Being a “grown-up” often means coming to terms with those things we have control over and those that we do not. As I get older I find that I am less apt to pass judgement and more likely to surmise possibilities. A finite answer in a bad situation does not make bad news any easier to swallow. As humans we are imperfect, a truth that we do not always see in the naivety of our youth.
The NEC’s recent firing of Benjamin Zander has been on my mind a lot lately. When the news reports first came out I thought there must be more to the story and as more information came out it became more obvious that all parties involved were in a mess. School officials had discovered that Zander had knowingly hired a registered sex-offender to videotape NEC’s Youth Philharmonic Orchestra over a period of at least 10 years. There is some suggestion now that another department may have hired the videographer first but it truly surprises me that someone who is world-renowned for his work with children would find himself in such a situation. Zander provided a testimonial at the man’s sentencing in 1994 when he plead guilty to raping a boy and if he truly did provide it without a full understanding of what the charges are then shame on him.
I believe in restitution. I believe in forgiveness. I do not believe in taking a risk when children are involved.
I’m sad for so many reasons, but mostly because, while I can honestly say that I am able to reserve judgement on most things nowadays, this is one situation where I can’t. No matter the reason, this was just a really stupid, stupid, stupid thing for anyone to have done and let go on for so long. I’m sorry for Maestro Zander and all that this media storm has caused, I’m sorry for NEC and all of the future young musicians who will not have the opportunity to learn from one of the greatest educators ever.
Disappointment is a bummer and I’m really mad at him, but I’m not sorry to have known Benjamin Zander.
I remember the very first rehearsal I ever attended under the baton of Benjamin Zander in 1988. There had been an incredible sense of anticipation leading up to his visit as guest conductor at Interlochen Arts Academy, where I attended my junior and senior years of high school 1988-90. As I sat in my seat at the back of the second violin section at 8am that first morning, I was struck by the red face and white hair, but it was his enunciation (moistly British) and his energetic eyes that captured me. He seemed to be looking right at me and telling me that I could make a difference. We all enjoyed conversations outside of rehearsal, stories and bits of wisdom shared during meals, and a general sense of nurturing throughout the week.
Zander, as we often referred to him, has an incredible effect on young musicians. He inspires more than just great music making, he inspires the desire to know more, learn more and expect more.
This is what makes a great educator.
Sadly, it does not make one super-human.
*This blog and this blog post represent my own opinions and are not a reflection of the opinions of any organizations that I am employed by or associated with.