Why Mozart Lost the Job
Dear Dean X:
I write in response to your suggestion of an appointment to our faculty for a Mr. W. A. Mozart, currently of Vienna, Austria. While the Music Department appreciates your interest, faculty are sensitive about their prerogatives in the selection of new colleagues.
While the list of works and performances that the candidate submitted is undoubtedly a full one, though not always accurate in the view of our musicologists, it reflects activity _outside_ education. Mr. Mozart does not have an earned doctorate; indeed, very little in the way of formal training or teaching experience. There is a good deal of instability too, evidenced in the resume. Would he really settle down in a large state university? And while we have no church connections, as chairman I must voice a concern over the incidents with the Arch- bishop of Salzburg. They hardly confirm his abilities to be a good team man.
I know that the strong supporting letter from Mr. Haydn, himself a successful composer, suggests that some of the candidate’s problems are not really to the heart of the matter. But Mr. Haydn is writing from a very special situation. Esterhazy is a well-funded private institution, rather a long way from our university, and better able than we are to accommodate a nonacademic like Mr. Haydn. Our concern is not just with the most gifted — but because state funds are involved, with all who come to us seeking an education in music. I have drawn to your attention many times the budget and space problems in the department.
The musicology faculty did say after the interview that Mr. Mozart seemed to have little knowledge of music before Bach and Handel. If he were only to teach composition, that might not be a serious impediment, but we expect everyone to be able to assume some of the burden of large undergraduate survey classes in music history.
The applied faculty were impressed by his piano playing, rather old- fashioned though some thought it to be. That he also performed on the violin and viola seemed for us to be stretching versatility dangerously thin.
The composition faculty were in the same way skeptical about his extensive output. They rightly warn us from their own experience that to receive many performances is no guarantee of quality, and the senior professor points out that Mr. Mozart promotes many of these performances himself. He has never won the support of a major foundation.
One of my colleagues was present a year or two ago at the premiere of, I believe, a violin sonata, and he discovered afterwards that Mr. Mozart had indeed not fully written out the piano part before he played it. This may be all very well in that world, but it sets a poor example to students in their assignments, and one can only think with trepidation of a concerto performance by our student orchestra with Mr. Mozart.
Naturally, he proved to be an entertaining man at dinner and spoke amusingly of his travels. It was perhaps significant that he and our colleagues seemed to have few acquaintances in common. One lady colleague was offended by an anecdote our guest told and left early. We are glad as a faculty to have had the chance to meet the visitor, but do not see our way to recommending an appointment, and least of all with tenure. Our first need, as I have emphasized to your office, is for a specialist in music education primary methods.
Please give my regards to Mr. Mozart when you write him. I am sure he will continue to do well in that very different world he has chosen and which suites him better, I believe, than higher education.
Yours Sincerely, Y…. Z…… Chairman Department of Music
P.S. Some good news. Our senior professor of composition tells me there is now a very good chance that a movement of his concerto will have its premiere next season. You will remember that his work was commissioned by a foundation and won first prize nine years ago.