I asked my students — both at Eastman and Juilliard — to invent a concert that might attract an audience their own age. And the responses have been fabulous. I’ve posted a couple from two of my Eastman students, Leah Goldstein and Kara LaMoure. Leah had a sparkling idea for a concert with music partly by the audience, and Kara designed an enticing concert, with some important notes on what people her age like and don’t like.
And now Kathryn Eberle, one of my Juilliard students, came up with an idea for an American Idol-style competition for classical musicians. The idea itself isn’t new. The Cincinnatti Opera, for instance, just announced an American Idol-style competition for hopeful opera singers. But Kathryn’s presentation seemed more vivid than most, and it also got me thinking.
Kathryn thought the event might be held in a club. And that made me think that it could be held in a club very inexpensively, if the club made the space available. In fact, I think anyone could organize this just about anywhere. What would you need? Enough contestants to make the contest interesting, which could mean no more than four or five. And then professional judges, but maybe no more than two, and maybe even just one, if you picked the right person. The judges would score the contestants, and of course would also make tasty (and helpful) comments. And then the audience would vote on who went home each week.
So you’d also need an audience. But that, I’d think, would take care of itself, once you got the shows going. Anywhere there’s enough of a classical music community to find the contestants, there are people who’ll come to watch — friends and colleagues of the people competing, just for a start. And once word got around, I’d think many other people would show up, too. Or at least they would if the shows were fun.
And that’s really it! If you had the space, the contestants, and the judges, you’d be ready to go. Well, OK, seating arrangements, microphones for the judges, and some good, sharp planning to shape the dramatic flow. But none of that costs anything much. So — as I said — anyone could launch this, just about everywhere. You could do it weekly, until you had a winner, maybe a sensible plan, since interest could build over a month or more, and a club might want to host the show on whatever night got the lightest attendance for other things. Or you could do it on successive days, which makes more demand on your venue, but — at least if you already had interest — might build excitement even higher.
So there’s a plan. Another way to pique interest in classical music. And also for classical musicians to have some fun. And to learn how to excite an audience. The combat of instruments — and voices — could be fascinating in itself. Violin vs. marimba! Soprano vs. laptop! And, shock of shocks, a really sharp violist runs off with the prize.