What do you look for in a good maestro?

December 18, 1997

If you want this choice position,

Play a Mozart composition...

We interrupt this column about the Maryland Symphony's search for a new maestro to bring you another article in a series of why you should not subscribe to the World Wide Web.

There I was, innocently trying to find the lyrics to the song in which Jane and Michael Banks list their qualifications for a new nanny. But do you think I could find the words to the sweet little musical number in the sweet little Disney production? Oh no. Instead I find a page that begins with the title: "Mary Poppins - the truth."

It commences - and this is not a joke:

"Welcome to The Truth About Mary Poppins (TrAMP) Homepage. Undoubtedly you have all swallowed the Mary Poppins Myth as peddled in the film 'Mary Poppins,' but We wish to give YOU the truth. You will all have heard of Adolf Hitler.


"You may also know that one of the reasons that he came to power was because the German people thought he would protect them from Communism. But there was another, more sinister reason. Yes, the German feared one person more than any other.

"That one person was: MARY POPPINS. Yes, you may laugh and wonder why this never appeared in your school textbooks, but that is because your government wants to protect you from the true terror of her brief, but bloody regime.

"This was due mostly to her brilliant propaganda. Slogans such as 'Freedom, Bread, Land, Feed The Birds' appealed to the desperate population. Once in power, she was brutal. She was the real 'Bloody Mary.' Together with her elite army of 'chimney sweeps,' she terrorized millions, poisoning millions with what she called her 'medicine.' MP was not the only German dictator to harbor dreams of world domination."

I have no idea who wrote this, nor do I want to know. I am distressed that there is such insanity on the information highway. I am also a little distressed that I didn't think of it first.

But back to Meastrosearch '97. The Maryland Symphony board started off with 253 resumes, and last week they, rather like the NCAA basketball selection committee, announced their final four, with the winner to be selected on the basis of who can tilt their heads to the greatest angle in their publicity photos.

No, actually we will all be able to help choose. Each conductor will give a concert, and musicians and audience members will complete surveys in a sort of rate-the-maestro competition.

So my question is, how does one tell a good witch from a bad witch? How are we to score the score, so to speak? Are there going to be judges evaluating every baton exercise, holding up cards 7.8, 7.7, 8.0, 6.8? Do we give extra points to maestros who play the score when a member of the audience shouts out a request?

I always wondered about the conductor, until a cellist set me straight. I said, "Why does the conductor matter; the musicians are always looking at the sheet music instead of the conductor? He could be scientifically waving a baton or he could be scratching his back with a tennis racquet for all they know."

The cellist rattled off about two pages worth of rebuttal and commentary, which could basically be summed up in the words: "You idiot."

It seems that, among their other talents, musicians can keep watch on sheet music, the maestro and old "Andy Griffith" reruns all at the same time.

Which is to say, the musicians should probably be the ones with the most input on picking a maestro, while people like myself should be left to choose the names of presidential dogs.

Buddy? The best they could come up with is Buddy?

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