Music and sports: More in common than the national anthem

Three news stories about classical musicians shared an unusual element this week:

unscary_stethoscopeSingers talk about vocal health and maintenance constantly… in general. But when it comes to admitting a malady, an injury or any condition that could affect availability, those same performers may go mute about their own condition.

Apparently it’s not just us.  This week, guitarist Miloš was quoted in the UK’s Classical Music magazine about a hand injury that sidelined him for three months, and the concern it raised about the culture of secrecy that seems to exist in the classical musical community.

‘Musicians do not talk about injury, which is unfair. Sports people do not do that.’

This isn’t the first, or even the second, time this week that classical performers have been compared to athletes, and it’s a comparison that is very apt.  Singers often refer to themselves as athletes on a smaller scale, but the parallels in terms of conditioning and “shelf life” are many.  This isn’t a new idea, either, but this cluster of references could mark some renewed awareness of our kinship with the sports performers of the world.

football_teamOn Sunday, conductor John Mauceri (well-known to Hollywood Bowl attendees from 1990 to 2006) suggested in the Huffington Post that classical music has much to learn from football, with the logic that getting kids and their parents involved early can make a big difference in the art form’s visibility and long-term support.

basketball_playerBut is a classical career actually harder to achieve than one in pro sports?  One reporter suggests that an orchestra is harder to get into than the NBA. On Monday, Mr. Lebrecht pointed to a November article from Cincinnati that you may have missed in the Thanksgiving week’s hubbub:  an excellent description by Janelle Gelfand of the gauntlet required in order to snag a coveted orchestral position:

‘It’s easier to play pro sports than pass an orchestra audition’

Whether or not we should all be reading Sports Illustrated is up for discussion.  But it sounds like the sports connection is gaining some significant respect, making it well worth some continued awareness.

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