Old debates

Seems like a couple of points often -- always? -- come up when I talk about changes -- aging, shrinkage -- in the classical music audience. Any stats about aging (and there are plenty, proving the aging of the audience, over many years, beyond much doubt) elicit a familiar response, that the population as a whole has aged, and so the aging of the classical music audience is simply something one would expect. (Some of what follows might be a little dry, for those who don't move easily in the world of numbers. Apologies for that, though of … [Read more...]

NOI liftoff

Last Thursday night -- June 25 -- was the first National Orchestral Institute concert in which the students tried out the ideas we've talked about here, here, and here. (And, more indirectly, here, too.)The concert was, if you ask me -- and if you ask the students -- a great success. I'll describe it in a moment. But here's something to think about. Debate raged over the ideas the students put forth, a very raw collection, right off the top of their heads, the first day they'd thought about these things. Some people making comments here liked … [Read more...]

Updated dire

Hell is other people, Sartre famously wrote. But not in my life, and certainly not on this blog. When I posted my estimates yesterday of how much -- in real numbers -- the classical music audience has increased or declined between 1982 and 2008, I needed to know the 2008 adult (18 and over) population of the US. I couldn't find that figure, so I used 2004 numbers instead, figuring they'd be close enough. Using those numbers, I calculated a five percent drop in the size of the classical audience. See yesterday's post for details. But then I … [Read more...]

Dire II

Followup to my "Dire Data" post. The National Endowment finds a decreasing percentage of Americans going to classical music concerts. And it's a sizable decline. In the 1982 study, thirteen percent of American adults had attended a classical music performance during the past year. In 2008, the number had fallen to 9.3%, a 28% drop. But does this mean that the classical music audience now is smaller, in absolute numbers? Maybe not, because of course the population grew. So a diminished percentage might not mean a smaller audience. The … [Read more...]

Dire data

I'm amazed, from time to time, to see debates still raging in the classical music world about declines in ticket sales and the aging of the audience. You'd think we'd have settled these questions by now. How many cars does the US auto industry sell? We know that. So why don't we know how many people are buying tickets to classical concerts? I'll grant that the classical data is harder to assemble, since we have to gather information from many sources.But still, it's strikingly -- well, pick a word: immature? unworldly? unprofessional? -- … [Read more...]

Culture wars

Comments on this blog got fierce, over the past week. Comments, that is, to my posts about the NOI students at the University of Maryland. Here and here. I'm partly to blame, I'm sure, because I got heated myself. And I even got accused of brooking no oppositi/or thinon to anything I said.But I'm easy with the heat, from myself and others, because I think there's something big at stake. I passed on suggestions, from the students, for changes in the concert format, not for all concerts everywhere, but for a couple of concerts the students … [Read more...]

Back in the day

Once upon a time, a generation ago or so, classical music was far closer to everyday life than it is now. We all know this, I'm sure. But it's good to be reminded. So here are four quick appearances of classical music in the popular culture of the past. The Birds (the classic Hitchcock film, released in 1963): Tippi Hedren, the star, playing a woman in her 20s, visits a normal middle-class family, husband, wife, 11 year-old daughter. The family has a piano. Hedren sits down and plays Debussy's First Arabesque, which isn't identified, any more … [Read more...]

Good moves

1. The San Francisco Opera streams its live performance of Tosca to a sports stadium. 2. The Seattle Opera held a competition to find a host for what it calls a "reality-style video project," titled "Confessions of a First-Time Operagoer." They chose a 19 year-old student, who'll create an online chronicle of her first exposure to Wagner's Ring. These are good things. They make the opera companies more visible in their communities. They create buzz. They bring in people who wouldn't normally pay attention. The San Francisco Opera -- which has … [Read more...]

Defending the students

Here's the complete list of ideas -- for new ways of giving concerts -- from the students at the National Orchestral Institute. Treat it as a footnote to the more focused list in my last post. There are lots of repeats, no surprise, especially since the students wrote down their ideas after a discussion in which there had been many ideas, and lots of agreement. The point of all this? Go here for more explanation, beyond what's in my last post. As I've said, these students are more than ready for change. And the NOI, in my experience, goes … [Read more...]

Students’ ideas

I blogged last week about the National Orchestral Institute, at the University of Maryland -- how I'd talked to students there, and how excited they were to start changing classical music. So now I have the ideas they wrote down at the end of one of my sessions. I'm going to post these in two parts. First, today, a list of the top 30 ideas, as chosen by James Ross, who runs the NOI (which is a month-long training program for student orchestral musicians; here's a link to it). Tomorrow I'll post the complete list, everything the students … [Read more...]

A fan I love

Here's how I discovered a wonderful classical music fan. On my iPhone, I have an app called Reportage, which lets you pick up Twitter feeds in your area. Who's tweeting within a mile of you, within five miles, within ten miles? Tonight, in a down moment, I played with it. Who's tweeting within a mile of my apartment in New York? A lot of people, I figured. But not so. There were only about a dozen recent tweeters. Idly, I looked at what a couple of them had been tweeting. It''s fun, sometimes, just to dip into the Twitter stream at random. And … [Read more...]

Excitement for the future

As I've been saying on Facebook and Twitter, I spoke Saturday and Monday to students at the NOI, the National Orchestral Institute at the University of Maryland. I did that last year as well -- this is a one-month program every June for music students who play orchestral instruments -- but this year I was invited with something very specific in mind. Jim Ross,who conducts the student orchestra at the university and runs the NOI, wanted me to help the students come up with ideas for new ways of giving concerts -- ideas that he's ready to … [Read more...]

Quotation of the day

From a profile in this week's Washington Post Magazine, by Manuel Roig-Franzia:He pads in his socks across finely woven Persian carpets --  "This one would be worth $100,000 if it were in better shape," he remarks offhandedly. He passes the buttery soft Le Corbusier leather sofas arranged by his interior designer and the burbling fountain positioned just so by his feng shui  consultant in a living room where soothing classical music is almost always on the stereo"Soothing classical music." People really do think classical music is … [Read more...]

Classical music triumph

This is the flip side, more or less, to my last post, about how safe it is for an authoritarian government like China's to encourage classical music. The repertoire from the past -- all those great masterpieces -- seems very safe today. There's not much in it that could challenge anything the Chinese government wants its people to believe. And classical music has worldwide prestige, so China seems greatly cultured by encouraging it. But today there's a stunning piece in the New York Times, by their classical music reporter, Dan Wakin, that … [Read more...]