When musical training and experience is considered a very bad thing.

Who would have ever thought that would be the case? It’s a sign of the times we’re living in, which is why I rarely comment anywhere these days. It’s a complete waste of time and no one’s mind is about to be changed. The classical music armchair critics (self-appointed music critics presumably with no musical training) and orchestral mis-management — who support the sheeple and musically-ignorant since they are the majority of people in their audience and are there just to be “entertained” — don’t want to hear from trained musicians. They’re cool with hearing trained musicians perform, but that’s all they want from them. The classical music armchair critics prefer to wallow in their musical ignorance. So I write what I would write elsewhere in a comment, right here.

I watched a symphonic choral performance recently. The Chorus was superbly trained by the Chorus Director, and the Orchestra played superbly as well.

But as usual, the vocal soloist(s) dragged in for the performance did nothing for me, and they’re always from the opera genre which makes many in the audience think that they’re watching/hearing “opera” rather than a symphonic choral performance, which has absolutely nothing to do with opera. If only they would use some of the finest choristers as vocal soloists. That would be better. But orchestral mis-management often think that only big-name “star” vocal celebrity soloists will sell tickets. The Orchestra and Chorus alone won’t sell tickets.

There are also major differences between a symphonic choral performance and opera, costuming and scenery (in opera) are two major differences. A symphonic choral performance has no costuming or scenery or story line (unless it’s an oratorio, for example).

In the performance I watched online, I had problems with the soprano soloist — which is often the case for me with soprano soloists these days who seem to be unable to control their obnoxious voice (unlike the alto or bass soloists) — and she resorted to literally screaming. Well, any fool can scream. That doesn’t require any talent or musicianship at all, and it’s much easier to scream than to sing beautifully, which requires the utmost of talent. Unfortunately, she wasn’t singing beautifully but all the classical music armchair critic commenters gushed over her adored her because of her celebrity status. They can’t tell the difference between screaming and singing and because she was on a Concert Hall stage, well, she must be singing beautifully seems to be their ignorant thinking. They had mistaken screaming for singing beautifully, in part, because of her celebrity status and big-name. “And she wouldn’t be there if she didn’t deserve to be” was the mentality of the commenters. Not necessarily, morons.

These days, when one person’s (a vocal soloist) voice can overpower everyone else on stage, that generates a “wow” from the musically-illiterate sheeple. Along with “isn’t s/he great?!” because, again, it seems to most people have been brainwashed that screaming is music.

An example of singing beautifully is to listen to the late Dame Joan Sutherland. Well, the soprano soloist in this performance didn’t sound anything like Joan Sutherland. And most soprano soloist these days don’t sound like Joan.

As a musician friend of mine pointed out when I told him about this, he said: Screaming, as you rightly call it, it is historically relatively new. I noticed it starting around the 1980s or 90s. That’s when it began, in some places with Opera in the Park. I remember riding my bike on the Golden Gate Bridge on an Opera in the Park Sunday in San Francisco, and all I could hear was some woman screaming “at the top of her lungs” — she thought she was singing — from Golden Gate Park. Her voice overpowered the Orchestra she was performing with.

Screaming and ugly, wobbling vibrato is often used to cover up pitch and vocal technique problems, but the classical music armchair critics don’t know that or care! Their thinking is “She must be good because she’s there on stage.” Ha!

So I made the mistake of writing a polite comment under the video of this performance. I was politely critical of everyone’s messiah soprano soloist in this performance. My comment led to a shit storm of hate for me because I didn’t worship and glorify their messiah, the soprano soloist in the performance. One guy responded to me with: “It must be embarrassing for you to think that you know something about music.” So when one is critical of someone that others like, they know nothing about music, rather than vocal technique? Curious thinking. I was a three-year voice minor at the Conservatory where I trained (the requirement was two years for a minor and I also minored three years in pipe organ in the Church Music programme). Had this commenter who trolled me ever studied voice? Have any of these people ever studied voice? If they had, no one was bragging about it as self-appointed experts with the name-dropping of celebrity musicians.

A common conductor’s name that is dropped by the classical music armchair critics is Karajan, despite his Nazi connections. That doesn’t seem to bother them.

I later responded to these wannabe musicians by saying that at the Conservatory where I trained, screaming was not taught by the Voice Department, nor was it used in the Conservatory’s operatic productions. Well, that shut them all up along with something else I’ll get to in a moment. In fact, one semester for the Conservatory’s production of Suor Angelica by Giacomo Puccini, the lead role was played by a soprano voice major — I think she was a Performance Major — who sang with no noticeable vibrato at all. She had no pitch problems. Her voice professor did not try to instill wobbling vibrato in her voice. She sounded like one of the superb trebles/boys at St Thomas Church Fifth Avenue (Anglican Communion) in her role. She didn’t sound at all “operatic.” It was beautiful as was the playing from the Conservatory Symphony Orchestra, which of course performed from the Orchestra Pit.

In the comments under this performance, one commenter after the other trolled me as they worshipped and glorified the screaming from this soprano. One armchair critic lectured me that, “This soprano wouldn’t be there if she were not qualified.” Well, that’s not true at all, and what I said in response completely shut up that person and shut down all the commenting.

I pointed out that a vocal soloist is not necessarily on stage because she deserves to be there — because of her supposedly “illustrious career” (as one commenter was gushing over) — but because of politics and sexual favours. Ouch! Other classical music armchair critics had insulted me by saying this soprano soloist had such a fine, distinguished career and that’s why she was there. No, not necessarily, and does that person enjoy exposing their ignorance of programming of musical performances? I reminded them about the late conductor James Levine. I pointed out that conductor James Levine of the Metropolitan Opera — and he’s just one example of many that I could list — was accused of sexual harassment by many women. How many jobs did he promise to women for engagements with the MET for allegedly having sex with him? Subsequently the MET fired him, and all of his engagements were cancelled and his career was ended. He died in the early part of 2021. I asked the classical music armchair critics if they had ever heard of the #metoo movement? So, just because a soloist is on stage does not mean they deserve to be there at all because of their vocal abilities, talent, musicianship and musical ability. She can be there because she willingly opened her legs once or multiple times for sexual favours that the conductor demanded of her in exchange for, “You know my dear, I’ve found a very nice role for you as the lead in several operas. This will really advance your career, but first I want to meet you at my hotel room for a ‘consultation’ which will last much of the evening. But you’ll enjoy it.”

Politics and sexual favours run through most things in life. I guess these classical music armchair critic ignoramuses have yet to learn that, along with learning anything about music.

Screaming is not music! And unfortunately, that is much of what is heard today from opera divas and vocal soloists.

But there is fortunately one exception to that and that’s to listen to the vocal soloists for the Orchestra and Chorus of Collegium 1704. They sing beautifully. They don’t scream at all. They are mic’d and they don’t try to blow out the mic. Whereas the operatic screamers are often mic’d even though with “her” voice she doesn’t need to be. Her screaming can be heard on the other side of town! Here’s an example of Collegium 1704. I suppose someone will say, “But that’s a different period of music.” And what does that have to do with anything? Screaming has no place in music regardless of what period of music it is. Screaming is not music. This also reminds me of the wobbling vibrato cultists who rush to defend the use of ugly, obnoxious wobbling vibrato where one can’t tell what pitch she’s even singing. The vibrato cultists essentially say “She has to scream with vibrato to be heard over the Orchestra.” Rubbish. The finest orchestras are extremely talented and can play expertly as quietly so that you don’t know that they’re even playing. (Think: the beginning of the Verdi Messa da Requiem, for example. That begins with the Orchestral playing and they can’t barely be heard followed by the choral entrance which — when done correctly — more resembles a choral rumble.) The Chorus doesn’t feel the need to use wobbling vibrato “to be heard over the Orchestra.” You people who rush to defend ugly, obnoxious wobbling vibrato and the need for vocal soloists to scream over an Orchestra need to rethink your brainwashing, because it doesn’t work with thinking people. With Collegium 1704, you’ll hear no obnoxious vibrato or screaming over the Orchestra. And the Chorus is superb, singing with perfect intonation. Has the opera genre ever heard the musical term perfect intonation? If so, they don’t believe in it like some insipid Chorus Director who are too lazy to do their job to have their Chorus achieve perfect intonation. The New England Conservatory Concert Choir comes to mind, as just one example.

So after I wrote that comment about James Levine, all the classical music armchair critics shut up including the woman who asked me “Why did you feel the need to be critical of the soprano soloist?” Oh did I offend you, mi amor, by being critical of your saviour soprano soloist? These classical music armchair critic trash take all of this stuff so personally. It seems in her mind that it was fine for her to comment, but not for me. Ms Hypocrite. As I said before, if someone told me they couldn’t stand the University of Maryland Chorus or the Choral Arts Society of Washington or the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, I’d say: Well that’s cool. Nobody is required to like any of them. I would NOT say, “why did you feel the need to be critical of my favourite Orchestra Choruses?” These classical music armchair frauds are such delicate, thin-skinned people.

But all the commenters were “wowed” and gushing over her screaming out a high C that overpowered everyone on stage. That’s something to be admired, is it? Screaming has no place in music. But I did hear the same thing in Verdi’s fake Requiem (Messa da Requiem) the other night. I do like the choral sections very much when they’re properly performed by a superb Chorus singing with perfect intonation and impeccable diction, but that piece is really more like opera without the costuming, scenery and other things that comprise an opera. But the screaming is the same from the so-called “vocal soloists/screamers.” That soprano had a high C and her obnoxious voice overpowered the full Orchestra and Chorus. And looking at her — the camera was on her at the time — she looked like she was literally screaming “at the top of her lungs,” and then with poor vocal technique she slid down the scale to the subsequent notes following the high C, rather than vocally jumping to each note as a well trained vocal soloist or chorister does. Well-trained vocal soloists and choristers do not slide up or down the scale between notes. They’re taught not to. You don’t slide from a high A down to a C. That’s considered amateurish and poor technique and ill-trained. The thing is: This woman was mic’d in the Verdi so she didn’t need to scream and over-power everyone on stage as she did. I’m surprised her scream didn’t blow-out the mic. If she hadn’t been screaming, it would have been easier for her to sing each subsequent note correctly without sliding down to each one. And when did one musician screaming over all the rest become something to be admired, as if it’s a competition and she won? It reminds me of the vocal quartet in Beethoven’s Ninth, which usually sounds hideous and like a train wreck with the soprano and tenor vocal screaming winning out over the alto and bass soloists and the full Chorus and Orchestra.

As expected, I was the only person who didn’t agree with all of the classical music armchair critics, and the knives all came out for me en masse. And they were vicious. It didn’t bother me really because I’m so used to these classical music armchair trash who think they know everything about music when they know nothing. It was a bit frustrating however as it usually is because they’re frauds when it comes to them trying to posture themselves as omnipotent musical authorities, when all they really do is name-drop the name of celebrity musicians. Any fool can do that. The armchair critics are wannabe musicians without spending the time and money to get the training. But I suspect few or none of them could get into a Conservatory or a University’s School of Music (Conservatory environment) because they don’t possess the required talent, the ear training and couldn’t pass the stringent audition requirements. Do any of them play a musical instrument? And with the classical music armchair critics, one is not allowed to have any dissenting opinion. Lockstep agreement is required. They remind me of political partisans. Everyone must agree with them. So for this performance, everyone was to have been “wowed” by the screaming soprano and her performance, as if it’s now some competition about who can scream the loudest.

It’s definitely a very different time now. I remember after I graduated from the Conservatory that people who knew nothing about music seemed to have respect for me and had high regard for my musical training and background. I would only talk about it when asked, “What else do you do?” or some question like that. I never brought it up on my own because I did not like to shove my musical training or Orchestra Chorus experience in people’s faces, so I didn’t. In part, because I didn’t think they would have any interest in it.

I had mistakenly thought that the — what I call — classical music armchair critics would have an interest in hearing the view of a Conservatory-trained musician, but instead they seem highly intimidated by that and that’s when the attacks begin, if one is not worshipping their messiah big-name celebrity musician.

With the classical music armchair critics — whom often slip up and reveal that they are merely wannabe musicians — musical training and performance experiences are no longer revered these days especially on AdTube videos where wanna-be musicians and the classical music armchair critics hang out. In fact, they seem to be very intimidated by trained musicians who actually went through the decades of musical training. And now that I think about it, I’m the only professional musician I’ve seen commenting on classical music videos. One sees amateur musicians but not trained musicians, based on their comment content.

People these days are very touchy about any criticism of their messiah conductors or of vocal soloists, and conductors and vocal soloists seem to be the only musicians revered by the armchair critics. Their thinking is: “Everyone” must like who I like. That’s an extremely immature and amateurish way of thinking.

By contrast, if someone told me they couldn’t stand to hear the superb musicians I enjoy I’d say, “Well that’s fine. You don’t have to like them. Listen to someone else, that you do like. Enjoy.” But for them, they’re like a cult and it’s always some celebrity-culture big-name conductor whose name they love to drop.

The classical music armchair critics are a unique cult and they seem to be easily intimidated by trained musicians — after all, they are the self-appointed “experts” — and it’s the trained musicians who spent decades of time, dedications, discipline, and money to undergo intense musical training. Whereas to be a self-appointed classical music armchair critic requires none of that. Just pretend you’re a musical expert on all matters musical, drop the name of celebrity musicians and spout that only their performances are worth of one’s attention, whilst occasionally slipping up unknowingly by saying something that reveals one to be a musically ignorant, and brainwashed to think that screaming is music. That best describes the self-appointed classical music armchair critics.

But it’s not just the armchair critics who are intimidated: I remember years ago when I showed my music résumé to an older relative, a school teacher. She said she was intimidated by the language “Conservatory-trained.” I asked her: Well, what if I change it to the name of the specific name of the Conservatory where I trained? She said, “No, that wouldn’t help because you trained at a Conservatory and that’s intimidating to me.” Really? I’d never heard that before. That was a first. Even the people I knew when in high school before entering the Conservatory never seemed intimidated that I had been accepted at the Conservatory. Instead, they were happy for me. Although I think my relative said that “people will find Conservatory-trained intimidating,” when she could only speak for herself and not all people. In the past, when someone asked where I trained and I told them, they seemed impressed and not intimated when I gave the name of the Conservatory. My relative also said she was intimidated by my Orchestra Chorus performance experience in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall (Choral Arts Society of Washington and the University of Maryland Chorus), at Wolf Trap and in Davies Symphony Hall (San Francisco Symphony Chorus). I thought — but did not want to get into anything with her — What? I’m not supposed to tell anyone where I trained or about my performance history? Just because YOU are intimidated by it? That is standard information on professional music résumés. Nevertheless, she said it was intimidating to her, probably because she knows nothing about music nor does she care anything about music. In fact, she can hear the same piece of music back-to-back and not know it’s the same piece she just heard. She has absolutely no ear or interest in music. She never listens to music. But I was blown away by that considering the relative was an elementary school teacher.

Did she not put her degree and training on her résumé? I didn’t ask her that. I think she was intimidated by my résumé because she admitted to “I don’t know much about music” yet she seemed to be a self-appointed authority on what should be on my résumé based on her being intimidated by a musician’s background and how I taught my piano students. She even tried to give me a lecture on the best way to teach my students even though she knows nothing about piano. So, in the end, I deleted “Conservatory-trained” and the rest of what she said intimidated her from my résumé. The outcome? Awful. My piano studio essentially crashed. The quality of people coming to me for piano training severely declined. I began getting the worst of students. They were flaky, non-serious students with a short attention span and no ability for attention to detail, which is critical in music training. Before I made this change, I had made it clear up until then that — for the students interested in serious studies — that they would get Conservatory-style training with me, without having to go to a Conservatory and all that entails. And because I had graduated from a Conservatory, I knew what they training entailed. After removing that language, I started getting people who thought they could learn a piano concerto simply by sitting down with me for one or two classes. None of these students had any interest in practising. They were instant-gratification type people. It was as if they thought I had a pill they could take that would instantly turn them into a virtuoso pianist. When they realised that piano studies involve a lot of work (or any instrument for that matter) they begrudgingly said, “I have to do THIS? This is hard.” I didn’t say this to them but they hadn’t even learned the basics and thought it was “hard” and were ready to quit. They were not at all interested in piano, they were not serious students. Most of them thought that playing the piano involved playing with one finger like they had seen on television where a keyboard was being sold and the show host was playing with their index finger. Nevertheless, these students thought they would be able to “learn” the Rachmaninov Second in a couple of weeks just by sitting on the same piano bench with me whilst I played part of that for them.

But that was the outcome of my changing my résumé to suit a woman who was intimidated by well-trained musicians, just like the classical music armchair critics. The changes I made at her suggestion were a major mistake.

Whereas, I got the best students when I was honest — and not vague — about my years of musical training because perspective students were looking for a certain kind of teacher. As some of them told me after they became my students, “Your ad appealed to me because ideally I wanted to be in a Conservatory but I was either in between teachers or hadn’t studied piano in awhile or I didn’t think I could pass a Conservatory’s audition requirements to get in nor did I have the money, and I wasn’t sure I was talented enough. With you, it’s like being in a Conservatory without actually being enrolled as a student there and you allow me to move at my own pace which would not be the case in a Conservatory with various semester requirements. You’re also extremely patience with me, which would not necessarily be the case in a Conservatory.

My relative claimed to “know best” and I remember her rather self-righteous way of telling me that I was going about getting new piano students all wrong. One of her close friends, also a school teacher, agreed with her. So much for what they knew!

I never told her about the outcome because it wouldn’t have done any good. In hindsight, it was her own personal issue and not other people’s issue. I wonder if she is also intimidated by people with Doctorate degrees? I’m not, because I trained with people holding earned Doctorates and they were no different than myself, other than they had more training, but they never shoved that in my face. We were all friends. In fact, one of my piano professors — I had two at the Conservatory — with her DMA referred to herself by her first name rather than “Dr ______.”

But sadly, these days it seems that most people have been brainwashed to think that what I just described is what they’re supposed to hear at performances – screaming! — and that there’s something wrong with me when I prefer to hear someone singing beautifully and not trying to overpower all other musicians in the Concert Hall with her piercing voice.

Under the same video comments I mentioned, there was the gushing over the celebrity conductor and how well he had trained the Chorus. They revealed more of their musical ignorance. The conductor does not train the Chorus. The Chorus Director has that job, but they ignored him. I tried to explain that the conductor for a performance does not train the Chorus, that’s the role of the Chorus Director. They didn’t want to hear that either. To them, it was all about the Almighty Conductor, their messiah figure and god. Conductor worshipping.

In the end, I felt disgusted by the state of music education today, that people fall for this stuff that most commenters were regurgitating on cue.

Then when a trained musician speaks, the person is highly ridiculed. Who would have ever thought that education would be seen as intimidating or frowned upon by certain people?

I’ll say here what I would not be allowed to say in any video comments: One thing I have learned from being online. There are certainly a lot of trash in our society. That’s something that I didn’t know pre-Internet, when things were simpler. At that time, all that people had was the “Letters to the Editor” section in a newspaper. Apparently those editors only printed the best of the bunch and not the letters from the trash in our society, even though they surely existed at that time. Chau.—el barrio rosa