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Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music

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In the tradition of Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential and Gelsey Kirkland's Dancing on My Grave, Mozart in the Jungle delves into the lives of the musicians and conductors who inhabit the insular world of classical music. In a book that inspired the Amazon Original series starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Malcolm McDowell, oboist Blair Tindall recounts her decades-long professional career as In the tradition of Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential and Gelsey Kirkland's Dancing on My Grave, Mozart in the Jungle delves into the lives of the musicians and conductors who inhabit the insular world of classical music. In a book that inspired the Amazon Original series starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Malcolm McDowell, oboist Blair Tindall recounts her decades-long professional career as a classical musician--from the recitals and Broadway orchestra performances to the secret life of musicians who survive hand to mouth in the backbiting New York classical music scene, where musicians trade sexual favors for plum jobs and assignments in orchestras across the city. Tindall and her fellow journeymen musicians often play drunk, high, or hopelessly hungover, live in decrepit apartments, and perform in hazardous conditions-- working-class musicians who schlep across the city between low-paying gigs, without health-care benefits or retirement plans, a stark contrast to the rarefied experiences of overpaid classical musician superstars. An incisive, no-holds-barred account, Mozart in the Jungle is the first true, behind-the-scenes look at what goes on backstage and in the Broadway pit.


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In the tradition of Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential and Gelsey Kirkland's Dancing on My Grave, Mozart in the Jungle delves into the lives of the musicians and conductors who inhabit the insular world of classical music. In a book that inspired the Amazon Original series starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Malcolm McDowell, oboist Blair Tindall recounts her decades-long professional career as In the tradition of Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential and Gelsey Kirkland's Dancing on My Grave, Mozart in the Jungle delves into the lives of the musicians and conductors who inhabit the insular world of classical music. In a book that inspired the Amazon Original series starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Malcolm McDowell, oboist Blair Tindall recounts her decades-long professional career as a classical musician--from the recitals and Broadway orchestra performances to the secret life of musicians who survive hand to mouth in the backbiting New York classical music scene, where musicians trade sexual favors for plum jobs and assignments in orchestras across the city. Tindall and her fellow journeymen musicians often play drunk, high, or hopelessly hungover, live in decrepit apartments, and perform in hazardous conditions-- working-class musicians who schlep across the city between low-paying gigs, without health-care benefits or retirement plans, a stark contrast to the rarefied experiences of overpaid classical musician superstars. An incisive, no-holds-barred account, Mozart in the Jungle is the first true, behind-the-scenes look at what goes on backstage and in the Broadway pit.

30 review for Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music

  1. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    Before I review this book, there is something you must know about me. I very rarely ever give one-star reviews. I usually try to find something -- anything -- to like or appreciate in a book. I also make an effort to finish reading books I don't particularly enjoy, no matter how long it might take. This book... I can honestly say I hate this book. First of all, the book is 307 pages long. I made it to page 130 before putting it down for good. It took me something like four months to r Before I review this book, there is something you must know about me. I very rarely ever give one-star reviews. I usually try to find something -- anything -- to like or appreciate in a book. I also make an effort to finish reading books I don't particularly enjoy, no matter how long it might take. This book... I can honestly say I hate this book. First of all, the book is 307 pages long. I made it to page 130 before putting it down for good. It took me something like four months to read those 130 pages, and not because I'm a slow reader. I'd read a few pages, then read something else. Read another few pages, then read something else. It was extremely difficult for me to stay focused, in no small part because of the cumbersome writing style. Tindall describes everything in tedious detail -- windows, fingernails, toothpaste, whatever. She goes so far overboard in her wordiness that it practically defeats the purpose -- I'd skim over long drawn-out passages that had nothing to do with her experiences. As to the contents, where do I begin? I am a classically trained music teacher. I earned scholarships and made it through college because I practiced for hours every day, even if it meant I had to wait until midnight for a practice room to open. Tindall admits that she never bothered to master the skills she needed to be a successful performer because she was too busy getting drunk and high, so she slept with everyone who moved to be successful in school and later to get gigs. I understand that the classical music business is very much a "it's-who-you-know" world, but perhaps she would have had an easier time finding work the old fashioned way -- you know, learning the music and winning an audition. Her self pity also gets very old, very fast. She blames everyone around her for her problems, yet the issues she faces are clearly a result of her own poor choices. In short, I will not be recommending this book to anyone.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    At several points in this memoir, Blair Tindall states that she was so isolated and insulated within the classical music scene that she never gained perspective on the wider world. Upon graduating from an arts high school, for example, she had no idea how the Civil War started and had never heard of the periodic table of elements. While most people move to NYC at a young age to gain worldliness, her climb up the city's classical music career ladder only furthered and prolonged her naivety. She s At several points in this memoir, Blair Tindall states that she was so isolated and insulated within the classical music scene that she never gained perspective on the wider world. Upon graduating from an arts high school, for example, she had no idea how the Civil War started and had never heard of the periodic table of elements. While most people move to NYC at a young age to gain worldliness, her climb up the city's classical music career ladder only furthered and prolonged her naivety. She stays in the Upper West Side apartment that she first rented at the age of 18 for 20 years (TWENTY YEARS!!!), the equivalent, for the rest of us, of still living in our college dorm rooms decades after graduation. So perhaps it's a little unfair to critique this book for its painful earnestness, and yes, lack of worldly, adult perspective. Think of it this way - how many successful writers out there would switch careers at 40 to become professional oboists? Tindall is brave for switching careers, but she's also so new to writing that this book can be hard to read. She's also new to the rest of the world - which is where her choice of genre--memoir--becomes most problematic. She gives the real-life names of the participants in yawn-inducing sex scenes and wants the reader to be impressed by drugs - which would be fine if she were actually 22. But the very world of classical music that promises so much to the young but more often delivers some sort of existential fucking (if not the literal kind), has stunted Tindall's maturation process; she comes across as a 40-something woman with the perspective and reflective capabilities of a 20-year-old. This is painful to realize while reading the book, but on the other hand, it helps make her point: She might as well have been on Mars for 20 years, for all that the NYC classical music scene is connected to real life. And yet, Tindall is working so hard to make her point that the book succeeds on many levels. The sheer amount of research collected in the memoir is impressive, and her personal narrative prevents the boredom of reading a straight history of classical music in the past forty years. I would wholeheartedly recommend this book not only to young musicians, but to any young person moving to New York City. The horrors of waking up at 40 to realize the city is really nothing more than a real estate marketing scam! (It's horrifying enough to realize it at 28). Reading this book was like watching a symphony performance--you're not really paying attention all of the time, but you don't get up to leave. You might feel ambivalent about it, but you're not angry that you went.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Emily Wortman-wunder

    This is one of those books I find impossible to rate. I mean, how many stars do you assign to "pissed me the hell off, but I really recommend you read it"? One star, due to the number of indignant internal rants it inspired? Five stars, since it's one of the few books I can imagine pressing on strangers in the street--here! read this! Find out what's wrong with Classical Music in America--or maybe not! What do you think? A tepid three just doesn't convey the depths of my hot/cold response. This is one of those books I find impossible to rate. I mean, how many stars do you assign to "pissed me the hell off, but I really recommend you read it"? One star, due to the number of indignant internal rants it inspired? Five stars, since it's one of the few books I can imagine pressing on strangers in the street--here! read this! Find out what's wrong with Classical Music in America--or maybe not! What do you think? A tepid three just doesn't convey the depths of my hot/cold response. So here: read it! Just do! You'll hate it/ throw it in the trash/ crawl through the trash to finish it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Juha

    Blair Tindall’s lively book offers a rare inside look into the American classical music scene. Her experience in the field is very wide, having played with the New York Philharmonic and every other major and minor orchestra and chamber music ensemble in the Tri-State area, as well as an oboe soloist. She also played for years in the pit for Broadway hit musicals, such as Miss Saigon and Les Miserables, and in the studio recording music for Hollywood hit movies as well as jingles. Tindall’s tell-all book tells he Blair Tindall’s lively book offers a rare inside look into the American classical music scene. Her experience in the field is very wide, having played with the New York Philharmonic and every other major and minor orchestra and chamber music ensemble in the Tri-State area, as well as an oboe soloist. She also played for years in the pit for Broadway hit musicals, such as Miss Saigon and Les Miserables, and in the studio recording music for Hollywood hit movies as well as jingles. Tindall’s tell-all book tells her own story from a childhood in Vienna and North Carolina to working as a musician in New York until her late-30s when she got increasingly despondent about the limited vistas and even more limited career prospects of an orchestra musician. Tindall describes the tedium of becoming a musician, the endless hours of solitary practice, which for an oboe player are further aggravated by time spent on crafting and perfecting the reeds that are so critical to the player’s sound (having been a roommate to an oboist long time ago, I can attest to how much time and effort that takes and how annoying it can be for someone trying sleep while the oboist tests his reeds). Another challenge for musicians is having to work almost all evenings in an orchestra pit when other people are eating dinner, socializing or, a few, attending the concerts. This severely limits the social contacts the musicians have. An important part in the book is played by Allendale, a large and decaying building on the Upper West Side bordering to Harlem, which has long been a home for classical musicians and where she herself lived for almost two decades. There she observed with growing alarm the fate of many musicians her senior, who approached an age when normal people would retire, but who couldn’t afford to do so and were forced to continue to scramble for gigs to eke out a modest living. Seeing the others, she became concerned about her own future and her own increasing consumption of cheap wine, which started in the afternoon before whatever concert she had to play. The competition among classical players is fierce for the relatively few regular orchestra jobs. For instance, in 1980, 1,100 musicians applied for a total of 47 full-time orchestral positions in all of the United States (p. 258). Over several years, Tindall competed for these jobs and participated in auditions for orchestras all over the country. She calculates the thousands of dollars she used for flying to attend the auditions. For most of her career, she subbed for the numerous bands in the New York City area, at times zipping from New Jersey to Poughkeepsie several times in a week. In the beginning of her career, she slept with three of the leading oboists in the city, which initially led to her being a favoured substitute. This later backfired, as the relationships faded and her name dropped down on the list the orchestras would call. This by no means was a reflection on her ability as a professional musician. The subtitle of the book, ‘Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music’, has probably (hopefully) been added by her publishers; nevertheless, these aspects are closely linked. Despite the clean image classical musicians have among general audiences, Tindall demonstrates how drug and alcohol use among them is as widespread as among rock musicians. The classical music community is also quite promiscuous. Tindall describes orgies that entire orchestras on tour participated in. When AIDS first arrived in the 1980s, it became a major scourge amongst the musicians. The New York City Opera alone lost 75 employees to the disease (p. 111). She herself goes through a large number of lovers, several of them married: oboists, other musicians, conductors. The main relationship she writes about is with Samuel Sanders, the piano soloist and long-term accompanist of Itzhak Perlman, who over many years moves from a lover to a friend. All in all, Tindall and other female musicians have a hard time finding mates as their lives are limited by the jobs they take. She finally finds love and happiness from outside of the musical community, with a scuba diving instructor she meets during a Caribbean holiday, but this relationship is also doomed to failure. In the process of telling her own story, Tindall includes interesting and enlightening passages about the rise of classical orchestra music in the US, largely as a consequence of immigration of Jewish and other people from Europe before and after World War II. These Europeans had lived with and loved classical music and many played in amateur orchestras they started in the new country. Since the 1960s, there was a huge boom in the States, as cities and philanthropies supported the music, seeing it as a major cultural duty. Tindall describes the role of organizations, such as the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and Ford Foundation, in promoting classical music and draws conclusions of how such external assistance is unsustainable. The number of orchestras expanded manifold and many smaller towns established full-time orchestras as a symbol of their cultural value. “The rate of growth was breathtaking ... Cultural growth sped ahead with little examination of the arts’ genuine or practical value for the society. Why classical music? Why orchestras? Is the expense worthwhile? Few asked for fear of being labelled barbaric”, she writes (p. 57). At the same time the highly unionized musicians pushed for longer concert seasons, full-time employment with orchestras and increasing benefits. The audience numbers did not keep up with such rapid expansion and virtually all orchestras and concert halls, starting with the Lincoln Centre, operated at a loss and were highly subsidized with public money or by foundations. The number of orchestras making a major deficit increased rapidly and many, especially outside of the major cities, went outright bankrupt in the 1990s. The dire conclusions of an exhaustive 1992 study evaluating the financial future of the classical music industry were rejected by the American Symphony Orchestra League that had commissioned it. Instead the League published its own document, Americanizing the American Orchestra, which projected optimism about selling “dead white European men’s music” (p. 207). (For an evaluator like myself, albeit in an entirely different field, this sounds too familiar.) Sure enough, the tech boom and resulting stock market rise temporarily saved the classical music industry that went on a huge spending spree as the endowments suddenly grew. Obviously, this couldn’t last. From the 1980s on, lucrative studio work was getting scarcer for musicians with the rise of synthesizers that could emulate the sounds of entire orchestras through their MIDI samples of real instruments, thus resulting in savings to the producers. Films like Spike Lee’s Malcolm X, where Tindall played oboe with a real orchestra in the early-1990s, were getting rarer. At this point of her life, her own definition of ‘real music’ had expanded beyond the narrowly classical and she is quite lyrical about the film score composed and conducted by jazz musician Terence Blanchard. Even on Broadway, live orchestras were relegated further down in the setting. The pits got deeper and some even played in covered pits so that the audiences could not see them at all, their music piped to the hall through amplifiers. The tedium of playing in such a manner, night after night performing the same pieces hundreds of times per year, was dulling and many musicians were drunk or on drugs to keep up with it (this has been confirmed by my own friends who have played on Broadway). Many musicians had completely unrelated reading materials on their music stands, playing their parts on a routine born from having performed the same piece thousands of times over several years. In 2003, the musicians union negotiated an agreement that would prevent productions from further reducing the number of live musicians on Broadway for the next 10 years. Tindall puts much blame on the music industry and its various players. The musicians themselves and their union are not innocent either, as they negotiated better and better deals, with ever expanding full-time employment and longer seasons that ran up the supply of music far beyond the demand. The managers of orchestras and halls, most of whom were businessmen rather than musicians, developed marketing schemes that focused more on star soloists and conductors, rather than the music. This created a huge rift between the orchestra musicians and the stars, who would make tens of times more money than the regular players. Conductors, such as New York Philharmonic’s Lorin Maazel, would make millions for working just a few weeks. Similarly, the executives running the orchestras received extremely high salaries. Tindall has found that such non-profits—not only orchestras, but also ballets, museums and the like—have increasingly become places where the leadership gets paid excessively high salaries, while many interested citizens can’t afford to pay for the high ticket prices that are set to cover the escalating costs. As classical music sales, that had always been just a small percentage of overall record sales, plummeted, the record companies started to market the CDs based on sexy young stars who would pose on the covers in revealing clothing. Tindall well understands why the buying audience with limited knowledge of classical music faced with a large selection of recordings of the same pieces would pick one with Sarah Chang or Midori on the cover, rather than one of the many with stodgy white men posing in a tuxedo. ‘Medieval Baebes’ such as the violinists Vanessa Mae and Linda Lampenius (Linda Brava), the latter a real Playboy Playmate, would boost classical music sales (Lampenius is one of the two Finns getting mentioned in the book, the other being Esa-Pekka Salonen, who as Los Angeles Philharmonic’s music director, has contributed to the orchestra’s situation through accessible concert formats). Overall, Tindall asks why is classical music so strange and dull to the general audiences. When a critic in The New Yorker wrote that, “There may be kids out there who lose their virginity during Brahms’s D Minor Piano Concerto, but they don’t want to tell the story and you don’t want to hear it”, she reflects that she herself had passionately lost her virginity as a 16-year-old with Brahms playing on the record: “I couldn’t imagine what created this invisible barrier between listener and performer, a boundary that cheated new audiences of the sensory thrill of classical music” (p. 274). She also asks why are there so many recordings of the same old pieces and why does every orchestra record the same works over and over again. No rock musician in his right mind would make a CD of exactly the same pieces as his competitor, she observes and concluded that, “I was in a narcissistic industry that was stuck in the nineteenth century” (p. 247). She grows increasingly frustrated playing other people’s music night after night (at some point of time she observes a violin section’s synchronized bow movements, which remind her of slaves rowing a ship their oars moving in unison) and observing her friends and neighbours in the Allendale grow older with no prospects for betterment. She starts looking for a way out and embarks on an intensive period of study (with math books on her music stand in the Broadway pit), eventually going back to school. Stanford allows her to change her scene entirely and life on the West Coast brings new motivation for her to clean up her act. Tindall is very critical of music education that is so narrowly focused that students and later musicians learn no skills beyond music. Juilliard, Manhattan School of Music and other famous institutions are more trade schools than universities. Tindall thinks that a student would be better off majoring in music at a liberal arts college, such as Oberlin, where she gets a broader education that will not close doors from other occupations than just music. Passing a group of students outside of Juilliard, she ponders how only a few of these highly talented musicians will make it as soloists or conductors or even get regular orchestra jobs, while most end up scraping together a living out of temporary gigs or find themselves non-professional office jobs for which their narrow musical education will suffice. Back in New York, Blair Tindall writes about music for the New York Times and about other topics for other papers. She still plays the oboe and subs in orchestras, but with renewed vigour and enthusiasm as she no longer needs to do it to make ends meet. She ends the entertaining and informative book with some hopeful notions. Although classical music has become peripheral to mainstream life and the number of Americans playing an instrument has shrunk to less than a half between 1992 and 2002, classical music is not in decline: “It’s just that they’re bombarded with an absurdly large increase in the number of performances that enable the glut of full-time musicians, arts administrators, and consultants who resulted from the culture boom’s now-stalled momentum to make a living” (p. 306). Perhaps, the situation has again changed since the book was published in 2005. Orchestras and music do continue to play an important resource for the communities. Hopefully, they will be more accessible to more people.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    Every word is true. She nailed it to the wall. Of course, no civilian will believe it.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Eric_W

    I couldn’t wait to read this memoir after beginning to watch the eponymic series on Amazon. Tindall began playing the oboe, a difficult but hauntingly beautiful instrument when played well, almost by mistake. When they were handing out instruments alphabetically by last name in band, by the time they got to T there was only a bassoon and oboe to chose from. The oboe being smaller she chose that. Somewhat intimidated by her academically overachieving brother who went to Exeter and with poor grade I couldn’t wait to read this memoir after beginning to watch the eponymic series on Amazon. Tindall began playing the oboe, a difficult but hauntingly beautiful instrument when played well, almost by mistake. When they were handing out instruments alphabetically by last name in band, by the time they got to T there was only a bassoon and oboe to chose from. The oboe being smaller she chose that. Somewhat intimidated by her academically overachieving brother who went to Exeter and with poor grades not to mention a boyfriend who would be closer, she opted to attend NCSA a new (founded in 1960) school devoted to teaching professional musicians and ballet dancers. Regretfully, she focuses more on the unwanted (sometimes) sexual attentions of her teachers (this was a time when sexual harassment was more than prevalent and teachers would use the subjectiveness of musical grading to get what they wanted) and boys, not to mention drinking and drugs, than on the intricacies of the oboe. As someone who has played the piano, organ and french horn, I have no knowledge of woodwinds and would have liked to learn more. But, nevermind. The musical education at NCSA was apparently quite good if at the expense of other academics and when they went to take the SATs some students had to ask was the SAT was. A test given on Saturdays? They were prepared for little else. “The noble intentions of NCSA encapsulated what would later plague classical music in America: explosive growth without a realistic mission, few accessible resources, and the simultaneous isolation and elevation of a foreign art form above the comprehension of those who were expected to support it.” Unfortunately, while in her early twenties in NY she was having affairs with several other oboists and being the principal players they controlled hiring of oboe subs and arranging for other gigs. When those affairs fell apart (inevitably as they were married and everything was always supposed to be kept secret) the jealous reactions would lead to her lack of employment. Coupled with many of her friends and acquaintances dying from AIDS (this was the early eighties and at one time the list of dead friends topped one hundred when she quit keeping track) it was a discouraging time. Much of the book details the trials and tribulations of the orchestral world in general and orchestral musicians in specific. Orchestras had proliferated during the sixties and seventies as federal grants provided the seed money, but soon it became apparent, especially during economic upturns and downswings, that paying musicians from revenue derived from ticket sales was often oxymoronic. Another problem was too many musicians, often uneducated except for their instrument, were chasing too few gigs. Those privileged few who made it through the auditions to get a position in an orchestra were usually life-tenured so few positions ever opened up. Positions that did pay well like those on Broadway could be mind-numbingly boring, playing the same music over and over and over again; some players could read a book while playing the music. As stages became larger and more front row seating was added to sell more tickets, orchestral pits became hellish holes, dark and removed from the performance and audience, almost an afterthought, as the music was piped out through speakers. For long-running shows (she played for Les Miserables and Miss Saigon among others) it was at least a dependable source of income, health and pension benefits. Eventually, by her mid-thirties, Tindall realized she had to make a change having been unable to find a long-term relationship and becoming totally bored. A job satisfaction study revealed that Orchestral musicians were near the bottom, scoring lower in job satisfaction and overall happiness than airline flight attendants, mental health treatment teams, beer salesmen, government economic analysts, and even federal prison guards. Only operating room nurses and semiconductor fabrication teams scored lower than these musicians…. It took a couple of strange men who didn’t know anything about classical music to make me realize I wasn’t nuts after all. I was in a narcissistic industry that was stuck in the nineteenth century. At that moment, I gave myself permission to escape. One rather dispiriting piece of information she writes of was a study done “in 2001, [in which] Harvard researchers would challenge this assertion [that studying music helped academic performance], combing 188 studies published between 1950 and 1999 to evaluate the effect of arts education on general learning. Their results were shocking: No reliable causal relationship was found between music education and academic performance (except for spatial reasoning). Creative thinking, verbal scores, and math grades were all unaffected by studying music.” The movie is sooo different from the book. About the only common thread is the oboe. This is a book that probably won’t be of interest unless you play an instrument or love classical music. I liked it, but the movie is better.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Tina

    Trying to understand my concert pianist boyfriend's life better... Blair Tindall wrote a terrific book about what it's really like to try to earn a living as a classical musician. This book answers just about every silly question I ever had about how that career really works. Tindall didn't hold back on sharing intimate details even when they painted her in an unflattering light. This book is an amazing resource, and very well researched.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Niall519

    Interesting. Not quite what I was expecting - slightly less of the sex, drugs, and Chopin, and slightly more of the history and economics of the classical music scene in the US in the 20th century, but generally pretty engaging. I'm always left wondering what those who know the author, and those who feature in such candid autobiographies make of the finished product.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Carissa

    An easy and entertaining read. A must-read for female classical music professionals, as it discusses much of the situations in which we may find ourselves.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Shoshana

    I found this book intensely frustrating on many levels. On one hand, Tindall brings up many very important issues and history of the arts and of music in the U.S. On the other hand, I think it is one perspective of a disillusioned oboist who seems to be blaming her unhappiness on anything she can find. As an oboe student music major making my way through college, I find the harsh realities of the industry quite depressing - no one wants to devote their life to the kind of frustrations Tindall de I found this book intensely frustrating on many levels. On one hand, Tindall brings up many very important issues and history of the arts and of music in the U.S. On the other hand, I think it is one perspective of a disillusioned oboist who seems to be blaming her unhappiness on anything she can find. As an oboe student music major making my way through college, I find the harsh realities of the industry quite depressing - no one wants to devote their life to the kind of frustrations Tindall describes in this book. The shrinking need for musicians, the condemnation to badly-paying freelance jobs or overly repetitive broadway pits, does not sound at all inviting. What gets me, however, is not the facts and figures she puts together explaining why the life of a musician is doomed, but the way she demoralizes the entire industry and makes it out to seem like everything is steeped in drugs, sex, nepotism, and similar low moral standing. Much of what she seems to be thrown into as a young impressionable teenager was a choice - after her violinist boyfriend dumped her at 16, there was no reason she had to go to the male flute professor to insinuate a relationship. She even says that she does this purposefully because of the rumors she has heard about him and past relationships with students. That was an intentional move on her part. This seems to continue throughout her life - she makes it sound as if as a young, unassuming girl, these relationships presented themselves and she went along with them, while she was the one presenting herself as available in the first place. Also, I can vouch for the fact that not all music schools, and not all musicians are the way she describes. We are not anywhere near to all being completely crazy drug addicts who all hate our life and have sex with everyone in every orchestra we've ever been in. This is so demeaning to the people in the profession who are respectable, happy people. In addition, she seems to have been almost thrust into becoming a musician, which she seems to blame on the North Carolina School for the Arts, more than the fact that it's just kind of how things happened. I have friends who have gone through the high school program as people who have thought through their lives and decided to go into music - for these people, it is a valuable experience that puts them ahead of most people entering conservatories. I respect the fact that she has made a new life for herself and has learned how to be a part-time musician and, it seems, be much happier with her life as a whole. I think it is important to realize that music isn't for everyone and her book does a good job of addressing that, albeit in an extremely blunt way. It is good for anyone going into music to question that this is what they really want to do and make sure that they are prepared for a difficult time getting started, and maybe not making it to the best orchestra job, especially not immediately. One of the most frustrating points is that she seems to want to discourage young people from going into music entirely. I understand completely the value of knowing the risks involved, having a backup plan, thinking seriously about what you are doing. However, she seems to disregard the people who are PASSIONATE about music. These people exist. Sometimes, things don't work out for them. I think most of us understand that. In middle and high school, I took oboe lessons from someone who was trying her hand in the freelancing world. She was pretty fresh out of grad school (after studying with pretty much the best teachers around) and she was working around 3 jobs - one at a coffeeshop, among others and teaching your oboists like me. Also, she had planned on becoming a professional oboists since she was 13. Her story pans out slightly like Blair's. Without the intense cynicism and seemingly hatred of the world. She now continues to teach, play in orchestras in the area, and works in the archives for one of the best orchestras in the country. As far as I can tell, she really enjoys it. Letting go of dreams from childhood are undoubtably difficult, but do not have to be the end of the world and do not need to destroy you.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rama

    Blair Tindall’s Secret Garden This is the autobiography of Blair Tindall, a performer, speaker, and a journalist who dazzled in the world of classical music as an oboist. In this book, she delves into the lives of the musicians and powerful men and women who control the world of classical music. Tindall spares no punches when she recalls her professional career full of hard-luck, pain, self-loathing, deceit, and total addiction to sex, drugs and alcohol. As a freelance musician, she was introduc Blair Tindall’s Secret Garden This is the autobiography of Blair Tindall, a performer, speaker, and a journalist who dazzled in the world of classical music as an oboist. In this book, she delves into the lives of the musicians and powerful men and women who control the world of classical music. Tindall spares no punches when she recalls her professional career full of hard-luck, pain, self-loathing, deceit, and total addiction to sex, drugs and alcohol. As a freelance musician, she was introduced to cocaine parties and group sex in the decrepit apartments in and around the New York City. She quickly learnt how to make it to those gigs at recitals and orchestras in the Big Apple. In fact she was natural at this; since the age of sixteen, she was using marijuana and sleeping with her instructors in high school for good grades and special favors. When she played in New York, often she was drunk, hung-over and high on narcotics. The book is not simply a self-pitying memoir but also focuses on working musicians who struggle with low-paying jobs and financial insecurity. The author takes to journalism when she failed in the classical music industry. Her resentment to a profession she loved so much did not offer anything but addiction to controlled substances. Her disappointment is understandable, but what was she expecting when she decided to sleep her way to make it to the top? She hit the bottom like so many in the entertainment industry. There are stories of hard-luck girls who learnt their lessons the hard way; Tindall is neither the first, nor is the last. There are too many books about drugs, sex and rock-N-roll music, but nobody is shedding tears about those parties. Because it has been accepted as obvious choice in rock-N-roll music! But why is this problem for the lovers of classical music? Tindall is no ordinary drug-addict. She is a smart girl, she taught journalism at Stanford University and music at the University of California, Berkeley. She graduated with bachelor and master's degrees from the Manhattan School of Music and also earned master’s degree in communication from Stanford University. She also studied at Columbia University. Her biggest success was when her book was picked up by the Amazon Studios for a television show with same title. The story was well received by the critics and the Amazon television viewers. Many reviewers on Amazon.com are critical of Blair Tindall, but I began to like her after reading her book. I like the spirit of this girl from Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Margot

    This book articulated all the reasons why I decided not to follow a career as a classical musician. Perhaps a bit of a insiders book, but I think it would appeal to all. It provides a candid look behind the scenes of an industry many see as dull and stiff, when it is anything but.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Brianna Wing

    I wish I had read this book earlier in my life. It is a must for anyone even considering getting a music degree or heading into the field.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lisset

    I wasn't a big fan of this book. I was expecting something with a quicker plot but found entire chapters about the history of arts funding.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Marcy Heller

    I'm not sure which was THE better decision: that I gave up playing the oboe early in my life (and I sucked), or that I deleted this book from my Kindle since I didn't even want to see it on my carousel. Shame on Blair and some of her colleagues, and what a darn shame any of us needed to know the seedy side of a few musicians' lives. I grew up knowing many who succeeded in the world of music without the sex and drugs. They did it the old-fashioned way: practice, practice and practice. I'm not sure which was THE better decision: that I gave up playing the oboe early in my life (and I sucked), or that I deleted this book from my Kindle since I didn't even want to see it on my carousel. Shame on Blair and some of her colleagues, and what a darn shame any of us needed to know the seedy side of a few musicians' lives. I grew up knowing many who succeeded in the world of music without the sex and drugs. They did it the old-fashioned way: practice, practice and practice. There ought to be a star for "DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME READING THIS BOOK. P.S. HBO did a series based on this book--strangely but the TV was better than the book so the author is somewhat vindicated. I've moved her book up one star.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Vladimir

    If Blair Tindall's playing technique is anything like her writing style, then I am not at all surprised she didn't make it in the classical music world. Even if you are able to ignore or survive the awful writing, this is really a rather uninformative book. Sure, there are tidbits of interest here and there, but the generally gossipy tone and the fact that Tindall thinks we should be scandalized by the fact that classically trained musicians do weed and have sex is just immature and n If Blair Tindall's playing technique is anything like her writing style, then I am not at all surprised she didn't make it in the classical music world. Even if you are able to ignore or survive the awful writing, this is really a rather uninformative book. Sure, there are tidbits of interest here and there, but the generally gossipy tone and the fact that Tindall thinks we should be scandalized by the fact that classically trained musicians do weed and have sex is just immature and naive. My first thought upon finishing the book was this - whatever, blah. And it's the best summary I can think of. Also, this is a rare occasion when you can say that a TV show is better than its source material. At least in the TV show you get to enjoy Bernal's ingenious take on Gustavo Dudamel.

  17. 5 out of 5

    kingshearte

    At this point in my life, I've read enough biographies to know that there is definitely some exaggeration (especially in the ones promising scandal and salaciousness). I assume the same of this one, but it was nonetheless very interesting. Having been exposed to classical music from a fairly young age (Not all young people's concerts are terrible, Blair! Some of them actually do accomplish their aim of establishing a lifelong love of classical.), I don't know that I would say that I hold the mus At this point in my life, I've read enough biographies to know that there is definitely some exaggeration (especially in the ones promising scandal and salaciousness). I assume the same of this one, but it was nonetheless very interesting. Having been exposed to classical music from a fairly young age (Not all young people's concerts are terrible, Blair! Some of them actually do accomplish their aim of establishing a lifelong love of classical.), I don't know that I would say that I hold the musicians in some kind of awestruck, they're-somehow-superhuman wonder that this book has now disillusioned me of, and in fact, much of what was in this book didn't actually surprise me much. The fact that sexual liaisons would be good for securing jobs (until they backfired and became the opposite) is not surprising. The fact that the classical purists would look down on those who "sell out" and join Broadway pits in order to eat is not surprising. And the fact that musicians would suffer the kind of burnout described in this book rather than living amazing, glamourous lives is also not surprising. I don't know if Tindall felt that a straight-up memoir would be too narcissistic (damn, that's a hard word to type), or if her more recent journalistic background compels her to include more hard facts but she's punctuated the book every few chapters with kind of an overview of the American classical music industry and situation as a whole, including public opinions, government opinions, funding issues, economic realities, etc., which I had mixed feelings about. On one hand, excellent research, and as we follow Tindall's efforts to navigate it all, it's good to have a picture of just what it is she's actually dealing with in that respect. One the other hand, those chapters could have been a touch shorter, maybe, so we could get back to the story. As for the story, in the beginning, it seemed to be aiming for shock value. "Think classical musicians are prissy, ice queen snobs? Well, let me tell you some things." But as it went on, she managed to make a connection with the reader and you start to actually get a feel for what she's feeling and how frustrating this life has become for her, and you really root for her efforts to get herself out of it, and grieve with her for those friends who are still lost in that world. That said, her escape from it seemed somehow too good to be true. A 100% scholarship for a journalism degree at her dream school in a city that has enough music work for her to still work part-time while she's studying? That's a pretty conveniently sweet deal. But whether that's the way it really happened or if it was fudged a little to conclude the story — which was not about her journalism career — it doesn't really matter. It would be interesting, though, to see what the current situation is with symphony orchestras. This book is now six years old, and a lot can change in six years. I'd also be a little curious as to how the interpersonal dynamics are different in an orchestra that's more like the ones I'm familiar with, in that most or all of the players have day jobs (most of them teach their respective instruments), and come together half a dozen or so times a year to play a symphony. The OSO in particular has a very close partnership with the University of Ottawa, and a significant number of the musicians at any given show are in fact students, which I would imagine also brings a different dynamic into the mix. All in all, I quite enjoyed this book, and would like to just extend a virtual hug to all classical (and Broadway) musicians. I may never get to tell you this in person, but I appreciate you and your contributions to my symphonic experiences. I may specifically enjoy the way David Currie's hair flops about as he conducts, but I'm well aware that without you, he'd just be a crazy guy waving his arms around. You have all enriched my life, and for that, I thank you.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Olivia Dannenberg

    I heard about "Mozart in the Jungle" by Blair Tindall from my cousin who recommended the TV series. As someone who enjoys reading, I figured I should read the book first. I went on a mad witch hunt to find the book-- Barnes and Noble, the library, a different Barnes and Noble, and the library again-- and I finally found it. I like memoirs a lot, and being a musician, the premise of this book intrigued me. The overarching theme of "Mozart in the Jungle" is music. However, it goes so much deeper i I heard about "Mozart in the Jungle" by Blair Tindall from my cousin who recommended the TV series. As someone who enjoys reading, I figured I should read the book first. I went on a mad witch hunt to find the book-- Barnes and Noble, the library, a different Barnes and Noble, and the library again-- and I finally found it. I like memoirs a lot, and being a musician, the premise of this book intrigued me. The overarching theme of "Mozart in the Jungle" is music. However, it goes so much deeper into the lives of classically trained musicians and the underworld of the trade. This memoir about Tindall herself delves into her past playing in some of the most famous orchestras around the country. Starting first with a story about her inspiration to become a musician, she explains that seeing an opera singer in Austria drove her to strive for a certain level of musicianship. The oboe was the instrument she was given, and after many lessons, she became very prolific at the difficult instruments. Tindall went on to attend a music school, and it is there that she got the first peek into the crazy life of a classical musician-- sex, drugs, and more. Throughout the rest of the book, Tindall recounts her experiences of living as a poor musician who is just trying to make a living and a career. She travels the world, sleeps with famous stars, goes to parties, and ends up playing in philharmonics and broadway pits. A fast paced life is described, and the twists and turns of the musicians life never stop. I really enjoyed this book, and would definitely put it up there with my favorites. The search for it was certainly worthwhile. I liked how the story was fluid, not cut up into different sections based on each story. There were sections, of course, but each story didn't get its own. It was more like an era of the author's life had its own special place. There weren't a lot of things that didn't work for me, but at some times it was hard to keep track of all of the characters. There were so many, as it mentioned all of the significant people in her life at a given moment. Telling who she was sleeping with, who she was just friends with, who she was studying under, or who she didn't like was very difficult. I can see why, however, it was important that all of these people were mentioned, because they all seemed very relevant to the story. I would most definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a fast paced and dramatic book. It isn't action packed, but it twists and turns as it follows Tindall's life. I would especially recommend it to someone who enjoys music, musicians, or wants to go into performance.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    There are interesting parts of this book, but as it went on Blair just became insufferable. There’s a lot of information given about the politics involved in classical music, the rising costs of orchestras, the day to day lifestyles of musicians, and the way classical musicians look down on Broadway orchestras. But the book is ruined by Blair’s inability to take responsibility for herself. Blair chooses to go to NC School of the Arts instead of Exeter, but then acts like she never chose to study There are interesting parts of this book, but as it went on Blair just became insufferable. There’s a lot of information given about the politics involved in classical music, the rising costs of orchestras, the day to day lifestyles of musicians, and the way classical musicians look down on Broadway orchestras. But the book is ruined by Blair’s inability to take responsibility for herself. Blair chooses to go to NC School of the Arts instead of Exeter, but then acts like she never chose to study music. She has friends, only to turn on all of them at some point. She writes viciously about her friends’ bad choices, while completely ignoring her own. Only an awful person would hold a grudge against a sick man recovering from a heart transplant because he didn’t personally thank her when he got put on the spot to give a speech during a surprise party. Towards the end of the book she’s rightfully proud of starting over to try to be a writer, but then she self-righteously acts like she is smarter than all of the musicians who stuck with classical music. The subject of the book is fascinating, but there is nothing in the book that would make me want to read anything else written by this author.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Eowyn

    This book provides an eye-opening look into the world of making a living with classical music. Unfortunately it also contains entire chapters of what I call "information dumps" - for example, an entire chapter of the history of funding for classical music/orchestras, etc. I wish Tindall had found a way to incorporate some of that information in a more readable and interesting way - perhaps a few paragraphs plus an appendix. I'm surprised her editor let this happen. The second half of This book provides an eye-opening look into the world of making a living with classical music. Unfortunately it also contains entire chapters of what I call "information dumps" - for example, an entire chapter of the history of funding for classical music/orchestras, etc. I wish Tindall had found a way to incorporate some of that information in a more readable and interesting way - perhaps a few paragraphs plus an appendix. I'm surprised her editor let this happen. The second half of the book was better. The info dumps went away, and I finally felt like I was starting to connect with the narrator. It started to feel more like a story and less like a narration.(This coincided with the beginning of her relationship with the pianist Sam.) By the way, I play flute in a community band, so I related to the book on a musician (albeit unprofessional) level. Plus it was good research for my novel, "Naked in the Rain" and its sequel (yet to be named), which features a classical pianist as the main character.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    In an attempt to write a controversial memoir, Tindall writes about her life as a young musician, and how she slept with people to work her way up into the New York classical music scene. While I understand that it is difficult to make a living as a musician, I don't really believe that one has to live as she did to get there (besides, drugs are expensive.... perhaps if people spent drug money on rent life wouldn't be as hard? just a thought). If you want a more entertaining telling o In an attempt to write a controversial memoir, Tindall writes about her life as a young musician, and how she slept with people to work her way up into the New York classical music scene. While I understand that it is difficult to make a living as a musician, I don't really believe that one has to live as she did to get there (besides, drugs are expensive.... perhaps if people spent drug money on rent life wouldn't be as hard? just a thought). If you want a more entertaining telling of the seedy underbelly of a field, I would suggest Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential over this book.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Chuck

    A must read for anyone who has an interest in the public arts and its funding. The behind-the-scenes look at NYC's classical/Broadway music scene during the 80's and 90's is fun and entertaining, but the book delves into the issues of public funding and the attitudes of those who give and those who receive.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Melanie

    Most of the book was terrible, but the analytical information about the classical music industry itself and the funding mechanisms and the data of it's growth and compression over several decades made it worth slogging through all the other trash. Honestly, the last few pages were the best - if you can make it that far.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    This book was a good wake-up call to aspiring musicians in the classical world. As a musician myself, I really had no idea this sort of "underground" life existed. The situations that Blair went through in life almost baffle me. The things some musicians would do just to get and keep a gig...

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kate Schindler

    Memoir of a freelance classical oboist in New York with sections on how classical music worked in the US in the last 50 years or so. If I had ever regretted not taking that path with my violin, I certainly don't anymore. All in all, an engaging, easy read.

  26. 5 out of 5

    David Vanbiesbrouck

    Seeded in shallowness; a book that illegitimately demeans artists and exposes false pretenses of the classical musician's life.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Duffy Pratt

    This book has an almost schizophrenic feel. It's partially like Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain, in that it does give some personal account of the darker side of being a classical musician. But then it also has fairly large sections that simply report on overall data and trends within the field, trying to diagnose what has gone wrong with it. In light of the #metoo movement, its interesting to see the somewhat casual approach that Tindall takes towards her teacher's abuse of This book has an almost schizophrenic feel. It's partially like Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain, in that it does give some personal account of the darker side of being a classical musician. But then it also has fairly large sections that simply report on overall data and trends within the field, trying to diagnose what has gone wrong with it. In light of the #metoo movement, its interesting to see the somewhat casual approach that Tindall takes towards her teacher's abuse of her, and the sexual harassment that was endemic. At the time, people would have blamed her because she slept her way into her jobs. Now, the pendulum has swung entirely the other way, and all the blame would fall on the principal oboists who slept with her, then got her substitute jobs, and then terminated the jobs when the sex stopped. The whole thing seems all too sad. The guys were definitely abusing the little power they had, and Tendall was also abusing her attractiveness. What isn't mentioned, ever, are the less attractive oboe players who never got to substitute. I liked almost all the stuff on the Upper West Side, in large part, because I lived there at the time, and so the fairly detailed descriptions of places had a nostalgic appeal to me. I probably saw Tindall at some point in one of the diners she frequented. The descriptions of the tedium of being a working classical musician were interesting, but not news to me. Imagine: playing the same part in a Broadway Musical over 250 times in a year can get boring. Who would have thought? Even the musicians I know who work full time for the Houston Symphony seem to get bored of retreading the same repertoire, year after year. So concert music tends, as a result, to be technically excellent, but not particularly inspired. Where to turn? Take a look at a Youtube video of the Eagles live, and tell me they are not bored out of there minds playing there hits, night after night, in the same order, and note for note as they appeared on their records. The pay is better, but their job strikes me as a lot worse, and the music much less interesting. One thing that I rarely get a feel for in this book is whether Tindall loves playing music. Sometimes, in brief moments, she talks about how wonderful a thing is. But it was the dream of a dress that brought her to music. She got to play oboe by accident, and she seems to have stuck with it largely because others thought she was good at it. It's hard to believe that she didn't feel more for it than she lets on, but maybe not. If she didn't, its a wonderful thing that she finally got out of it.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Stinky Girl

    This book was a very good account of a young lady dealing with the trials and successes of the music business. She started at fifteen years old in the Big Apple playing the obo trying to get the good gigs. She struggled with drugs, sex, and loss of friends and compatriots to aids. I highly recommend this book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Adarsh

    I liked this book a lot, the writing style was good and it was informative. But it was depressing for me to read. The business of classical music can be pretty nasty and unrewarding, which I don’t know if I really wanted to know that.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mikeshuler

    This book was an eye-opener for me as I had the world of classical music completely wrong. It was a little depressing to learn how tough the life of a classical musician really was. Drug use, sexism, symphonies with their top-heavy administration, poor general education for young musicians--the list goes on and on. The book was educational but could have been shorter as I was losing interest in Blair's story by the time the book was over.

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