Aspen Music Festival And School

2014 Convocation

Scroll down for full text of Mr. Fletcher's remarks.

Convocation Speakers  
The Aspen Music Festival and School Convocation on Monday, June 23 marked the official beginning of the 2014 season for the 630 music students and 130 artist-faculty in residence this summer.
Alan Fletcher President and CEO
Robert Spano Music Director
Joseph W. Polisi President of The Juilliard School
Robert Hurst AMFS Board Chair
Steve Skadron Mayor of Aspen
Jennifer Johnston Vice President and Dean


Remarks from Alan Fletcher

Some journalists and even some leaders in the world of music are saying that classical music is…. Well I won’t even say it, because I propose that classical music is increasingly relevant and important and will see an era of success, beginning right now.

Classical music is a unique social experiment, in which we agree to come together and give our utmost attention to something very challenging – an art form that richly rewards those who are willing to give it this kind of informed attention.

If it is true that our attention is increasingly distracted, challenged, impaired, compromised – then this kind of art experience is increasingly valuable, even precious. To share an experience created in a crucible of emotion and thought, prepared with intense care and devotion, in an attitude of concentration, imagination, care for memory, the willing suspension of disbelief – this is the great thing our profession has always offered the world. Now it is more important than ever.

We all need to take care of it. We here today can be the leaders in taking care of it.

A reasonable question for all students of music, and for their families, and for their teachers, is whether there’s really a future for them. My answer is unequivocally yes.

To say that because some current business models in some places aren’t working, then nothing works, is wrong.

To say that because one business model isn’t working, classical music is dying, is wrong.

To say that because some can’t make their organizations work the way they want, or they way they always used to work, then they shouldn’t even try to continue, is dead wrong.

In many parts of our musical world there is a profound failure of imagination.

But in many parts, as in Aspen, there is an exciting renaissance of imagination.

Some people don’t like the word “entrepreneurship” to be used in the world of art. This may be because they fear a misapplication of business principles. And that is fair, because while we must employ business principles in many ways, we must also not be governed by them at the expense of carrying out our great musical mission.

But if “entrepreneurship” is understood to mean the creation of opportunity through a willing assumption of risk, then we should all embrace it.

Some think there once were careers in music that involved no risk, no need for active engagement in business, no need for work beyond a pure dedication to music. If that were ever true, it is true no longer.

But that isn’t bad news. We are called to participate in creating opportunity by being willing to take risks, and that is exciting.

The education you are receiving, an education in which we are proud to play a part, is a tremendously worthwhile education.

Don’t see it as training. Don’t think, “If I can just master these excerpts, I’ll be OK; if I can just prepare these arias for a perfect audition I know I’ll make it; if I can play this competition program without a single mistake, then I’ll be ready.” Training is lining yourself up in a prescribed way for a prescribed task. Education is the opposite of alignment – it’s expansion; it’s creativity; it’s openness; it’s improvisation; it’s experimentation; it’s a lifetime of continuous learning. Training is trying to know everything one can know. Education is using that training to stand on the boundary of knowledge, looking at what is further out, shimmering in the mystery of art.

As we begin a life of continuous variation, a career of always-open forms, of brilliant adaptation, I do hope we pledge to honor the aspect of making music that stresses attention, concentration, single-minded thought, and social expression. One of our Board members here in Aspen likes to say that a concert is a sanctuary for her. To consecrate our selves, our minds, and our hearts, is a truly worthy thing. Prepare yourself here in Aspen to be a leader in music. Take risks. Make friends. Do something you love, that others will then love. That is our beautiful profession.

Robert Spano, Music Director

Alan Fletcher, President and CEO