Classical musicians: hot or not?

April 15, 2008
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Yes, it’s the music that matters.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s acknowledge that classical music organizations aren’t shy about using images of attractive musicians in their marketing.

A hottie violinist, the theory goes, will sell more tickets than a not-so-hottie violinist.

Rather than shy away from that reality, one publication, Britain’s Muso magazine, now has a reader scoring system—for both men and women—on its website. (I know you want to look, so click here.)

Now that you are back, tell me is this: a.) an insult to the music, b.) inevitable, c.) amusing, d.) inaccurate because Joshua Bell isn’t in the Top 5, e.) all of the above, f.) some of the above, g.) something else.

Your thoughts?
  • I couldn't resist. Had to give Lisa Batiashvili 5 stars.
  • I vote C and D. The vote for C is because it shows that young people
    who are very talented look like people you would want to know and hang out
    with. Classical music CAN be cool and not just a bunch of old dead guys. The vote for D is because Simone Lamsma, the 2006 Silver Medalist from our own International Violin Competition of Indianapolis, is quite attractive
    and didn't even make the list. And I like chamber music too, but there was
    not one string quartet in the G Spot and I know several quartets where all
    members would qualify for this list.
  • Our 1994 Silver Medalist is in the list...check out Stefan Milenkovich at 3 stars. He's listed under can also see him live in performance here in downtown Indianapolis on Mother's Day.
  • I love beautiful women. I love music. When both come in the same package, it's a win-win situation. However, I don't like putting beauty and sex ahead of the music. It detracts from the music. I want to hear how they play, what they play, how they got where they are today, etc. The fact that she or he is beautiful or a hunk should go unsaid. It's the music first, second, and always. Let's not cheapen the event by hyping powers of the flesh.
  • I think its tacky and a cheap ploy. The music should be first. If you have to be tricked into checking out classical because you find the violinist hot, well, perhaps you're from the shallow end of the pool. I've always enjoyed classical and perhaps it's the only form of music where looks don't actually matter to anyone.
  • Lou, your post today made me laugh out loud!

    But okay (wiping away a tear and settling down again), let me think about your question...

    Since I know so little about classical music and how to truly appreciate it, I think I could easily get distracted at a concert and move into fantasy mode if the musician was attractive. So...I think my answer is g) something else: pushing a musician's sex appeal is actually detrimental to the goal of promoting the music and developing new audiences. (I'm laughing again!)

    However, I am often wildly and passionately attracted to people that the rest of the world thinks are physically ho-hum or even unattractive. I think that beauty and sexual attraction and chemistry or whatever, when you get right down to it, are mysterious and unpredictable. So...even if I did take the time to visit the site you mentioned, I bet I would not find it useful in predicting which musicians I would swoon over in person.

    I have two questions for you:

    1) Is the personality and appearance of an artist ever truly relevant to his or her art? (E.g. - I admit that sometimes I read a book because I developed a crush on the author when he spoke at a conference, so I think the answer is yes, even though it shouldn't be.)

    2) Do you think people ever sell an artist short because he or she is conventionally, physically attractive? I.e. - do people ever look at an attractive artist and think, Surely someone that gorgeous has never had to work hard enough to develop any range or excellence in his or her skills? (I try not to do this, but unfortunately I sometimes am overly impressed by beautiful actors who can know, act.)

    Hope Baugh
  • Hope,

    1. For the interpreted arts--arts where there is an intermediary between the initial creator and the audience--then I'd say no. What an author or composer or visual artist looks like shouldn't be relevant. Although I'm sure we could figure out some exceptions where it matters. As to performing artists, that gets more complicated. In recordings it doesn't matter, but live performance is a combination of sight and sound. I'd take that on a case by case basis. There have been plenty of performers who weren't traditionally attractive. But I think marketers will tell you that it doesn't hurt.

    2. Yes, absolutely--although I can't think of an example offhand. Anybody? A variation is the idea that because someone is accomplished in one medium than they can't be in another. I'm thinking of Steve Martin. Certainly his celebrity helped him get his books published and his plays produced. But did he get the acclaim he deserved for his novel Shop Girl? Hard to tell. Certainly it wouldn't have gotten the press it scored if he hadn't have been who he is.

  • You all have probably seen the youtube clip of Joshua Bell playing in the Washington Metro station and seeing all those people just walk by. They didn't realize it was a concert by Joshua Bell. Except one woman, who eventually asked for his autograph. I have walked past many street musicians over the years without giving them a second thought. It is likely I would have walked past Joshua Bell, not expecting that quality at a subway station. This must be a form of selling an artist short. I think (I hope) as I get older I am more accepting and appreciative of an artist's talent and give credit where due.
  • (f).

    Sex appeal and classical music have long been intertwined, especially for soloists. Franz Liszt cut quite a dashing figure and was a superstar virtuoso soloist. He also got around a fair bit with the ladies. So did Beethoven, who, while not exactly an Adonis, had undeniably potent charisma and nearly inhuman talent.

    Talent, confidence, and competence are all key factors of sex appeal. If you're attractive AND really good at what you do, suddenly you're that much more attractive; especially when you're good at something that stirs the soul in the way performance does. Throw in that air of bohemian swagger that a lot of classical musicians have, and you're going to get a few folks hot and bothered. So, classical music marketers, if they've got it, you may as well flaunt it.

    That said: I bet Perlman could still play circles around most of these folks. Except maybe Joshua Bell. :-)

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