Synopses & Reviews
From her debut recital at Carnegie Hall to performing with the orchestras of Les Misérables
and Miss Saigon
, oboist Blair Tindall has been playing classical music professionally for twenty-five years. She's also lived the secret life of musicians who survive hand to mouth, trading sex and drugs for low-paying gigs and the promise of winning a rare symphony position or a lucrative solo recording contract.
In Mozart in the Jungle, Tindall describes her graduation from the North Carolina School of the Arts to the backbiting New York classical music scene, a world where Tindall and her fellow classical musicians often play drunk, high, or hopelessly hung-over, live in decrepit apartments, and perform in hazardous conditions. (In the cramped confines of a Broadway pit, the decibel level of one instrument is equal to the sound of a chain saw.)
Mozart in the Jungle offers a stark contrast between the rarefied experiences of overpaid classical musician superstars and those of the working-class musicians. For lovers of classical music, Mozart in the Jungle is the first true, behind-the-scenes look at what goes on backstage and in the Broadway pit.
"By age 16, the author of this alternately piquant and morose memoir was dealing marijuana, bedding her instructors at a performing arts high school and studying the oboe. Later, her blossoming career as a freelance musician in New York introduced her to a classical music demimonde of cocaine parties and group sex that had her wondering why she 'got hired for so many of my gigs in bed.' But the vivace of the chapters on her bohemian salad days subsides to a largo as she heads toward 40 and the sex and drugs recede along with dreams of stardom; the reality of a future in Broadway orchestra pits (where she reads magazines as she plays to stave off boredom) sets in. Tindall escaped to journalism, but her resentment of an industry that 'squeezed me dry of spontaneity' and turns other musicians into hollow-eyed 'galley slaves' is raw. She mounts a biting critique of the conservatories that churn out thousands of graduates each year to pursue a handful of jobs, the superstar conductors and soloists who lord it over orchestral peons and a fine arts establishment she depicts as bloated and ripe for downsizing. Tindall's bitterness over what might still strike many readers as a pretty great career is a bit overdone, but she offers a fresh, highly readable and caustic perspective on an overglamorized world. Photos. Agent, James Fitzgerald. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A provocative blend of no-holds-barred memoir and tough-minded reporting about the state of classical music....A real eye-opener." Kirkus Reviews
"While her discourses on the role of the arts in...engage and inform, she spends a lot of time on her sexual exploits, drinking, drug use, and "casting couch" encounters-content not for the faint of constitution." Library Journal
"This is the most candid and unsparing account of orchestral life ever to see print. It details both the petty corruptions of power the cliques that control who plays in orchestras and who doesn't and the more sordid corruptions of flesh and cash. Blair Tindall tells it how it is the sex, the drugs, the influence racketeers. The abuses she exposes begin at high school and persist at the deathbed. But she also illuminates, vividly and unflinchingly, how classically trained musicians have lost their grip on reality and, with it, their place in society. This is a valuable book, a must-read for anyone who cares for the preservation of live performance." Norman Lebrecht, author of The Maestro Myth and The Song of Names
"Parents of young classical musicians beware. After reading Mozart in the Jungl you may want to redirect your children towards more wholesome pursuits, such as playing drums in a speed-metal band." Jacob Slichter, author of ->So You Wanna Be a Rock & Roll Star
"Blair Tindall blows the lid off the world of classical music in this book that transcends the genre of memoir. While an intensely personal and revealing story, Mozart in the Jungle is also fine investigative journalism, with an abiding sense of history. It's a remarkable multi-layered work of non-fiction. Blair entered the sacred temple of classical music for so long shrouded in mystery, off-limits to critical examination and emerged with this tale of a non-profit 'industry' bent on self destruction, conductors feeding at the trough of excess, both monetary and sexual. This book is a must-read for anyone concerned about the arts in America." Dale Maharidge, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning And Their Children After Them
"Busloads of kids arrive in Manhattan daily, driven to 'make it there.' But for many, the climb to the top is more often like a trek through a jungle. Blair Tindall brilliantly captures the energy, excitement and existential angst of it all, including the Allendale Apartments, the place where the lives of so many of us musicians, artists and writers intersected. It took a 'double threat' like Blair Tindall a world class oboist whose musical talents are matched by her journalistic skills to tell the story. It makes me long for those days, leaky ceilings and all." Bill Lichtenstein, senior executive producer of public radio's "The Infinite Mind"
"No book before this has so accurately captured the harrowing life of the free-lance artist trying to make a career in the music business as Blair Tindall's Mozart in the Jungle. While her experiences are unique to her, all musicians recognize the financial insecurity, artistic frustration and personal chaos that she describes. And, along the way, framing her story, is an unblinking, thoughtful, detailed analysis of the recent difficulties in the symphony, opera and ballet fields and some insights into the current state of musician employment or, more accurately, non-employment in the recording field. A valuable and engrossing work." Bill Moriarity, Former President of Local 802 American Federation of Musicians
"In her wonderfully eloquent memoir Blair Tindall takes us into the rehearsal rooms and the orchestra pits, the dressing rooms and the bedrooms of the classical musicians who make such beautiful music in some of America's best known orchestras. Mozart in the Jungle is a remarkably candid and courageous book." Margot Livesey
Professional oboist Tindall reveals the secret life of musicians, who trade sex and drugs for low-paying gigs and the promise of winning a rare symphony position or a lucrative solo recording contract, in this behind-the-scenes look at what goes on backstage and in the Broadway pit.
About the Author
Blair Tindall is a regular contributor to the New York Times, Sierra Magazine, and the San Francisco Examiner; her work has also appeared in the Wall Street Journal and Art & Antiques. The recipient of a MacDowell Fellowship, Tindall holds an M.A. in journalism from Stanford University