Though I was known for many years as a critic, most of my work these days involves the future of classical music — defining classical music’s problems and finding solutions for them.
To find solutions, I’ve worked with individuals and institutions, often as a consultant, sometimes as a friend, often as a speaker (keynote speeches at conferences, commencement addresses at Eastman and the Longy School of Music, and much more). I teach at Juilliard — I’m on the Graduate Studies Faculty — and for two years I was artist in residence at the University of Maryland, where I worked with music students, helping them to find an audience their own age. I'm happy to say that my work there took root, and that this year (as they built on what I started) the audience at the School of Music orchestra concerts is larger, younger, and livelier.
I write a widely-read blog on the future of classical music, and I'm writing a book on the subject, to be called Rebirth: The Future of Classical Music. In the past, I've posted drafts of it online, but with the final version now in progress, for the moment I'm working on it privately.
The book’s title tells you what I’m saying in it — that classical music won’t die, that instead it will be reborn. It’ll reconnect it with our larger cultural life, and become a truly contemporary art. The changes needed, before these things can happen, will be major, but they’re already under way. I’m tremendously helped in this work by a network of people honeycombed throughout the classical music business — musicians, composers, orchestra managers, administrators, marketers, radio broadcasters, publicists, teachers, students, members of the audience, critics, and more — who think that classical music needs to change. It’s amazing how many of these people there are. They aren’t necessarily in touch with each other, and many of them may underestimate how many like-minded people there are. But their number, as far as I can see, is growing, and I’m expecting a tipping point in the not very distant future, when suddenly people with strong ideas for change find themselves in the majority.
When I was a critic, I wrote about classical music for the Village Voice, when it was the leading weekly paper in New York, and also for a variety of other publications, especially the Wall Street Journal. And I also wrote about pop for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner and Entertainment Weekly, where I was first music critic and then senior music editor.
I began my professional life as a musician, first as a singer, a bass-baritone. My biggest operatic roles were Captain Balstrode in Peter Grimes, and (I still can't quite believe this) Alberich in a concert performance of Das Rheingold, conducted by John Mauceri back in the '70s at Yale. Then I studied composition, getting a master's in it from the Yale School of Music, and embarked on an active composing career, writing (among other things) four operas, three of which were successfully produced, and one that had great success in some fine workshops. I've revived my composing career in recent years, and it goes very well when I focus on it. Curious? You can hear my music, and see my scores.
In my private life, I’m happily married to Anne Midgette, the extraordinary chief classical music critic for the Washington Post. We live partly in Washington (in Adams-Morgan), and partly in Warwick, NY, a peaceful town about an hour north and west of New York City, where we built a lovely house. But the biggest, happiest news is our baby, Rafael, whom we adopted in October, and -- smiling, laughing, playing as he starts to grow up -- is the joy of our lives.