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 suggested, exactly as they wrote it all down.
Remember, as you read what follows, that these students weren’t chosen for their interest in change. They were auditioned just as anyone might audition for any summer program, and accepted on the basis of their ability. Maybe Jim Ross, because of his own way of thinking, was inclined to choose people whose playing struck him in some particular way. But the excitement and interest the students showed — when Jim proposed making changes on their initiative, and I primed the pump by describing things that had been done elsewhere, and encouraging the students to talk — was a surprise to me. I think it shows younger musicians are far more ready to change than even I might have imagined. Tomorrow, you’ll see that only one student offered any dissent.
Here are the top 30 ideas. I’ve done some very light editing, and added a few explanations. The students were writing these for Jim and for each other, and often used a kind of shorthand, which was natural to do, since students had already suggested some of these ideas at one of my sessions.
1. Standing while playing – Conductorless, Chamber Music +/or New Lights [Besides their three full orchestra performances, they’re doing one concert — playing complicated music! — without a conductor. They also give chamber concerts, and one “New Lights” concert of contemporary music.]
2. Orchestra members waving at audience before concert starts (even if they don’t know them).
3. Video clips of rehearsals/interviews with performers shown in lobby before concert and at intermission.
4. Other talents of Orchestra member[s] showcased (before concert) or at New Lights – musical (crossover type) or non-musical (juggling, mime, etc.)
5. Video with conductor and orchestra comments and opinions about pieces on concert on the web. Or Video documentary of NOI with webcam live rehearsals streamed. [live rehearsals streamed by webcam]
6. Chamber Music in lobby before concert (Conductorless concert, Big Orchestra concerts)
7. Interaction between performers and audience: (motive, melody demonstration) [demonstrations of motifs and melodies from the pieces being played]
8. Musician Quotes about [the music being played] added as an insert to the program
9. Repertoire for New Lights concert- Pop or Rock band covers [The New Lights program has only been partially planned. Jim wants the students to choose some of the pieces.]
10. Audience onstage for big orchestra open rehearsal [open rehearsal of full orchestra] with question time following rehearsal
11. If Adams could be played twice on the New Lights (beginning and end of program), play the 2nd time on the stage of Deckelboum and have audience sitting right in among the players. This is the program, so far, for the New Lights concert: John Adams Chamber Symphony, Leon Kirchner 4th String Quartet, Christopher Rouse Ogoun Badagris for 5 percussionists, Elliot Carter 8 Etudes and a Fantasy (or only some of it, if the group chooses not to perform all eight movements).
12. Add a short non-classical “fun piece” to any of our big orchestra programs, ala Time for Three.
13. Cookies [give the audience cookies at the concerts]
14. Availability of scores for audience members (or watch the score go by on a big screen above the performer’s heads).
15. Intersperse musician[s] in the audience (in the hall) for one piece.
16. Hell’s Orchestra reality TV show.
17. Laser pointers for audience. Who are they looking at? [Who are they looking at, that is, while the music is being played]
18. Personal musicians bios in program supplement[ed] with how musicians feel about the piece, about music in general, why they became a musician, or fun extraneous information (large sock collection, e.g.)
19. Allow/Encourage clapping between movements (Tchaikovsky 6) and maybe even during movements.
20. Hannah-Barbera cartoons showed in Gildenhorn prior to the start of Adams. [The Chamber Symphony is partly inspired by classic cartoon scores]
21. Pick/Commission a composer to write a work in response to one of the big NOI pieces, which we then premiere.
22. Orchestra member[s] talk to the audience at concerts. Especially final chamber concert, New Lights, Final Big Orch. Program.
23. Audience texting onto screen above the orchestra. Participatory feedback about the music (technology for this?). [I offered to put them in touch with Peter Gregson, a British cellist I met on Twitter who’s done several concerts in which texts and tweets from the audience are displayed during the performance]
24. Lots of eating and drinking suggestions. Play a piece once in the hall, then again in the lobby with drinks and snack served. New Lights?
25. Consider concert dress options for all concerts. Colorful, casual, etc.
26. Any lighting changes, effects.
27. Surprise performance of a piece – unexpected addition to the program.
28. Theatrical realization of Don Juan story before we play it. [Strauss’s Don Juan is on one of their programs.]
29. Story-telling to audience.
30. Orchestra concerts should feel more like baseball games.
I’m not endorsing or objecting to any of these (though regular readers will recognize some things I’ve advocated myself). These are the students’ ideas — that’s the whole point. They and Jim will figure out which ones to put into action.