Critique of Enthusiasm: Missed Opportunities

Despite its negative nature, I was looking forward to be struck by some powerful Elder Holland-type chastisement this Priesthood Session. I wasn’t entirely disappointed, but of course this session has likely affected others in a much different way than it has me. Elder Bednar did share a telling story from his childhood: his father, not being a member of the church, once asked Bednar that if we truly had God’s authority restored in our church, then why did the men in his ward constantly have to be reminded to do home teaching, callings, duties? If they held the authority, why did they continue to act similarly to those who did not?

I am reminded of a phenomenon I’ve mentioned seeing since I’ve been to BYU. What appears to be a lack of support among peers may just be somebody else’s business in your mind. But I’m consistently astonished at a seeming lack of interest in attending concerts, particularly ones that are offered for free.

These may not just be concerts. There are master classes, recitals, lectures, galleries, even background music that don’t cost any money but rank at a comparable caliber. One of my roommates performs in the Jazz Legacy Dixieland Band and invited me to a gig they were playing at SLAB Pizza. When I got there I waited and called some friends to get them to come, to no avail. While I sat there alone I thoroughly enjoyed the music (and the pizza). I love settings like this, especially when there is an audience. But the audience was sparse, which I guess is reasonable considering everyone’s musical tastes.

What about recitals? Most performance majors give a final recital per junior and senior year. This is what their years of work and study have led to, and turnouts are still fairly limited to a relatively few friends and people required by MUS101. The Guest Artist program even brings in professionals and professors from all over to perform and give master classes. What an excellent, free opportunity! Shouldn’t the auditorium be filled? As for new and electronic music concerts, I can’t blame the general public for not having any desire to attend them, but it would help if our music school were interested at least.

Then there’s the SoMSAC, which has provided numerous opportunities for music majors, many of which I’m sure I haven’t even been introduced. I had heard some initial interest in a Repertory Orchestra in which any willing participants would meet on a consistent basis to read through orchestral repertoire together and for a conducting major to have the opportunity to conduct them. Maybe I’m strange in that I’d like nothing better than to read through fresh music in an ensemble. Isn’t that the fun of being a performance major anyway? I was worrying about parts and doubling until I arrived and realized that I needn’t even have bothered. Where were all the people? I was certain that there were multiple people anticipating this group. Yet there were no more than seven people in the rehearsal room during that entire hour, and I played my part without any semblance to the full orchestra experience. Maybe next time, we concluded.

One of my favorite institutions of SoMSAC this semester has been the Concerts at Noon. Every Friday at noon music majors sign up to perform for an audience, which is good practice for those preparing pieces for auditions and competitions. And each week there are various excellent musicians performing these recitals at no cost, which I find ironic for only one reason – all of the empty chairs placed in front of them. To as many of these concerts I have made, I have been confused, surprised, to appear to be one of two people in the audience not performing. Were I to perform, I would hope that there would be at least some people there to listen.

Could that be the problem? Are concerts then not meant for the enjoyment of music? Would you really only go if it were your friend performing, so you could cheer them on? I refuse to believe that I am the only person that will take any chance at listening to excellent live music at little or no cost. If that isn’t the case, then someone clue me in and explain the greater balance between enthusiasm and duty. It reminds of the Washington Post experiment featuring Joshua Bell under the guise of a street performer in a DC subway. Similarly, among other things, the social situation or formality may have something to do with it. (Is a costly, well-dressed performance really worth more than one put on for free?)

I don’t mean that all people should rise to the occasion and go listen to things they don’t love. Go to concerts that you do love. But there are so many opportunities that go amiss either due to poor advertising or actual lack of passion for talent that isn’t dressed in a concert hall. I don’t feel as though I have the right to say I love music more than you, but I’d certainly like a reason not to think so.

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