Mozart in the Jungle

Back in 2005, Blair Tindall, an American freelance oboist, wrote a tell all memoir about sex, drugs and classical music titled Mozart in the Jungle.  In it, Tindall exposed the scandalous rock and roll lifestyles of the musicians, conductors, and administrators she encountered in the classical music world. Her book is a painful realistic tale of how classically trained musicians have lost their grip on reality and, with it, their place in society. Very brave of her to write, honestly. Rumor has it writing it ruined her freelance career actually because she ‘told all’. And in the arts, while this kind of thing is talked about in green rooms and routinely amongst musicians and artists because it is so common, the average art consumer has no idea what its really like to live the life of a working artist. Of course until Blair told the world her story.

While many have written about how the dysfunctional antics of musicians and artists are part of what comes with the territory as a ‘creative’, I have always believed it is really because there are so few opportunities for artists to support themselves and virtually no paths for advancement. If you are lucky enough to ‘win’ your job in the orchestra, or get hired in a university, where can you go? Once you get tenure in both- no where really. And most think you are very lucky to have those positions, in the first place, inside an industry where many cannot find any job in their field let alone one with tenure. And outside of the industry, very few really understands our skill sets. As such, artists rarely have titles, or work in organizations with hierarchies they can climb, leaving us moving from project to project with few sustainable outlets to express ourselves and no opportunities for growth.  For a highly skilled growth oriented creative mind this is recipe for self-destruction; which easily then becomes a life that includes sex outside of marriage, drugs and laced up together with plenty of drama.

No stranger to drama herself, Tindall, demonstrated some of the exact same crazy behavior when she married Bill Nye in 2006 and left the relationship seven weeks later when the marriage license was declared invalid. He filed a restraining order against Tindall after she entered their property to pour weed killer in his garden. Tindall admitted to emptying two bottles of weed killer in the garden and called the incident “a foolish, sophomoric act of poor judgment that was only intended to harm flowers, and certainly not people.” Supposedly she went to Nye’s garden after watching an episode of Living With Ed in which “Bill commented that life would be perfect … if only he had a woman with whom to share the house — a house I’d found, fixed up, and assumed I’d enjoy married life and motherhood as ‘Mrs. Nye’ within.” Nye was granted a court order which required Tindall to stay 100 yards away from him. Tindall violated the order in 2009 and Nye took her back to court to enforce it. The court ordered her to cover $57,000 in Nye’s legal expenses.

But the fact she was part of the dysfunctional cycle in our industry, she herself describes in Mozart in the Jungle, is not what is noteworthy about this story. Nor is the fact that she spent 23 years as a professional musician living in the chaos she describes in New York City as a performer with the New York Philharmonic, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and the Orchestra of St. Luke.  But instead, what makes this story atypical and extraordinary, is that she allowed all of

The pilot for Mozart in the Jungle can be watched @

this to be a spring board into expanding her career through her interest in journalism.  Sharing her story, as she did, has allowed her to expand her professional identity and lead her to develop a hybrid career with skills in union negotiations, marketing, editing, performance, public speaking, and public arts policy.

Today Blair has combined her interests, expanded abilities and experience to create a new travel television show, “Where’s Blair? Trekking the World Music Beat” and travels with her motivational speaking platform, “Flair For Genius.”  

In 2014, Mozart in the Jungle was adapted for an Amazon Studios web video series. The pilot was written by Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman, and Alex Timbers, and directed by Paul Weitz. The series stars Malcolm McDowell, Saffron Burrows, Bernadette Peters, and Gael Garcia Bernal. This spring, Amazon picked it up as a full series. Not bad for a tell all book written almost two decades ago, to expose a niche industry that soon millions will be a whole lot more interested in.

Good for you Blair Tindall. I hope Mozart in the Jungle helps to clean up the reality of the arts. And I hope your story helps more artists tell their own, use more of their skills and build more interesting careers they are more in control of.


 1014467_10202833947183293_5964056692173013765_nAbout Lisa Canning

“Vowels are to words what creativity is to the world~ basic and necessary.”

What motivates you to explore your creativity?  Email me and tell me:

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Need a magic creativity wand? Let’s start with the clarinet and see what it inspires you to dream and do.

Lisa Canning is the founder of Lisa’s Clarinet Shop, IAEOU, the Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship (IAE) and Entrepreneur the Arts. And now Learning Flies too.








Mozart in the Jungle

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