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Sex, Academia, and Rock n' Roll

Let's talk about... Sex! just a second. But first,...

Let's talk about.... Academia!

Academia touts the value and depth of art, and does a pretty decent job teaching the difference between it and entertainment, if I do say so myself.

Art vs. Entertainment

Heck, I spent every cent I had (and didn't have) just to fill myself with as much of this literature as possible. And man, Western Art Music is amazing. Profoundly something. I love those wacky, white, male, deceased composers as much as anyone. Sincerely, these rascals wrote some Good Art Music.

Irreverent Mozart

But it raises an interesting question... Did hundreds of years of attrition do the hard work of discerning musical quality for us, or are we learning discernment skills for our own selves? And who, exactly, determines what art is? Who determines what is and is not worthy enough [or lofty enough] to be taught? Who determines from which musical genres art can come from? Was it you, Academia? <stares at the peanut gallery in the back row from over reading glasses>

Female Professor with Reading Glasses

Let's talk about... Rock n' Roll!

Are you a professional musician? Wanna eat? Gotta be versatile. Put away that book of 24 Italian Arias and take out the Ultimate Fake Book for that upcoming gig. That is, if you're lucky enough to have a paying music gig. Now, academia didn't prepare us to read chord charts. In the quest for musical literacy and classical repertoire, academia trains every last rote-playing instinct out of you. Music students spend years learning to regurgitate notes on the page only to discover that we've divorced ourselves from our own ear and intuition. It took an awfully long time for me to reconnect those dots, so to speak.

Sheet music is not "music:" it is the map to a destination of music. Map-reading is both freeing and constraining at the same time. We get this illusion of independence. We like the feeling of not needing to hear someone else's performance. We strive to "lift the music off the page" the way [we think] the composer intended it before the advent of recordings. Yet, we quibble with other academics about the "right" way to interpret sheet music while the rock n' rollers learn to listen and play together nicely. Music is, at its core, social. Who's got an advantage here?

Classically trained musicians are secretly singing broadway or are in grammy-award winning non-classical bands... or, in my case, are having an absolute ball with friends in my basement and garage while Mozart rolls over in his grave. Well, Beethoven might be rolling over, but I don't actually think Mozart is. I've read his letters, and I'd like to think he'd be jamming at my house too if he were still around. So what gives, Academia? What's good enough for Mozart isn't quite good enough for our students? We can only learn about him, but we can't do what he did? Are you afraid we might have a little bit of fun without you?

This year, I accidentally set out on a mission to learn how to belt without damaging myself. Sheepishly, I started researching and experimenting, hoping no one would take back my music degree. I worried someone might find out and tell me I am no longer qualified to advise anyone on vocal health if I was going to engage in such risky behavior myself. I felt like a hypocrite. But, then shrugged and decided to go ahead and see if it could be done safely.

A few trusted voice-teacher friends were gracious in suggesting several great vocal pedagogues as a starting point for healthy belting. Google revealed the most interesting result by far-- the ever-charismatic, my-goodness-how-can-he-even-talk-after-doing-that Ken Tamplin and his well-marketed, confidently priced vocal academy. The amazing skillset of Gabriela Gunčíková, his star pupil, endorses him. [Disclaimer: the presence of this video here doesn't indicate that I endorse these vocal techniques (frankly, the jury is still out). I'm intrigued-- these people sing a huge variety of colors and still manage to speak the next day.]

Vocal damage might not be a given for belters, and academia might be wrong about this! <gasp> We might even have a little fun. Hey professionals, what happened to music for fun!? Where is levity? Irreverence, even?

Let's talk about... Sex! I once asked a former boyfriend who ended up in an open marriage about how the whole arrangement worked and why he was doing it. He said-- "Making love with my wife is like having a fillet mignon for dinner, and with someone else it's like having a cheeseburger. There's simply no comparison. ...but... sometimes you just want a cheeseburger." I wondered... What about the world's greatest steak houses? Steak houses are the greatest places in the world to get a great cheeseburger! Why not go to a restaurant with a better menu instead of crossing the street from one restaurant to another? How about some more options-- adventure, playfulness, profundity, depth... the whole scope of human experience?

Bringing this whole sex and steak and cheeseburgers discussion back to "art vs. entertainment" and the role of academia; couldn't ...nay, SHOULDN'T...academia be cultivating the world's greatest steak houses of music!? Why can't classically trained musicians have a profound versatility in art, entertainment, seriousness, levity, Broadway, Country, Jazz, and Rock n' Roll? Doesn't this fully mirror the variety people are hungry for? And isn't the human experience what collaborative music-making is all about? Why are music students only being taught to offer fillet mignon when sometimes we just want to have a cheeseburger!? [Is the real reason because Academia doesn't know how to expand its menu or discern musical quality for itself?]

So Academia, just exactly what kind of musical professionals are we aiming to train up here? And what exactly would we like our educated musicians to know how to do once they're fully utilizing their musical skills with other people? Do we just want to train up professionals who do it *to* them and not *with* them? And then ask them to pay us for it?

As the saying goes... sex and music are too important to be left to the professionals.

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