Backstage at San Francisco Opera > October 2011 > A Giant Flies with Angels
A Giant Flies with Angels
A giant passed away. A man that has served as a major inspiration for so many people, Steve Jobs, the former CEO and creator of Apple Inc. is now flying with the angels above. Mr. Jobs must be one of the most forward looking men of the 20th and 21st centuries; he was a man of huge ideas that reached the masses. He was also a man with a message: never look back, never think small. This message resonates loudly and clearly today for all of us committed to breathing life into a world of music and art that is suffering in a time of economic chaos.

In an address to Stanford University students in 2005, he remarked: “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all eternal expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart…Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”

The premise that knowing we could all die in a moment’s notice, proves that all of us should go for broke even if the risks are high. Taking the big chances and diving in the deep end makes us vulnerable but in that vulnerability is where boldness is born and big ideas are realized. In the recession that Americans face today, the arts community and our artistic institutions have to resist the urge to be cautious and calculated. It’s time to make big and smart choices.

This starts with revitalizing the artistic and creative outlets available to our children in enrolled in grammar or high school. Music classes were a requisite and hallmark to a sound, public education in years past. Unfortunately, in light of budgetary concerns and education competitiveness from Asian and middle eastern countries, these classes have been truncated and in some cases totally removed as part of a child’s learning curve. What our legislators fail to see is that music and art have been a large part of keeping our children on the competitive edge, graduating, and prevailing in the long term. The National Association for Music Education concluded in 2007 that high schools with a coherent music and arts program inherent to a child’s daily curriculum had a national graduation rate of 90.2 percent. High schools that did not offer these programs had a staggeringly lower rate of graduation at 72.9 percent. Moreover, the survey showed that young adults who took the SAT exam for entrance into university that were offered a music education scored more than 100 points higher on their exams than students without a music education.

Consider, alternatively, that in the advent of the video gaming culture and online media entertainment, a lifestyle of playing an instrument is far less prevalent today than it was even 20 years ago. In an LA Times piece from 2009, it found a shocking 60% decrease in the purchase of new and used pianos in American homes and schools between 1998 and 2009. Families and schools, with pressing financial concerns opt for cheaper outlets into music and thus the piano, once a staple of the American living room and music classroom is being phased out in favor of more digital, cheaper devises. Less real fundamental music in the home and at school has shown to have devastating impacts in the classroom and afterwards. [Above: Michael Fabiano as Gennaro in Lucrezia Borgia. Photo by Cory Weaver.]

The impact of these numbers is breathtaking. Participation in the arts is a clear motivating factor for young adults on the edge of dropping out or staying in school. These young people that desire to sing, to dance, to play an instrument, or to paint will come to school if they have the courses available to them which inevitably keeps them enrolled in mathematics and the other staples of the educational cycle. Hence, children and young adults are more likely to succeed in graduating. And it’s not just graduation and retention rates that are important. The level of achievement during and after high school of students with a music education is even more critical. Some of our most important innovators in Silicon Valley were musicians themselves or had a grand passion for music, like Steve Jobs.

It’s so necessary to remind ourselves of the promise that music has on our psyche and our soul. Imagine a world where music would cease to exist. Take one day and remove music from your life. If the TV is on, put it on mute or at least, mute it during the commercials. Turn off your ipod. Turn off the radio. Refraining from listening to music could make one realize how dependent we are on something that is so implicit in our lives that we take for granted every day. It’s this anecdote and the various arguments that I’ve made that demonstrate how music and the arts have to be a part of our lives and more narrowly, a part of a child’s destiny. [Above: Michael Fabiano with Renee Fleming in Lucrezia Borgia. Photo by Cory Weaver.]

So how do we move forward? How does America instill in a new generation of leaders, foundations, and governmental institutions even, the need to make music and art an intrinsic attribute of a child’s educative process, especially in our pressing economic condition? This is going to be a recurring theme on my website and something that I open up to all of the readers here and ask for your input.

Read the remainder of Michael Fabiano’s blog post at

Posted: 10/26/2011 2:21:41 PM by Michael Fabiano (Gennaro, Lucrezia Borgia)
Filed under: LucreziaBorgia, singer


Backstage at San Francisco Opera is a fascinating, fast-moving, mysterious and sacred space for the Company’s singers, musicians, dancers, technicians and production crews. Musical and staging rehearsals are on-going, scenery is loaded in and taken out, lighting cues are set, costumes and wigs are moved around and everything is made ready to receive the audience. From the principal singers, chorus and orchestra musicians to the creative teams for each opera, in addition to the many talented folks who don’t take a bow on stage, this blog offers unique insight, both thought-provoking and light-hearted, into the life backstage at San Francisco Opera.


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