Slatkin: Where are the young American guest conductors at U.S. orchestras?


In Thursday’s (1/9) Huffington Post, Leonard Slatkin, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s music director, writes about his recent conversation with Teddy Abrams, who is currently serving as an assistant conductor at the DSO and was recently appointed music director of the Louisville Symphony. “Teddy pointed out something that had not occurred to me before. Virtually no American orchestras were engaging guest conductors from our own country under the age of 45.… A little research proved Teddy correct.… Just think about this list: James Levine, James Conlon, Michael Tilson Thomas, David Zinman, Andre Previn, Gerard Schwarz, Lawrence Foster, Dennis Russell Davies and myself, among many others, were highly present on almost every orchestra’s podiums. And we all did this well before the 45-year-old barrier.… What has happened? Were we that much better than the young Americans of today? Is the attraction of a foreign accent still in play? Mind you, I am certainly no fan of the quota system when it comes to musical decisions.… What can or should be done? … Perhaps it is also time to consider our own homegrown talent.… Some encouragement for the new kids on the block is important. We must not leave the younger generation of American conductors behind.”

So there are only 9 (living?) American conductors over the age of 45 that are worth considering to guest conduct an American orchestra. Slatkin, whom I respect, inadvertently brings to light the exclusive older than 45 conductors’ club. The young conductors have plenty of time to guest conduct. How about the many other older, seasoned, experienced American conductors? Are we the forgotten majority; not rich enough to afford the dues of this silly old man’s club. Leonard, if its looks like discrimination and smells like discrimination it certainly IS discrimination!

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