into the making of music as a matter of fact I
recently heard. You undoubtedly heard tapes of electronic music with take machines and whistles and breakdowns of the sound of water and all kinds of noises that are not strictly musical sounds but are interesting noise phenomena in themselves and which can be made into a pattern of one kind or another and then control an allotropic machine. Well I heard the ultimate Not very long ago a recent composition by one of the leading of younger composers in the world. Employed a small box of about one hundred forty in a chorus for about three hundred eighteen soloists and machines and whatnot and a series of fragments. I listen to it very carefully with a growing sense of shock. Because what it eventually boiled down to if you could boil it down to any single factor was the employment of several hundred human beings to imitate a machine. The whole result was using voice as orchestra instruments to imitate the
effectiveness of what happens when you take a sound tape and break it down to its component parts. And here was the whole thing being done in reverse. And I'd hate to see music device develop along those lines. And yet I must in all honesty say that having been brought up on a different area of music and having had my own fights with various ideas and still do with some of the music that I play that I would be the first one to insist that their kind of experimentation be supported. And really honest efforts created to establish whether there is a true artistic direction rather than than the curiosity direction involved. No one can say for sure which way this will lead but at least we should make an honest attempt at it. Igor Stravinsky says in his his book that electronic music has opened up in numerable possibilities for composition but he says It's choice not possibility Well this is their this is their defense that the choice of sounds the choice
of the construction still remains in the hands of the human. I'm not sure where the choice really lies because you enter a series of limitations almost immediately but this is an arguable question which we won't go into here I think and I think it would involve technicalities that we should not enter into at this time. I'm going to take up too much more your time because this is your free period that you need so well it's a given but. I thought you might want to comment on our to recent statement that our Rubenstein made. He's he's charged that recording techniques have tended to homogenize the sound of a young pianist and then he says that since their technique is so impeccable that they are now beginning to all sound alike. You think that's true are we breeding conformity in. I don't think that's I don't I don't think that's true. This man is such a unique personality and so
strongly and individual is so magnificently and warmly and cherish oblivion and recognizably and honestly a person in his own right whether he is talking playing writing reading eating whatever he is this is a unique man that his feelings about personality would be very strong. It is true that with every generation the technical approach becomes better and better what passed for acceptable literature and repertoire 50 years ago would be laughed at today youngster going on the stage for the first time today is expected to know and play properly. What the great masters only reached after 30 40 years of working 50 years ago. But if you don't create personality you don't teach it you don't learn it. This is something within the individual.
What comes out of a very high standard of excellence in terms of knowledge and technical approach creates a rich earth on which all these personalities can grow and blossom as a flower will in the midst of a garden of weeds. But I'm not into regular weeds I'm saying that I should put it differently in a in the car garden of weeds you will not have a flower but a beautifully rich purse. A lawn that has been tended and has the best qualities of of water and fertilizer and all the. And sunlight and care will breed eventually a beautiful flower when we are increasing is the fertility of the art field from which the greater personalities will come. Well put. And we sometimes tend to to forget that we when we look at things close up
in our own time. We we always look to another period as having been richer because we take the two or three figures out of that period that have attracted us. But if you begin to think we think we say the twentieth century in composing for example. And try to compare to the great middle European era eras of the 18th 19th centuries particularly the 19th century. Well when you think on a calendar if you take the 20th century as beginning in 1900 and you think that we have had in our time we consider them now classical masters. But we have had Richard Strauss. So Bell is dead you see Raphael Stravinsky Hindemith just took over each pre-coffee of these are only the few we are living in a very rich time that can hold its own in terms of accepted masters of the craft
with almost any period. We forget too that there are swings. There are more pianists today than violinists of great renown there was a time when there were more violinists around to happen to be more cellists today than ever in existence. The great voices there are more high voices high standard voices today perhaps less of the great powerful personalities except in one or two cases. And yet again the standard is becoming higher and higher so that the the ability of Lunda stand out from such a standard becomes much more difficult. So the one that will stand out will be in relation to his time far greater than he would have been 50 years ago. Well some of the voice we have today would have been called the great voices of the past or the great pianists of the great violinists of the past. But our standards grow. Therefore it becomes more difficult for the individual to stand out of this great height of excellence. And hindsight is always easier to use and we can always a much surer in Dance magazine
for December of last year this is me approach this. There was a little eulogy of John Fitzgerald Kennedy and. It said one thing in commenting on the impact of his administration said for the first time the nation is beginning to understand that the creative spirit is essential to its vitality. The artist is today on the way to becoming a first class citizen. That's an interesting comment because sometimes the beating that the artist as had taken view of you know Philistine characteristic of a certain segment of the population or whatever Well no the reason is because for many there there are economic and historical and social reasons for this in the United States. Music was after all brought in here by a wealthy class imported as a luxury from Europe and it had been considered for a very long time and still is largely falsely considered as an adornment to living rather than the basic need to. We also still suffer a bit from
our inheritance of a puritanical nature where anything enjoyable was not quite right. Slightly non-male. And definitely not American. This is changing rapidly. The musician except in certain star instances is in the OR normal course of the working musician in the orchestra in the ARP and so forth. The ballet is not as yet completely a first class citizen it is true if not first class. First of all economically and that's the main thing. But there has been so much talk about it and there is so much being attempted to do to find the role to place the musician to have society realize that its responsibility in music is not to the musician but to society itself. That is a recognition of the United States of its own maturity as a civilization that has nothing to do with supporting the arts for the sake of the arts but for the sake of the other face that
we as the United States must have honestly before the world. All this ferment that is going on about it can only be so if there is a basis of recognition that this in fact is needed and that recognition is here now and I'm sure that as a result of this we can with intelligence and with cooperation with the development of plans that are being discussed on many sides today both in government and out that we have every opportunity at this moment of foreseeing in the next 25 years a golden artistic era in the United States. That was Isaac Stern today's guest on the music makers a series of conversations with prominent Americans whose art and business is music host for these conversations is Pat Forde. This is can be chill or inviting you to be with us again next week for a conversation with Robert Whitney and Norman Isaacs. These programs are produced by Pat Ford at Michigan State University Radio under a grant from the national educational radio. This is the national educational radio
The music makers
Isaac Stern
Producing Organization
Michigan State University
WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program focuses on violinist Isaac Stern.
Series Description
Distinguished Americans discuss their profession of music, from composition to criticism; the business of music and its current place in our national culture.
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Interviewee: Stern, Isaac, 1920-2001
Interviewer: Smyth, Henry De Wolf, 1898-1986
Producer: Ford, Pat
Producing Organization: Michigan State University
Producing Organization: WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 66-6-2 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:37
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Chicago: “The music makers; Isaac Stern,” 1965-11-16, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 19, 2024,
MLA: “The music makers; Isaac Stern.” 1965-11-16. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 19, 2024. <>.
APA: The music makers; Isaac Stern. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from