Robert Freeman was educated at the Milton Academy, Harvard, and Princeton, taught at Princeton and MIT, and served as an administrator at Princeton, Eastman, New England Conservatory, and the University of Texas. Part memoir and part handbook, the book has chapters aimed towards specific audiences: parents of young musicians, current college students, college faculty, deans, provosts and presidents, and foundation directors. There is some excellent advice about ways of making orchestral concerts more accessible to audiences, and some of Freeman's examples could serve as inspiration for organizations that are suffering economically; but he does not address what seems to be the largest crisis facing institutions of higher learning in America: the treatment of adjunct faculty.
Musicians have been working as academic adjuncts for a long time, but now that other fields of study rely on more and more adjunct faculty members to teach courses, the problem is no longer one that only concerns the state of music in colleges and universities. Freeman's paragraph about what he calls "junior faculty" makes his vantage point clear:
A special faculty problem, I think, is the difference between institutions like Harvard and Princeton, which most often choose senior faculty from the outside, as a means of ensuring quality, and institutions like Texas and Michigan, where the promotion rate for assistant professors approximates two thirds. In the latter universities, senior faculty treat junior faculty as a human resource to be developed and nurtured, in the former as a temporary resource to be exploited. It makes no sense to turn a promising young colleague into a personal friend if he is about to be exiled to what one thinks of too easily as the minor leagues.To this I utter a resounding "Huh?" If Texas and Michigan are the "minor leagues," and the people teaching in those schools are in "exile," I hate to think about how he would regard the smaller state schools in America where the state of music really is in crisis.
I live in a college town where music majors are no longer required to take courses in musical analysis (such a course is no longer offered). Most of the members of the music faculty do not have tenure-track positions, and all the required music history courses for music majors are shouldered by a single underpaid instructor who is grateful to have the position. All of the music appreciation classes are taught by applied faculty, and the applied faculty members who teach those courses are more accomplished instrumentalists and better teachers, for the most part, than the people who had tenure-track jobs teaching their instruments a dozen years ago.
I share Freeman's belief that music students should study humanities, but I find his statement about hiring people to teach courses outside of music suspect:
The continuing national oversupply of very gifted PhDs in the humanities made it relatively easy to hire very good people in this area, one that I thought should be strong enough to persuade Eastman students that the abilities to read with nuance and to write and speak with power were important skills for a modern musician.Does "relatively easy" mean inexpensive and without commitment?
Robert Freeman's father was a member of the Boston Symphony, and Robert enjoyed a childhood filled with music making at the highest level. I also grew up as a child of the Boston Symphony member (one generation later), and I attended an elite musical institution (Juilliard), but my adult view of the world of music is informed from what I see and hear around me in 21st-century America, where I live and work as a musician. Freeman's elevated vantage point makes me feel uneasy.
Perhaps Freeman is able to speak to some the problems facing some of the elite musical institutions in America, but I can't seem to find much in this book that resonates with my experience. Perhaps a truer title for the book would have been "The Problems Elite Musical Institutions Face in America," but then it probably wouldn't sell.