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Editorials

July 1901 issue of “The Etude” in searchable PDF

Much is being written in the press of the country on “Success.” We are all interested in knowing how the various successful men of the world have made their way, and we hope to find some principles to help us. In all this seeking one should keep in mind that success, like happiness, like content, like all the conditions which are a part of life, is only relative. What one man may consider success will not appeal to another. What is success in one calling is as the first rung of a ladder in another.

The musician must distinguish between what constitutes success in finance, in trade, in politics, and what is success in his own profession. It is not for him to measure results by the standard of money-getting. If his idea of success is conditioned on accumulating a fortune, he should leave the musical profession at once. He is out of place.

What he should do is to study the conditions which maintain in the music-life, determine upon what, in his mind, constitutes the best and highest, and then work toward those ends. Honest and persistent work along those lines will, it may be, bring him a competence, if he is prudent in his investments, and economical in his expenditures, and is not a competence the success with which many a man is content? But he can do more. Success is measured by what a man accomplishes; the present writer has no hesitation in saying that the music-teacher who believes in his profession, who does his best in his work, who is alert to improve himself for his work, is doing for the community in which he lives a service that will entitle him to the feeling that he has made a success of his life. We must not form our judgments on conditions that do not belong to our profession.

Having chosen the musical profession, we must be content to win our success on the lines that are possible within it, and not be discontented if we cannot do, financially, what men do in other callings where the emoluments are greater.

 

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It has been commented upon that musicians frequently end their days in poverty instead of having a modest competence to make pleasant the last years of their lives. It is not needful to recount why this is the case. There are many reasons, all well known to our readers; but one thing is certain, it is not, as a rule, because the earnings have been so scanty as not to admit of saving.

Many music-teachers—of course, we refer to men— commence their professional life before they are twenty years of age. If they live to sixty, there are forty years of active teaching: enough to have gathered together a little sum for a home or an annuity, if desired. How many a mechanic or other artisan earns more in a year than the average male music- teacher? And yet many of the working class provide for old age. The point is that musicians do not look forward to provision for the future. They live too well in the present.

Another element also comes in. A broker tells us that professional men are very apt to invest their savings in concerns that promise high interest. They are desirous of large returns, and fail to consider the question of security. They are also rather easily persuaded to speculate, with the result that their savings are generally lost. If a musician has gathered together some money, and he wishes to invest it, his best plan is to seek out some stocks or bonds, of the “gilt-edge” quality, and be content with a low rate of interest in return for safety. Other musicians, to our knowledge, have invested their savings in real estate and mortages (sic) secured by real estate. We want to urge all young teachers to make it a rule that each year shall see something laid aside for old age.

 

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All over this broad land—at picnic grounds, pleasure resorts, public parks, wherever the public gathers in large numbers—music is to be heard. We shall not discuss the question as to the kind of music served to the public,—since the Musician’s Federation put the stamp of their disapproval on “rag-time,” no doubt we shall not have so much,—but emphasize the point that it is a good thing for music that the public shall hear much music during the summer.

If those who love music and wish for its highest gain, instead of frowning upon the light music commonly played, would ask for a better grade, or more of it than is the present rule, something could be secured. In the smaller towns is where much can be done. If the band is to give a series of open-air concerts make it your business to find out what the leader has selected and make your requests. He will appreciate it. Get friends to join you in asking for certain pieces that will tend to elevate the public taste, but be sure that the music you ask has the qualities to attract and please the public ear: clear, pleasing melody and strong rhythm.

It is always easier to improve upon existing conditions than to make a revolution by changing everything at once. Gain what you can this summer; next year perhaps you can do more. We want the music-teachers of this country to be on the alert, each to do something for his own community. The general elevation is then certain.

 

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The music-teacher who has worked faithfully with a class of pupils during the season now just closed will have expended considerable energy, both physical and mental, and during the summer months, which will likely be months of rest as compared with the busy time of the preceding months, he should try to repair the waste in his strength by judicious mental and physical exercise and true relaxation.

As a physical exercise bicycle-riding, although no longer so much a fad as was the case a year or two ago, is very valuable. The best authorities on physical culture say that the brain-worker needs a certain mental stimulus in connection with his physical exercise in order to promote a fine tone in the nervous system. If one uses the bicycle as a help to reach out-of-the-way spots, for botanizing expeditions, for little trips to places of interest to the geologist or mineralogist, or for real sight-seeing, visiting places of interest for various reasons, he has an almost ideal recreation. Sun, fresh air, oxygen, the smell of new- mown hay, the sight of green fields, tree-crowned hills, crystal lakes, all those beauties which Nature uses in making her richest landscapes are at the command of the cyclist. The musician, who is an artist at heart, cannot carry himself too close to Nature in its moments of beauty. From her he will gather strength of body and of mind, inspiration, and a love for the beautiful in all its manifestations.

 

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Much of a teacher’s power lies in the use of apt illustrations to enforce the lesson of a principle that has been brought to the pupil’s attention. Since pupils vary so much in their thoughts, tastes, aspirations, and knowledge, the teacher needs a great variety of material for his illustrations. He should train himself to be ever on the alert to gain new ideas, knowledge, facts, incidents that may have in them the possibility of application to his work. He must be, above all other things, perhaps, a careful and constant observer; and more than that he should try to deduce from the things that he sees the causes that produced them. There is a valuable, practical mental training in such work, and the teacher will reap the reward in having a fund of illustration to draw upon in time of need, and the power of applying the teachings to the particular case before him.

 

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Unless a pianist attends with care to the selection of his repertoire, it is practically certain to become one-sided. We find few, very few artists who shine, as did Liszt and Rubinstein, in every style of music equally; and with even the great ones, the stars of the first magnitude, and especially with the trailing meteors, there is a decided preponderance of one or other kind of tonal product in the repertoire. Nevertheless, all pianists, great and small, owe it to their own development, and to their effectiveness in the world, to choose a balanced program. Thus, a player with a naturally sympathetic touch, and with a light arm, will take as instinctively to nocturnes, songs without words, and rivulet pieces as the proverbial duck to the inviting, glassy mirror of the pond; while he who has a thick hand, a huge, round arm, and a ponderous frame will easily run into the rut of marches, chord-pieces, heavy stentorian music.

It may be said, in broad terms, that no pianist should neglect to have in his repertoire, first, some works of noble and equalized polyphony, such as the fugues of Bach and other masters; second, some sonatas both classic (Beethoven, Mozart) and of the modern types developed by Liszt, Brahms, McDowell, and others; third, some sweet-flowing lyric music, with Mendelssohn, Chopin, and Schumann as his patron saints; fourth, some bright, brisk, scintillant music, such as Weber, Moszkowsky, William Mason, Gottschalk, Thalberg, and lesser composers created; fifth, some bits of heroic and colossal virtuoso music as large and difficult as may lie within his utmost horizon, such things as the study in C-major extended chords by Rubinstein and the fascinating “Hungarian Rhapsodies” of Liszt; and, last, some things in the beautiful valse rhythm, such as Tausig and many others have given us, with also some march-forms.

 

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The student may gaze through the telescope of history at the high altitudes on which are inscribed the immortal names, at the mountain-peaks of musical achievement, and become discouraged at the immensity of the distance between these peaks and the level plains on which the student lives in common with the most of humanity; he may even believe himself, in his humility, to dwell beneath the level of the sea, as do the inhabitants of that hot country around Salton and Indio, in Southern California, where the people would have to climb some two hundred and fifty feet toward the midday sun to reach the level of the sea.

Such discouragement is not to be thought entirely a bad thing if it be not too deep or bitter. Great masters are rarities. Happiness is more to be envied than greatness.

 

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I look out of my window at an uncouth plant, straggling and thorny. It is not a thing of beauty. Yet it is tolerated, even encouraged. Why? Because, after many, many years of sterility it now sends up an enormous stem perhaps a dozen feet in height, and that stem bears a rare and beautiful blossom valued for its real beauty as well as its rarity.

And humanity is like the century-plant, in that only at long intervals does it send up such a rare flower as a Palestrina, a Bach, a Mozart, a Beethoven. True, the early part of the last century did seem to have produced a whole garden of great composers, so did the Elizabethan age of authors, but what have we seen of later years? Any Bach or Beethoven in the last half-century?

But one should not be overcome with discouragement because some day he awakes to the fact that he is one of the large company of hidden and overshadowed wild flowers, rather that the rare and beautiful century-plant. Many are the modest violets, the tiny wild flowers, “born to blush unseen,” some even fragrant roses, rarely the unique orchid. We cannot all be century-plants.

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