Measuring success

success blog

Not long ago I spent some time with the executive director of a regional orchestra. She'd set some changes in motion, some well thought-out new programming that might develop a new audience, and root the orchestra more deeply in its community. As she and I talked, I got curious about something I often wonder about, which is how the success of these changes might be measured. How do you know if they're working? I've seen situations in which that question isn't asked, leading to confusion a year or two down the road. A new project launches, … [Read more...]

Institute for Advanced Study

institute blog

Here's an idea, which I owe to someone who runs an important classical music institution in the US. He's not going to act on it himself, so I feel free to present it. And, without meaning to be coy, I don't feel comfortable naming him, because he hasn't come out in public as someone hungry for change in classical music. Which means, just in passing, that he illustrates something I've said from time to time, here and elsewhere — that it's hard, at least in the US, to find someone who runs a major classical music institution and doesn't think … [Read more...]

Sandwiched in

mustaine blog

On April 12, the fabulous thrash-metal guitarist Dave Mustaine — founder and leader of Megedeth — played with the San Diego Symphony. Two movements from The Four Seasons, Summer and Winter, and Bach's "Air on the G String." The link takes you to the Symphony's page on the event, but you can also read a feature article on the concert here. Mustaine might also have joined the orchestra for the "Ride of the Valkyries." As we'll see, they were a little coy in advance about whether that might happen. I'd assume it did. Too good an idea to … [Read more...]

Voice of a generation

Cobain blog

So now a followup to my post two days ago, in which I said that arts marketing won't reach a younger audience unless it treats the arts as popular culture as equals. Here's a further exploration of that. Not a how-to, but more about the point of view we need. A couple of weeks ago, the pop music critic of the Washington Post, Chris Richards, had a nice piece about Kurt Cobain. Not only was Cobain the voice of his generation, Richards said. He was also a seminal guitar player, so distinctive and so central to the music that came after him, … [Read more...]

Time to join the wider world

world blog

Sometime this fall, I expect to give a talk at an arts marketing conference. I was asked for a title and summary of what I might say, and came up with what follows, aimed at younger people who might be attending. "Time to Join the Wider World" was my title, and I think it's a concept that applies not just to the arts in general, but very strongly — very strongly — to classical music. How I happen, at age 70, to find myself on the younger side of a generational divide is a story worth telling sometime. Assuming, of course, that I myself … [Read more...]

Behind the veil

behind the veil blog

A week ago, the fabulous opera blog Parterre Box ran a study of the Met Opera's shaky finances. Which was by far the best thing I've read on the subject, and the kind of reporting we don't see nearly enough of in classical music. The writer was Dawn Fatale. Which of course isn't his real name. (Or hers, but most likely she's a man.) Not to go deep right now into the exuberant Parterre Box opera queen culture, but the doyenne of the blog, James Jorden (one of the sharpest observers of opera around), goes by La Cieca, a character in La Gioconda. … [Read more...]

Falling in love

camarena 2

…with a Mexican tenor, Javier Caramena. Not a young tenor. He's 37. Just making his Met Opera debut this season in La Sonnambula. But just watch and hear him sing "Una furtiva lagrima." In my last post I'd longed for the far-gone days when Mario Lanza sang without holding back, with full passion, without an overlay of classical-music respectability. I said I longed to go back in a time machine to be in a world where people did that, and where a large, popular audience responded. Caramena gives me that time machine. Well, not really. … [Read more...]

Why I cried

great caruso blog

I cried last weekend, when I watched The Great Caruso, the Hollywood film about Enrico Caruso's life, released in 1951, and starring Mario Lanza. I cried — spoiler alert — because of how unfettered Italian opera was when the film was made, and also for deeper reasons I'll get to, reasons that help explain why I do the work I do. But about the movie. It might be easy to dismiss, if you haven't seen it (or for some people, sadly, even if they have) as Hollywood fakery, sentimental and factually wrong. Caruso didn't die onstage (as he's shown … [Read more...]

Red herring

red herring blog

I blogged a month ago about an outburst of crisis denial — two highly emotional attacks on the idea that classical music faces a serious crisis. I commented only on the emotion, thinking that later I might rebut the arguments. But I lost interest in that. Seems like a distraction from what I think ought to be our main job, which is finding ways out of the crisis, a collaborative job that's spontaneously being taken up by people all over the western world. (Maybe Asia, too, though I know less about that.)  As someone who runs an iconic … [Read more...]

Hidden history

applauding

"A Young and Lively Audience: The Hidden History of Classical Music." That was the title of a talk I gave last week at the Doctoral Forum, a lecture series at Juilliard. The talk is now online, and you can listen to it. The title was meant to be provocative, of course. I talked about two things: how young the classical music audience was in past generations, and how lively the audience was in past centuries, reacting audibly while they listened, and applauding the moment they heard anything they liked. (Go here for a page on my blog site … [Read more...]

Crossing over

go go blog

There's a lot of buzz in classical music these days about community — reaching out, if you're a performing group, to the community you're in, involving the community in what you do. There are endless examples. The Cincinnati Symphony has been doing "One City, One Symphony" events, involving  a gala performance of a piece (they started with Beethoven's Ninth), and listening parties around the city, all built around the theme of "our common humanity." (The link goes to a Huffington Post piece about the project, since, incredibly, the orchestra … [Read more...]

Teaching

stavreva blog

My Juilliard course on the future of classical music is well under way, with a terrific group of students. Including four violists, which makes me wish we were giving a concert. Thirsting to hear music — maybe write music!  —for viola quartet. Such a sumptuous sound. I've offered to teach a shorter version of this course online, if enough people are interested. And we're almost there! Contact me if you'd like to join in. You can see what the Juilliard version of the course is about with these two links, to the course overview and to … [Read more...]

High Anxiety

anger blog

Emotions are running high. That's what I thought when I read the reactions of two writers I know, to the piece in Slate that I commented on here, at the end of last month. This was the piece that exaggerated classical music's troubles, with a title, graphic, and perky one-liners, all of which said that classical music wasn't just troubled, but was actually dead. You can read my reaction to see my own view, which is that classical music is plainly not dead, and that we need to be far more precise in talking about what its problems really … [Read more...]

Don’t say it’s dead

slate dead NO blog

There's been a lot of fuss online about a piece that showed up on Slate, about the death of classical music. Well, maybe it meant to be about the decline of classical music, and certainly included a strong array of facts and figures, more than I've usually seen in writing on this subject, no matter what point of view the writer take. But because the headline on the piece was "Requiem: Classical Music in America Is Dead"…because of the graphic I've reproduced here, which led off the piece (and which I've crossed out, because I disagree with … [Read more...]

The moral of the story

yesno blog

The moral, that is, of my critique of the Chicago Symphony's "Sounds and Stories" online magazine. It so badly disappointed me. Great idea, for an orchestra to provide the kind of classical music coverage we don't find these days in the media. But why make it so deadly dull? So drastically out of touch with the kind of lively media people find everywhere else? I was being interviewed by a British journalist about "Sounds and Stories." That's how I happened to look at the site, though I'm sure I would have looked at it on my own, sooner or … [Read more...]