Note: Read the original article here. If you can find what's wrong with it, let me know.
You can probably tell from looking at the URL to this post, that I've changed the title, and with it, the content. This is because the original post that challenged snobbery in the arts, particularly those few self-centred individuals of the classical music world, whether they be listeners or performers or what have you (because I wanted to keep the article under a dozen pages and focused only on one subgroup of the arts) received so much hatred that I feel I need to update the link to the post so that all those who disregarded my writing or missed it entirely can figure out what went wrong, and to address a very serious issue that came about in the aftermath of it.
I retold and quoted a story about an encounter I had on a piano forum (that I will keep nameless for their sake, just as I did in the original post) where a young woman was hired to be an accompanist for a pop styled performance and I gave her some advice on keeping track of the accompaniment part. My advice was to write out chord symbols over each measure either as letter based chords (such as E-flat) or, ideally in the Nashville style in case any of the vocalists she was working with needed the work transposed (so if the key is in E-flat, the first chord would be written as "1", the Ab as "4" and the B-flat with a D root as "5/7" etc.)
This is something I learned doing accompaniment work in my late teens when the MD I was working with demanded that the key for one song be changed so it would fit his saxophone part better, even though the singer couldn't work in any key other than E-major, the key of the piece (not a trained singer, wasn't a major show, huge amount of trouble including legally with that MD, not worth talking about him). By using this sort of system, if you have the need to change the key it makes it much easier to adapt the accompaniment to any key over going through the song and rewriting the letter chord symbols or trying to do it in your head live. This is why it's the preferred method for session musicians in Nashville (hence the name) and also goes by the West Coast System from the session scene in Los Angeles.
Anyway, after I made this point, and the original poster was happy with a solution that made learning nearly two dozen pieces easier on herself, another user chimed in stating that I was being "foolish" because that is no way to approach classical music accompaniment. Never mind that the music we were discussing wasn't classical at all, but pop and show tunes, he had to get that sample of traditional classical music snobbery going and hijacked the thread about why classical music is better, why the composer's notation is flawless and why the performer should always adhere unquestioningly to the written note.
Because this went off point, I decided to try something. I asked this thread hijacker if he would ever consider even the notion of trying this sort of accompaniment technique. He scoffed at it and said it would never work for something like a Beethoven violin sonata and that any sort of reduction to "simple fake book chords" would be "blasphemy" to the composers who know best.
Wanting to challenge his snobby attitude, something the other posters in the thread were quickly growing tired of putting up with, I proposed that maybe he try analyzing the harmony in Beethoven's first violin sonata, writing chord symbols for it just to dig deeper into the harmonic aspect of his favourite composer's mind and then, seeing what he could find. He refused, stating again that it would be a disgrace to the composer and lower the work's quality.
First, I corrected him and said I only wanted him to analyze the harmony, as any student would in a Music Theory/Harmony course in a conservatory or music program just as a start. But, since he brought up the idea of recomposition/arranging, I challenged him to consider what that may sound like, and that maybe a classical improviser out there could use nothing but the chord symbols to provide a new and daring accompaniment. What if the violin part stayed the same and you had a player with the improvisational skills and ears like Keith Jarrett give it a shot? Just try it as an experiment. It wasn't like I was attacking classical music and saying written music should be abandoned for entirely improvised work. I wanted to challenge his understanding of music and propose a new idea and approach to an old work, just to think about it in a new light. He ended up leaving the post soon after and started another flame war on a thread where a teacher was trying to find strategies to instruct a young pupil on how to play "Let it Go" from Frozen, talking about how the movie and its music was garbage compared to Beethoven. Sigh.
I explained the majority of this in my original post, and approached it with a bit of humour towards people with that ridiculous attitude. I then went into the heart of the article explaining my approach for giving my students a new idea on older music, whether it be classical, jazz, blues or Tin Pan Alley standards. I discussed a teaching approach where I tell my students to think of classical music, or any music for that matter, as if they were the first person to ever hear the piece. What works for you? What doesn't? What sends a burning sensation throughout your soul? What is boring you in this piece? The idea is that classical music and art should not be exempt from criticism outside contemporary performances or showcases of it. That we have just as much right to critically analyze the original page of a classical work and discuss it just as much as we would a new piano sonata by a contemporary composer that was published this past week.
I raised a lot of points about how to analyze music in the traditional and contemporary repertoire in order to make students think of what they often see as "really old music" in a new light, to show them that these works still have staying power, why they have that power with some but not with others, etc. And, most importantly, that the composers were human and they didn't always use the best or most unique chord progressions or note choices as music comes from one's feelings and our feelings are imperfect by nature. That imperfection is part of classical music because classical music is part of the human experience, and that it is not part of an ivory tower that constitutes some sort of defined perfection that only an elite few can tap into as listeners or performers. It was that simple.
I shared my findings on a Facebook group for piano instructors. They had a field day calling my article "reverse snobbery", the whinings of a "jazz snob" who couldn't handle the idea that these classical players were better than me (they also missed the point where I released two classical records and am a contemporary classical composer, which they would have known if they had read the article in the first place), that my writing was unprofessional and I needed a good long read of the self help book "How to Make Friends and Influence People" because "my words were doing nothing for [them]". Because trying to help music teachers teach music in new, inventive ways is how you make enemies apparently. And from my experience, that was exactly the case. An admin of the piano pedagogy page ended up deleting the post because of all the hate it was getting, then messaged me about being nicer to a community of classical musicians and teachers and that "[my] attacks on them would not be tolerated".
Yes, because talking about the harmonic analysis of scores and thinking critically of not only classical music, but music in general, was an attack on The Art of Piano Pedagogy group and its nearly 12,000 members (at the time of this writing). The reaction of the group, and how they saw it as an article about them just reveals that there is indeed a great deal of narcissism that infects the page (including the admins). That's absolutely pathetic. This reaction from the group's members shows that they are, in fact, more interested in putting importance on themselves than they are the common good of sharing musical ideas and discovering new teaching techniques. You're not doing your students (or music) any favours by behaving like that.
All but two people on the entire page that offered their commentary missed the point so far that if this were a Red Sox vs. Yankees game, I would be throwing the ball at Fenway while they were all in New York trying to hit it. I have never seen so many teachers miss a point like that or give into the very judgmental attitudes that I had discussed at the beginning of the article as a lead into the heart of the matter. Something I would think these mostly classical instructors would have liked to read as that core was on using these ideas to keep classical music relevant for young students. However, they read the title where I was challenging snobbery in the arts, took it to mean that I was making a direct attack against them and their group, activated Super Saiyan Rage Mode, and threw so much verbal fecal matter at me that I felt like I was in middle school again. Thanks a lot, your students must love having to work with you people if that's how you treat them.
My favourite comments came from a guy who decided to go for the low hanging fruit and rather than even mention the article I wrote and shared, decided to make fun of my disabilities. You see, I have a form of dyslexia and spelling is not my forte (and never was). If it weren't for spell check and many careful re-readings, I'd come off looking like an idiot a lot of the time. He jumped at the chance to mock misspelled or wrong auto-generated words and that I should "go back to school", never mind that I was writing comments with my phone at 3 a.m. (and the screen is damaged so it's not as responsive as it should be). I really hope you don't instruct special needs students, sir. That behaviour towards the disabled makes you come off like a monster.
After the post was deleted by an admin, this morning I awoke to find my professional inbox filled with quite a few threatening letters directed at not only myself but also my family. All of them came from the most rage filled instructors on that Facebook group (about three of them, and they each sent more than one email). I am now taking these emails to the local police as they make threats of violence, sexual assault or are just outright harassing.
This is not acceptable behaviour from anyone, let alone music teachers who principally work with children! For Christ's sake, show some professionalism and respect. You jumped to conclusions, you ignored what I had to say when you so obviously missed the point (and refused to consider the challenge of rethinking music that was posed in the article and comments), and then you carry on a temper tantrum as grown adults and try to turn the table and make me look like a snobby brat, rather than accept that maybe you didn't read the article in full or at all, otherwise you'd see the hypocrisy in your own words and actions. Then you send me threats of assault or rape? What sort of person are you?
My answer is someone that should not be teaching, let alone be near children, or anyone who is interested in learning.