Monday, March 12, 2007

Rampal in the Jungle

I really don't know why I thought of this, but it is a good story to share about my adventures in the musical jungle of the New York 1970s.

I believe that it was my second or third year at Juilliard when Jean-Pierre Rampal came to town to play a concert with Julius Baker. My teacher wanted to involve his students in this concert, but somehow, in arranging for a kind of "flute orchestra" (this was before the concept of the "flute choir" came about) for one of the Boismortier "concerti" (commonly known as one of his flute quintets), every flute student in town seemed to have been involved. There must have been more than 100 flutists playing during the "tutti" sections.

When Rampal made his appearance at our rehearsal, Julius Baker introduced him to his Juilliard students. I said something (probably stupid) in my bad high school French. Whatever I said must have prompted him to ask my teacher to put me in the front circle of 6 soloists. The circle included Rampal, Baker, Marya Martin, Alan Cox (Baker's former prize student: he got to play the bass flute), and me, doubling the bass flute part an inaudible octave higher on the C flute. The fourth soloist might have been Karl Kraber who taught the students from the Mannes School of Music that were part of the "tutti" section, but I'm not absolutely sure.

Though I supposed I should have felt honored (why? For being the focus of Rampal's non-musically-motivated attention?), I did not like the resentment I felt from all the other flutists who wished they could be standing in the "inner circle." After the performance I remember being fawned over by some of the New York managers who kept tabs on the classical music star scene, and I remember being treated as if I had achieved something special by being "featured" at that concert. One very powerful manager even talked to me for a long time, and I found myself being repulsed by another conversation I had at the party after the concert.

If I were a different kind of person I suppose I would have "milked" the experience for all it was worth, regardless of the fact that whatever I "got" from it would have had nothing to do with my musicianship. That evening was my first taste of what I didn't like about the "who you know and how you know them" part of the music business that fertilized the musical jungle of the New York 1970s.

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