I got asked a while back what my musical qualifications are, with the slight implication that I might not be qualified to have opinions about classical music works and performers.

Now, I happen to think that anyone who wants to can comment on artistic endeavors without any formal qualifications at all. Several of my favorite music bloggers don't have music degrees or performing experience. That has not kept them from writing acutely intelligent and worthwhile criticism about music and theater. Opera in particular attracts people who are deeply knowledgeable who don't have formal training in music or singing. You can learn a lot by reading and listening intelligently on your own. The fact is that we all have opinions about what we read, hear, or see, and the Internet being an open platform, we can write about our opinions to our heart's content.

This is completely separate from whether those opinions are worth anything, of course. On the Internet, you'll often be asked to back up your opinions, whether they're political or artistic, and that's a good thing. It's just not that hard to tell when a particular writer is blowing smoke or actually knows what he or she is talking about. And no one is forced to read any particular writer, either.

That said, why yes, I do have some qualifications.
  • BA, cum laude, with honors in music, Brandeis University, with all the theory, history, and ear-training that implies
  • Two years of graduate study in music history, no degree, SUNY/Stony Brook
  • Many years of flute lessons, semi-pro skills at the point where I stopped studying
  • Many years of choral singing in groups large and small, from adolescence to the current day, in music ranging from Dunstaple and Power to the 20th century
  • I wrote my first music reviews in college, for the Brandeis Justice. I doubt they're reading this, but big thanks to Marc Draisin and Kenny Fain for giving me the chance to review. I ran across a few of these reviews in 2006 and was surprised at how much the tone of my current writing resembles what it was all those years ago.
  • I've been writing professionally about music intermittently since the 1990s, when Janos Gereben published a few of my record reviews in the Oakland Post. I've been writing for San Francisco Classical Voice since February, 2004 and blogging since October, 2004.