ARNOLD BROIDO: A lot of effort has gone into trying to bring contemporary music into the schools. Today the problem is how do you get music back into the schools, ’cause after the cutbacks in the ’70′s, music dropped out, simply because it was the easiest thing to kill, because no one was defending it.
FRANK J. OTERI: And there was also an agenda, a political agenda of people who were elected who were saying, “Well, this isn’t really necessary.”
ARNOLD BROIDO: I thought it was financial.
FRANK J. OTERI: You think more financial than political?
ARNOLD BROIDO: Well, you know, one of the problems was that the music educators really never knew how to protect themselves. Now they were not political. They had no philosophical ground. And when they were asked the question by the schools, “Well, why should we continue your program? It is the most expensive program in the schools. Give us a reason,” they sort of put their hands over their hearts and said “Look, music is beautiful.”
FRANK J. OTERI: Right. Well, this is what we talked about a lot in our December issue; we put together an Arts in Education Symposium. One of the things that has happened is that arts in education, the concept of teaching other subjects through art, has enabled the arts to come back into schools.
ARNOLD BROIDO: And that’s a disaster.
FRANK J. OTERI: But it’s better than not having it there at all.
ARNOLD BROIDO: I’m not sure. It’s a little bit like saying, well, it’s great to have pop bands and entertainment music in the schools because it’s better than nothing. The problem is, it’s indefensible. Really the only way you can justify music is as music. Kids get enough entertainment music. They know more about entertainment music than their teachers do, obviously.
FRANK J. OTERI: Right.
ARNOLD BROIDO: And they’re hooked into it, I mean, they’ve got the buttons in their ears all the time.
FRANK J. OTERI: But maybe we’re talking about, you know, larger ways to use music to understand history better, to use art to understand history better, you know, to make connections, to have students create music to understand various procedures, you know, there are a lot of applications. A lot of mathematical skills can be learned, a lot of verbal skills can be learned through the process of creating music.
ARNOLD BROIDO: That’s all nice. But unfortunately it doesn’t solve the problem of why music belongs in the schools.
FRANK J. OTERI: So why does music belong in the schools, in your opinion?
ARNOLD BROIDO: Because I think that music is a very important part of the education of a civilized mind. I think that it does something that nothing else does. It sensitizes areas of the human psyche that almost nothing else does. In 1967 there was a symposium at Tanglewood that MENC put on. And incidentally, Presser, the Presser Foundation funded it. The Tanglewood Declaration called for music to be at the core of education because music reaches closer to the social, psychological and physiological roots of mankind in the search for identity and self-realization. And that sentence has echoed down over the years from 1967. In fact, this past year there was something called Vision 2020, that MENC put on, which was an attempt to use the Tanglewood model to look ahead to the year 2020. And they based it really upon the Tanglewood Declaration, that music does something different than any other subject does. Of course, as you know, all of the brain stuff that is beginning to surface now…
FRANK J. OTERI: Like “Mozart Makes You Smarter“…
ARNOLD BROIDO: Yeah, the press actually took that one and ran with it. But the research didn’t say that at all. It said that the study was x and it did y.
FRANK J. OTERI: I think that part of what’s happened in our society is that music has become less relevant and music as an intellectual process has become less relevant. You talked about the generation of kids who have the headphones in their ears… Music has become this passive thing. As a society, we used to make music. There were pianos in most affluent homes at the turn of the century. And even in the 1960′s, there were guitars in almost every college dorm room. Now many people’s homes have no instruments, and people are not making music, much less composing music.
TOM BROIDO: The danger is there is that that threatens to destroy the feeder system. For instance, intellectual questions aside, for the average person to see how important music is to the human experience, all that person has to do (not that you could), is to get a copy of the movie Star Wars, and watch it without the music. I’ve never done that, but I guarantee that it would be a very, very dull experience compared to the film as shown in the theaters. And one of the problems with a large segment of society becoming passive music consumers and not active music creators, and not trained as future audiences, is that you threaten the very fabric of how people are trained to make, appreciate, and recreate music in society.
FRANK J. OTERI: It’s like everything else. We enjoy reading and we enjoy writing and listening to words, because we speak them ourselves…
TOM BROIDO: Music is a human language. It’s not a frill. It’s a human language.
FRANK J. OTERI: To continue with this film thing for a second… You go back and you look at silent films and there were some films that didn’t have music or musical accompaniment or some of the early talkies, it hadn’t been codified yet, the process of sound before Max Steiner started coming out with what the elements of a film soundtrack should be, and they’re very hard to watch.
TOM BROIDO: That’s why they’re not shown anymore.
ARNOLD BROIDO: You have to remember that there was a whole publishing empire based on music for movies, silent movie theater pianists. Belwin started as a supplier of music for silent movies. They had a huge catalog.
FRANK J. OTERI: Themes for romance, themes for disasters…
ARNOLD BROIDO: You could buy bridges, all sorts of things. You could buy things for a specific film…
FRANK J. OTERI: I did a strange experiment once upon a time along the lines of your Star Wars idea, just on a whim. I put on MTV without sound to see what these things would be like without sound. It was absolutely unbearable.
ARNOLD BROIDO: [laughs] Well, I find MTV unbearable…