An interview with Paul Jacobs of The Juilliard School’s Organ Department

“We live in a very distracted culture and music education is not something that our culture values.”—Paul Jacobs (B.M., Curtis Institute; M.M., A.D., Yale University School of Music, Juilliard Faculty member since 2003 and Chair of the Organ Department since 2004.)

Hola a todos. Paul is absolutely correct and I’m glad he brought this up in the interview when he said: “We live in a very distracted culture and music education is not something that our culture values.” Exactamente. But it seems to me and others that US culture doesn’t much value education of any kind. I would like to expand on what Paul said for a bit: In US culture stupid is in, dumbing-down is in, shallow pop culture is in, immaturity is in, bullying is in, hate is in, violence is in and rampant, road rage is in, not being “politically-correct” is in, gun violence is in, hate for the homeless is in in San Francisco and other cities where la policía in Denver are taking blankets away from the homeless in freezing temperatures (sick), immature people resolving the most trivial of conflicts with a gun is in, dysfunctional adults now killing their own children is in, there are increasing incidents of dysfunctions occurring on US-domestic air flights, saying the word “like” every-other-word when talking is in (especially in Tech Zombie San Francisco), intellectual is out, sounding educated when one speaks is out among other examples I could give. US culture is a very sick society regardless of how many people go on about how “smart” we think we are and superior to the rest of the world with our ugly and immature superiority complex. Going back to stupid is in for a moment: Stupid motorists are distracted because they’re playing with their phones that they’re addicted to (for their constant dopamine rush/hit) while driving and in some cases killing themselves and others. In Tech Zombie San Francisco, many motorists are so distracted/addicted to their many phones that they have multiple phones mounted across their dashboard and/or rear-view mirror to play with while driving. Some stupid cyclists have multiple phones mounted to their handlebars to play with while riding on San Francisco’s dangerous and potholed streets. “Never take your eyes off those screens, San Francisco.” But here in Billionaire’s Bay, at least we have The Techie Basura Millionaires and Billionaires — with their enormously big heads and over-inflated sense of self-worth — to continually come up with “you must have the latest and greatest” phone or app for tech billionaires to keep making billions off of the stupid and lobotomised sheeple to keep them distracted from things that really matter in humanity. Imagine if the people who waste most of their life “practising” their phones on a daily basis used that time for practising/learning an instrument. Wouldn’t that be a change? Don’t expect to ever see that. Not in this dumbed-down culture. But I suspect most of them would probably not have the talent, discipline or intelligence for learning an instrument and learning music. Although these phone addicts certainly do have the discipline for their toy/their phone. But music training is not a mindless toy. It’s hard work. The fun comes from hearing one’s gradual progress while working through a piece and the end results. The ultimate satisfaction/fun comes when one realises one has completed a piece and hopefully is able to play it well after adding the polish and refinement. I would point out that the decades of music training that Paul Jacobs and other highly-regarded, gifted, talented and successful musicians have received is far more difficult, complex and involved than the training required for tech coding. Yet people like Paul and other superb musicians don’t strut around with their nose in the air and this “we are the gift to the world” mentality that one gets from these arrogant techie pendejos who live under this illusion that they are “god’s gift to the world.” I can’t stand them; I can’t stand arrogant people. They’re basura! Related: What’s more difficult: Tech Training or Music Training?

But fortunately, we have superb organ music from Paul Jacobs, Olivier Latry (one of the three Titulaire organists who plays the Grande Orgue high up in the back of the Nave at High Church La Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris) and other fine musicians. We also have my favourite Choruses the Collegium Vocale Gent/La Chapelle Royale, The Orchestra and Chorus of Les Arts Florissants and other outstanding musicians to turn to for superb music to escape this sickness/madness as we go into Dark Ages II.

The Juilliard School is located within Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in Manhattan. I was very pleased to read that Paul invited organist Diane Bish to Juilliard to give a masterclass for the organ students. Good for him! I don’t think the chairperson of any other Organ Department in a School of Music or Conservatory of Music would have Diane as a guest and to give a masterclass there, although they should. I’m sure the elitist snots who have membership in the AGO would not approve as they’ve been making ugly, derogatory comments about Diane for years, mostly about her playing. Or are they easing off on that now? I think they describe her playing as “shallow.” I’ve never thought of it like that. I suspect this is a case of jealousy involved within immature people, which describes many church organists. They can be rather petty and a piece of work. Diane has her own television programme and these snots don’t, although there was nothing stopping them from doing the same thing Diane did with The Joy of Music. Get yourself a good/skilled camera crew and find some excellent pipe organs to perform on. But good luck (you’ll need it!) dealing with church organists to get permission to use the parish or cathedral church organ. Diane has said that church organists can be “touchy.” Oh stop it Diane; stop being polite. Tell us what you really think about them! (smile). Come on Diane, spill it, dish the chisme/gossip. We all know you have stories to tell from dealing with these piece of work church organists! I’ll tell you what I think about them in no uncertain terms: Church organists can be los pendejos. I know from experience of dealing with them. Ugh. I’ve had very negative experiences with church organists no matter how respectful, nice and kind I was to them. I didn’t get the same in return with their chip on both shoulders approach. Even though I told them I was Conservatory-trained in piano and pipe organ to give them some idea of my background since they’d not heard me play, that didn’t seem to help at all. Mi amigo/My friend said: “They were probably intimated by that or thought you were trying to take their job especially when/if you play better than they do! Were any of them Conservatory-trained? And you focus on difficult French organ repertoire. What do they play?” But back to Paul. He’s not like that at all. He was very gracious and said, “Thank you, Diane, for all you’ve done for the art of organ playing!.” Yes indeed, Diane has done more for bringing the pipe organ and organ playing and organ music into people’s lives than the Classical Music Snots (some of the AGO members). What have they done? Well, they’ve served as snooty and elitist armchair critics nitpicking everyone’s performance to death, measure-by-measure in some cases. I can’t stand people like that. Some people have made comments about Diane changing things contrary to the composer’s wishes in the score. I’ve only noticed one instance of that where as I recall she ended a toccata slightly differently than it’s written in the authentic French edition. I’m not positive but I believe it was the Dubois Toccata Sortie. She played that on occasion. The way she played it sounded fine and if you didn’t have the score in front of you, you probably wouldn’t even know she made a change. I don’t know why she did, but I didn’t make any big deal about it. Maybe it was the edition she was using (Editions G. Schirmer possibly?). I don’t know. Other people (bigots and anti-GLBTQ/prejudiced people) have also made derogatory comments about her suspected sexual orientation (her being a lesbian), which I wrote about here. For some reason, there’s a lot of interest in Diane’s sexual orientation lately considering the number of people who come to pink barrio each week clicking on that article. They come here from searching, “Is Diane Bish married?” Of course, they mean married to a man. They’re not thinking about same-gender marriage. No, not those bigots as one can read about in that link directly above.

Paul seems like a wonderful person; the nicest guy. With all his many accomplishments he comes across as very down-to-Earth, informal, humble and modest. The ideal/perfect artist in my opinion. When Paul was describing his childhood and what he did, it sounded similar to mine. But similar to what he did, I would go to the room where our piano was in my childhood home, shut the door and put on recordings of an Orchestra and Chorus and conduct them following the score which I had ordered, giving cues to the soprano section, then the tenors and so forth. Well, my dad would come to the room and ask me to turn it down a bit because he said it was too loud. I was thinking to myself: But it’s supposed to be loud, this is a large Orchestra with a 200-voice Chorus. I think it was Mendelssohn’s Elias/Elijah, or Robert Shaw’s Cleveland Orchestra Chorus at the time — this was before his tenure with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus — with various selections from major symphonic choral works. I turned my music down a bit but I think my dad came to realise it was futile to even ask. He probably thought: Why isn’t my child out here playing ball with all the other children? That’s because your child had no interest in sports and I wasn’t good at sports. I was studying the piano and also playing the organ (although untrained in organ at the time) at my family’s church and didn’t want my hands to get injured. I didn’t like catching balls because that made my hands sting. I also didn’t like getting hit in the head with a ball. That can really hurt. So I ran from balls rather than running to them as one is supposed to do in competitive sports, therefore I wasn’t much help on sports teams. I’m sure Paul can relate to this. Muchas gracias to him. Chau.—el barrio rosa

6 comments on “An interview with Paul Jacobs of The Juilliard School’s Organ Department

  1. Alejandro

    Hoooooooooooola. I’ve been away y just got back. Paul Jacobs is caliente. Good interview with him. As I’ve asked before – as with all of your music articles, can we get conservatory credit for this? :-)
    I was sitting here laughing about your experience with sports….you ran from balls rather than to them. LOL. I did the same. I wasn’t good at sports either. I was always the last person to be picked for a team. I kept hoping they’d say to me, “you can go sit on the bleachers and sit this one out.” YES! I’ll be happy to do that.

    Saludos y gracias.

  2. San Francisco Resident

    Lately you’ve been writing about Notre Dame, now a Juilliard School professor and also that wonderful Faure Requiem performance. All Excellence! One won’t find this on any other blog. THanks….I’ve enjoyed every bit of it. Look forward to more.

    1. Conservatory Student

      I agree. Thank you so much for this, pink barrio. Re the Faure Requiem performance, I’ve watched that many times because 1- the Faure is one of my favorite choral works and 2- the Chorus in that performance is stunning. I’ve never heard it done better! you’re right about those tenors – amaaaaazing.

  3. EllenE

    Excellent article and I appreciate that you don’t at all shy away from talking about real life. I follow an art’s critic blog to some degree and the woman that runs that annoys the hell out of me. She wears blinders. There could be bombs dropping outside her window as she’s writing her articles but she would refuse to say anything about them because as she says, “this is all about the art.” Listen woman, art and artists are greatly influenced by the world around them which can include the bombs dropping outside your window. My point is that I’m pleased that you elaborated on what Paul Jacobs said. It needed to be said about our sick society. Very nice interview with him. I enjoyed it. Thanks for posting it.

  4. FireintheHead

    Excellent and very interesting article. Particularly enjoyed the part about your childhood. Thanks.

Fin. The End.