On Reviews



I was encouraged early on in my career, as most people were, to save reviews of concerts. They said it was great for marketing and publicity to have “press quotes.” They said it’s how careers are made, etc., etc. The idea of seeking out and reading what people thought of my work seemed against most musical ethics I knew, but I did it anyway. In the process, I read a lot of musical criticism, a huge percentage of it more about others than myself. 

Since the advent of social media, we have all been encouraged to start professional Facebook pages to share “news” and “reviews." I have done some of that, but it never felt good. Sharing a good review is like patting oneself on the back and asking one’s friends and other random people to do the same with the Like Button. This is apparently completely acceptable and desirable behavior from a person. However, sharing an amusing and/or terrible review can cause problems in our world of constant connection; it is not considered acceptable behavior to share only one’s bad reviews or all of one’s reviews. In the past year or so, I’ve had a number of reviews ranging from terrible to great. Everyone is an expert now with social media, Youtube commentary, Amazon reviews, and Facebook comments. I’ve had the negative commentary of a 12-year-old oboist shared widely on Facebook by an adult, my performance of the Alpine Symphony has been likened by a blogger to the backing-up of a Uhaul truck, the taste of those who enjoy my oboe playing has been implicated as the reason for the rise of Donald Trump in America, and I’ve been named the mob boss of the oboe world. There were some bad things, too.

Any decent website of classical musician should have a PRESS or REVIEWS page, right? No more for me. Sharing reviews always struck me as narcissistic. I’m not running for President.

There are brilliant music critics, there are good ones, there are mediocre ones, and there are clueless ones. There was even one who said he would “drop a bomb” on me and had two Facebook pages about me deleted for harassment. I have worked hard on things that wouldn’t have occurred to me on my own after reading a few negative but intelligent and accurate reviews of my performances. There is one local critic with whom I seem to agree almost all the time--and of course, I think that critic is brilliant. I read what the critics have to say about musicians, myself included, in the way that I imagine most people read People or In Touch. On occasion, critics have something bigger and better to say, and then, something beautiful about the art form is revealed. I love when that happens. I don’t trust a review as evidence for how I would have experienced the performance, nor would I believe Jennifer Aniston is pregnant from a claim in OK! Magazine.

People should have an opinion. I am happy when they have any opinion whatsoever of my performance. We should all have the experience of music which speaks to us readily and easily, but also the experience of music which offends us. We learn about ourselves in both places.