Thursday, August 01, 2013

James Conlon (Ravinia Music Festival Conductor) on education

I've enjoyed my first summer living in Chicago, primarily because Chicago is such an amazing city for cultural arts.  We've gone to Grant Park free concerts, Ravinia Festival concerts, gone to the Art Institute of Chicago and many other things.  I am so impressed by the vision of Chicago and its many contributors and one of the most important is James Conlon, summer conductor for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for the Ravinia Festival.

In the program notes for the concerts we've attended, he commented on the importance of music for its own sake - not just for providing career opportunity for young musicians.  As I read the quote below, I couldn't help but think of the importance of classical music, and education, for its own sake:

"I am familiar with the charge that we should not be encouraging young people to play classical music because there are no employment opportunities, or at least fewer than there were.  I vehemently oppose this view on all levels, philosophical, moral and artistic.  First of all, art is art.  It is an end in itself; it is not a means to find a job.  One becomes an artist, in the best of cases, because of an existential inability to do otherwise.  In recent decades education in general has taken a turn, in my opinion, for the worse, with the full endorsement that education's ultimate purpose is to find a job.  Finding the right profession or vocation should be a byproduct, and a very important one, of education.  The opposite view, taken to absurd exaggeration, would imply that everyone should simply go to vocational schools, the earlier the better.  I think this is in opposition to every broad educational principle that has made America great.  I believe our ideal is and should be to rear an educated citizenry, with broad knowledge and, almost more importantly, a thirst and desire to continue educating one's mind for a lifetime."

Just interchange art and education and it works either way from my perspective.  This is at the core of learning about leadership - learning to thrive on the pursuit of knowledge and expression of one's deepest self.

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