Words of wisdom

Here are some excerpts from Philip Kennicott’s Washington Post piece, linked from ArtsJournal today, which so wonderfully — and justly  — praises Sam Bergman’s blog. And no, they’re not about Sam, except indirectly. They’re about the woeful state of orchestras, part of which is how woefully they communicate with…well, whom? Quite honestly, I don’t know who most orchestra PR might be aimed at. The present audience? A new audience? The classical music press? The general press? The only thing most orchestras communicate that could interest any large part of these groups, is the simple listing of concerts, conductors, and soloists. Those of us who know classical music can read all that, and know whether we’ll be interested. But for everyone else, I defy anyone to find, in the pious boilerplate of most classical music publicity, anything that sounds like art, or human interest, or even simply human life.

Here’s some of what Philip wrote:

Bergman’s blog has emerged as accidental but excellent under-the-radar publicity for a sector of the music industry — the orchestra world — that takes a notoriously top-down, control-freak approach to its public image. Orchestras are often locked in a dated and low-energy relationship with their public: using old media, and only to promote their concerts, their conductor and sometimes their soloists. Innovative use of Web technology, even something so simple as a good blog, is a rarity. And efforts to see inside orchestra life are shut down or hampered by old-guard PR executives nervous about stories they can’t control, or aren’t clearly focused on filling seats.

When it comes to educating the public about the inner workings of musicians’ lives — beyond the predictable human-interest stories, pablum about the glories of music, and reassurances that the local orchestra is the best of all possible orchestras — orchestra leaders have essentially failed.…

Bergman found a voice that spoke articulately from inside a world that has become all too reticent, nervous and polished in its nonmusical communication with the public. That his blog, which made the facts of a musician’s life fascinating, should be so successful suggests that the professional orchestral world has become so self-absorbed that it no longer knows what is interesting about its own microcosm.

Amen to all of this. If we in classical music can’t tell other people why we’re interesting, why should anybody pay attention to us?

Sam’s blog, I should add, is just wonderful. If there’s anyone reading this who hasn’t yet looked at it — which, I’m thrilled to say, is hard to believe, since Sam has gotten so much well-deserved attention — you’re missing a great treat.

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