There are no longer classical music performances at the Grammys. In earlier years, there were a wide variety of musical styles represented, and the show, to me, was much more entertaining.
Witness this blockbuster performance by Wynton Marsalis in 1983. He plays both a classical and a jazz piece because he was nominated for each that year. As he is set to begin the jazz number, his third valve appears to stick and need valve grease. But it's live television. He signals to his bandmates to begin and plays anyway - without using the third valve. This meant he had to do a lot of alternate fingerings on the fly. It takes incredible talent to be able to pull that off.
In his acceptance speech at the end of the video, Wynton thanks the great masters of jazz music.
. . .all the guys who set a precedent in Western art, and gave an art form to the American people that can not be limited by enforced trends or bad taste.
The faddish nature of the current Grammys was driven home to me by the sad collection of twitter posts from young people asking "Who the heck is Paul McCartney?"
Have people lost all sense of musical history and appreciation of musical styles? Did my generation learn more about this from our homes, or education programs that didn't cut music?
The Washington Post did an interesting experiment back in 2007. They placed a violinist in a DC metro station and set up a camera to see how many people would stop to listen. In the course of an hour, with over 1000 people passing through the station, only 6 stopped. He made $32.17 in bills and coins thrown into his violin case.
The violinist was Joshua Bell, who that year won the Avery Fisher prize as the best classical musician in America. He was playing some of the most beautiful and difficult music ever written on a 3.5 million dollar violin. Three days earlier, people had paid $100 each to hear him perform in Boston.
Parents felt cheated when it was determined that all those "Mozart for babies" CDs weren't really making babies any smarter. As if they had wasted their time playing Mozart.
Mozart isn't just for babies. Music is for a lifetime. Tweens should listen to Chopin along with their Taylor Swift. Teenagers should listen to Sinatra as well as Bon Iver. Moms should listen to Latin jazz (which, unfortunately, is no longer even recognized as a category by the Grammys). Old people should listen to bluegrass. Really, there is so much great timeless music out there that we should all be listening and learning our whole lives.
Let's remind our kids to keep open minds and ears. And always listen to and tip the live musician!