Missed opportunity

On Twitter I met Josh Newton, a composition student (older than most) at the University of Southern Maine. Josh has many interesting things to say, and gave a talk not long ago to a group of non-music students at his school. 

And out of that, something striking emerged. Let him tell it (I’m quoting his e-mail to me, with his permission):

I started by asking how many of the 15-20 students had been to a concert at all within the last few years, how many of those were art music (after translating for them), and then how many would attend concerts that were free.  Surprisingly, at least to my face, more people would be willing to attend free concerts than I thought.  When I told them that there were 8-10 concerts every week at the School of Music that were free to students, or cheap ($3-5), the gasp was audible.  They got angry, they wanted to know why they didn’t know about them.

After talking a little about how the campus newspaper doesn’t really pay us any attention, I went into sort of the institutional issues that the modern art music movement has – orchestras don’t reach out to youth unless it is in an effort to educate, they don’t reach out to college students because they have no money, the classical and rock elitists still think they are better than each other, and don’t reach across the aisle for the common ground.  

The kicker here comes in the first paragraph. Some of the students Josh talked to would be happy to go to classical concerts, as long as they didn’t have to pay too much. (Some of my Juilliard students feel the same way.) And when these students were told that free or very cheap concerts were available — now I’m just repeating Josh — they were angry!

Now look at Josh’s second paragraph, with the thoughts about the barriers that classical music organizations don’t do much to break. And now think of all the music schools and music departments — Juilliard very much included — that offer all kinds of free concerts, but don’t do anything to find an audience for them, which if we’re talking about a music department or a music school that’s part of a large university means that nobody’s doing much (if anything) even to tell non-music students on the very same campus that these concerts exist. 

What a missed opportunity. A missed opportunity to find an audience. A missed opportunity to involve a new audience in classical music. A missed opportunity to teach students how to market themselves, by exploring ways that they could reach out toward a student audience on their own. 

Just imagine what could be done. A music school could, to begin with, put a video stream of every concert it presents — every student recital, every faculty performance — out on the Web. They could archive these streams on their website. [ADDED LATER: But of course there are rights issues here. A school might not be able to stream performances of copyrighted works, or even performances of older music in the public domain, if the musicians used a copyrighted critical edition. Of course, you could get permission to stream these pieces, but then you have two problems. First, it’ll cost you. Second, the paperwork involved can be killer (as I’ve heard firsthand from a school administrator who deals with these questions.

[So does that kill any thought of streaming? I don’t think so. For one thing, these problems may work themselves out (just as orchestras have worked out with their musicians ways to make recordings, which for decades were impossibly expensive because the musicians had to be paid extra to make them). Once the idea — even the necessity — of streaming starts to spread, we might get momentum towards making streaming easier to do. Certainly composers and publishers of new works stand to benefit here. What composer wouldn’t want archived videos of performances of her music?

[And then I don’t see why partial streaming wouldn’t work now. Stream and archive everything in the public domain, while you only do short excerpts — allowable, I’d think, under the standard concept of fair use — of copyrighted works. Thus my idea could, I’d think, be put into motion right now, just as I’ve said, even while the rights issues still remain difficult.]

Schools could also They could encourage students with a recital coming up to record introductory videos. Who are you? What music are you going to perform? Why do you love that music? These videos could go on the school’s website, highlighted on the home page, so anyone going to the site would know what concerts were coming up that week — and could easily get a taste of what the concert might be like.

Having done all this, the school could now publicize all of it. Send releases to the campus newspaper, to local media, or at the very least to the local public radio station and of course (if we’re talking about a large university) the college station. Send releases every couple of days. In any marketing effort, persistence is key. The releases could be very simple. Here are our upcoming concerts. Here’s who’s involved with them. Here’s what they have to say about their involvement. Here’s a link to watch them saying it, and, by the way, to see and hear the recital one of them gave last year. 

If all of this was done well — and, again, persistently — it would start to get attention. The school could find new ways to publicize the concerts. Guerrilla performances around campus? A barrage of truly enticing flyers (produced by graphic design students at the university)? Music students standing in the middle of the campus, talking to people passing by, handing out postcards (again enticingly designed), with links to the student’s video introduction to the concert, and links to archived performances? 

These are basic, dull, obvious ideas. Someone can think of better ones. Another obvious idea would be an e-mailing list of people on campus interested in classical concerts. Each week, they’d get a message much like the release I described. Who, what, when, and most of all, why. Why the concert takes the shape it does, and why it’s going to be worth hearing. 

The students would add their own efforts, starting with their Facebook pages, but moving on from there. The campaign could become a school-wide project. Who knows what ideas might emerge? 

And what would life be like at a music school, if the students (or at least some of them) began to develop enthusiastic audiences, even if those audiences were small? 

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  1. Yvonne says

    But sometimes you can be pleasantly surprised – and caught out! On the weekend I decided at the eleventh hour to go to a student opera production at my city’s Conservatorium. Someone I trust mentioned on twitter having seen the first performance and loving it, and it was something that the pros wouldn’t probably do (Les mamelles…), hence my decision to see the second, and final, performance.

    So I rock up half an hour before, thinking that since it’s a student production of course I’ll be able to get a seat at the door. And it was already sold out (as had been the opening night). A dozen or so of us were in the same predicament but were rewarded for patience and perseverance with standing room at the back.

    In this case the Con has recently been making more concerted efforts to market itself to the public as a concert presenter (as opposed to an educational institution that offers cheap or free performances). This year there has been a “season brochure” and a small-format concert diary. Both are, sadly, horrible to read (fine red text on charcoal = almost illegible).

    That said, the Con’s professional marketing effort doesn’t really teach the students very much about how to promote and advocate their performances, which is where your recommendations (even the “obvious” ones) really come into their own. Who knows, perhaps if the students were designing my Con’s concert diary the result would be readable!

    I also heartily second your point about needing to explain “why” we do what we do. Too often marketing seems to be trying to convey how a concert will make me “feel” – an almost impossible task, since music affects people in so many different ways – rather than giving me a reason to want to hear it. [To be fair, though, at least some of our audiences must be inclined to respond to an emotional appeal over a rational one. (And I’m not talking about style of copy here, but intent.)]

    Of course, the challenge for hard-working marketers is that concert planners and performers can’t always necessarily articulate the why (either they haven’t thought about it, or it’s too instinctive/ineffable, or there have been too many compromises along the way, or the reason is downright unexciting). So there’s an important step to get right before you ever get to promotion and advocacy.

    Good thoughts. Very helpful.

    I think opera performances at music schools get more promotion than student recitals, and of course are more visible. So I’m not really concerned about them. They seem to sell lots of tickets.

    But you’re exactly right about the first step to take — articulating the “why.” I think performers have more to say than they think they do, or might appear to do. The trick is to talk to them for a while, get them talking about the music and about their feelings about that music. Something will almost inevitably emerge than can be used to bring the “why” to life. For years I’ve been asking my students to make presentations about some piece that they play, talking about their personal feelings about that music. The things that come out are often revelatory, and beautiful. And even in the more unremarkable presentations, there’s always some golden nugget

  2. says

    I market a FREE three-week chamber series in NW CT and like many rural arts venues we struggle not with filling the house, but with the graying of the house. While our performers are young or youngish–this year’s line up includes the Shanghai, Brentano and Miami quartets, and our students are very young (ages 12-17), classical music in this area is largely viewed as something old people do. I would also add that sometimes where one doesn’t have a university full of students to offer free performances to, free can sometimes work against you. Because our audience doesn’t pay, they sometimes arrive late or leave early or exhibit other traits of the if-this-has-no-value-then-I-will-behave- accordingly school of concert going.

    Hi, Joan. I sympathize with everything you say. I once led a full-day workshop for Arts Presenters, with chamber presenters from New England. Most told the same story you do. I think presenters in big cities have an easier time. There are lots of students, and also just more young people around. So even if only a small percentage of those young people respond to classical music, that small percentage might amount to enough people to make an impact on ticket sales.

    In your situation, you’d have to invent completely new ways to attract a younger audience. There’s a paradox involved, which I think is a major issue for our field. Younger people study classical music, and embark on professional careers. But their audience is much older than they are.

    I think this is also an opportunity. If some young people are interested, others can be. But making the leap to that means, I think, a huge change in the way we do things. It’s a subject I’m vitally interested in working on, as a consultant and in other ways.

  3. Brittany says

    Florida State University does market it’s student, faculty, ensemble, and guest artist recitals! The students are in charge of creating and distributing their posters, but the College of Music’s Publicity Office is directly responsible for promoting the faculty, ensemble, and guest artists recitals. We issue press releases to numerous local sources, including the local newspaper, and we have developed quite a following for a our faculty, ensembles, i.e. the Chamber Choir, University Winds, Jazz, and we have a large amount of people who call for information about the recitals on a regular basis. The only reason why we don’t have streaming video of the various performances is due to the recital attendance requirement for the College of Music. However, having video introductions for some of our faculty, ensemble, and guest artist recitals may be very beneficial. Thanks for the idea!

    I just wanted to point out that at least one major university does publicize its performances and, in fact, there’s an entire office dedicated to it!

    Hi, Brittany. This is good to know. It’s something I missed finding out about when my wife and I were in residence at Florida State back in the fall.

    One question, though, would be the nature of the promotion. Sending press releases to newspapers doesn’t accomplish much these days, because newspapers often don’t cover classical music much, but above all because so many people — especially younger people — don’t read newspapers anymore. So we need new ways of publicizing and marketing performances.

    I don’t see why video streaming would hurt the concert attendance requirement. You can still require people to be physically present. In fact, you could even add to the requirement. Students might — just to make up an example — have to attend five concerts a semester, and watch five more on live or archived video streams.

    But the main reason for the video streams is to reach people outside the music school, and even outside the university. And another purpose of all this is to teach students how to promote themselves. So if I were at FSU, I’d want video introductions for more than the concerts you mentioned. I’d want to get the students into it.

  4. Lindemann says

    I just want to echo the point that if music students are interested in the campus newspaper covering their recitals, someone needs to tell the newspaper that those recitals are going on. I was the sole classical music critic at the University of Maryland’s newspaper for three years, and I went to maybe four student recitals, all of which I had been notified about through a press release.

    It’s probably not coincidental that those performers also had interesting programs and an individual take on their music – they were enterprising and showed it in many ways. I can imagine not wanting to attend a bunch of student recitals. But I certainly would have attended and covered more than I did had anyone made any attempt to reach out to me.

    Exactly my point! Thanks, Andrew.

  5. says

    Holy moly. Really, on a school campus all you’ve got to do is send out email with the subject line FREE CONCERTS, GREAT MUSIC to let students know about upcoming concerts.

    Brittany – Fl State is still using posters? I mean, sure, but email, Facebook, Twitter, other electronic media reach more people, faster, with less time and money.

    Well put, Lisa. Thanks.

    Though one unanswered question here is who you send the e-mail to. All the students at the university? Can students do that? (My guess is that university IT departments don’t make this possible, but I could be wrong.) All the faculty? Someone, or many someones, will have to assemble an e-mail list. Could be a good cooperative projects for students and the promotion people at a music school.

  6. Zecharia Plavin says

    Dear Mr. Sandow,

    On the first glance, a university campus indeed looks like a natural reservoir for a concert-public especially if the concert is given by a music-school that is situated on the same campus.

    However, the mind of most students and teachers on campus is usually set on linear rules and hierarchies while the core repertoire in the art music appeals to human’s feeling of space and human’s spiritual presence/development in time/space. The more successful the students and teachers formally are in their respective fields of skill the less they would be inclined to listen to Mozart’s Larghettos. In fact, they would feel irritated when somebody would invite them to a concert.

    People of non-musical areas who most naturally would be inclined to listen to classical repertoire would perhaps come from among social psychologists, astrophysics researchers and historians. A Music school could simply give concerts in the buildings where these studies are pursued, engaging teachers of these areas into post-performance discussions.

    Zacharia, I appreciate your thoughts on this, but I also think you’ve fallen — despite the sophistication of what you say — into two fairly elementary traps.

    The first is thinking that a general rule, of the kind you’re formulating here, applies to absolutely everybody. Even if you’re right about 95% of the students on a large campus, if only 5% of them turn out not to fit your theory, that’s still a large potential audience.

    Second, you’ve come up with a theory that, plausible as it may seem to you, contradicts the data at hand. Joshua talked to students at his university, and many of them did want to go to classical concerts. How can you maintain your view in the face of that?

  7. Ian says


    It was very disheartening as a student composer to see audiences of a dozen in a 150 seat auditorium for concerts at my music school. The only time the hall filled up was towards the end of semester when everyone’s ‘concert journals’ were due and we needed to make up numbers.

    I can still remember the shock within the school when some of my fellow composers and I actually went to the effort to put up some flyers for an upcoming concert.

    The impression (perhaps wrong) I got from the students (and by default the faculty) was that the student performances, with the exception of the few big orchestral/concerto ones, were merely an exercise in ticking the box as part of the degree. I’ve done my six recitals and my two units of harmony, so now I can graduate.

    Alarm Will Sound — now a very successful new music ensemble in New York — is legendary at Eastman, because when they were founded there, they went out into the world and found an audience.

    What you say about student recitals is, very sadly, true. At Juilliard, some of the students I teach already have notable careers. Their graduation recitals, as far as I can see, become not much more than a dotting of a required i. Though if Juilliard and other schools taught promotion, as part of the curriculum for soloists…

  8. Steve Birchall says

    Why does classical music continue to appeal mainly to the elderly? The stuffy ambience is a definite turn off to the college age crowd. Please lose the penguin suits and remind the audience in the advertising that it’s campus attire.

  9. Bruce Brode says

    Makes you think that perhaps music school administrators and professors ought to be trained differently, recruited differently, and maybe even incentivized differently. And I wouldn’t limit it to music school personnel–how about at any school, any business, any institution?

    Anything that fails to reinforce human communication, or worse, impairs it, should be distinctly undesirable, particularly in the arts. No point in having a concert if you’re not going to do something to get an audience there.

    Yes, I do think that music school staff and faculty — and students — ought to be trained differently. That’s a long story. There’s a movement among music schools to emphasize entrepreneurship, but to make that a reality means many, many changes in how things are done.

  10. says

    I think it is very important to develop audiences but I think we need to make a bid from the very beginning to make players and singers of everyone from nursery school on. that way we would have the audiences and more than that we would have people with richer wiring diagrams in their brains.

    the study of music creates better brains. Listening is good but musical activity is so much more important.

    Back in the day public school kids could sing Schubert lieder.

    Out of that comes social cohesion, and a natural support for the arts.

    A few will become musicians, and the rest will be willing audiences.

    and yes, publicize the concerts.

  11. Bruce Meyer says

    I lived in East Lansing, where there was only intermittent good/cheap concerts, but a continuous stream of free stuff at the MSU school of music. I attended several, scheduled during daytime and midweek maybe. Noteworthy, though, was that at one concert, a woodwind quartet, the performers ignored the audience and one even proceeded to clean his instrument during the show. Obviously this show was a mere rehearsal to him, or a perfunctory appearance to fulfill some contractual obligation.

    Nevertheless, I recall that Yo-Yo Ma used to give “student recitals” at the local college where I now live in Massachusetts. Sometimes you strike the jackpot with these things.

  12. says

    Your ideas for how universities can advertise their programs to a wider audience are great. However, there has to be a willingness on the part of the general university/college administration to give space to the arts… you know, above football and science and the like. I guess I think small liberal arts colleges have more of a chance to get the message across than large universities. But definitely worth a shot.

    Hi, Kala. I wouldn’t worry about whether any university administration cares about the arts. In fact, I think this is a problem people in the arts have — worrying/complaining too much about neglect from the rest of the world. (The media, for instance.)

    Instead, I think we should just go out there and generate the support we need, on our own. The media doesn’t cover us enough? Let’s make some noise, do some things that the media can’t ignore.

    And in the same spirit, who cares what the university administration thinks about the arts? The administration can’t stop the music school and music students from promoting the concerts on their own — which, if done right, would be far more effective than anything the administration could do.

  13. Yvonne says

    “There’s a paradox involved, which I think is a major issue for our field. Younger people study classical music, and embark on professional careers. But their audience is much older than they are.”

    That’s a very telling point. Thinking about what it involves to become a classical musician (or even what it means to be a person who loves and plays classical music): You take formal lessons from someone older than you – even if they’re only 20 they’re going to seem ancient if you’re 6. You complete a program of instrumental exams or go in eisteddfods, where you’re assessed and judged by older people. You might play for your family or in studio concerts: apart from fellow students, your audience will be older. If you go in bigger competitions the judges and your accompanists are older people. If you play in a youth orchestra or band the director will be older than you (Dudamel represents a real exception in this respect.) Even the decision to want to play an instrument is more likely to be inspired by seeing some adult do this than another child. So all along the way, inspiration, approval and recognition comes from people who are (much) older than you. Your peers may be impressed by or admire what you can do, and you’ll like that of course, but they’re not the source of approval in this field of endeavour. So having an older audience as a young performer doesn’t seem so very unusual.

    To some extent, this is true in any business. If you want to succeed in marketing, let’s say, you’re going to be taught and mentored by older people, but then — when you go to work for Coke or :Pepsi or the New York Mets or a pop record label or a car company — you’re very likely going to market to people your own age. In fact, you may well be valued for knowing what people your own age might want. The pop record industry in the US restaffed itself, generationwise, at least twice in its history, first in the ’60s, when the older people who ran the business realized they didn’t know anything about the new styles of ’60s rock, and then again in the late ’80s, when alternative rock started to emerge.

    Classical music doesn’t do those things, though, because the audience is old. And while playing for older people (much older people) may seem natural for young classical musicians, it doesn’t necessarily feel comfortable, to judge from my conversations with my students. And it only seems natural because young musicians — accepting, as we all mostly do, the world we see around us — never thought there might be an alternative.

  14. Greta says

    Great post and comments!! I attend a midsize school in Texas and we also do many similar things as mentioned at FSU to promote the Music Dept concerts and recitals. Our major concert series has television commercials as well, and being held in the main performing arts theatre downtown they always nearly sell-out. The events on campus though have lower attendance, and again, it is mostly music/arts students who have a personal connection to the performer(s).

    I love the ideas, Greg, about being out on campus with flyers, etc. to educate other non-arts students about what’s out there – but again, this takes some effort and planning on part of the performers, and some just aren’t willing to invest that unfortunately. The very few non-music students that attend currently are just trying to fulfill their Music Apprec. credit – and will often show up to recitals completely in the dark about what they are seeing. Before a superb sr. voice recital, a girl slid in next to me and whispered, “Um, what is this again?” I explained, a voice recital…blank stare. Then I went on…voice, as in she’s going to sing…and got an “ohhh!”. She truly seemed to enjoy herself too and found it a pleasant surprise! We need to reach out to these people.

    As to what Josh wrote in his last paragraph, yes, students are still an untapped resource for some orchestras I feel. Young Professionals groups are springing up and are publicized, but one has to do some website digging to find out college ticket prices or that they even exist. I have led many groups of fellow students to go see the Houston Symphony (a 3 hr round trip for us) who had no idea they offered such cheap tickets, and said if they had known, they would’ve made the trip sooner! Don’t count us out – this is the age to get us hooked for life.

  15. says

    I’m an adjunct music professor at a medium liberal arts college. First on my list of priorities as I begin my second full year of teaching in the Fall is to get my Low Brass Ensemble booked at campus venues and promoted through multiple on-campus means. This post cemented that goal.

    I wonder if schools would run into problems with copyright in terms of live streaming and subsequent archiving of concerts? I also work at a public radio station (24 hour classical music), and copyright issues prevent us from doing things like playing entire opera recordings without permission. The streaming’s a great idea, but it may take quite a bit of work, money, and red-tape cutting.

    That’s a good caution. I know that universities have explored this, and run into problems. Should have remembered that when I wrote my post! One problem can be the sheer amount of time involved sorting permissions out.

    But if you’re playing standard classical repertoire, which is in the public domain, in principle you don’t have these problems. The one wrinkle concerns critical editions — these are copyrighted, so if you use one in a performance, then you can’t stream without permission.

    But! I’m an optimist here, and I’d think that if the field moved very strongly in this direction — streaming everything possible — then the permissions needed might change. A somewhat similar evolution happened with orchestra recording. The musicians’ contracts were so severe about recordings that almost none were made. But now things are a lot looser.

    About not being able to play complete operas. This surprises me. Certainly radio stations used to do this in the past. Has the law changed, do newer recordings somehow fall under some new interpretation of the law? What exactly is the problem? And why does it bar opera recordings without permission, and not, let’s say, the Mahler 8th, which uses operatic vocal forces? I’d love to be enlightened here.

  16. says

    The challenge facing broadcast (and potentially live streaming) of entire operas relates to Grand Dramatic Rights. The MET, or Lyric Opera Chicago, as two examples, pay hefty sums to create their radio broadcasts (and in the MET’s case the live theater HD broadcasts) to the publishing companies that hold the rights to entire operas. GDR allows excerpting of operas for entities like public radio, but not broadcast of entire operas unless the fee is covered (we pay the MET and Lyric for the broadcasts that they produce, and part of that fee I’m sure goes to cover their own fee to cover Grand Dramatic Rights).

    Similarly, this includes altering a version of an opera for which your have paid for the right to use. For example, while I was a student at Eastman, the opera company paid to put on Ravel’s L’enfant et les Sortilèges. There are certain outstanding instrumental solos in that opera, and so they sought to have students (like me, a trombonist) come in and play the solos along with the piano reduction they paid to use. This was halted because it resulted in Eastman essentially creating its own arrangement of the opera–something for which they had not paid. The piano, in turn, played all the solos.

    And GDR does not apply to works like Mahler’s 8th, or Verdi’s Requiem, or other operatic (but not specifically opera) works because those are not dramas. The challenge facing opera streaming is the dramatic portion of it.

    All this said, I agree that significant changes have been made, and significant allowances have been granted by very insightful musicians who realize that NOT being paid for every note of theirs that goes out on the airwaves (or webwaves, if you will) is not entirely a bad thing. In fact, it’s likely a good thing because it raises community awareness of your group, reaches out to newer, different audiences, and encourages more people to do what we all know is the best part about a concert of classical music: to experience it live and in person.

    So, my intention is to hijack the thrust of the original post (and forgive my infomercial about licensing). Web streaming, increased on-campus promotion, increased off-campus promotion, all of these are outstanding ideas. My thought was just that as something gets bigger (e.g. a whole opera, or a copyrighted piece not in the public domain), certain legalities must be hashed out. Committed musicians–with a lawyer for a good friend–could certainly pull it off though!

    Thanks for the details, Chris. Very helpful to know. And I should have remembered Grand Dramatic Rights, because I’ve run into the concept before, but obviously didn’t file it away properly in my memory banks.

    One solution for the moment would be only to stream what’s streamable. Someone plays a recital with a copyrighted work or two, but also some public domain pieces. Those can be streamed, and the copyrighted pieces left out of the stream. Of course, if those copyrighted pieces are by living composers, the publishers and anyone else involved who won’t give ready permission for streaming the pieces, or archiving them on the web, are shooting themselves (and the poor composer) right in the foot. Or worse. That music needs all the exposure it can get.

  17. Maura says

    When I was at the University of Maryland, this was a huge source of frustration to me. The performing arts center’s resources for audience development were divorced from the student performances, largely, with the exception of the things the PAC administrators thought would sell/draw a sufficient audience to warrant putting their resources behind it. Furthermore, the PAC’s communications did nothing to speak to students, and the administrators did very little to reach out to the campus community. I think this is a common problem.

    My solution, which only addressed the second part of the problem, was to create a sub-brand & new tools through which the Center could reach out to students & the campus community. I was fortunate that, as a student employee, I was given the opportunity and support to come up with an idea like this and see it to fruition. However, when I took a step back from the project (when classes started back again), focus was lost, and the project was never fully implemented. Throughout the process, it was clear that this was of minor importance to the department.

    Andrew, do you know if the classical music coverage was a mainstay at the Diamondback? I never had any sense that there was anyone there during my years that could write knowledgeably about the performing arts. The few reviews (largely about other disciplines) I did read had me very disappointed with the writers’ lack of understanding of the art form they were covering.

  18. says

    Greg, yes and no to your comments about mailing lists. It’s by no means an insurmountable problem.

    Most IT departments empower at least some administrative personnel to use an All mailing list. In other cases, it’s possible to submit a request for “send to all” to IT and they handle it themselves. At many institutions and businesses, there’s an opt-in miscellaneous list that a large percentage of potential members join.

    FSU has 40,000 students. They absolutely have to have some infrastructure for this kind of mailing list.

    Thanks, as always, for the clarification, Lisa. Among the many purposes this blog serves — it’s an education for me.

  19. says

    Hi Maura – Sorry I didn’t see your comment until today. As far as I know, I am the only serious classical music critic the Diamondback has ever had. I wrote for the paper from fall 1999 to spring 2002.

    I still live and work near CSPAC and would go to student recitals if they appeared to be interesting and I knew about them. So your idea would have been a success at least with me. I know, small comfort, but it was a good idea.

  20. says

    In the same line of thought as this subject, there was a rather famous composer who visited my school during my time as an undergrad. We started a group discussion pertaining to the absence of an audience for modern art music and classical music in general. This composer told us a wonderful story about his time spent in residency at a large public university. During his time there, the Julliard String Quartet visited. The school’s publicity office put a great amount of effort into promoting the concert all across campus, not only trying to draw music students. Unfortunately, despite their effort, the concert was less than a third full. The school administration was embarrassed and baffled as to why their advertising failed.

    This composer contributed his opinion to the school’s publicity department. It was his conclusion that the advertising wasn’t effective because people who have had no music education have no idea what to expect from a string quartet performance. The overwhelming opinion for those who have never experienced such a thing is that it is, in fact, for music geeks and old people. They had another well-known guest string quartet scheduled for the following semester, so in preparation, the school’s administration recruited the best chamber groups from the student body to perform in high traffic areas around campus at times when they would likely be heard (e.g. the union at lunch time, campus mall in early afternoon, etc.).

    After several weeks of these “guerrilla” performances, the school tried the same type of advertising over again, promoting the free string quartet concert all over campus. To their astonishment, the concert was nearly full.

    Though completely unscientific, this anecdote expresses another aspect of this issue. Not only is there a lack of invitation, but a lack of understanding. The separation between music students and the student body at large is one of culture as well as information. Students need to know not only that the concerts are free, but that the concert is something that they can enjoy.