Missionary work

Yet another post — or the first part of one — on why classical music people should respect pop music, and shouldn’t think classical music is by nature superior to it.

This starts with something I read on the League of American Orchestras’ Orchestra R/Evolution blog. This was in a post about (among many other things) whether classical music is “millionaire’s music,” and — since it shouldn’t be — how it might reach further into our communities.

Here’s the part that caught my attention:

The Berlin Philharmonic came to New York and embarked successfully upon the most daring project in the community I have ever witnessed: training 120 of New York’s previously inexperienced, inner city youth a choreographed dance piece for the Stravinsky Rite of Spring, to be performed with the orchestra. I expected a cursory result since the students had never danced before and they were only trained for 6 weeks. I was there for the dress rehearsal and was blown away with the results, as was Thomas Quasthoff, sitting to my right, and many members of the press. Members of the Berlin Philharmonic were in tears as they watched the students’ hard work come to such amazing artistic and expressive fruition. Two years later, I am still wondering, why did a foreign orchestra have to travel 4,000 miles to a city as culturally ripe for the picking as New York to give American students their first meaningful interaction with an orchestra?

Of course, we in the arts cherish the millionaires, billionaires and all of the philanthropists who make what we do possible in our society. But as Carnegie Hall CEO Clive Gillinson said at the Berlin Philharmonic reception at the conclusion of their ground-breaking tour in ’07, ‘This music is and must be for everyone.’

Now, it’s a little painful to quash, even slightly, the enthusiasm — taken to the point of tears — of this testifying. But does everyone see the implicit relationship here between classical music and the rest of our culture (which of course includes pop music)?

Tomorrow: my take on this.


Other posts in this series are here (a piano teacher shows what pop music brings to the kind of kids she teaches) and here (in which we meet a large potential and of course pop-oriented young audience for classical music).

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