Considering his increasingly imprudent rants, the recently hired president of New England Conservatory played it rather safe the other night. On camera for a NY Public Radio discussion of the “Future of American Orchestras”, Tony Woodcock hotly asserted that orchestras are in a state of crisis, and Something Must Be Done About It. He discreetly avoided defining What Actually Needs To Be Done, but the article he published after the talk is pretty clear.
Repeating arguments made fifty years ago, his critique is neither fresh nor challenging. Of much greater concern to many alumni is his use of the New England Conservatory name to promote his own Special Tony brand. Watch the panel; he’s been given this platform because of his two or three year experience as President of a Major Conservatory. (He evidently wasn’t allowed to spout such blather at the Minnesota Orchestra.)
An integral part of the Woodcock Show is Tony’s rapturous odes to the creativity of “the students” and “the young”. This gives him a veneer of positivity and plausibility (Who, after all, would argue that creativity is bad?), while masking his underlying anti-union message. The header of Tony’s blog shows him surrounded by smiling NEC students; he writes underneath that orchestras’ “consumption of a community’s philanthropic wealth is disproportionate to the value they produce.” Perhaps this isn’t the message a conservatory should be promoting.
When the New England Conservatory awakens from its sleep—with ads for “Tony’s Blog” plastered all over its website and Mr. Woodcock traveling the world championing the cause of musicians not being paid—will this institution be better off? Our school may be forever associated with a particularly aggravating brand of idiocy: the classical music manager who loves “the music” but believes the musicians are always at fault for the industry’s problems.
—Matt Plummer, M.M. 2007, New England Conservatory