A very special concert

apsring blog 2

We often say music is moving, without really thinking about what the word means. Our actual experience of classical music tends to be still. The musicians may sway a bit when they play, and we in the audience may tap our toes, but there’s a sense that such movements are involuntary outbursts in a climate in which they are meant to be suppressed. On Sunday afternoon at the Clarice Smith Center, the University of Maryland Symphony Orchestra offered a literally moving performance. Playing Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” from memory, the … [Read more...]

The burden of the past

presence past blog

Exhibit A: A question asked at a panel discussion on the future of classical music. I’m paraphrasing, but the questioner said we hadn’t been talking about our subject. We’d been talking about ways that classical music could change. But then we’re not talking about classical music. We’re talking about the future of something else. What about the future of all the old ways of doing classical music, the ways classical music has been presented for much of the last century? Exhibit B: A comment posted on this blog, from someone who identified … [Read more...]

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...]

From Peter Sachon: Millennial America

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From Greg:  Peter Sachon is one of many people I've met by writing this blog, one of many people doing striking new things in classical music. And having striking new thoughts. He's also a wonderfully good cellist.  He sent me a link to a blog post he'd done for the Polyphonic.org website (see below for more on that), and what he wrote immediately spoke to me. It's about something I've written about, and certainly others have — the gap between classical music and the rest of our culture. Peter also touches on something much talked about … [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...]

From Julia Villagra: Wooing my peers (2)

hardings audience

[The story so far: Julia Villagra, 30 years old, might be a reasonably typical New Yorker of her generation. As she said in her first post, "My Spotify playlists are a mishmash of Jay-Z, Ravel, Dirty Projectors, Lorde, Britten, M.I.A, Macklemore, Beethoven, Brahms, Daft Punk, and the Gotan Project." [But note the classical items. This is one way that Julia isn't so typical. She has a degree in classical vocal performance from Boston University. When she decided she wanted to draw people like her — starting, perhaps, with her coworkers at a … [Read more...]

From Julia Villagra: Wooing my peers (1)

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From Greg:  Back in November, I spoke at a conference at Boston University on the future of classical music, an ambitious project of BU's music school, and its dean, Benjamin Juarez. I gave opening and closing keynote talks, a great honor.  But — without meaning to put myself or the conference down — I've given keynote talks before. What stood out for me, over this weekend, was (as is so often true at conferences) the people I met. When I gave a presentation last June at the League of American Orchestras annual conference, I met Virginia … [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...]