Midgette: How moral must classical musicians be?

Posted on: March 18, 2014

“There’s a myth, in the popular imagination, that classical music is higher, better and more exalted than much of the rest of life,” writes Anne Midgette in Sunday’s (3/16) Washington Post. “This extends to the idea that classical musicians must be on the side of the good and true and right.… A case study at the moment is Gustavo Dudamel … the most prominent product of Venezuela’s program El Sistema…. Now Venezuela is being rocked by waves of public protest against a government that has responded with military violence… Dudamel … has stopped short of taking a political stand; [Russian conductor Valery] Gergiev, to Western eyes, has taken the wrong one” by publicly supporting Vladimir Putin’s government with regard to the situation in Crimea. “The question is … how much great artists have a responsibility to speak out and do right. Some musicians use their renown as a platform for addressing social issues—think, for instance, of Daniel Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra…. But the political stage is not a natural platform for every artist…. Dudamel’s situation is far from clear cut. Speaking out against the government that funds the programs he supports … could jeopardize their future. And would that be, morally speaking, a better choice than making a vague statement about peace and nonviolence and continuing to be involved with a program that does good for thousands of young people?”

Posted March 18, 2014