Warmest holiday wishes

rafa xmas

To all my readers, whom I value so much — warmest wishes for the holidays, and for 2013. The best thing, for me, in the past year, was what you see in the photo. Our little Rafa, two months old last Xmas, but now 14 months old, and a real participant. A kid who smiles and laughs, and makes up games to play with us. 2012 looked like a troubling year for classical music, with so many orchestras in peril. But built into this trouble is hope. As things get worse, more people see that change has to come. And more change does come. As I look … [Read more...]

Final mavericks: Jade Simmons and a Go-Go symphony

jade blog

Well, final only for now. Because, as I said in my last post — where I finished the list of readers' nominations — I'll be continuing this in the new year. So the name to conjure with, maverick-wise — the maverick of the year, if I had to name one — would be Jade Simmons. One look at her website (follow the link) tells you she's different. "Cyber Digs of Multifaceted Pianist Jade Simmons," it says. "Take off your shoes & stay awhile!" I don't know anyone in classical music who's so much at home in our outside culture, who does the same … [Read more...]

A lot of mavericks

from readers blog

  Finishing — for now — with the many, many suggestions I've gotten from readers. If I missed anyone (maybe a Facebook comment, or something on Twitter, or whatever else might have escaped my dragnet, forgive me! This isn't over. We'll resume in the new year. And then keep doing this! Because what we've done here is something badly needed. We're compiling a list of classical music alternatives — of the many new things that people have done, to change the face of this art form, and give it a new birth. From Andrew Lyon:  I am … [Read more...]

“We personalize what music is”

ROCO blog

Another maverick, one I've known about for years: The 40-musician River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, in Houston, founded in 2005. This has to be one of the most stunning entrepreneurial triumphs in classical music, since its founder, Alecia Lawyer, created it from nothing, using social contacts at her church and in Houston generally to lay a foundation. And then finding the best musicians she could, from Houston and elsewhere. And then building a large, stable audience. And then making an impact on the city. She was (as I just learned from ROCO's … [Read more...]

Mavericks — continuing

from readers blog

More classical music mavericks, as submitted by readers: From Geoffrey Jones: The Artists in Residence program at Strathmore [a major concert hall, between Washington, DC and Baltimore], some of them are breaking molds and have huge talents. Three suggestions from Brett Amacher: I think this is a great example of how to "reach outside the classical music bubble": 'The Speedbumps at the Canton Symphony' did that very well, imo (details on the blog post below). http://www.callumndad.com/?p=361 Tonhalle Orchester Zurich's "tonhalleLATE"... … [Read more...]

Path-breaking piano curriculum

from readers blog

Add this to the mavericks list. I'll continue with nominations from readers very shortly, but thought I'd add one of my own. This is an email from Heather Dawn Taves, a pianist and composer who teaches at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada (an hour outside Toronto). Heather describes the piano program at the school, which more than lives up to its billing — in her email — as "the most innovative of the high-end performance undergrad programs in Canada." Or, I'd think, anywhere.  I wouldn't even know where to start in showing why … [Read more...]

More mavericks

from readers blog

More suggestions from the many I've gotten, after I asked who in classical music is doing things in new ways. I'll post all the suggestions I get, though not all at once. The suggestion I posted: Ad Hoc, a chamber ensemble in Rochester. (I'll have more) One thought, before going further. Many people mention performances in clubs. Nothing wrong with that. Classical musicians have been playing in clubs for more than a decade, and clearly they're bringing classical music closer to everyday life. But because this has been going on for so … [Read more...]

Maverick nominations

from readers blog

Many suggestions for maverick classical music people and groups — which I asked for in a recent post  —  have come in, via blog comments, email, Facebook, and Twitter. I asked for "nominations," actually, which now I regret. Did I really think I was going to vet all suggestions, and then pick some of them? No way! I'll just pass on all suggestions. And I'll have some of my own, like Ad Hoc, the Rochester chamber ensemble I blogged about, or Jade Simmons, or the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra (ROCO) in Houston, or… (more to come). Jade and … [Read more...]

Breaking the mold

ad hoc blog

I want to talk about people in classical music who break the mold. Leave the classical music business far behind, and do things in new ways. New ways that work! Here's my first nomination: Ad Hoc, in Rochester, NY, which on its website calls itself "an ephemeral chamber ensemble." Though after more than a dozen performances, they've got some staying power. Here's how they describe themselves: You enter a beautiful hall -- acoustically perfect -- where musicians are getting ready to rehearse. You hear the noise of individual warm-ups for … [Read more...]

Looking for mavericks

wieden lobby blog

This was the first in what turned out to be a long series of posts, in which I and many readers highlighted people, groups, and institutions making new departures in classical music, doing things in new ways. This wasn't even close to a complete list, but it was an exhilarating start, especially because this information simply isn't available. Classical music has been changing at an almost explosive pace, and yet most of the changes happen just below the radar, maybe talked about in the media here and there, but never catalogued, so there's … [Read more...]

Getting out of the classical music biz

mavericks blog

Here I want to offer a radical idea: That all of us in classical music should get out of the classical music business. As I stressed at the end of my last post, this doesn't mean we should stop doing classical music. It means we should think about it differently. Here's an example. Someone I know, a veteran arts professional with a sterling resume (among other things, he ran one of the leading performing arts institutions in the US), emailed me about something he found dismaying at the New York Philharmonic. Alan Gilbert was about to conduct … [Read more...]

Concerts as events

event blog

Conversation with a friend who works for a big orchestra. We're talking about attracting a new audience. He says they're identifying classically-inclined nonattenders. I say they ought to push beyond that, to attract non-classically inclined nonattenders. That's arguable, of course. Nobody would try to get people who don't now listen to country music to try it. But then country music doesn't need more listeners, as classical music does. Or more people buying tickets to concerts. And the world is full of smart people who are inclined toward … [Read more...]

A challenge!

austin blog

Austin, TX, bills itself as the "live music capital of the world." That's one thing I learned visiting there last week, to speak to students at the University of Texas School of Music. And — you saw this coming — classical music, including all the concerts given at the school, plays almost no part in Austin's live music scene. Everyone I talked to at the school said this. So there's a challenge for us. If we have a music school surrounded by what might really be the most active live music life anywhere, let's make the school part of … [Read more...]

Learning from Taylor Swift

Swift blog

Or from her marketers. I've said before that commercial marketing has gone in new directions, and that we can learn from that. The Hunger Games film, for instance -- even though it was just about guaranteed to be a hit -- launched an extraordinary campaign to get fans (who already loved the book the film's based on) to promote the movie to each other. Follow the link above for more on that. And now comes Taylor Swift, with a new album, and a marketing campaign based in part on retail tie-ins -- Walmart, Target, Papa John's, Walgreen's. The … [Read more...]

Visiting Austin

ut blog

I'll be in Austin on Thursday (that's November 8), to speak to classes at the University of Texas. Don't think I'll have any public availability, which is a shame. I'd love to meet any readers who might be in the area. My host in Austin will be Robert Freeman, former director of the Eastman School, and founder of the entrepreneurship program there, which (as far as I know) is the oldest found in any music school in the US. It'll be a pleasure to meet Bob for the first time in person. Future trips this year might include Colorado and … [Read more...]