And now, as promised, a Blog About Blame.
Okay, two weeks ago I wrote that post about overreaching, and it generated a small but healthy discussion that I very much enjoyed, so I thought I’d try to stretch that. Whatever, I do what I want.
Today’s topic at hand is quasi-related, as it again deals with poor performances and poor ensembles. My question is: if the concert is bad, who is at fault?
My high school orchestra teacher once asked us this question, and then strongly averred that the blame lies with the director. It is the job of the director to select music that is suited to the group, to teach it to said group effectively, to motivate the musicians to want to succeed, and to light a fire under the butts of those who are not performing to the best of their ability.
However, as everyone likes to lament when talking about the state of our educational systems, there is only so much you can do with a student (formal or otherwise) who simply is not there to learn. The music director cannot be expected to follow every musician home and personally ensure that they both practice and practice properly.
Therefore, who is at fault in the case of a poor performance? The music director for bungling the handling of the group, or the musicians for being unable or unwilling to rise to the challenge? And I don’t want any of that namby-pamby “it’s all about the experience!” “Every performance is a success!” crap. Don’t lie. You can debate it all you like – I too tend to see every situation in shades of gray – but I want you to come down on one side or the other.
Me? I come down on the side of pinning the blame on the music director (I know, I’m really currying their favor lately, aren’t I?). In the words of Horace Mann: “A teacher who is attempting to teach without inspiring the pupil with a desire to learn is hammering on a cold iron.”
Is it entirely fair? No. I can only imagine the hell a large group of uninterested musicians would create. But that is, in the most literal sense, the music director’s problem. If the creation of music required no leader, and if the implications of the term “leadership” required no real, well, leadership, what would the music director be for?
All right, go ahead. Rip me a new one.