The music makers; Peter Mennin
This is Peter Menin I'm afraid. And quite an extraordinary number of cases that the content of the music goes by the wayside because they are much more concerned. And how do you approach this piece with a student method methodology. We've been all talking about it and it's no longer not hunger a new subject. And it's even gotten to be quite a bore. But the fact of the matter is that it remains and it continues to exist in and preference in general to content meaning the specific quality of the music that is being studied. Michigan State University radio presents the music makers. Today Peter Menin as our guest in this series of conversations with prominent Americans whose art and business is music. Mr. men's contributions to his art have been made in the areas of education and composition. His early training
was received at Oberlin and the Eastman School. He studied composition with Howard Henson and conducting with Serge Koussevitzky. Mr Menand taught composition at Juilliard from nine hundred forty seven to nine hundred fifty eight was director of the Peabody Conservatory from nine hundred fifty eight to nine hundred sixty two. And in that year he became president of the Juilliard School. He's received awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Guggenheim Foundation was given the first Gershwin Memorial Award and has received a number of other honors. His compositions include six symphonies concertos for violin piano and cello and many chamber works with Peter man and his host were these conversations packed forward. Mr. Man I wonder if you would briefly define for us the activities of the Juilliard School of Music as a training ground for future and professional musicians. The Juilliard School is a professional school and it is committed to the
idea of preparing the professional musician far a career. Once he leaves the Juilliard School of Music This presupposes auditions not only for entrance but year by year the student is given further auditions to see whether growth sufficient growth has been attained so that by the fourth or fifth year depending on his pursuit is ready to graduate. In other words the onus is on the student to continue to grow. Once he is here we do have a great number of performing organizations that give the students scope to advance to become experienced in the Arcus recital chamber music. Opera so that there are all the professional organizations that. He would need far less growth. We get the bachelor's and master's degrees we have not gone into the doctoral program.
Regardless of your ostensible aims of providing professional musicians for the society there are a number of Juilliard graduates who ended up in positions of in educational institutions am I not right. Yes a quite a few As a matter of fact. Many more than one would think the differences when we talk of education. Are we talking of education for the high schools or the great schools our education and preparation of teachers for the colleges universities and conservatories a Music Education Department prepares people primarily for the primary and secondary levels and not the college and university. Our people are prepared far higher level of teaching positions for instance Julliard has no music education department so that we are not prepared to train the elementary and high school teacher. This is not our aim. Our aim is to first of all teach music the best that
we know how and to make professional musical thinkers out of all of our students. They in turn. Some find that they continue on careers both in orchestras and or concerts but then also find that they would enjoy teaching but at a level that is exciting to them. And so if a position opens up such as a violin teacher or a composition teacher or a piano teacher at one of the colleges or universities they are prepared at this level to go into the position. We don't have any courses that prepare them for a pedagogy in the strict sense of the word pedagogy of teaching. As a matter of fact this is one of the great crises of the last decade. A few decades or so that so much time has been spent towards pedagogy that the content of the music has been ignored. It's pretty important isn't it the kind of teaching that we have going on on the lower levels in the
elementary and secondary schools because this of course is where your people in the end come from. And if we accept the fact that we have greater leisure in our society now and there is at least the opportunity for appreciation of music and the arts generally by a larger segment of the population I guess is pretty important and the kind of training that our music people get in the lower grades it's of great importance of absolutely vast importance and a great deal the deal of it is not very good. Your question is very important from a number of areas. One is that. One of the great crying needs of our country is that at the very beginning music is taught as a real discipline not as something that the youngsters will go into just for fun. I know that this attitude has been stressed and thank god has become outmoded as an attitude that music is more than fun.
An experience in depth and should be treated as such from the beginning. We see so many people who instinctively come to Juilliard for auditions who are. Very musical. As a matter fact are very exciting the musical and in many cases especially the strains or perhaps even piano have been badly taught in the earlier stages so that nothing we could do really would change the physical and muscular problems that they have inherited over the years. And no matter how musical they are we know they'll never be first class violinists and to me this is the crying and tragic shame of it all is that the very musical people very often through bad teaching are heard permanently and therefore this music education. Element of music is not only important it's greatly important. We couldn't stress that enough. What are we doing about it or what can be done about it.
Well. That too is a very difficult question. All we can. I'm afraid not enough people are doing enough about it. There are enough people who are concerned about it but this is not a overall pattern. It's simply that music the content of music and the discipline of music has to be started as a discipline just as anything else of any importance as in the earliest stages and in the musical school systems we can't have zippers and various toys. As so-called entrée to music because the child is not so childish meaning that you can start a child on a element of music that is absolutely. Without foundation or discipline and then expect him to learn to better things. I think a sense of discipline has to be started from the beginning. This of course makes the teacher's problem much more difficult because he has to stimulate an interest in the valuable things. It's much easier to stimulate
an interest in the earlier days through toys and games of course. But this is one of the areas that I think is quite serious. The number of. People interested in music these days has vastly increased. In other words the the base of music has spread out. More people are involved but the quality at the top is not improved proportionately at all. Your earlier statement for instance in a future there will be more leisure from for man since there will be shorter working hours and consequently. It is expected that they will be more interested in the performing arts or in cultural pursuits. I'm absolutely convinced this is not true Markheim doesn't mean that they'll be better prepared to understand and support the arts. The only way people will support the arts or become interested in the arts is by having a certain amount of background and information that makes them become interested in all the arts the performing arts. Are somewhat.
Intellectual pursuits as well as emotional. Involvement and just going to a concert. The way one goes to a picture show entertainment it is not the same. The performing arts require background and interest and a certain amount of work from the individual so that at least your persay is not going to be an answer. Preparation for that leisure is we only end up with more people of the old cartoon prototype of a husband in formal attire snoring at the opera or something. I'm sorry to say this might happen. Well this ultimately I suppose the sugar coating as you mention that kind of goes on in the earlier grades probably is another product of. We have to say poor teaching on the lower levels in order to get the right kind of of background in music or in any other discipline you have to have strong teaching. Yes those very earliest levels and that's the level that is perhaps the most difficult
because it requires not only a high low level of musicianship and ability but a high level of dedication on the part of the teacher which also means and implies patience which all of us don't have. But this is the only antidote to the poor teaching that has been going on. When I say poor teaching going on of course I it's not a completely sweeping statement there are always these wonderful exceptions. Otherwise we wouldn't have the people that we do have here at Juilliard if there were not those exceptions. But the percentage of fine teaching in comparison with the percentage of bad teaching is quite extraordinary. Do you think we have to back up well I'm sure we do one step too. Where did the teachers come from. In other words a kind of music education that's going on in our universities and colleges throughout the country and here again I'm not indicting I'm not asking you to indict in a blanket way but somewhere along the line we
gone astray in the kind of people that we have been educating to teach in the secondary and elementary schools heavenly. Yes I think I don't blame the people themselves quite as much as. Somebody quite aptly has called it curriculum tinkering. Meaning that every now and then one has to improve the curriculum and that improvement usually is in the area of how much teaching how better to reach the student how better to involve a student who normally would not be interested in music rather than the student who is interested. How do we teach him best in other words instead of worrying about numbers of students. We must come to a point where we care about those who are already interested in giving them a much better education. I don't think we should be put any longer in the position of encouraging more and more people and music at the expense of those who are already interested and have
shown an aptitude. These people must be encouraged right from the beginning and I'm afraid these are the ones that are. Somewhat neglected when it comes to or actually from the standpoint of what do these teachers have and absorbed during their years of study at a school. And I'm afraid. And quite an extraordinary number of cases that the content of the music goes by the wayside because they are much more concerned. And how do you approach this piece with a student and very obvious method methodology. We've been all talking about it and it's no longer no longer a new subject. And it's even gotten to be quite a bore. But the fact of the matter is that it remains and it continues to exist in and preference in general to content meaning the specific quality of the music that is being studied. There are some projects Mr. men in that you know of and that are going on right now in our plan for the future that will
help in some way this whole problem of elementary and secondary and even on the undergraduate level and colleges as far as preparing people for the lower levels of music education. Could you tell us about some of these by you might start with a Juilliard project that you're involved in with a Ford Foundation. No actually that's another one involving young American composers. Now we are just at the moment concluding some arrangements with the Office of Education in which the Juilliard School through a period of two and a half and then another two and a half period of years will try to encourage new music as well as the great music of the past as a repertory project for the elementary schools and the great schools and finally the high schools and make this music available to every high school and grade school an elementary school in the country through a public publication project so that all
of the teachers that are truly interested in content in it. Projecting and teaching the highest level of music there is for that specific level of training We'll have music available to them and if bad teaching goes on after this then it really means that the teacher doesn't want to teach anything good. But we are trying to make this available over the next period of two and a half to five years so that the elementary level of teaching can be improved through the content of the music that is being taught. We will have some of the best. Music Educators in the country who will also be of assistance to us in terms of difficulty and appropriateness of material but in no case will there be a. Problem of the quality because we're just going to present the best and hope that teachers will fall in line with wanting to do this. To give you a word of explanation on this. We have a number of
experts who will run will for instance take the field of early music up to Baroque music. Another will take baroque music and another classic music romantic music through the contemporary. And will search out the best music of this particular period and then present it to their colleagues for further evaluation. And some of the names I think are virtually a Who's Who in America. Since we're not completely concluded I'm not at all sure I should mention the names but. They are people of the highest level which all of us respect and have a deep involvement with the teaching. Of music in our country. There is this other Ford Foundation project that is about three years old in which young American composers are assigned through the project to specific school systems. They in turn are available to any high school in that area to write music for perhaps a choral group a bang group an orchestra group or a
chamber music group at the request of the superintendent or the leaders of the musical community in terms of that particular school system and they reside there for at least one year. At. At the encouragement of the school system and provide music for the occasions that are required at the time so that the young people realize that the composer is something alive functioning and willing to participate in their activities and they in turn should be able to participate in the creative activities of the composer so that the creativity of music is not something that. Is regarded through a peculiar end of the lens but something that is absolutely necessary and vital to the community and to the stimulation of music is the foundation fully and on this program. I believe the first two or three years they are fully in doubt. The program now becomes a cooperative and a mannish ng.
I'm afraid so this. This means that this means that the communities are going to have to say yes we're interested in an admission of the arts in our community exactly but it's such a small amount that it's not and in no cases is it large so that it becomes a real factor. It's like I assume the main reason for not doing this on a continuing basis is to see whether the community after they've had a taste of one or two or three years are still interested in this kind of a project and are willing to get X number of dollars to continue it. The foundation continues to support primarily the people involved and the costs. But if at the end of this period there is no further interest. Even though it's just a few dollars then it's obvious that the community has no interest. So when we're talking about increasing their stature and a broadening the base of the arts in this country we're talking in effect about more money. Do you see the
foundations playing an increasingly important part in the general culture of development in the country and particularly in the area of music. I believe that it is inevitable that the foundation will continue to support the arts in. And actually increase their support because as time goes on. The amounts of money that they do have. Will increase by the very virtue that the government has is stepping into the sciences and the mathematics and are encouraging more of the universities to participate through government projects with sleeves each year almost a little bit more and more money for the Arts and Humanities. And given given the same rate of returns on their endowment it seems quite. Logical that there will be more money for the arts as a matter of fact I think that with time going on
the arts will become a major responsibility of the foundations. It doesn't seem to be any other way. How do you react at the participation of the federal government. The participation of the federal government this. There's the ancient. Question. When government gets involved with the arts does it canna do so without involving certain restrictions to these particular grants. As a musician I would resent any artistic interference from anybody because no politician knows as much as the professionals. And in terms of the education of the young artist by the same token I do agree with the. Tenet that. Anybody of ability should have the opportunity to further develop their abilities. Whether it's through government support or foundation support or through the support of the school to which he will be studying. I think our great waste is the lack of encouragement of proper and
talent they must have these opportunities whether it's through the government I don't know. I would love to have the guarantees that when the government does step and that the restrictions do not go along with it because very often I could name x number of projects and I will not because I don't want to be specific in which there are certain encouragements. To study in which the restrictions are present and I feel there are a number of organizations that have done a much better job with much less money. So it isn't always the economic support that is the most valuable but the art in the case of music and the performing arts. What degree of freedom for development does the individual have. Now with this freedom of course come some unusual experiments which very often prove to be fruitless but without them we wouldn't have the encouragement or the development of the others. Art is not science and it can't be treated as such.
There are many vaguer areas in the world of the arts but without this absolute freedom we won't have the continuing development which I think in our country is quite extraordinary. I could give you a very good example with the Soviet Union who do a very good job in the performing arts whether it's in playing the violin the cello the piano but who automatically do a very poor job in the creative arts because the composer there cannot always write exactly what he wants and in so doing is encouraged to write a kind of bland music which may be acceptable to all but perhaps which stirs nobody in particular. So that. I would always resent any artistic interference from any source. I'm just a man in a eulogy the late John Fitzgerald Kennedy in Dance Magazine December of 1963. There was a brief discussion about the role that our late president had played in a
development of the culture in this country and they concluded that 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 in your judgment. Is this a fact. We talk about the Cultural Revolution. Is there a cultural revolution or is this somewhat misleading. No I think there is a cultural evolution rather than revolution. And I feel that the creative artist has always been a first class citizen it's simply that the rest of the citizenry is finally catching up. This this is the point that of course. Yes. Meaning that I do think that there is a greater awareness of the importance of the artist in his society and the contribution that he really makes. I also think that the country is slowly beginning to realize that the creative artist as one of their greatest national products. And this is nothing new of course but it
is new for our country. So no I agree that there is a very slow but definite cultural evolution in our country. This is the kind of thing you were talking about earlier in our discussion Mr not on the fact that you really have to create an awareness and understanding of the arts on the lower level whether you're doing this in music students or whatever and in late President Kennedy we had an example of a person who was appreciative and had an understanding of the arts and by virtue of his recognition then of course I think probably more recognition came to artists in this country during his administration then and perhaps in the previous 25 years. I'm not at all sure he really had an understanding of all the arts but he did have a respect for them and I think this is. And I think this is just as great as unawareness or anything else because no one person can understand all the arts equally well or even in different degrees. But I think there's a basic respect of the importance of the arts that creates a proper climate. And this he did
give. Would you like to comment at all upon they. The best expression I can think of is a popularisation of the arts and I'm speaking specifically of music here through recordings. Now the merchandising of concert music has become a big industry in this country and I wonder if they're if they actual acquisition by great numbers of people of certain things such as the Van Cliburn first piano concerto of Tchaikovsky which has sold well a million copies or something like this. Are we developing a kind of of hero worship in serious music. I don't think that we are developing a hero worship of the artist yet. I'm not at all sure this is good if it did happen because it would happen for the wrong reasons. It's not based on ability. As a pianist in Van Cliburn is case though he is a fine artist. But it was his trip to Russia and
the bear hug of Mr. Khrushchev that helped. This is the wrong reason. The real reason should have been and now may be the fact that he is a first class artist and this is the reason. But that presupposes that the people in our country know that he or artists of his level are people to be respected because of their ability. When we develop a national hero in the performing arts without having to go abroad then I think we will be truly advanced and. The artist in turn will respect the audience because then it will be based on ability within the framework of that specific art and not around things non artistic. One could say that some of the elements are quasi political rather than artistic. Now we will be growing up as a nation or any nation in Europe. Had
they had same problem when we have our heroes based on the quality of their product and in the case of a pianist as its as performance in a case of a violinist its performance in case of a composer it's his creativity. So when we make heroes out of these kinds of people then I think we are truly educated and culturally minded. We are at least providing greater exposure for our artists and creators today than when we've had an opportunity to do in the past. Certainly the recording. Yes through the recording interesting. Also every now and then those of us who are so deeply involved in a day by day. You seem to be carping about the slow progress but if we just think in terms of 35 years ago or 50 years ago and compared to what is happening now I think all of us will be quite happy. But instead of making these occasional comparisons we like to think of what happened last year and what's going to happen next year. And I think it's only by thinking in sort terms that those of us who are involved will
push it forward a little faster rather than sit back and say well in another 35 years it will be that much better. Now we've made quite enormous and extraordinary progress over a period of time. I do see wonderful things ahead both in performance I see already that we have in our country about five of the greatest orchestras in the world at least there are not there. The continent of Europe does not boast of five such major orchestras as we have. We have some of the greatest young performers coming about in piano in violin and we have perhaps in many ways the most vital creative group of young people anywhere in existence today. No I think I see our country right at the moment as at the beginning of an extremely vital and highly creative period of our our period and development. That was Peter men and today's guest on the music makers a series of
- The music makers
- Peter Mennin
- Producing Organization
- Michigan State University
- WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-qv3c3t9x).
- This program focuses on composer Peter Mennin.
- Distinguished Americans discuss their profession of music, from composition to criticism; the business of music and its current place in our national culture.
- Media type
Interviewee: Mennin, Peter
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: 66-6-8 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
- Chicago: “The music makers; Peter Mennin,” 1966-01-31, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed January 26, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-qv3c3t9x.
- MLA: “The music makers; Peter Mennin.” 1966-01-31. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. January 26, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-qv3c3t9x>.
- APA: The music makers; Peter Mennin. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-qv3c3t9x