I recently saw an ignorant Facebook comment about cellist Alisa Weilerstein which infuriated me. Decca Classics had shared news about Weilerstein’s latest album, Dvořák. The cover art featured the following image:
Here’s what an ignorant guy wrote in response:
New generation of classical music players began to look more like a country-music pop singer rather than a classic musician.
Did this guy think that Weilerstein looked like a country artist because she posed outside in a fancy dress with her hair down? Even if she was dressed like a country singer, what’s wrong with that?
The days when classical musicians dress exclusively in penguin suits or severe black dresses are over. Much has been made about the decreasing size of classical audiences. Musicians have taken action by cultivating new fans in untraditional venues such as bars and clubs where it wouldn’t make any sense to wear a tie and tails. For example, Cleveland Orchestra members donned T-shirts to perform chamber music at their local watering-hole, the Happy Dog. The Spektral Quartet, a resident chamber ensemble at the University Of Chicago, wears jeans when they perform during their concert series at the Empty Bottle club. Itzhak Perlman’s protégé Amadeus Leopold (a.k.a. Hahn-Bin), has performed everywhere from Alice Tulley Hall to MoMA in outfits which would make Lady Gaga proud.
Does a musician’s caliber change if he wears a T-shirt instead of a tux? Of course not.
In case anyone is wondering, Alisa Weilerstein is a classical musician of the highest caliber. I can say that for a fact because we attended the Cleveland Institute of Music at the same time, and I heard several of her performances. What’s more, she has a dazzling array of honors and accomplishments on her resume. She has soloed with all of the major orchestras in the United States and Europe, she was named a MacArthur foundation Fellow in 2010, and she was the first cellist to be signed by Decca Classics in over 30 years.
The bottom line is that in the ever-evolving realm of classical music, we shouldn’t be judging a musician by what she is or isn’t wearing (like Lara St. John clad in nothing but her violin) on her album cover. Instead, take a moment to look the artist up on YouTube or SoundCloud.
If you’d like to enjoy a sample of Alisa Weilerstein’s talents, please check out the video below.
- Classical Playlist: Luiza Borac, Alisa Weilerstein, Cédric Tiberghien and More (artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com)
- Café Concert: Alisa Weilerstein (wqxr.org)