Have you ever been approached by a friend or relative asking you go to a concert? They probably seem SO excited to go see that band or singer. Or maybe they want to go hear the guest soloist with the local symphony, or see the newest opera production. What was your reaction? And for those of you lucky enough to have friends with eclectic tastes – was your reaction to the invitation to go to the rock/pop concert any different than for the classical/art music performance?
For years the symphony orchestra has seen dwindling crowds, and ever fewer donation dollars. It seems at times that only the healthiest ensembles are going to survive. I shared some of my feelings about the subject here.
The more I think about the shrinking number of consumers of live western art music, the more I am inclined to wonder how performers and managers are going to adapt to survive. Or are they going to just simply allow the societal and cultural tastes in music run them out of business? It seems to me that many proponents of “classical music” would sneer at the thought of changing things up to appease the masses (aka increase consumers through ticket sales). Preferring, instead, to beat their proverbial chests at the grandeur of their art.
Why is a classical music concert, according to many of my friends (and even family members), be considered boring or snooty when compared to the touring rock band coming through your town next week?
How does a solo artist, or ensemble change public perception without feeling like they are “selling out” to stay financial solvent?
We all know that it isn’t the sound of an orchestra that keeps patrons from filling concert halls or theaters. Most musicians that do any type of outreach can attest to hearing dozens of people say: “I had no idea that your instrument/voice could sound like that!” EVERY time we play. Many/most films, TV shows, and video games have orchestral soundtracks. And even non-music people are often overheard remarking about how the music added to the overall production.
So why do so many people cringe when asked about going to the opera/ballet/ symphony/jazz festival?
Why can’t a picture of something like this:
Make an individual
want to react like this:
Maybe It’s Us
Maybe the way that classically trained musicians and ensembles are packaging and presenting our art is part of the cause. The professional symphonies have tended to wear and share their art the same way for decades (centuries really). Saying to their audiences effectively: “We’ll play, you shut up and listen.”
Now before you start to label me a heretic, let me just say that I think that their must be a way to engage an audience more effectively than what is currently done WITHOUT selling out to an all-pops-all-the-time orchestra season.
I am suggesting that it’s time for creative people to get creative. One such creative person recently spoke about using multiple senses in design.
We Need Ideas!
We need ideas that we can try. We need ideas that will succeed, and ideas that will fail. We, as creators of classical music need to continue to produce high-quality music AND start being more creative with the way we present it.
What are your ideas? What could I add to my next recital that would add another sensory element to the experience without detracting from the music itself? How could an orchestra add another sensory element to their Beethoven symphony performance (without upsetting the good folks who clean the hall)?
Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below!