Anyone who knows this blog knows I want classical music to change. But sometimes I’m asked why. Some people, who love classical music the way it is, don’t see why any change is needed. And for them, of course, it isn’t. Others get bothered, or even angry, at the thought of change. Often they think this means selling out to the wider culture (the supposedly horrible wider culure), and they’re sure we’ll lose everything profound and important that classical music offers.
And I know that others feel the same way. Many of my students do, for instance, like the student in my Eastman course this semester who said he thought classical musicians — and certainly classical music students — were discouraged even from thinking of taking risks. I know many readers of our blog community here, from many walks of classical music life, would like to see change.
And it’s hard to understand how powerful change can be until we see it in action. Here’s some testimony. Recently I had the pleasure of meeting, in person, someone who reads this blog. This was Holly Hickman, a classical music marketing consultant in Colorado with a company called Up Tempo Marketing. She’s been marketing director of the Colorado Music Festival, and also served on their board. She loves classical music with all her heart.
Thanks to the Colorado Music Festival, she’s gotten close to Michael Christie, who’s their music director, and also music director of the Phoenix Symphony and the Brooklyn Philharmonic. This past weekend, Holly came to New York, and saw two performances in Brooklyn, one of them a mixture of orchestra music and indie rock. (The other was pure indie rock, accompanied by the orchestra. I was there. The opera house at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, their biggest space, was packed, and the concert was full of life.)
At this event, Holly had what she calls an epiphany. She’s in her 40s, younger than many people in the classical audience — but let her tell the story herself. I was so moved by what she told me that I asked her to write it for a post in my blog, and she was good enough to do it. Here’s what she wrote:
As a 40-something who loves live music, I’ve been attending concerts from many genres for at least a couple of decades, including a plethora of symphony concerts. From my experience, there is a distinct difference in the atmosphere between performances of other genres and classical music. The rules, codes of conduct, expectations and audience demographics are quite different. The overall dynamics are worlds apart. These concerts shattered all of that in my mind.
As a classical music marketer by profession, I’m committed to gaining a better understanding of how we can bridge the gap and keep the live symphonic experience relevant and vital. I traveled from Colorado to experience these two BP concerts, and I’m so glad I did. They were epiphanal! I was mesmerized by the combination of ambient indie/instrumental sounds with the orchestra. The flow between the more “traditional” classical pieces and new compositions really worked. And the process didn’t seem forced or contrived like some cross-genre experiments can feel. The melodies and rhythms washed over me throughout the evening, and I was truly moved. OK, I admit…I even shed a few cathartic tears. It just felt so RIGHT to be in a concert hall with an audience of younger people who don’t typically attend symphonic concerts. And they were loving what they were hearing.
I admire organizations like the Brooklyn Phil that are redefining the concert experience and developing new audiences. And I’m inspired by the artists who see the benefits of exploring and performing in creative ways with an orchestra.
Thanks, Holly. I’ve been moved by events like these, too.