Carnegie Hall director talks UAE arts scene

Clive Gillinson, the executive and artistic director of Carnegie Hall, stands in the orchestra-level Stern auditorium in New York, U.S., on Sept. 30, 2008. Photographer: Peter Murphy/Carnegie Hall
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"How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice," goes the old Vaudeville comic routine.

For the time being however - aside from diligenty honing one’s musical skills of course - the only way for residents of the UAE to reach the revered New York concert venue will be via a transatlantic flight.

Carnegie Hall executive and artistic director, Sir Clive Gillinson, paid a brief visit to Abu Dhabi this week. And although other Manhattan institutes such as New York University and the Guggenheim Museum are making forays into our city, he insisted he wasn't here to discuss the potentials of constructing a new Carnegie in the UAE.

“It just wouldn’t be practical,” contends the 67-year-old Briton. “The thing about our concert hall is that it’s nothing if it’s not the acoustics. After all, Carnegie Hall was built 122 years ago and nobody has done it better. There’s no guarantee you could do it better today.

“Then, if you do it worse, you’ve damaged the name of Carnegie Hall. It’s not the right thing to do with something that is unique.”

Instead, Gillinson’s presence in the Emirates was part of the Abu Dhabi Festival, where he presented a lecture to students of Zayed University on the role music plays in society.

It's a subject he's more than qualified to expound upon, for furthering the appeal of classical music has been among his prime objectives during his seven-year tenure at the Carnegie.

For example, Gillinson helped implement The Academy scheme, in which outstanding young musicians undertake music teaching work in public schools. And he revealed that the programme could soon be extended to the UAE.

Gillinson added that he was impressed with Abu Dhabi’s burgeoning arts scene.

“They’re trying to bring the very best [artists] in the world over here, but in the context of local culture as well. Hopefully this will make Abu Dhabi a cultural hub that really matters in the world,” he predicts.