Monday post — Philadelphia fun

philly blog

Many of us know that the Philadelphia Orchestra couldn't kick off Carnegie Hall's season, as planned, because of a brief strike by Carnegie's stagehands. Their concert was cancelled. So what did they do? They gave a free concert -- dressed in colorful, informal clothes — in their hall in Philadelphia. 2200 people showed up. And clearly had fun. Before the concert, there was a conducting competition. For members of the audience. A nine year-old won, and -- what a prize for a contest winner — conducted the orchestra in the end of … [Read more...]

Revolution at DePauw

DePawu blog

I've mentioned here and on Facebook a consulting job I said I couldn't talk about, because the project it's part of hadn't been made public. But now that project has been announced, so here's the news. The DePauw University School of Music is revolutionizing its curriculum — I don't think that's too strong — to focus on training what it calls 21st century musicians. Which means musicians who make careers in new ways, give new kinds of classical performances, and find new audiences. Other schools, of course, have entrepreneurship programs, … [Read more...]

Monday post — awe and wonder

cardiff6 blog

Something lovely from my friend Carole Adrian, who's Assistant to the Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs at Juilliard. She emailed me and a few other people about a sound installation by Janet Cardiff, called "Forty Part Motet." It's at a place not normally known for contemporary art, The Cloisters, New York's famous museum of medieval art and architecture. Here's what Carole wrote (which I'm quoting with her permission): I went yesterday, and it is a transcendent, transformative experience.  She has individually recorded the … [Read more...]

Friday post: Nobel prize for Bob Dylan?

dylan blog

File under: the culture outside classical music Bill Wyman, a writer and thinker who started out as a rock critic (and no, he's not the Rolling Stones' bassist) had a powerful piece in the New York Times last Sunday, urging that Bob Dylan get the Nobel Prize for literature. Which, from a classical music point of view, hits us right on a fault line. Dylan? Pop music? Nobel prize? Isn't the very idea an assault on art. Well, no. Not to anyone who knows Dylan. Bill (he used to write for me when I was music editor of Entertainment … [Read more...]

Portrait of a crisis

classical crisis blog

In my last crisis post, I said I'd talk more about crisis skeptics — those who don't believe there's a classical music crisis, or who think it's perpetual — and then lay out what I think the crisis is. But no. Better to describe the crisis now. For one thing, people are waiting for me to do it. And it'll be easier to engage crisis skeptics once the shape of the crisis is clear. The aging audience So what is the classical music crisis? As I see it, the crisis is systemic. It hits almost every aspect of classical music. So maybe, in the … [Read more...]

Monday post — sheer delight

perlman blog

Nothing complex this time. Just a joyful performance of the last movement of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto, played live in 1982 by Itzhak Perlman, with David Zinman conducting the NY Philharmonic. Watch the video. My little son watches it, and seems to love every minute. I certainly do! … [Read more...]

Friday post — real change, claims of change

2001 blog

Questions faculty members at a music school asked me, in a discussion of new ways to train musicians for classical music's future: "What about artistic quality? Do we now focus less on this, and more on business skills and finding a new audience?" My answer: No. Of course we all — all of us in classical music — have to put artistic quality first, as I hope we always have. Or else what's the point? Especially if you want to reach a new audience. You'd better be at the top of your artistic game, because if you offer routine performances, your … [Read more...]

Crisis skeptics (1)

skeptic blog

Continuing my posts about the classical music crisis. In the last one, I showed what classical music in the US — as an enterprise in our society — was like before the crisis hit. When, later, I show the full dimensions of the crisis we're now having, I think it'll be clear that the crisis is real. The footprint classical music leaves on our world — as measured by tangible things, like the presence classical music has in the media, on the airwaves (or digital transmissions), on how often it's mentioned in conversation, on how many tickets are … [Read more...]

Friday/Monday — education/inspiration

teaching blog

Apologies for missing my Friday post last week. I'd traveled to do a consulting job that turned out to be all-consuming. I thought i'd have some downtime in which I could write the post, but no. Though of course I should have anticipated that I wouldn't have time. So my explanation devolves into an apology for something very simple: bad planning. Here's my Friday and Monday posts combined. A teacher at a music school wrote a Facebook  post about a music appreciation course she's teaching for students who aren't music majors. Three things … [Read more...]

Before the crisis

letter to three blog

Yes, the classical music crisis, which some don't believe in, and others think has been going on forever. This is the third post in a series. In the first, I asked, innocently enough, how long the classical music crisis (which is so widely talked about) has been going on. Answers poured in, here and on Facebook and Twitter. The answers — as I said in the second post — suggested that we don't know how to talk about our crisis, because we don't have enough information. Compared, as I've said before, with data that's widely available about other … [Read more...]

Monday post — our new era

word of mouth blog

Here's a little story: When the Seattle‐based Degenerate Art Ensemble travelled to New York for two performances at the New Museum, they were able to see [the effect of word of mouth publicity] firsthand. "We had a talk back at the end," explained [co-artistic director Joshua Kohl], "and we asked the audience: 'Who here came because they saw some press or publicity for the show?' And two hands went up. 'Who came here because they heard about this through the museum?' And one or two hands went up. 'Who came because someone you know...from … [Read more...]

Friday post: Poulenc, Piaf, and 1940s carburators

piaf blog

Some news: my fall-semester Juilliard course, on how to speak and write about music, has started. Click the link for a week by week schedule. You can read all the assignments, if you'd like. More on the course later. *** One happy item is a new CD, The Rascal and the Sparrow, on which Antonio Pompa-Baldi plays Poulenc and Piaf. Or, more specifically, piano arrangements of Poulenc songs, and songs Piaf sang. Pompa-Baldi did the Poulenc arrangements himself. Such a fine idea, since both Poulenc and Piaf both breathed the air of Paris boulevards … [Read more...]

What we don’t know

ignorance blog

I'm grateful to everyone who answered me — here, on Facebook, and on Twitter — when in a blog post I asked how long the classical music crisis has been going on. And I'm also grateful for the lively discussion that followed. When I asked the question (in the post I've linked to above), I said I thought we'd learn something from the inquiry. And that's certainly been true. Several people offered some detailed memories of when they saw the crisis hitting, often in the course of work they were doing in the classical music world. These people — … [Read more...]

The Monday post

Sanderson blog

October 12, 1891: The young and wildly beautiful American soprano Sibyl Sanderson — able to sing G above high C — sang Massenet’s Manon in Paris and had the triumph of triumphs: The sold-out theater was filled with the upper echelons of Paris society — literary, social, and artistic.… Paris took leave of its senses. Never had it seen such witchery.… The greatest artists, writers, and musicians of France flocked to the artists’ loge to congratulate [Sanderson] after every act.… When the star and her mother finally emerged from the stage door … [Read more...]

The Friday post


Maybe Gareth Malone isn’t a great name in the US, where I live, but in Britain he’s taken choral music to new places, serving, as he’s said, as an “"animateur, presenter and popularizer of choral singing.” He got famous for a BBC reality show, The Choir,  in which he taught choral singing to teenagers. But to get the full flavor of what he does, consider this. To quote his Wikipedia entry) he presented a children's programme for CBBC, The Big Performance in which ten keen, but extremely shy, young singers took the opportunity to overcome … [Read more...]