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Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

On humming cellos, Indiana University Music School
and the charisma bypass operation,
with Classical Music Agony Aunt ALICE McVEIGH

Dear Alice,
Is it true that you went to Indiana University Music School? And, if so, what is your reaction to their recent signing-up of Leonard Slatkin, probably the only famous conductor to have been 'let go' almost simultaneously from two major orchestras on different sides of the pond?
G Smith

Dear G (Gregory? Georgiana? Never mind!)

Yes I did go to Indiana, which is not an experience to wish on a dog, but never mind. It's got a great reputation and a cello degree from there probably got me a few auditions I might otherwise not have got!!!! However, the place is so big and so impersonal, that my original reason (wanted to be lost in the crowd, for a change!!!!) for liking it turned into complete detestation. It was cliquey, because it had to be, and I was in a clique like everyone else, in self-defense against the amorphous mass of music students. The school was then churning out (and this is no exaggeration) seventy main-study cellists at one time. As for the pianists, you couldn't MOVE without stepping on one, and practice rooms were to be fought and died over (I understand they have a new practice-room building now, though).

As for L Slatkin, well, I honestly think they've made a big mistake. This is the guy so enlightened as to what women think (IU is more than half women) that he publicly said that some of the BBC Symphony Orchestra women were too fat to wear trousers (or was it too fat not to? -- can't remember). Also, these kids (yes, I'm allowed to call them kids, they could be my kids by this point!!!) are in desperate need of inspiration, and his best friend couldn't claim that Slatkin hasn't had a charisma bypass. (Bryan Balkwill was my favorite inspirational conductor back then; God, was he inspirational; I had the maddest crush on him ...) Unless things have altered, IU orchestral-instrument students will spend around three hours a day being conducted by this no-hoper. There ought to be some kind of law!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And then there's his dubious reputation as seducer to be considered (see leaked emails regarding his mad affair with Evelyn Glennie, the solo percussionist). In short, can Slatkin be trusted to keep his hands off the merchandise????? IU must undoubtedly still be loaded with pulcritudinous pianists, stunning sopranos and sloe-eyed string players (in my time 'yellow fever' was at its height, with slanting-eyes, divinely-proportioned orientals being the 'in' group ... but this was twenty years ago). As for potential conducting students, let's not even go there.

Indiana, you have been warned!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ask Alice

Dear Alice,
My cello is buzzing. Is it because of the weather?

Dear Amy,

Could be because of the weather. You don't say where you're from, but the glue that holds cellos together certainly can dry out, resulting in very soft, intermittant, whistly buzzes. Or your bridge may be too low, causing a stringy buzz. Or the bridge may have warped (ditto). Or you may have a crack, making a dull-sounding buzz. I sense that you're hoping I will have some magic wand that can cure it, however, which is not the case!!!!!

Bite the bullet and take it to your friendly local cello-maker, is my advice ...

Copyright © 3 November 2006 Alice McVeigh, Kent UK

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