Such a disappointment

CSO_Sounds___Stories blog

A British journalist wanted to interview me about the Chicago Symphony's  new "Sounds and Stories" online multimedia magazine. So of course I looked at it. And I was so very sadly disappointed. What a good idea, I thought, to launch an online magazine, so people interested in the CSO or in classical music can read things they'd never get in standard media, where classical music is covered less and less. From the moment I got the CSO's press release about this, I was cheering for them. But what they've done, I'm so very sorry to say, is … [Read more...]

Classical music in an age of pop

juiliard blog

That's the course I'm teaching at Juilliard this semester, as I have every spring since 1997. Which means I've been teaching this course — about the future of classical music — for 17 years. Which of course also means that there's been concern about the future of for 17 years. I gave a talk at Juilliard in 1996 as part of their Doctoral Forum, about classical music's future, and that lead to an invitation to teach the course. (I'm giving another Doctoral Forum talk next month, about the classical music audience, past and present. But later for … [Read more...]

Rafa says no

Rafa opening his stocking

My little son, two years old, was taking CDs off the shelf where we keep operas. Looking at each one, and handing it to me. One he took down was the old Joan Sutherland recording of Rossini’s Semiramide, with Marilyn Horne, and Richard Bonynge conducting, I don’t think I’ve heard it since it came out in 1966, when I'd eagerly awaited it  — I was, and still am a big bel canto fan — but then was disappointed. Too many cuts, I thought. (I was a snob about cuts.) And apart from Sutherland and Horne the singers weren't great. Even Sutherland … [Read more...]

With best holiday wishes!

Xmas card for blog

To everyone who reads the blog, everyone who comments, all our guest bloggers, anyone who happens to see this — my best wishes for a warm and happy holiday season, and a terrific 2014. Changes have been gathering force in classical music, and I hope we'll all track them here, with hope and joy. My warmest thanks to everyone in this blog community, and everyone working for classical music's rebirth. We're all in this together, and together we can work miracles. I'm grateful to all of you. … [Read more...]

Brush the issues aside

doc wallace blag

Here's a thought from my friend and Juilliard colleague David Wallace, a violist, composer, teaching artist, and — as Doc Wallace — a Texas fiddler. And much, much more. His subject? All the issues he, I, and so many others thrash out, about classical music, its problems, its future, its place in our culture. Everything discussed in my blog. At some point…but let David tell it: At some point, self-marketing that surfs the "What's wrong about classical music wave, and why I'm not that" is going tobe blown away by marketing that simply … [Read more...]

American Voices, footnotes and letdown

was blog

Followup to my post on Renée Fleming's American Voices festival at the Kennedy Center (which featured classical, pop, jazz, country, Broadway, and gospel singing): Pop, jazz, and classical singers have some of the same problems. As I said in my previous post, I couldn't attend the masterclass for classical singers, which Eric Owens taught. But Anne (Anne Midgette, my wife, who did attend, and reviewed the festival for the Washington Post) said he told the students not to pump out a big operatic sound, but instead to build meaning from the … [Read more...]

The walls are coming down

ben folds blog

That's a phrase you might have seen me use, when I've talked about closing the gap between classical music and the rest of our culture. But the person who said those words at the Kennedy Center in Washington the weekend before Thanksgiving ago wasn't me. It was Renée Fleming, who of course is one of the most famous classical musicians alive, and who's knocked down walls herself by recording albums of jazz (here, here) and even indie rock. She used the phrase at the Kennedy Center because she was knocking walls down again, this time by … [Read more...]

Instead of a press release…

press releases blog

A colleague teaching an entrepreneurship course at a major music school emailed this question: I’m planning my entrepreneurship class for the spring and I used to have an exercise (using your blog actually) that required students to write a press release. This now seems kind of futile to me, since press releases, well, they are so analogue. Do you have any ideas about what I could replace this with? I like the notion of students having to publicize (and articulate) their projects. Blog post? Personal letter? Here's how I answered: You're … [Read more...]

From Erica Sipes: Twitter in the concert hall?

Students and faculty at Virginia Tech's Tweet-seat event, photo courtesy of Virginia Tech

From Greg: Erica helps us here with a question many of us ask. If we break the traditional silence of the concert hall — and the sitting motionless that goes with it — will people still listen with the care and attention we expect? You'll see that she herself wondered about this, but by taking part in something she'd never tried before, she learned… But let her tell you.  I almost always play the role of the "good girl" but a few weekends ago I found myself in a position where I was being glared at with obvious distaste and disgust within the … [Read more...]

From Victoria Paterson: Filling the house for new music

Paterson — naked_1

From Greg:  Victoria will explain how she and I happened to meet, and strike sparks from each other. What excited me was the large audience she gets for the American Modern Ensemble, the new music group she runs with her composer husband, Robert Paterson. I fear I can be a broken record on the subject of audience, but I'm not going to stop saying that classical music needs new listeners. At new music concerts I'm saddened by seeing only 20 or 30 people in the audience, or seeing a repeating group of insiders, And I'm saddened, too, when I hear … [Read more...]

Again, where’s Greg?

Colburn blog

It's been liberating, I have to confess — not writing the blog for a bit, while I keep up my intense travel schedule. New York (from Washington) every week, and then, from the second week in October, a trip to DePauw University to continue my work with the music school there, a trip to Dubuque to help a community music school evolve a strategic plan. And then Boston to speak (twice) at a conference (and serve on a panel). And last week DePauw again, and this week Los Angeles. There I'll be joining Doug McLennan, founder of ArtsJournal and my … [Read more...]

From Jeffrey Nytch: The entrepreneurial symphony

GSA logo

From Greg I've been in email touch with Jeff Nytch for a few years. We have a mutual close friend, and of course a shared interest in teaching entrepreneurship at music schools. Last spring, Jeff invited me to speak at the University of Colorado-Boulder, where he runs the music school's entrepreneurship program. But what Jeff writes about here goes beyond any friend-of-friendship, or any speaking engagement. Jeff is not just an entrepreneurship teacher. He's an entrepreneur, and tells us here how he used entrepreneurship — defined much more … [Read more...]

Where’s Greg?

busy blog

I've been dashing about. Two weeks ago — and twice since the start of September —  I've been at the DePauw University School of Music, plunging into my intensive consultantcy, working with faculty, students, and the dean to help define the school's radical new curriculum. And last week I was in Dubuque, IA, helping the Northeast Iowa School of Music — a spirited community music school — evolve a strategic plan for future growth. This turned out to be as gratifying as my DePauw work. They're terrific people in Dubuque, and to judge from the … [Read more...]

Monday post — recanted rant

patti smith blog

From the New York Times Book Review a week ago, a Q&A with Scott Turow: What was the last truly great book you read? When I noticed that Patti Smith’s “Just Kids” had won the National Book Award for nonfiction in 2010, I ranted about contemporary culture, so celebrity-besotted that we were now giving vaunted literary prizes to rock stars. Then I read the book. It is profound and unique, a perfectly wrought account of what it means to give your life to art and to another person. I expect it to be read with wonder for a long … [Read more...]

Timeline of the crisis (3)

storm clouds blog

Here — to end my posts on the dates of the classical music crisis  — is a detailed crisis timeline. The information in it comes from many sources, including published reports, blog comments by people who saw the crisis develop in their professional work, and my own experience. Nobody should think this timeline is anything but tentative. It's just a beginning of the timeline we could eventually construct, with more data and more reports from people in the middle of it all. And this timeline, tentative as it is, has some obvious weaknesses. … [Read more...]