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...]

“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...]

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...]

How to talk and write about music

blue ear blog

That's what my Juilliard course this semester is about. And it's what the course should be called, though this year we adopted a title that's a hybrid of what the course used to be and what it is now: "Music Criticism: How to Talk About Music." Because for many years this was a course about music criticism. But then two things happened. First, fewer and fewer students seemed interested in criticism. I might guess that's because they — like so many people under 40 — don't read newspapers, and thus don't encounter music reviews. But as my … [Read more...]

Four keys — be yourself

be yourself blog

Don't believe anyone who tells you not to be your own artistic self. That follows from the third of my four keys to the future, "Be yourself." I explained this in terms of pandering: Your urgency, your joy, and your passion will draw people to you. But you can't be joyful if you don't love the music that you perform. So never pander. Never struggle to be relevant. Perform music that makes your heart sing. Trust your new audience. Trust it to be smart, to be curious, and to respond with joy when it sees how joyful you are. And that's true. … [Read more...]

Actively finding an audience

megaphone blog

Here I'll expand just a little on the second of my four keys to the future (which I offered in an earlier post): "Work actively to find your [new] audience." What this means, specifically, is that it's not enough to do what was done in the 20th century, to advertise your concerts, or put up flyers and posters. Or even to jump into our new century, and send out email or put videos on YouTube. Or start a blog, make a website, or create a Facebook page. The new audience we want to find isn't a classical music audience. The people in it … [Read more...]

Programming for a new audience — things that worked

mysterium blog

So why does Lincoln Center's White Light festival matter? I mentioned it in my last new audience post, and listed next season's programs: U.S. premiere of Rian, performed by Ireland’s Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre  Virtuoso Wang Li plays jaw harps and calabash flute N.Y. premiere of choreographer Akram Khan’s Vertical Road Cameron Carpenter plays Bach on the Alice Tully Hall organ Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, arranged for chamber orchestra, conducted by Matthias Pintscher, and  performed by pianist Emanuel Ax, members of the New York … [Read more...]

Programming for a new audience — more examples

blindear blog

As I wrote in my last post (at greater length): I'm not saying that every moment in every classical performance has to be new and eclectic. I'd expect a wide-ranging mix. All-Schubert one night, Les Noces the next weekend, Shuffle.Play.Listen midweek, and then a student-crafted concert happening down the street. Then a Stockhausen retrospective, and then my friend Stewart Goodyear playing his Beethoven marathon, all the sonatas in a single day.  That said, here are more examples of what can be done. Of what has been done. I label some of my … [Read more...]