The Mozart Problem

Because of the lack of diversity, many bands and orchestras are relying on blind auditions where a person plays a piece on stage without looking at them or even talking to them about their experiences and who they are as a person. The problem with this is not because of the performer, but the expectations of the auditionees who expect a miraculous Mozart-like figure to come out of the woodwork; and when it does not happen then they put blame on the performer than their own judgment. Sadly I have experienced the same feelings as a person on the Autism spectrum who is not a savant, but works just as hard as a tubist to make what I do sound the best way it can sound.

Two of my heroes when it comes to tuba players are not people like Carol Jantsch, but two men who taught me to love my instrument and to be brave when it came to auditions were Charles Dallenbach and Arnold Jacobs. When I first heard a Canadian Brass album when CDs were popular I finally had the words to say that I wanted to play the tuba because it sounded powerful, rich, funny, lyrical, soulful, and deep. Transitioning from trombone to tuba was difficult at first but soon I was capable of playing a loud and robust tone on my small Jupiter tuba with three valves. As I got better I discovered how to hit the higher registers, vibrato, and even was doing the gliss from Tuba Tiger Rag.

At Warton Center in Lansing, Michigan I finally got to see Canadian Brass in concert where they did the Carman sketch; I finally got to meet my hero and hugged him. I even wrote a letter asking them if they did other operas like my favorite The Magic Flute; a few days later I got a special gift in the mail which were three arias from the opera for tuba. The one I worked on the hardest was O Isis und Osiris which is sung by Pamina’s father Sarastro.

In the opera, he is very protective of his daughter Pamina whom Tamino and Papageno are supposed to rescue, and just before they meet each other he makes both of them go through trials that could be brutal and dangerous. In the second act, he is with his high priest and realizes that he was a little too judgemental to both of them, however, what was done was done. So he prays to Isis and Osiris for guidance for not only Tamino, Papageno; but also to guide him as a father which will help him later on when Pimina’s mother the Queen of the Night hears of Saratro’s plan and wants to kill him and curse Pamina.

I felt very sheltered as a young child and was homeschooled until fourth grade where I was the only girl in a class full of boys. After Inermetiade and Middle School, I and some of my classmates were the first people on the Autism spectrum to be integrated into High School. When I was finally able to play the solo I worked very hard on; I played it for family and in that solo, I poured in my desire to be accepted and free from being so sheltered from people. When they told me I was a genius I began to believe it without knowing the danger of that word genius.

Mozart too was called this without people knowing the consequences; in a way, this word for people on the spectrum savant or non-savant is a micro-aggression that seems positive when it’s not. Genus means to us that you have to be perfect all the time when it’s ok not to be perfect or have human flaws that make you your own individual. Mozart despite his musical genus felt sheltered by court life which he mocks in his opera The Marriage of Figaro, he even wrote vocal cannons with vulgar humor like Lech Mich im Arche, and Bona Nox based on a letter he wrote to his sister Lotte to make her laugh.

In the film, Amadeus Mozart’s friend and rival Salieri admits that when he sight-read his piece admitted that Mozart was no performing monkey but made beautiful music that reflected how he truly felt about the world and people around him. When Mozart dies he feels bad that he was a bystander to all the people who not only micro aggressed him, but manipulated him and the people around him like Salieri who were told that what they said or did to Mozart did not have implications. Imagine if someone told Salieri that Mozart’s death was not his fault, that he should not feel so guilty about grieving or feeling sad about not being able to do something. Grief is a process of helping us deal with things that we could not deal with before and opens our eyes to things we could not see before when that person was alive.

This is where my hero Arnold Jacobs comes into play; he once said that auditions and audition committees are a poor resource for finding talented people because their basis and elitism is so great that it hurts even the most talented people and good people who love to make music for the art and not for money or trophies. This is why there are still conflicts over what instrument is the best instrument, which repertoire is a good repertoire, what genre music is the most suitable. Instead of this elitism, discrimination, and ableism, the way auditions are set up why don’t we listen to all different genres of music and find out what makes them sound unique and how they are played instead of relying on old discriminatory ideas from an outdated system of exploiting brilliant and talented people like myself. Make auditions a key to wanting to learn about music through playing and knowing a person through their culture of music and how they got the inspiration to play whatever they play, and make it free for all people who enjoy music.

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Tuba player, creator of Struwwelkinder and The Flying Circus Orchestra

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Christina Bishop

Christina Bishop

Tuba player, creator of Struwwelkinder and The Flying Circus Orchestra

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