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No Vivaldi in the Garage: a Requiem for Classical Music in North America.

by Sheldon Morgenstern. Northeastern University Press (360 Huntington Ave., 416CP, Boston, MA 02115), 2001. 208 pp., $26.95.

Musicians and artists throughout history have relied on the generosity of benefactors for financial support. Whether they are wealthy monarchs or government agencies, the benefactors' viewpoints often conflict with the artist's view. In No Vivaldi in the Garage, Sheldon Morgenstern offers an account of his personal experiences as an arts administrator battling government arts agencies and private boards of directors.

From the early 1960s until 1997, Morgenstern served as the artistic director of the Eastern Music Festival, a summer music program affiliated with Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina. Morgenstern focuses on the administrative aspects of his career more work as a conductor and educator. There are a few stories about the gratification of ongoing contact with former students who have had successful careers and contacts with great musicians who performed at the Eastern Music Festival. These stories are overshadowed, though, by the disappointment and bitterness that lingers after frustrating political battles. Unfortunately, Morgenstern offers very little constructive advice for those currently involved in advocacy for arts education. Rather, he cautions young musicians to beware of the dangers of political roadblocks in building a career.

The book's intriguing title aptly depicts its negative tone. The title is a quote from the television sitcom Taxi in which one of the taxi drivers plays some Vivaldi duets for flute with his sister while passing the time in the taxi garage. An unlikely setting for classical music? The disgruntled dispatcher Louie, played by Danny DeVito, hates classical music and announces over the loudspeaker, "No Vivaldi in the garage!" Morgenstern compares Louie's attitude to that of boards of directors, but suggests that members of the board are more likely to say, "No Bartok in the concert hall!" Programming control is just one of the many issues over which artistic directors and boards of directors disagree.

After his resignation as artistic director of the Eastern Music Festival following a feud in 1997 with the executive director and members of the board of directors, Morgenstern moved to France. Details of the series of events leading to his resignation appear in the chapter titled "Board Games." He laments in the book's preface that friends and acquaintances in Canada and the United States frequently send him news of the problems for musicians and orchestras trying to survive financial difficulties in North America.

Morgenstern's memoirs certainly will be interesting to anyone who has attended the Eastern Music Festival or is interested in arts management. The writing is witty and sarcastic, and the book is easy to read. Arts administrators will enjoy Morgenstern's anecdotes and looking at the music business from one conductor's perspective. Other than personal incidents from Morgenstern's student years, this book contains little information about music teaching or musical analysis.

Unfortunately, Morgenstern does not offer viable alternatives for funding music organizations beyond increased government funding. Substantial arts funding restructuring does not seem likely in the near future. Let's hope that classical music in North America is not yet ready for a requiem! Arts education will continue to rely on creativity and collaboration between benefactors, administrators and artists. This book is one story about what works and what doesn't work. Reviewed by Kenneth Williams, Columbus, Ohio.
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Author:Williams, Kenneth
Publication:American Music Teacher
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 1, 2002
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