Esteban Meneses is a classical music journalist and critic who will be among the new fellows at this year’s Rubin Institute for Music Criticism. Esteban currently contributes to Classical Voice America and I Care if You Listen, among other publications.
You recently were announced as one of the fellows at the upcoming Rubin Institute for Music Criticism. Tell me a little bit about why you applied and what you’re hoping to get out of the experience.
Yes, it’s an exciting, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It’s an honor to be one of the 18 new fellows in the Institute—part music writing workshop, part contest, and an excellent learning opportunity. It’s taking place in mid-June at the new Bowes, Jr. Center for Performing Arts (San Francisco Conservatory of Music). I first found out about it by reading criticism, and about critics. What really drew me in was the panelists (including critics from the New York Times, the New Yorker, and the Washington Post), the animated discussion, and the hopefulness the program is instilling in the future of this field, despite the explicit acknowledgement that it’s hard to find paid work in it. (Some of the talks from the previous institutes are still available.) Some time ago I contacted the Institute about possibly getting involved, in some capacity—perhaps attending as member of the audience or just getting access to the content. I found out that for 2022 they were opening the application to non-students, so I jumped at the opportunity.
What I’m hoping to get is experience writing overnight reviews (the bulk of the program consists of reviewing performances by the San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Opera, and SFJAZZ). But more importantly, I’d like to form relationships that might result in this experience turning into sustained, and sustainable, work in the future, in whatever capacity is possible—not just for me, but for all the fellows, and potentially for other writers too. In previous years the Institute has established partnerships with several newspapers, most notably the Boston Globe, to fund music critic positions for select Rubin fellows. That is a very exciting prospect.