Classical Music News Can Show Up In The Strangest Of Places

While reading an article in the 9/12/18 edition of the Washington Post about South Korean military service evasion crime, I was surprised to see that topic intersect classical music.

As an example, the article cited an attempt by 12 conservatory students to evade conscription.

 This week, South Korea’s Military Manpower Administration said that a group of 12 college students studying classical music in Seoul tried to gain a huge amount of weight before the medical exams that would determine their fitness for military service. The students drank protein powder to put on weight ahead of their appointments, and some even drank a heavy aloe vera juice the day of the exams to appear even heavier than they already were.

The Military Manpower Administration said in a statement that “the classmates shared tips on how to gain weight in an online chat room.” That may be how the military figured out they were gaming the system: Officials reportedly acknowledged using “digital forensic technology” to figure out that it wasn’t a coincidence that the music students all put on so much weight before their appointments.

Military conscription in the US ended in 1973 so there hasn’t been a news item here along these lines for quite some time.

Having said that, during its time, conscription had a substantial impact on the development of the US classical music field. For example, the formation of large symphonic ensembles, like the 7th Army Symphony, brought together musicians who would have otherwise never crossed paths.

Be sure to drop by the list of members, it reads like a who’s who of classical music plank owners that went on to build much of what we take for granted today. Here are a few highlights from the conductor roster:

  • Schermerhorn, Kenneth D.   ’53 – ’55: former Nashville Symphony music director and namesake of the world-renowned symphony center.
  • Tung, Ling   ’56 – ’58: Founded the Grand Teton Music Festival.
  • Adler, Samuel   1952: renowned composer, conductor, author, and professor who is credited with helping form the 7th Army Symphony

I highly recommend taking the time to review the list and find and reach out to any of the names to ask them about their time in the ensemble and how conscription influenced their career as a musician.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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