Family appearance

In today's New York Times, I've reviewed Joseph Horowitz's big recent book, Classical Music in America. You can find the review here. The book is important, but none too successful. I'll add some further thoughts in the next day or two. This was a happy day in our household, because my wife Anne Midgette and I both had pieces in the Times. She's there all the time, of course, but we were tickled to show up in the paper together. Her piece is quite important. "Decline in Listeners Worries Orchestras," says the headline, and Anne did a terrific … [Read more...]


 A few days ago, I was talking to someone at a large classical music organization, yet another person who wants to widen the audience for classical music, and in general bring classical music (or at least the way his organization works with it) into contemporary life. He was outlining his ideas to me, and said something wonderful: “I want to develop some programming that people will love.” And suddenly it struck me: I don’t hear anything like that very often. I myself don’t talk like that. We’re all concerned with widening the audience, and … [Read more...]

Oprah once again

From someone in Detroit comes the following: There was great hope among Michigan Opera Theatre folks that Oprah would come to Detroit for "Margaret Garner," and perhap even do a show from the opera house. She is, as you probably know, a big Toni Morrison fan and has featured four of her novels as part of her book club. Danielpour, by the way, would play very well on TV; he's articulate, passionate, tells detailed stories with a point to them and is one of those guys that remembers dialogue from conversations 20 years ago. Anyway, the … [Read more...]


  In today’s New York Times (“Arts” section, page E12), there’s an ad for a Live from Lincoln Center telecast. It’s a New York Philharmonic performance, and the text of the ad (or at least the parts of it that matter) reads like this: Shaham’s Sibelius New York Philharmonic   Lorin Maazel, music director Gil Shaham, violin Violin virtuoso Gil Shaham joins maestro Lorin Maazel and the New York Philharmonic for a spectacular performance of Sibelius’s Violin Concerto. Also on the program—Thomas Stacy, english horn. So now let … [Read more...]

More on authenticity

I’ve gotten a lot of warm comments on my “Authenticity” post, and they’re inspiring me to say something further, something I should have thought through more carefully. I was hasty, I think, in saying that the New York Philharmonic could have made its “Visions of the Beyond” more honest (more authentic) by arranging panel discussions, involving theologians, and so forth. Accessories are helpful, but still might not be convincing. The orchestra would have to do this for several years, most likely, before any large number of people believed … [Read more...]

Oprah’s operas?

Thanks to my wife, Anne Midgette, for that title. She ought to trademark it! And maybe Oprah ought to start promoting opera. Anne thinks so, and so does Jason Hibbard (his own blog is here), who e-mailed as follows, and is happy to have me post his thoughts: On your point about what Oprah might champion in the music world, opera seems a logical choice. It has a long, glamorous tradition, fabulous people who would make good interview guests (Renee Fleming, Deborah Voigt, Rolando Villazon, etc.), and a text to provide an extra measure of … [Read more...]

Oprah’s book club

[I've revised this a bit.] Oprah’s book club is reading William Faulkner this summer. Yes, Faulkner. Deep, serious, difficult stuff. You can go to Oprah's website to see this talked about lightly, but there’s nothing light about Oprah’s commitment. She’s urging three Faulkner books on her fans, As I Lay Dying (June’s selection), followed by The Sound and the Fury and Light in August. And on the website, she has Faulkner scholars answering readers’ questions. Bravo for Oprah. And this ought to have serious implications for classical … [Read more...]

Side stuff

Note that I've refurbished the items on the right-hand panel -- all the stuff about me, and about things you can read on the subjects I cover here. This last -- the "Resources" section -- I'll expand a lot, I hope, now that I have some free time. About me: Read the list of things I've been involved with this spring. I've been busy! One "Resources" link I've added is important: It points you to a study that will tell you how the Melbourne (Australia) Symphony attracted a younger audience. This comes from a chapter in Innovative Arts … [Read more...]

Cleveland program note

On the Cleveland Orchestra's website you can read the program note I wrote about Beethoven's Missa Solemnis. Or, rather, about what Franz Welser-Möst, the orchestra’s music director, thinks about the piece and tried to bring alive in his performance. (The link takes you to a PDF file, which you can’t read unless you have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed. It’s a free program, which comes with most computers these days. If you don’t have it, go here. Note that the first two pages of the PDF are something Franz wrote. My own program note begins on … [Read more...]

More on authenticity

Authenticity—as a component of marketing, as I discussed it in a recent post—is a powerful concept. If you want to make a new initiative seem plausible, the spirit of it has to permeate everything you do, or else people won’t believe you. Case in point: the New York Philharmonic’s February announcement of a series of concerts it called “Visions of the Beyond,” and whose purpose, the Philharmonic said, was “to explore symphonic portraits of existence beyond our own mortality.” And right away there’s a problem. The Philharmonic isn’t an … [Read more...]

Somebody’s trying

From David Ezer, Conference and Events Manager at Chamber Music America, comes the following: Greg, Since you're blogging of late about copy, here's some brochure copy I just found, which I found remarkable for its being conversational, direct, and reflective of a history between presenter and audience. It has asides, quotes the artists, doesn't treat the art like its rarefied -- it may not be sober, but at least it's different and much more engaging than the basic stuff. … [Read more...]

Footnote to press releases

I’ve been reading a lot of business books lately, and one of them—Seth Godin’s All Marketers are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World (the "liars" part of this title is partly ironic, by the way)—makes a striking point. Grodin says that marketing must be authentic. It has to tell a story that the product being marketed really does fulfill. If you run an airline, and you want people to believe that your flights are truly special, then they have to be. And not just the flights. Also the way you advertise, the way … [Read more...]

How to do it

How to write a press release, I mean. Or some ideas in that direction, since I’ve been complaining about classical music press releases that are dumb and empty. A few principles: 1. Classical music is full of depth and intelligence. Press releases should reflect that. Not just state it, but reflect it with intelligence of their own. 2. The classical music audience is smart. So are the people we’d like to attract to classical music, along with people in the media we wish would pay attention. Another reason why press releases have to be … [Read more...]