|Robert Schumann, proof that
emo haircuts can indeed be
effective on 19th-century dudes.
When choosing repertoire for my students, I always give them a few choices so that they can pick a new piece that seems to fit them best. Last week, one of my students had trouble picking a sonatina. After a few questions, she finally confessed to what her misgiving was: composers for the most part have weird names that none of her friends would ever have these days
. In her words, "Why aren't there any composers named Jennifer?"
Let's look at the first names of a few famous composers to see if she has a point:
Now let's look at the first names of a few currently popular recording artists:
More than a slight difference, to be honest. There are a few composers with normal names such as Robert, George, and Richard (pronounced with a "k"). There are also a few pop artists with exotic names such as Rihanna and Gaga. But for the most part, my student was correct, and to make matters worse, the great composers are almost always middle-aged men with crazy hair and/or wigs.
Maybe part of the process of composers being accessible has a lot to do with their names sounding, well, normal. Unpretentious.
We finally agreed on a sonatina by Samuel Arnold, as I was able to convince my student that he would have almost certainly been called Sam by his 18th-century London bros.
Finally, I would like to set the record straight with my student, who needs to be assured that there are indeed composers named Jennifer. Here is part of the second movement (aka Fiery Red) of Jennifer Higdon's Piano Trio played by violinist Ryoko Arai, cellist Yuiko Arai, and pianist Gloria Shih:
Link to the Original