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'I Used to Play the Violin, but...

Music teacher Phyllis Curtin, in the article "Sitting In on a Master Class," Sept. 3, says she regrets the increasing loss of opportunity for even gifted singers to perform. "Today," she says, "the recital audience is basically gone.... Parents every now and again ask me, 'Don't you think it's irresponsible to be teaching these people these things they'll never make a living from?Allowing for the differences, the same can be asked about students of the violin, flute, cello, and other so-called solo instruments. Even after years of lessons and endless hours of individual practice or collective rehearsal, only a small fraction of players can expect to play in solo recitals or community orchestras, let alone make a living playing. The most common remark I hear from people is this: "I used to play the violin (flute, clarinet, piano), but gave it up years ago." To rescue thousands from the fate of dropping their music after high school, teachers should be encouraged to teach chamber music, duets, trios, and quartets rather than solo concerts by concentrating exclusively on individual technique. Chamber music is a lifelong joy. Solo concert performance is an ignis fatuus, a will-o'-the-wisp. Allan Shields, Mariposa, Calif.

Preservationist intrusion The Home Forum essay " 'Preserving' Maine's Woods," Aug. 30, touches a sensitive spot in me. As a longtime landowner, I am extremely sensitive to the preservationist movement, which I see as simply an attempt by people who do not wish to buy land not only to use mine free of charge and without my permission, but also to tell me what I can and cannot do with it. It is increasingly difficult to justify my investment in land to grow trees due to the laws governing how I may use my land. Setbacks from streams, lakes, and wetlands and the removal of some land permanently from harvesting make it necessary that the land that is left carry the burden of these, by law, nonproductive (in a monetary sense) lands. I have always revered my land, intending it to be inherited by my children and grandchildren, and have spent half my life educating them to respect the land and use it for its economic value. I can do a better job on my land than can some person in Washington or New York who doesn't know the first thing about it. D. Bradley, Plainfield, N.H.

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Countering greed The article "Are Americans Really Greedy?," Sept. 5, is a reassuring analysis of Richard McKenzie's statistics showing that "American generosity in the decade of the 1980s hit record highs," but the author overlooks two important points. First, the 1980s weren't a decade of greed per se, they were a decade when Reagan administration policies indulged the greedy scoundrels who detract from ... the national welfare" as the author describes them. Second, I'd bet that much of the increased charitable giving was a direct response to the administration's handling of environmental affairs, the Supreme Court's (continuing) shift to the right, and related social issues. Interestingly, we were evidently aroused enough to outweigh the effects of drastic cuts in tax deductions for charitable donations. Let's hope future administrations don't consider that grounds to shirk their social and environmental responsibilities! Kent M. Campbell, Providence, R.I.

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