Where All The Students Are Above Average

What is with the psychology of grade inflation where every student must be above average? “Several years ago, Harvard awarded ”honors” to 90 percent of its graduates. For its part, Princeton has disclosed that A’s have been given 47 percent of the time in recent years, up from 31 percent in the mid-1970’s. Perhaps grade inflation is most severe at the most elite colleges, where everyone is so far above average that the rules of the Caucus Race in ”Alice in Wonderland” apply: everybody has won, and all must have prizes.”

Burlesque Is Back

“In New York, and other US cities, burlesque is back. The riotous form of musical striptease is sweeping nightspots, becoming the latest trend in entertainment. The craze is dubbed ‘New Burlesque’, but the ample flesh on display is just the same.”

That Sondheim Bounce That Matters

Maybe it was predictable – Stephen Sondheim’s “Bounce” wasn’t a hit when it first played last year. “Though Bounce closed in Washington last fall with an air of failure, any show with a name as big as Sondheim’s on it will have the shortest of stints in musical-theater purgatory. It’s part of a death-and-transfiguration cycle that has been going on at least since the mid-1950s, when the Leonard Bernstein musical Candide went down like a rock, but whose original cast album became a classic that continues to inspire increasingly successful revisions. Failure? Success? Not for nothing is show biz mythology full of “Springtime for Hitler” instances in which failure and success are mere matters of perception that change from moment to moment.”

Casting For Arts Support In Silicon Valley

When philanthropists in Silicon Valley give money to charitable organizations, it’s not usually to arts and culture. That’s a problem when you’re trying to build an arts community. “Strong participation by business executives is a prerequisite for generating more money for the arts. But the issue is sensitive, because it’s tied to the notion that the valley’s corporate leaders often have neglected or undervalued an arts community that is vital to a region’s quality of life.”

How Do We Sort Out Violence For Entertainment And Violence For Horror?

“Rarely has the dissonance between the news and popular entertainment been so striking. One can react only with horror as Iraq descends into a chaotic bloodbath, Israel continues to be engulfed in a sickening cycle of revenge upon revenge and terrorism spreads to other countries. Some ABC-TV stations refused to carry Ted Koppel reading the names of killed American soldiers on Friday’s “Nightline.” Yet week after week we’re offered supposedly cathartic stories of devastated families and bloodthirsty vengeance to consume.”

The Global Warming Movie That’s Kicking Up Controversy

“The Day After Tomorrow, a global-warming disaster flick due to be released this summer, has “become a lightning rod for criticism of the Bush administration’s environmental policies. The movie’s histrionics and dubious science – New York City is flooded and transformed overnight into a polar metropolis – also raise issues of scientific validity and activist filmmaking.”

Colorado’s New Direction

When the Colorado Symphony hired 47-year-old Jeffrey Kahane to succeed Marin Alsop as music director, it signaled a distinct change in the way the orchestra will present itself to the community. Alsop was a virtual unknown when she came to Denver, and as her star rose in the wider music world, the CSO’s name came along for the ride. But Kahane is no up-and-coming youngster: he’s an established name in the industry, a much-respected pianist, and an artist in the prime of his career. Those may seem like excellent reasons to hire a music director, but at a time when so many other orchestras are looking for the next big thing in conducting, Colorado seems to have made something of a safe choice.

The Bach Barfly

Matt Haimovvitz could be making his career in the great concert halls of the world, playing his cello in front of the top orchestras in the U.S. and Europe. Instead, he’s touring America, hauling his distinctly classical instrument into profoundly unclassical bars, pizza parlors, and nightclubs, and subjecting the patrons to some solo Bach. Why bother? Call it a musical answer to the question of why everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it: in an era when every classical musician talks about the necessity of breeding new audiences for the old music, Haimovitz is actually making a stab at doing it.

The Post-9/11 Musical, Written 10 Years In Advance

Stephen Sondheim’s gut-punch of a musical, Assassins, has finally made it to Broadway more than a decade after its debut, and the reception has been largely positive. But audiences have been reluctant to reward the actors with the usual standing ovation, and Frank Rich thinks he knows why. “If the old maxim has it that you should never yell ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater, it’s even worse to wave a gun in a crowded theater in New York City at a time when an Associated Press poll shows that two-thirds of Americans expect a terrorist attack before the election, with one-third expecting the political conventions to be a target.”

Will NJSO Have To Pay For Axelrod’s Dodge?

The New Jersey Symphony thought that philanhropist Herbert Axelrod was nuts when he offered to sell them a $50 million collection of instruments for $18 million, but they certainly never thought that, by agreeing to the sale, they would be running afoul of the United States Congress. But now, with Axelrod hiding out in Cuba from charges of tax evasion, “Senate investigators are questioning whether the instrument sale is representative of a fast-growing tax dodge in which wealthy donors inflate the value of gifts — from rare violins to paintings, period furnishings and even fossils — abetted by docile appraisers, weak tax enforcement and cultural institutions with little interest in making waves.”