As I keep saying, people in many places — all over the world — are moving into classical music’s future. Nobody (as I also keep saying) catalogs these wonderful efforts, and so I’m trying to share as many of them as I can here.
The latest — and of course this is a “solutions” post — came in an email from Billy Robin. He’ll take it from here (quoting his message with his permission):
I am a music student at Northwestern, and I can vouch for the ills of audience participation of classical music on campus. It is nearly impossible to attract non-music majors to School of Music performances at NU, despite an active and vibrant campus life. For whatever reason, we cannot break out of the “ghetto” of our own performing arts buildings.
One of the solutions, in effect as of last year, is Northwestern’s now-annual Music Marathon. Music Marathon is a 26-hour benefit concert featuring student performers and raising money for The People’s Music School, a non-profit in Chicago which provides free lessons for underprivileged youth. Last year we were able to raise over $17,000 for the school, enough to provide over a thousand music lessons.
Because of the unusual length of the concert, as well as involvement from classical, jazz, rock, and a capella groups all around campus (as well as music faculty and local Chicago professionals), Music Marathon attracted a diverse audience last year. By marketing this is not just a classical event, but a Marathon and fundraiser, we drew on multiple strata of the NU demographic. This year we hope to do the same. We opened up registration to all Northwestern students, and have attracted everyone from string quartets to random guys with guitars.
Students sign up for a 15 minute performance slot and pledge to raise $100. However, we also open up donations to anyone who wishes to be involved. You can donate via Paypal on our website, www.musicmarathonconcert.org I would encourage you to post this on your blog, since I think it is a great cause as well as one of the many “solutions” I have worked on (I am a classical saxophonist, musicologist, and president of the NU School of Music student government) for classical music audience involvement. You can read more about this on my blog here http://seatedovation.blogspot.com/2010/03/music-marathon.html
It’s an entirely student produced, grassroots event–the exact kind of focus classical music needs. And for the alt-classical viewpoint, I am again leading an ensemble in a midnight performance of In C (last year we did it at 2:30AM, with a huge crowd in the audience).
The moral of this story: to break classical music out of its ghetto, do something special, something really notable, and mix classical music in with other genres, so it registers as part of everybody’s normal life. This isn’t the only way to break out, but it’s a good one.