Falling in Love With the Arts

Question: What plays and music did you most admire when you were young?


Terry Teachout: The first play I ever saw, I was in junior high school, was a high school production of Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit," which seemed to me absolutely magical.  I had never seen people performing on a stage before.  It was so different from television and movies.  Of course, I didn't know at the age of 12, or however old I was, that I was going to end up being the drama critic of the newspaper, but the experience of seeing people on the stage, sharing the air that you breathe, being part of your world instead of people on a flat screen was very powerful for me and I know it pushed me in the direction of wanting to be a performer of some kind. 


I loved music from earliest childhood; from as long as I can remember.  The house was full of records.  My father had lots of old records; 78's, big bands, Jazz, that's how I first heard Armstrong really, and all the other kinds of music I ended up writing about and ultimately playing.  I became a professional musician and played all kinds of music.  I played Bluegrass, I played Classical Music, and for many years I played Jazz.  


But it was the records.  There wasn't a lot of live music that you could hear where I came from, which was a small town in southeast Missouri.  There was an occasional concert that came through, but basically, my experience of music, and largely of the arts, came through television more than anything else.  Back in the '60's, when I was a boy, you could turn on Ed Sullivan on Sunday night and see ballet companies and Jazz and Classical musicians along with ventriloquists and people who spun plates on the ends of poles.  And I think the fact that television brought you all of these experiences on a kind of plane of equality had a real effect on how I ultimately came to view the arts because for me, all the arts are one.  They're all -- music, drama, and film, and painting, they are different ways of trying to do the same thing, and I've always experienced them on this plane of equality.  Really, from the time I started writing about the arts, I've wanted to write about all of the arts.  I wanted to have the opportunity to do that and finally I got it.  Now I write about whatever interests me.


Question: How did you transition from performance to criticism?


Terry Teachout: I was writing throughout the time that I was performing.  I started – I edited my school newspaper, I did the things that a young writer does.  And they were parallel tracks for me.  Criticism was simply an opportunity that came up when I was in college to do some reviewing and I found that I liked it.  I found that I liked the idea of being able to communicate your own enthusiasm, your own excitement, to try to get people to come see something that you saw and maybe see in it what you saw.  Somewhere along the way, I came to the conclusion that I was a better writer than I was a musician, I was just better at it, and I decided that that was what I wanted to do. 


Question: Is music or theater criticism more personal for you?


Terry Teachout: Neither.  All the arts are personal and important to me.  Obviously, somewhere deep within me there is the fact that I have been a musician and it's as though that is my first language.  But, I’ve been writing about other things for so long that the thing that excites me the most is the thing I'm going to see tonight.

Recorded on November 17, 2009
Interviewed by Austin Allen

Critic Terry Teachout reveals the drama and music that moved him the most as a young man, and which is the more personal art form for him.

Why the ocean you know and love won’t exist in 50 years

Can sensitive coral reefs survive another human generation?

  • Coral reefs may not be able to survive another human decade because of the environmental stress we have placed on them, says author David Wallace-Wells. He posits that without meaningful changes to policies, the trend of them dying out, even in light of recent advances, will continue.
  • The World Wildlife Fund says that 60 percent of all vertebrate mammals have died since just 1970. On top of this, recent studies suggest that insect populations may have fallen by as much as 75 percent over the last few decades.
  • If it were not for our oceans, the planet would probably be already several degrees warmer than it is today due to the emissions we've expelled into the atmosphere.
Keep reading Show less

Why modern men are losing their testosterone

Research has shown that men today have less testosterone than they used to. What's happening?

Flickr user Tom Simpson
Sex & Relationships
  • Several studies have confirmed that testosterone counts in men are lower than what they used to be just a few decades ago.
  • While most men still have perfectly healthy testosterone levels, its reduction puts men at risk for many negative health outcomes.
  • The cause of this drop in testosterone isn't entirely clear, but evidence suggests that it is a multifaceted result of modern, industrialized life.
Keep reading Show less

Health care: Information tech must catch up to medical marvels

Michael Dowling, Northwell Health's CEO, believes we're entering the age of smart medicine.

Photo: Tom Werner / Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The United States health care system has much room for improvement, and big tech may be laying the foundation for those improvements.
  • Technological progress in medicine is coming from two fronts: medical technology and information technology.
  • As information technology develops, patients will become active participants in their health care, and value-based care may become a reality.
Keep reading Show less