Change

Given my background in the “classical” music world, I have been for some time an admirer of Greg Sandow’s blog, Sandow, although I will confess that I have not subscribed to it. That has changed.

Mr. Sandow is in the middle of a series of posts addressing the need for transformation in the music industry that, in spite of the fact that I have been saying many of the same things here, I could not have said better myself. I try (unsuccessfully) to avoid the echo chamber nature of blogging about the arts, but when I read the following:

The classical music business loves to do advocacy (which we also see being done for the arts generally). Which means going out in the community and trying to show we’re valuable. But if we filled our halls with an excited new audience, we’d have nothing to prove. And our future would be secure! So why isn’t that our absolute highest priority? [Why Audience Beats Advocacy, Every Time]

I could not keep myself from giving this series a shoutout, though given the popularity of this blog, I’m reasonably sure he does not need it. I began reading his latest series of posts with The Great Change. Mr. Sandow advocates for focus on finding new audiences by doing things differently, by altering our approaches to (and selection of) “product” as well as venue. The place where his advocacy and mine link up is that I urge doing so by focusing on the ways we can be of value to those audiences (although I prefer at least thinking of the public using different terminology). Our choices of programming, venue, etc. then derive from the relationships.

As a highly over-educated musician, I was particularly struck by Mr. Sandow’s analysis (in The Great Change) of the transformation in the public’s view of the classical music industry from the 1940’s to the present. He observes that

[T]he music appreciation movement of the 1940s . . . wasn’t created by classical music institutions looking for converts. Instead it responded to a widespread social need — people, all on their own, thought they ought to like classical music, and wanted to learn about it.

I had honestly not thought that thought before, but he’s right. The movement came from on-the-ground demand. How things have changed! For sources of that change, he cites the industry’s lack of response to changes in society: more informality and a pop culture that had (some) serious art in it, to name two.

This is one of the few analyses I have seen that does not place the blame for “the state of the arts” solely on the transformation of public education. I have long held that the removal of serious arts education from public school curricula is more a symptom than a cause of reflective art‘s troubles in the last few decades. School curricula are, at least to some extent, responsive to public (especially parental) demand. There is a serious “chicken and egg” question that needs to be remembered when lamenting the state of arts education in the schools.

I am a passionate proponent of change in the arts that takes seriously (as partners) those people we are trying to reach. I have another new feed in my Reader account.

Engage!

Doug

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