Tindall, Blair 1960–

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Tindall, Blair 1960–

(Blair Alston Mercer Tindall)

PERSONAL: Born February 2, 1960, in Durham, NC; daughter of George Brown and Carliss Blossom (McGarrity) Tindall. Education: Manhattan School of Music, Mus.B. and Mus.M., 1982; Stanford University, M.A. (journalism), 2000. Studied music with Joseph Robinson, 1975–86, Eric Barr, Elizabeth Camus, Jon Dlouhy, and Ronald Roseman. Politics: Democrat.

ADDRESSES: Home and office—555 Bryant St., Palo Alto, CA 94301-1704.

CAREER: Musician and journalist. Regular substitute oboist for Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, St. Luke's Chamber Ensemble, and New York Philharmonic, all New York, NY, all beginning 1982; Hudson Valley Philharmonic, Poughkeepsie, NY, principal oboist, beginning 1986; New York Times, New York, NY, former reporter; San Francisco Examiner, San Francisco, CA, former staff business writer; Contra Costa Times, former staff critic-at-large. Oboist in festivals and ensembles throughout the United States, including San Francisco Symphony, New York City Ballet Orchestra, New York City Opera Orchestra, New Jersey Symphony, and Vivaldi Traveling Circus. Oboist in Broadway musicals, including Les Miserables, 1987–; Aspects of Love, 1990–91; and Miss Saigon, 1991–. Recording artist with Opus One, Chesky, Columbia, Nonesuch, Varese Sarabande, Premier, and Deutsche Grammophon. Oboist for film, radio, and television soundtracks, including for films Crooklyn, Mad Dog and Glory, A Little Sex, and Snake Eyes. Has taught journalism at Stanford University and oboe at University of California Berkeley.

MEMBER: International Double Reed Society, Chamber Music America, American Federation of Musicians.

AWARDS, HONORS: Top prize, Lucarelli Competition for Solo Oboists, 1988; MacDowell Colony residency, 2004; Ucross Foundation residency.


Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music (memoir), Atlantic Monthly Press (New York, NY), 2005.

Contributor to periodicals, including Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Examiner, Yoga Journal, Strings, Symphony, International Herald Tribune, Nieman Reports, and Art & Antiques.

SIDELIGHTS: Professional oboist Blair Tindall is a classically trained musician whose musical career has spanned television, theater, film, and orchestras throughout the United States. She has recorded for numerous labels and her work is represented on soundtracks for popular Broadway productions and motion pictures. In 1999, as her fortieth birthday approached, Tindall realized she needed a profound change in her life. To that end, she enrolled in the journalism school at Stanford University, where she earned a master's degree. Even while nurturing her journalism career with work for papers such as the San Francisco Examiner, Tindall has continued to play for such groups as the San Francisco Symphony.

In 2002, Tindall moved to New York City to play in the orchestra for the musical Man of La Mancha and start her first book. That effort, Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music, is "a provocative blend of no-holds-barred memoir and tough-minded reporting about the state of classical music," commented a Kirkus Reviews contributor. She tells the story of the classical music world from the 1960s to today. Among her revelations are tales of rapacious teachers at prominent conservatories who could not keep their hands off the students; copious use of drugs of all kinds by musicians living in cramped quarters, scraping by on occasional freelance gigs and temporary jobs; and freewheeling sex among musicians, managers, conductors, and others associated with the industry. Tindall observes that she was hired for most of her musician jobs while in bed. "I would have preferred not to reveal so much of myself," Tindall remarked in an interview with Chris Bonanos in New York Magazine. "But I don't think I would have been as credible—and there's a lot I didn't reveal!"

Tindall also traces how a boom in funding for the arts created numerous endowments and increased funding for classical music training facilities, but failed to expand the audience an equal amount. This created a situation in which thousands of new conservatory graduates were minted each year into a system that offered, at best, a few hundred jobs already fiercely fought for and guarded by those who had them. The musician has a down-to-earth view of the perception of classical musicians as living on what interviewer Paul Comstock called on the California Literary Review Web site a "higher spiritual plane than the rest of us." As she stated, "The practice of music alone has nothing to do with morality." Furthermore, harboring notions that classical music and musicians belong on some rarified level hinders the appreciation of music by a larger audience and stunts the growth of potential listeners and players. "A mystical attitude about the place of music can create a devastating effect, driving both audiences and amateur musicians—fearing they lack the intellect to understand—away," she remarked in the interview with Comstock. "Music is beautiful, uplifting, and can make life so much more than it already is, but … it is still just music."

She is equally pragmatic when it comes to advising young people on careers in music, especially in terms of her inside knowledge of the field and the paucity of jobs available for even the most talented players. Tindall suggests that prospective students talk to someone already working in the field to get an up-to-date idea of the music business. For those who are determined to pursue music, she emphatically recommends a comprehensive educational program that stresses more than just music study. "If he's dead-set on it, enroll him in a conservatory that's part of a university—Indiana University, Oberlin," she advised Bonanos. "Everybody I know who went to those places is much more well rounded than the people who went to school like I did."

Norman Lebrecht, writing on the La Scene Musicale Web site, commented that "Tindall's book is an eleventh-hour wake-up call to orchestras to clean up their act before it's too late. What is needed is more honesty, more democracy and more engagement with audiences who ought to have a say in choosing programs and conductors." Although Tindall's "tone is sour and disillusioned from the first page," the Kirkus Reviews critic noted that "her relentless catalogue of criticisms is ultimately too convincing to be dismissed."



Entertainment Weekly, July 8, 2005, Gilbert Cruz, "Sympathy for the Devils," review of Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music, p. 74.

Houston Chronicle, July 22, 2005, Charles Ward, "Sex, Drugs, and Oboes," review of Mozart in the Jungle.

Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2005, review of Mozart in the Jungle, p. 530.

Library Journal, April 15, 2005, Barry Zaslow, review of Mozart in the Jungle, p. 90.

New York Magazine, July 25, 2005, Chris Bonanos, "Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark," interview with Blair Tindall.

Stanford, September-October, 2005, Brian Eule, "Escaping the Pit," review of Mozart in the Jungle.


California Literary Review Online, http://www.calitreview.com/ (August 11, 2005), Paul Comstock, "Orchestras, Oboes, and Orgies," interview with Blair Tindall.

La Scene Musicale Web site, http://www.scena.org/ (June 22, 2005), Norman Lebrecht, "Sex, Drugs, and Symphony Orchestras," review of Mozart in the Jungle.

Mozart in the Jungle Web site, http://www.mozartinthejungle.com/ (October 23, 2005), biography of Blair Tindall.