Monsters and Angels:
and Angels - Surviving a Career in Music, Seymour Bernstein takes
readers behind the scenes, where they learn the truth about performing
careers. Because he sees career survival as surviving life itself,
he offers the reader insights and advice on personal as well as musical
issues. In Part 2, he discusses the importance of music education
in everyone's life. Through his vivid and often humorous accounts
of his own experiences with teachers, we learn how to discriminate
between good and bad ones. As he traces the path of his career, he
brings to account monster teachers, managers, and critics for their
abuse of young aspiring musicians.
The author pays special tribute to non-professional musicians who
pursue their art primarily because of their love for it. For serious
amateurs who have reached a professional level of accomplishment,
he has created a new category of musician - professional-amateurs.
Seymour Bernstein strongly believes that everyone has a right to develop
whatever degree of talent he or she possesses ... not necessarily
to have a career, but more importantly for self-fulfillment and self-development.
His first book, With Your Own Two Hands, touched upon this subject.
Monsters and Angels enlarges upon it.
This book will have special appeal to:
1. The ordinary readers, who will be fascinated and also shocked to
learn what performers endure in their quest for a musical career.
2. People with frustrated dreams who were categorically discouraged
from expressing their artistic gifts simply because they were not
thought to be talented enough.
3. All musicians, professional and otherwise, whom Seymour Bernstein
offers advice and career alternatives in a profession fraught with
frustration, deception, and heartaches.
Seymour Bernstein has accrued scores of "triumphs" in a
variety of activities. He studied with such notable musicians as Alexander
Brailowsky, Sir Clifford Curzon, Jan Gorbaty, Nadia Boulanger, and
Georges Enesco, both in this country and in Europe. His prizes and
grants include the First Prize and Prix Jacques Durand from
the international competition held at Fontainebleau, France, the National
Federation of Music Clubs Award for Furthering American Music Abroad,
a Beebe Foundation grant, two Martha Baird Rockefeller grants, and
four State Department grants. His concert career has taken him to
Asia, Europe, and throughout the Americas, where he has appeared in
solo recitals and as guest artist with orchestras and chamber music
groups. In 1969, he made his debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra,
playing the world premiere of Concerto No. 2 by Villa-Lobos.
"Seymour Bernstein Triumphs at the Piano"
(Donal Henahan, The New York Times)
Acclaimed for his "...technical brilliance and penetrating interpretive
skills," Seymour Bernstein is also an internationally known writer,
composer, teacher, and lecturer. Many of his piano works are on the
best seller list. His books With Your Own Two Hands, 20 Lessons in
Keyboard Choreography, and Musi-Physi-Cality (the children's version),
have been published in German, Japanese, and Korean. They, along with
his videotape, You and the Piano, have been hailed by critics as "...firsts
of their kind," and "...landmarks in music education."
In constant demand for master classes and educational programs, he
is one of the most sought after clinicians in this country and abroad.
Performances of his piano works have earned him awards from ASCAP.
Seymour Bernstein maintains a private studio in New York City. In
addition, he is an Adjunct Associate Professor of Piano and Music
Education at New York University.
Monsters and Angels - Surviving a Career in Music is really about
surviving life itself. In recounting my own survival, I hope to speak
for all people, professional and otherwise, who strive to express
their artistic passions. Self-expression through music is perhaps
the deepest source of satisfaction available to mankind. Yet, the
process through which our talent allows us free expression is fraught
with difficulties. Chief among them is the struggle to achieve a balance
between our artistic and personal selves. "Does my performance
measure up to what others can do?" "Will I ever be recognized
for my efforts?" "I can't live without my art; but how can
I practice seriously and support myself at the same time?" These
are some of the questions addressed in this book.
As everyone knows, parents, teachers, siblings, and friends shape
and influence our lives for good and for ill. Survival, as I see it,
depends to a great extent upon how successfully we learn to differentiate
between the "angels" and "monsters" - those whose
sole intent is to benefit us, and those who seem neurotically driven
to dominate and control everyone within their grasp. Adulthood, however,
has one distinctive privilege: it gives us the right to reject certain
authority figures - even a parent, if need be.
My overview of music education and performing careers is not a positive
one: Composers and performers of the twentieth century are now separated
from each other; ruthless managers have turned the performing scene
into a veritable Armageddon; and some music critics demean music and
performers and infect the public with the poison of their own boredom.
Worst of all are certain teachers and managers who use their reputations
and positions of power to demand sexual favors from young musicians.
On the positive side, amateur musicians protect the sacred art of
music even more than most professionals do. There are, to be sure,
dilettantes among them. But some amateurs have achieved the level
of competence that we associate with professional musicians. They
differ from professionals, however, in two respects: they make their
living in non-musical fields, and they perform and compose for one
reason only - a love of music, as the word amateur implies. Strange
as it may seem, many professional musicians, caught up in the vicissitudes
of careers, have all but forgotten their initial love of music.
To elevate serious amateurs to the status they deserve, I have placed
them in a new category - the professional-amateur. The future of music
is safe in their hands. In the end, it is they who will defend and
promulgate music, not to gain public acclaim, but to benefit from
and communicate music's harmonizing properties, and not for financial
gain, but for the spiritual enlightenment which money cannot buy.
Genius always manifests itself, whatever the obstacles. But what of
us non-geniuses? How do we find the courage to pursue our individual
callings in the face of a society that bows to fame and money above
everything else? I trust that others may find their own answers to
this question as I relate my musical and personal experiences. For
somehow, and in spite of everything, I have survived. I have shed
my victim status and am now in control of my own destiny.
Often, people who have worked their way into positions of power have
undermine my efforts. One of them, a well-known writer, said to me,
"Oh, have you done enough to write your memoirs?" Given
his great accomplishments and generosity towards struggling gifted
musicians, plus the fact that he admired my book With Your Own Two
Hands, I thought he would have a clearer perspective about everyone’s
right to self-expression. Yet his question seemed to imply that while
people like Artur Rubinstein have with good reason written their memoirs,
who am I and what have I done that I should write mine? I am sure
that my response, "Yes, I believe I have done enough," made
him think I was as arrogant as my intention to write my memoirs.
This book is my answer to him. It affirms the right of all people,
whatever their level of advancement, to develop and express their
talents. Its chief purpose is to justify and encourage people like
me who are not geniuses, and not world famous, but who are, nevertheless,
imbued with an artistic passion which cries out for expression. It
proposes that self-development and self-fulfillment are among life's
greatest rewards. Ultimately, self-fulfillment reaches out beyond
the self, enabling and inspiring us to contribute to others in countless
ways. This giving of oneself, to be sure, brings the greatest rewards
As I have discovered, the best antidote to rejection and discouragement
is to marshal the courage to begin all over again. In the end, we
and we alone know our strengths and weaknesses. Many of us are called.
But to disagree with the last half of this familiar adage, we can
be chosen, so long as our goals remain both idealistic and reasonable.
With perseverance, we can, as the great scholar and classicist Gilbert
Highet put it, "outsoar" our origins.