From Liza Figueroa Kravinsky: Living up to the hype

930-Club-Flyer blog

[From Greg: Full disclosure. I got to know Liza when she hired me as a consultant. But we worked only on a very modest plan to launch her project, a plan that turned out not to be needed. Maybe I encouraged her in some helpful way, but the stunning success she's been having comes from things she did entirely on her own. Go, Liza!]  In a series of  guest blogs, I've talked about my Go-Go Symphony,  a composition that combines original classical music with the go-go beat, Washington DC's iconic dance rhythm.  In my first post, I described how … [Read more...]

How not to fail

bailey elgar

How I ended my last post, about a terrible CD cover from Telarc, on a recording of Zuill Bailey playing the Elgar Cello Concerto with the Indianapolis Symphony: To erase the big fail here, Telarc, Bailey, and the Indianapolis Symphony should take one of my branding workshops. Seriously! I don't say that just to toot my horn, but because the kind of exercise we do in these workshops would really have helped. I'll explain that in my next post. So now it's the next post, and here's what I mean. In my branding workshops, we try to connect how we … [Read more...]


bailey elgar

Even while classical music changes — see my last post — it keeps showing why it needs to change. Case in point: the cover of a CD that came in the mail: Ugly! And completely unconvincing, if we're supposed to believe this recording is anything we'd want to hear. The conductor looks like he's a stiff 14 year-old. The cellist looks blah. The, um, artistic device of putting the orchestra in black and white while the conductor and soloist are in color doesn't work, because the conductor and soloist don't stand out enough. (And what are the … [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...]

“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). Tonhalle Orchester Zurich's "tonhalleLATE"... … [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...]

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...]

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...]


literacy blog

Here's a question I was asked: Will technology raise the level of musical literacy? This came up in a panel discussion, during my visit last week to the University of Missouri. And as I considered the answer, something occurred to me. There's more than one kind of musical literacy. So this is what I said. In classical music, we of course think musical literacy means being able to read music. And, maybe also it means knowing about classical music — the composers, their works, the instruments, important periods in classical music … [Read more...]

A trip, and the new media trap

new media blog

I'll be at the University of Missouri this week, on Thursday and Friday, for a festival called Music and New Media at the Crossroads. Among other things, i'll be speaking on a public panel Thursday at 3 PM, about new media and the future of classical music, along with Matt Haimovitz, Tod Machover, my old friend Tim Page, and members of eighth blackbird, who, along with Matt, would count as newer friends. I'm looking forward to seeing all these people, along with the moderator, Robert Shay, dean of the U of Missouri school of music. Whom I know … [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...]