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11/12/2013

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Lynda Williams

THANK YOU! It's about time somebody said it - and you said it so WELL! You are now officially one of my heroes. :)

Brynne

I think reality tv and the internet are to blame. Suddenly everyone has a platform to perform, voice opinions, and say or do whatever they like in public. There is no requirement to be particularly skilled, intelligent, articulate, or informed - you can be famous just for the sake of being famous. And so all of these attention-seeking narcissists are finding ways to broadcast their mediocrity for all the world to see. And God forbid that you point out there's nothing special about them. We are all special little snowflakes, right? Mr Rogers told us so. Hence the age of mediocrity that we have now entered. I hope it doesn't last too long.

Isabelle Bernier

Thank you so much ! J'ai dénoncé 2 fois sur Facebook les problèmes vocaux que peuvent subir les enfants à chanter du répertoire trop difficile pour eux, et expliqué que la musique, ça n'est pas que des notes. Votre article me donnera de bons arguments à l'avenir !We, professionnal singers, must continue to denonciate the possible damages for children to sing pieces too difficult.

*For readers who don't speak French, Isabelle wrote:
"Twice I denounced on Facebook the vocal problems that can befall children who sing repertoire that is too difficult for them, and explained that music is not only the notes. Your article gives me good arguments to use in the future." --- Cindy

Paul Ricchi

You have out your finger on much of what is wrong with society. All I can add is a AMEN !

RebeccaNYC

Yes yes and yes. And you are definitely better than me at expressing this...

Janet Mensen Reynolds

You are da bomb- this is awesome

Gwen Brown

PREACH!!!!!

Eric Marsh

I agree with your assessment. Janet, my wife complains about every child getting a ribbon because we don't want anyone to feel bad. I suspect that "everyone gets a ribbon" mentality has spread to the culture at large.

My take is that there is another negative influence that contributes to this problem. It is...

[/flameproof underwear on]

...organized religion, especially fundamentalist religions.

Yes I know, this is a terribly politically incorrect thing to say, at least here in America... and in the Middle East... and evidently in Russia.

A deep cultural conflict has developed between faith based belief systems and reality based belief systems (i.e. science and advanced education). One of the weapons used in this conflict is to ridicule higher education and those who seek it as "elitist."

In today's world, when science disagrees with ideology the easy (and in recent years, popular) thing to do is just deny the science. It a tool that can work well when facts become uncomfortable.

I notice that some politicians have adopted this strategy with enthusiasm, though in some cases I suspect that they do so because they're no brighter than those who vote for them.

[/flameproof underwear off]

IMHO the rot is going deep. But we live in an increasingly competitive world where those who abandon knowledge will simply be the losers and the baton of leadership with be picked up by those who continue to look to the future. In many ways it seems that these days that baton is being passed beyond our shores.

I realize that this is cynical. But by surviving 60 years I feel that I've earned my right to cynicism. :-p

Mikey

Thank-you for this article.
It expresses, from a singer's perspective, exactly what I am seeing but from a composer's perspective: the glorification of mediocrity.

Laura Claycomb

Thank you so much for this article! As a working opera singer as well, I find it ridiculous to have to defend my expert opinion, backed up by over 20 years of education and experience against some un- or less-educated person's personal taste. Since when is being educated in something considered snobbery? I would not assume to be an expert in something outside my range of experience or education, and would definitely cede to someone with more expertise in something! I'm not saying you can't or shouldn't enjoy some musical performances - that's your taste and prerogative; I'm just saying that it is NOT the be-all, end-all artistic endeavor that some people seem to have to label it and tout it as thus to the rest of the world! Thank you for giving me new arguments and ways of putting it that (perhaps) won't just make me sound like a "hater" if I call to everyone's attention that someone they are labeling a world-class opera singer or even just "an opera singer" is patently NOT. ;-)

Janis M

My son is a tenor and has worked hard to develop his talent. Brava to you for saying what needed to be said.

RKBB

Apart from anything else, thank you for making me smile with the 'spit in their cornflakes' line. The rest of the article was just a bonus, which I fully agree with by the way.

Katy Marriott

Beautifully argued, my friend. Thank you! A solid little rock to try and shore up the defences of civilisation; I shall be saving the link. In my opinion this "glorification of mediocrity" (great phrase!) is the ultimate result of unbridled moral relativism, and it's jolly slippery trying to argue coherently about that.

Samuel Thiel

Thank you for this. I teach singing and very often hear from my newer students that "so and so earns a lot of money" as if that were the mark of great art. I can usually turn them around when they start to realize the difference between singing and the imitation of singing. I am going to quote you extensively! Thanks again for expressing the point so very well.

I am also an amateur cook and understand exactly what you mean!

Best regards from Berlin

Andrew Peck

http://www.tnellen.com/cybereng/harrison.html

You'll really like this - an amazing lecture on mediocrity, or as I like to call it (in vocal terms) the pursuit of the perfect choir.

William Reber

Cindy,

Superbly well written and exactly on point. Unfortunately, it's not just in the arts and reality shows that we're seeing this. The worship of mediocrity can be found in every aspect of our society, very notably in the political arena. The decline of our educational system and standards, not just in the arts, is both a cause and a symptom.

When I listen to Amira Willighagen, my only question is whether she'll be able to make any sort of sound in a couple of years. It's similar to what we hear more and more in auditions, 17 and 18 year olds whose voices are already blown and are beyond repair, invariably because they've been given songs or arias to sing that are beyond them, either because of their age or their level of training, or both. It is so sad because very often these children do have a talent level that, had it been trained and allowed to develop, might have really been something worth paying attention to.

Brianism

This is a great essay, Cindy! We need to stand up for what is right and best about our collective selves. - Brian

Kathy

I found your blog though a friend's facebook post. Bravo Cindy! Very well said......sharing it as well. Kathy (former St Ed's colleague :)

Christopher S. Johnson

People use the word 'snob' incorrectly. Snobs consider themselves better than certain other groups of people, usually based on Class, Wealth, or Race. They don't really have high standards so much as an automatic expectation of the inferiority of others.
If you have high standards, and always hope to see the best from others, even if that means you are often disappointed, you are actually the OPPOSITE of a snob.
A snob is never disappointed in the sub-standard performance of others. It just reinforces their elitist, stratified view of humanity.

Kathleen

When I view one of these youngsters singing opera, I'm reminded of the carnivalesque manner of the 19 th/ early 20 th century travelling side show,with characters such as the bearded lady, Siamese twins, 7 foot man and so on. Whilst these characters were outcasts, there's something uncomfortable in the public display of a child mimicking a sound very foreign to their natural age appropriate sound. I can't quiet tap my words to my feeling, but I hope this mildly perverse fascination soon stops.

Stephen

Thoroughly enjoyed your piece. John Mitchinson, with whom I studied in Manchester, always said it takes twenty five years to be an over night success, and for myself I have been working for twenty years and only now feel that I am singing in a half decent way. Certainly it has baffled me in the UK where after suffering in sport because of our worship of sporting amateurism now to rejoice in sporting elitism conversely in classical music we seem to be rushing headlong in the opposite direction.

Carolina Flores

Amen!

Gary

Pretty mediocre essay, if you ask me.

--Thanks for helping to illustrate one of my points, Gary!
Cindy

Sam Austin

Excellent thoughts! My favorite passage on this subject is in Eliot's Daniel Deronda, when Klezmer explains to a would-be performer the huge gulf between her aspirations and reality. Comforting somehow to think that mediocrity failing to grasp its limitations is not just a modern affliction.

Houndentenor

With all do respect to everyone here, I don't think this is in any way a new phenomenon. I don't just mean it's been around since Charlotte Church. This is just the manifestation of a problem that has plagued American culture since the beginning. We have an anti-elitist streak which coexists with a "we have to bring over foreign singers/fashion/etc." mentality. I've been called a snob all my life for not going gaga over the latest insipid movie, bestselling book or other mediocrity. This latest trend is also a symptom of the myth (lie, really) of "natural talent". Yes, you need some of that to be great at something. I could practice piano day and night (and have a few times) but the best I was going to be was acceptable. If I work really hard I can play all the notes of a medium difficulty piano piece. That is not PLAYING the piano in the sense of a Van Cliburn. Obviously he practiced a lot in addition to being talented. (I'm sure there were lots of talented pianists who just didn't practice enough to play at his level but who had the talent.) The myth/lie here is that if you have TALENT you can just show up and do it. This has existed in our culture for almost 100 years if not more. It's a staple of Hollywood musicals. In the film Summer Stock (which is worth watching just for the Gene Kelley sequences...he's amazing talk about talent AND hard work!) Judy Garland's character flakes and Judy goes on and saves the show and the result? The famous "Get Happy" sequence which is one of the most polished song/dance numbers ever on film. I realize it's nonsense but really? Or more recently how they pass out sheet music in the Glee rehearsal room and suddenly they are all giving a polished auto-tuned performance! I just did a recording with amazing signers, all of whom can sight-read very well and it took about four times through a not very difficult arrangement before it started to come together. Yes, you and I know how ridiculous such things are but the public doesn't know because they don't see the hours of rehearsal it takes to put on a show and THEY DON"T WANT TO KNOW. Because the talent myth gives everyone an out for not putting in the hours to be good at something. So we the entertainment industry, the people most aware that this is a BIG LIE push this for the public. It's why people who couldn't carry a tune to save their lives, much less a cappella after waiting for 2 days outside in a line to get to sing, are stunned when the American Idol judges tell them they suck. And they do. But this isn't new. I don't doubt that such folks have shown up at every open call since open calls began.

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Where's Cindy Singing Next?

  • The Mother, The Consul, Dayton Opera, October 20 & 22, 2018
    http://daytonperformingarts.org/opera-performance/the-consul

Cindy on Stage

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    I play dress-up for a living.

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