A triumph and a question

echostage blog

The triumph The National Symphony Orchestra played in a very large club, attracting so many people — more than 2000 — that they had to turn people away. And they didn’t just play classical music. The program did began with the Candide overture, and included the onrushing second movement of the Shostakovich Tenth, plus “Montagues and Capulets” from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, and, to end the evening, the “Mambo” from West Side Story. All of which the crowd — young, white, hip — cheered. But what they seemed to cheer even more was … [Read more...]

What I do

rafa me england better

Happy new year! I thought I might start 2015 with a few words about myself. Of course this is my online home, and many of you know me. But maybe it’s good to be a little bit comprehensive, partly to sell some of the things I do, but also to have a more me-like presence here. So… The basics I live in Washington, DC, with my wonderful wife Anne Midgette, chief classical music critic for the Washington Post, and our three-year old son Rafa. A smart, enterprising, funny, affectionate kid, and growing into a good family citizen. For 18 … [Read more...]

Holiday wishes

rafa xmas

Happy holidays to all! The photo shows my son — three years old in October — in front of our Christmas tree. Speaks for itself. Though it can’t tell you how thrilled he was when he learned to hang ornaments: “I did it!” Or how, while we were decorating the tree, he’d walk away and sit facing it in a chair on the opposite side of the room. ”I looking at it!” Or how I suggested we turn out the lights to look at the tree in the dark. And how he turned them off himself, saw the glowing lights of the tree, and just about danced. Or how he … [Read more...]

Music in the midst of life

tendler blog

Here’s a book by Adam Tendler, 88x50: A Memoir of Sexual Discovery, Modern Music and The United States of America. And here’s a well-meant quote, from Kirkus Reviews, which picked this as Indie Book of the Month: "An honest, searching exploration of the artist as a young man." Which is a safe, conventional description of what’s going on. It’s accurate enough: The book definitely is what the quote says, or rather fits into the category of books like that, since the words describe many books. But what sets this book apart — and makes me … [Read more...]


fine blog

Here’s a question I asked myself, at one of the recent Irving Fine memorial concerts at the Library of Congress in DC. Fine, I’ll say in passing, is one of those entirely respectable but not memorable composers whom — in a festival or retrospective — we all more or less pretend was more important than he was. But I don’t want to go into that here. Instead I want to ask the larger question that occured to me. Fine began as a neoclassicist, and then, in the 1950s, started writing 12-tone music. Why? Other American neoclassicists did the same. … [Read more...]

Another hot book

roseliep blog

WARNING: THIS BOOK CONTAINS STRONG LANGUAGE ABOUT CLASSICAL MUSIC. *** Srini Kumar, genius sloganeer and counterculturalist, used to sell a bumper sticker that read “Destroy what bores you on sight.” I suggest orchestras heed this advice. Why belabor it? Players are uncomfortable. Audiences are visually bored. Nobody knows what's going on. Can we all agree to move on? Okay. Enough. The first quote comes from the Amazon page for a book by Will Roseliep, The Libertine's Guide to the Classical Music Revolution. 3.99, only for Kindle. It’s also … [Read more...]

Useful, fun, important book

sarah book blog

Clubbing for Classical Musicians: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Working in Alternative Venues, by Sarah Robinson, the codirector of Classical Revolution: L.A. Since she co-runs an organization that fosters playing in clubs and is a veteran club player herself, her book is beyond authoritative. And in fact you couldn’t find a more helpful guide, to something that more and more classical musicians are doing these days. It’s so helpful, in fact — and so thorough — that I’d reccommend it to any performing classical musician, even people who don’t … [Read more...]

The soul of a city

berlin techno blog

Picking up now from one detail in my last post, about some Atlanta Symphony realities… When people say the Symphony is the soul of Atlanta, what do they mean? They can't be saying that any large part of the town dances to the Symphony's beat. Or that entire neighborhoods define themselves by what the Symphony plays. Or that whenever there's a performance, thousands of people — tens of thousands! — ask themselves if tonight they ought to go. Because those things clearly aren't happening. But the Symphony’s supporters, I might guess, don't … [Read more...]

A little rain…

rain blog

…falls into every life. Today, with regret, I’m going to rain a little on the Atlanta Symphony. Of course I’m celebrating their return to life, especially for the musicians’ sake. They’re once more doing what they love, getting paid, and (no small thing) getting healthcare. But along with that, here are three things to think about: The contract Crucial to the settlement was an increase in the number of fulltime musicians (receiving full pay and benefits). Once the Atlanta Symphony had 95 fulltime members. That number fell, once the bad … [Read more...]

Joining the world in Spain

Definitely  not the Kennedy Center! The American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, one of my new arts model examples

Here’s a link to the talk I gave in Spain a couple of weeks ago, at an arts marketing conference that was both focused and fun. I mentioned the talk in my last post, about why I think the arts — as an industry that claims to represent art — are basically over. I didn’t put it that way in Madrid, instead talking about “old-model” vs. “new-model” arts, the old model being, well, the Kennedy Center in Washington, built on a grand scale, and deliberately placed off to the side of the city, to make sure it doesn’t come to close to everyday … [Read more...]

Time to join the rest of the world

the wire

That — "Time to join the rest of the world" — is what I called a keynote talk I gave last week, at an arts marketing conference in Spain. And what I had in mind was radical — I think — at least to some people. Maybe not to my Spanish audience (plus some people from the UK, and from Latin America). While I spoke, a few people tweeted — and OK, I’m really tickled — that if I had a fan club, they’d join it. What I said What was my message? That art — the artistic impulse, artistic creation — thrives in our world as never before. But that much … [Read more...]

It can be done (2)

boac marathon

Continuing, about groups that successfully attracted a new, young audience… In my first post on this, I told two success stories. About the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, in London, which rebranded itself in the style of current culture, and now reliably attracts young audiences of up to 1000 people. And about Wordless Music, in its early years in New York, which combined classical music with indie rock, or in one case with a big indie rock name, Jonny Greenwood, the guitarist in Radiohead. And reliably drew large young audiences, … [Read more...]

With just three days to go…

gabe p blog

This is an important Kickstarter project, which needs to be funding. Luckily, they're close to their goal. But every little bit helps! It's a British project, and I haven't looked into  whether it can accept funding in dollars, but even if not, it's something important to know about it. What is it? I'm going to give you the complete email I received from Gabriel Prokofiev, the British composer, producer of electronic dance music, and creator of both the Nonclassical record label and the London club nights bearing the same name. He's an … [Read more...]

It can be done

OAE blog

Continuing now with my suggestion — or is it a crusade? — that we in classical music start moving heaven and earth to find an excited, new, younger audience…to prioritize that…and to give education, outreach, and advocacy a lower priority… I suggested last week that we don't do this because it seems impossible, and because if it could be done, we'd have to dumb classical music down. Or otherwise make changes that many of us wouldn't welcome. So it's important now to say that it has been done, that we have proof of concept, that there are … [Read more...]

Why we don’t do it

older audience blog

Continuing from two posts ago, when I said it was more important — by far — to develop a new, excited young audience than to focus on education and outreach… It's time now to say why I think most people in our field don't seem to think this way. First, and most simply, I think that most of us can't imagine that new young audience ever existing. In part that's because we're so used to the old audience, made up of people my age (I'm 71). And in part it's because we can plainly see that younger people don't go, and mostly don't want to go, to … [Read more...]