• In Finland, teachers call authority-defying students valituskuoro, or chorus of complaints. Oddly enough, this became a new performance art form when two Finns, husband-and-wife team Oliver and Tellervo Kochta-Kalleinen took “chorus of complaints” literally. In 2005, choruses of complaints began in Birmingham, England; Helsinki, Finland; and St Petersburg, Russia. The chorus of complaints is exactly what it sounds like: a chorus of people singing about their complaints. Times journalist Neil Fisher writes, “They chant about tatty [dilapidated] bus stops and harmonise on the insufficient length of their vacuum-cleaner cord. In fact, every tedious aspect of modern life has probably passed the lips of a complaints choir, a new kind of performance art that is noisily taking root across the world.”
• The goal is perfection, but seeking perfection is more important than achieving perfection. Indian tabla master Zakir Hussain learned this important lesson from jazz saxophonist Charles Lloyd. Following a concert, one of Mr. Lloyd’s friends told him, “Charles, that was amazing — that was perfect!” Mr. Lloyd replied, “Man, I haven’t played good enough to quit yet!” Ms. Hussain identifies what he learned from this short conversation: “If I think I play well enough now, I might as well hang up my boots. It’s not about the goal; it’s about the journey. This is a learning experience all through your life.”
• Buddy Collette helped to unite a white musicians’ union group (Musicians Local 47) and a black musicians’ union group (Musicians Local 767). In doing so, he had help from African-American celebrity Josephine Baker, who spoke to an integrated audience, saying that she didn’t see why there were two (segregated) locals; after all, the audience was integrated. She saw two little girls in the audience, one white and one black, and she spoke for a moment to them. The two little girls hugged each other, and Ms. Baker said, “I think you can learn a lot from these youngsters.”
• Violinist Mischa Elman was known for playing with a warm tone, something that famous violin teacher Carl Flesch did not have. Mr. Elman once attended a master class given by Mr. Flesch, who could be very critical during his classes. One student played with a very dry tone, so Mr. Flesch said, “Ladies and gentlemen, there is someone here who knows more about tone than anyone in the world. Mischa Elman, would you define a beautiful tone for the student?” Mr. Elman told the student, “Exactly what your teacher doesn’t have.”
• When guitarist Felix White of the Maccabees was attending school, he wasn’t allowed to do much in music: “I was told I couldn’t sing or do anything. So I had to play xylophone. Just the one note, again and again. My favorite note? Whichever note they gave me. I was just happy to be involved.” Recently, the school invited him back. Mr. White says, “They said, ‘We’d like you to do a speech about how much the school taught you.’” He jokes, “I’m going to go back and smash the xylophone.”
• Chris Martin, the lead singer of Coldplay, and the other members of the band take education seriously. Mr. Martin and his band mates attended London University. They declined to sign a contract that made them release any Coldplay records or tour before they had completed their final exams. Mr. Martin received a first — a top British honor — in ancient world studies. He and the other members of Coldplay became rock gods after their final exams.
• A Mexican piano teacher named Manuel Barajas was strict. The young Plácido Domingo and two young nephews of a family friend named Esperanza Vázquez took lessons at the same time, with their aunts picking them up after the lesson. Whenever Mr. Barajas was displeased by a young pupil’s playing, he would tell the aunts, “Aunts, upstairs!” He would then criticize whichever pupil had displeased him in the aunts’ presence.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
The Funniest People in Music, Volume 3 — Buy: