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re: Reactions to the Book from the Field

I have to voice my disagreement with Sasha. It's possible I am misreading him, but I believe he is expressing disapointment that dress mattered in evaluating the Donatella Flick conducting competition.

Knowing, as I do, nothing whatever about the purely musical attributes of the named contestants, I'd have to say I'd be biased toward the with some understanding of the importance of visual presentation. What may seem to be a plea for "concert dress freedom" strikes me as possibly another example of performers insulating themselves from their audiences. In other words, part of the problem being discussed in this forum. First of all, the role of the conductor is inherently visual -- for both the musicians he conducts and for the audience. And clothes really do make a difference in expectations -- and, yes, in execution too.

I understand it's possible to dress like a rock star and be taken seriously as a classical conductor -- but it's an ill-advised route to take unless you know your audience really well.

Reading shamelessly between the lines, I wonder of Michal Dworzynski did not simply take the music and the audience (and the orchestra) seriously -- deserving of his best efforts -- and the others did not. As I say, I cannot know this. It's just a hunch.

posted by Bill Brice | 06/27/07, 10:01 AM | permalink

re: 3:10 p.m.

The problem is that if the concert format is not revolutionized, in short order no one will be sitting in the audience. And then, what's the point?

posted by Jeane Goforth | 06/27/07, 1:50 AM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

It was my first time attending the League Conference. I'm 25 and have been Marketing Director for a 200,000 budget orch. in Miami.

The blogging session was incredible as well as every single other event, party, seminar and activity at the conference.

I was especially glad to have attended the "Almost Famous" party (35-under). Maybe this is the start of a social-networking site (like Facebook) just for professional league members!!!! That'd so cool!

posted by Frederico Gouveia | 06/25/07, 10:06 PM | permalink

re: The problem with government funding

Greg, thanks to your posting on yoru main blog, I just discovered this series. I have a question: could Baumol have been wrong?

No, I'm not advocating playing Mahler at twice the speed. If you think of the unit of production as concerts played, he's right. But, as you've noted, people listen to this music on CDs, on iPods, and on their computers. If you think of the unit of production as person-symphonies (where 1 person listening to one symphony is 1 person-symphony, a live concert might be 2000 person-symphonyies (give them credit for one before and one after the intermission), then things change. You record one symphony on a CD and sell it 100,000 times (what are realistic figures?), and you've got (hopefully) well over 100,000 person-symphonies of production -- well over, because you hope it gets heard more than once.

If that's a reasonable way of looking at things, then it would seem that Baumol may not have been right, after all. There's still a problem, though -- if the number of person-symphonies consumed per year stays constant, the number of musicians needed to produce them drops, perhaps significantly. That's the challenge of a non-Baumolian world, the world most jobs live in these days.

posted by Bill Harris | 06/25/07, 9:10 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Thank you for this rich and sometimes maddening discussion. I had a few thoughts or questions that I wanted to share. The first is that we might consider opening conversations like this up to people living and working in different worlds. One of our problems is that we mostly talk to ourselves. There is much to learn from teachers, activists, organizers, social workers, little league coaches, restaurant owners, internet ventures, pastors, and more - people who are also organizing cultural events and using creative tactics to encourage genuine human exchange and interaction. Think of how differently the conversation might go, and what we could learn if we weren't just talking to ourselves. If we think of art as a fundamental part of life - not just related, but integral - and we extend and enrich our own dialogue, then perhaps the steps toward broad cultural participation would be far less perplexing and far more organic.

I am also very intrigued by the discussion around the aging and/or struggling nonprofit model. I do believe we need to broaden or even change our definition of creativity as well as our understanding of cultural delivery systems (nonprofits, community centers, the internet, cafes, living rooms, warehouses, churches, etc). And, as we expand our understanding of the different structures that support art-making and cultural participation, perhaps the nonprofit model can evolve its way back to its fundamental purpose - which should perhaps be less about institutional ego and more about the missions that initially founded these institutions (which were certainly about art) and the evolving world around those missions. We can and must change - and we can and must do that with history in mind. In other words, it has to be about art and not organizations and it should be about what came before, where we are now, and where we want to be.

Finally, there are models that work. There are really exciting things out there. The most successful - from my perspective - are the ones that emphasize not only the product or the final cultural experience but the process of art-making (to flow with much of what has been said). I think we need to better support the things that are working - whatever they are, whatever their model - lift them up, value them. If they are doing new things - perhaps we don't need to hold them to old paradigms. We can all learn from each other - from what has happened and from what is to come.

Just yesterday, a well-known Bay Area theatre artist who started his career many decades ago paid a visit to Intersection for the Arts (where I work). His purpose was to talk about how to save the vanishing history of theatre companies that were founded and thriving in the 1950's, 60's and 70's and are now gone. As he reminisced, we at Intersection took frantic notes. So much to learn. Such similar struggles. The yellowing archives he shared seemed dazzlingly new. Along the way, he talked about the moment when three or four theatres lobbied congress in order to be designated as charitable institutions. Isn't there so much to learn in that history - the moment when the Country agreed that theatres were not just for-profit businesses with a product to sell? Indeed, why not bring people along for the ride? Why not let them share their ideas along the way? Why not create "co-authorship" and a sense of meaning and ownership from the beginning? Why not?

posted by Deborah Cullinan | 06/22/07, 7:25 AM | permalink

re: The Arts Experience vs. The ARTS (Warning!-- this entry contains a sports analogy)

I think you are spot on that the failure of the performing arts to create a extended social engagement is a major factor in the failure to draw a larger audience- But I wonder if you might explore some practical solutions to the dilemma? 
must theatre become a contest? Must we bow to commercialism and have Budweiser blazoned across the back of Hamlet? Its TV that makes sports the social event that it is - if it wasn't televised or on radio, it could not exist.

The sports being talked about around the cooler are those that have fully engaged in the commercial aspects of their art - and is more analogous to a popular TV drama like the Sopranos than to the stage.

Look at the rise of Nascar a genre fully funded through corporate endorsements and merchandise sales-> probably the fastest growing sport in the United States, and recently gone international in Mexico and Canada. Is it because it is easier to understand than Mozart or Beckett? If you think so, then explain to me the inner workings of a carburetor - its simple enough to about 30% of the population(maybe not in the city, but im from rural oregon- just about anyone on the street can explain it to you). Becket is simple enough to about .005% of the population. Its not because he is harder to understand, its because 80% of the population has a car and has had to wrestle with all that it brings to their lives.

Who in this day and age are dealing with the death of God? We are in the U.S. - no one believes God ever died.

No one is going to sit around the cooler at work talking about the death of God.

I don't know. I get the point that the performing arts need to open up and try and engage a wider social network, but I just don't see it getting that much wider without something really extraordinary happening.

I'm up for that extraordinary thing! please - calling upon an Einsteinian figure to redefine the universe-

posted by joshua mcdermott | 06/22/07, 12:14 AM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Thanks for your participation!

posted by 2007 ASOL FELLOWS! | 06/21/07, 3:04 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

ASOL's OLA Essentials of Orchestra Management Class of 2007's brainstorm on why people attend concerts as moderated by Ara Guzelimian:
Hear specific work
Spouse pressure
To be seen
To see and be seen
Cultural currency
Planned group activity
Experience a live orchestra
Personal acquaintance
To be entertained
Educate kids
Social prestige
Music students
To see soloist or conductor
Free tickets
Live experience
Response to special theme
Civic engagement
Transformative experience
Personal education
Re-living live a familiar work or experience
See virtuosity
Invited by a friend
Family ties
Spiritual fulfillment
It's good for you
Collective experience
Contact with greatness;
impress a date

posted by OLA: Essentials Class of 2007 | 06/21/07, 2:54 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

In response to the final three questions posted for us to answer, the one that we will mostly likely focus on is the idea of more participation from our audiences post concert. We already offer preconcert talks and will post program notes online this season. But the new idea is to offer our audiences a chance to blog their reviews/ideas of the concert through a link on our website. Unfortunately the daily issues of "putting out fires" has kept us from actually implementing some of the new technological means available to us today, even though we (staff) are aware that we should be utilizing them more.

posted by Janice Nelson | 06/21/07, 2:54 PM | permalink

re: Reactions to the Book from the Field

Just a little comment to the concert dress question. I was surprised to read one critic last autumn in the Donatella Flick Conducting Competition. He wrote:

"You are a young, or youngish, musician with a noise to make at the Donatella Flick Conducting Competition. For half an hour you have a chance to conduct a world-class ensemble, the London Symphony Orchestra. What do you wear? Ivan Arboleya-Montes, 33, from Spain, chose creased, very casual black. He could have been en route to the pub -- or, even worse, on his way back. Stuart Stratford, 33, the British contender, was casual, black, but uncreased. Only Poland's Michal Dworzynski, 27, rose to the occasion. Tails. Bow tie. Baton, too. He won."

Funny? I think not.

posted by Sasha Mäkilä | 06/21/07, 2:53 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

It would not let some of us post comments, only preview them, so I am emailing this comment that is not timely anymore.

Regarding classical playlists:
Perhaps we should examine more thoroughly the consumers who have classical music on their playlists and have never gone to a concert. How did they come to download these pieces? Did they choose it by the piece or by the ensemble or soloist? What would lead them to experience that piece or another of the same genre in person?

I have met many people that like classical music but don't know what the buy when they want to have something at home, so the digital age has allowed them to "sample" new types of music that they might not have bought in CD format. They don't come to concerts because it seems foreign to them and takes planning, as well as a "risk".

posted by Cynthia Steele | 06/21/07, 2:46 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Our table discussed the fact that audience demographics have not significantly changed over the past 50-70 years. Is the fact that our audience looks the same as it did 20 years ago really cause for crisis mode? (We are very optimistic about the participation of our audience)

posted by Table Comment | 06/21/07, 2:40 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

When I get home I'm going to get people in a room and talk to them and try and generate the same passion that I feel at this precise moment in time.

posted by RH | 06/21/07, 2:39 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Is product paramount? I know hundreds of people who have attended student recitals but have never set foot in a real concert hall or listened to a real orchestra. Why? If they don't know the music, don't know the players, why would they? If you were a classical fan and listened to little else, would you go to a heavy metal concert? A performance at the Grand Ole Opry? Not unless you believed that the experience would outweigh what you might otherwise think about a particular genre. You go to concerts that you feel a connection with - yes, it's education to some extent, but it's a lot more than that. If someone hates country, he or she is probably not going to go to the Opry even if they've been very well educated regarding its history and the singers (as one is if one lives in Nashville). Lessons, as previously mentioned, personalize orchestral music (if an orchestral instrument). We have something called in 'instrument petting zoo' at our childrens' concerts, and talk about a direct connection - you see it in the eyes of kids and the parents. They're holding the orchestra in their hands; they have spat upon the mouthpieces; it's really quite a wonderful thing to see.

posted by Justin | 06/21/07, 2:38 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Bell was giving his product (the hole) away for free and relying on his "customers" for tips. A remarkably different model than paying for the product. And hardly a receptive audience, I would say. The point is that the digital world does not mean the end of the live concert, it only challenges us to make the experience better than the home or virtual experience.

posted by Anonymous | 06/21/07, 2:34 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Quite right about not being afraid to give our audiences new music and means for interaction. We've had a wonderful 3 seasons of success with the South Dakota Symphony, putting a work by a Pulitzer prize-winning composer on each program. Not everyone loves it, of course, but it surely has caused engagement with the audience. Problem is, we're still talking about the people we already serve, the audience already coming to our concerts. When you have a huge success with something new, how to get the word out in order to capitalize on it? How do you get the bloggers to find you and write about you? Yes, we can do it ourselves, but how to distribute that to a larger audience - get into that Long Tail?

posted by Delta David Gier | 06/21/07, 2:29 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Maven Network- what a great idea...actually getting orchestras to communicate with each other on a regular basis!

posted by atonalprime | 06/21/07, 2:27 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Re: the greenhouse orchestra

I have work to do and therefore I have been able only to read comments quickly from time to time - not the best way to follow the thread of the discussion, it seems. The "greenhouse orchestra," an ensemble free of financial constraints, may seem like Nirvana. I suspect, however, that it is an unnatural freak of nature and therefore of dubious experimental value.

Orchestral music in particular always has been expensive to produce. The economics of converting an orchestral composition into sound waves always have been and continue to be daunting and show no sign of becoming less so. Experimenting with a singular no-cost ensemble would not seem likely to shed any light on the economic conundrum.

Furthermore, art separated from the need to engage and audience and establish a symbiotic relationship with it strikes me as meaningless in artistic terms, and absurd in economic terms given the high expense of production. The economic imperative underlies the very existence of today's discussion and cannot be ignored.

posted by James Hopkins, CFRE | 06/21/07, 2:26 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Music is important.

posted by | 06/21/07, 2:25 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Mollie Fry, you make a good point. I seem to remember discussing that participation is a big reason people go to concerts- to feel as if they are a part of something larger than their individual selves.

I think that to get audiences to participate in the concert, we need to teach them how to talk about what they think of the music- and even that it is okay to have an opinion! When audience members hear a new piece, they know if they liked it or not, but I think they don't feel like they can explain why. The only reaction they feel entitled to is applause while in the hall. Whether it's on a blog, or a text message, or while sitting down for a cup of coffee, the audience members need to know they can discuss what they heard. This will make them feel involved, and like they have some ownership in what happened. Someone used Friends as an example earlier, and tv is a perfect example of this- watching a television show isn't a particularly interactive experience, and yet every day, people discuss (at length) what happened on the latest show, what they think will happen next, and the tv show becomes a part of their lives. The same thing happens with an orchestra when you can regularly listen and talk about what you heard.

posted by Jennifer Kamper | 06/21/07, 2:25 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

I think it is wrong for us to consider our art form as old, outdated, and unrelated to life today. It is equally wrong to think we must change our performances completely in order to survive. It takes a bit of both to be successful. The very best performances of Beethoven's Ninth can be just as revelatory for an audience as blowing up old buildings (that need to be demolished anyway)to Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture. Why can't symphonies do both? Let's bring all audiences to our range of performances.

posted by Rachel Ligatti | 06/21/07, 2:24 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

The ASOL should find funders to spearhead a nat'l social networking site of "mavens" and "initiators", so that orchestras can contact these individuals in their own community and spread the word to younger demographics.

posted by Maven Network | 06/21/07, 2:24 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

We have to believe that the product we are offering has merit and is good. Once we remember that for the most part the quality is of a very high level the questions become:
How do we Market effectively the Product that we already have?

And also, how do we become, as Orchestras, an integral part of the communities we serve? If there's a connection that makes us top of mind with our local audience, we are on the road to success.

posted by | 06/21/07, 2:20 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Bell's audience was distracted, on its way to work. Not a good test group.

posted by | 06/21/07, 2:19 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

if product was truly paramount, then josh bell would have made a hell of a lot more money in the DC subway.

posted by atonlprime | 06/21/07, 2:15 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

I'm interested to know how the speakers feel about talking to an audience to whom so many may seem 'disengaged' by reading, typing and only half listening. Do they feel as if we adequately appreciate their performance?

posted by | 06/21/07, 2:15 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

I'm interested to know how the speakers feel about talking to an audience to whom so many may seem 'disengaged' by reading, typing and only half listening. Do they feel as if we adequately appreciate their performance?

posted by | 06/21/07, 2:15 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Thanks goodness Clive Gillinson is not single-handedly responsible for the future of classical music. For it would cease to exist outside of the 10 major cities.

posted by Ted R. | 06/21/07, 2:14 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

McBurney gets it exactly right!
Bravo. (worth the price of attending the conference) In contrast to
the letter writer, my reaction to that concert was to find and
purchase a CD of the Legetti concerto, a piece I had not previously

Evan Richards
2473 Waubesa Hill Road
McFarland, WI 53558

posted by Evan Richards | 06/21/07, 2:14 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Molly Sheridan is right - we shouldn't be afraid of involving the audience more. similarly, we should not be afraid to present new works to our audience. mozart and beethoven wrote so many works beacuse patrons recognized the importance of supporting new music and also the potential excitement it can create.

posted by atonlprime | 06/21/07, 2:12 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Clive Gillinson's point about the Wall Street Journal being the #3 newspaper - because it is credible is well taken. In the Blogisphere the same thing is happening when doing the Blog searches... (Similarly with YouTube) they are rated about their credibility based in part on the number of readers and subscribers to these blogs. Orchestras can participate in this online world and if we are open to this process, our work will speak for itself. And as Clive says it takes an act of faith

posted by Rebecca Krause-Hardie | 06/21/07, 2:12 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Many of these comments reflect the doom and gloom we have come to expect in this field. However, there are incredible initiatives that we've heard abou this week that suggest the we are responding to these opportunities. Let's here more about this.

Jim Hirsch
Executive Director
Chicago Sinfonietta

posted by Jim Hirsch | 06/21/07, 2:12 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

The new participatory activities described here today and by Greg Sandow in his earlier posts will no doubt develop in ways we cannot predict. But are they really relevant? Our table feels that the old notion of participation -- learning to play an instrument -- is a proven way of creating the informed, engaged, alert audience member Gerard McBurney invoked. What other participation does an orchestra need?

posted by Todd | 06/21/07, 2:12 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

The distribution method and media format are unimportant. It's the product that is paramount. Whether you manufacture drills or lasers, it's the quality of the hole that you're really selling, not so much the tool.

posted by Anonymous | 06/21/07, 2:09 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

I have to admit, when I walked in here today, I felt I was a part of something huge: a valuable and contributing member of something that is spanning the globe and something that has the attention of important organizations and individuals. Interesting as we are discussing how participation makes people feel.

posted by mollie fry | 06/21/07, 2:05 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

As always you were inspirational .. inspiring complicity!
I am proud that you represent the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association.
Judy Konen

posted by Judith Konen | 06/21/07, 2:04 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Eric Near pointed out the fact that people aren't commenting, but i think it is more an issue of the people who are here aren't familiar with this format yet and can focus more easily on convential, old-fashioned talking.

posted by atonlprime | 06/21/07, 2:03 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Some brilliant comments there... I liked the one comparing the interactivity of Opera performance to the inactivity of a Symphony Concert.

But in Opera we are expecting miraculous feats from our singers, and that prepares us to listen carefully, live with the soloist, and, finally, reward her/him with applause if we feel to do so.

In a concert that would mean knowing all the players in the orchestra and knowing all the solos in the piece being performed, to be able to fully appreciate the heroic efforts of the players. Maybe then the applause would come naturally?

If we would like to move to this direction, we should present the orchestra more as a group of talented individuals (they all should acquire some kind of pop-star aura!), and we also should be able to educate the listeners to the repertoire beforehand. As some other writers commented, we all come back to the education of the potential concert goer. There seems to be no way round that!

posted by Sasha Mäkilä | 06/21/07, 2:02 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

I've noticed that towards the middle of the event, more people are ignoring their laptops and focusing instead on the speaker. Does the commenting get old after a while? Do people run out of things to say? Or is it just lack of attention span? (Perhaps the fact that I'm writing this meta-comment during the speaker's time speaks of my own attention span.)

posted by Eric Near | 06/21/07, 1:54 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

The CSO audience member has a point. Not everyone likes Lygeti just as many are baffled by Jackson Pollock. We don't need to pander to those views, but we shouldn't laugh at them either, if we hope to connect to a broader community.

posted by Christopher Deacon | 06/21/07, 1:52 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Mr. Tepper mentioned that he had to recalculate his spreadsheet because we were so far off the other cultural genres. Quantity is not the same as quality. (And popularity is not necessarily the same thing as relevance, either.)

posted by Matthew | 06/21/07, 1:43 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

For me, the reason for having this seminar is to find a way to justify the fact that the arts are relevant to everyday life - to communities, to education - which of course is much more of an incentive to provide funding for the arts than '"just a concert". It is an excellent and necessary topic to examine. But I am not convinced that blogging is an effective means of addressing the issues. Too many people yelling in a room - this topic needs a much more focused approach, IMHO.

posted by Valerie | 06/21/07, 1:40 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Conservatory education has changed plenty in 100 years. Theory includes atonal and jazz harmony, history has everything up to post-minimalism and beyond, and the presence of popular music in academia is secure and vital. And then there's the flowering of historically-informed performce practice. Can we retire "academic" as a perjorative term?

posted by | 06/21/07, 1:39 PM | permalink

re: 3:10 p.m.

When orchestras perform newly composed music it is possible to challenge the age-old concert traditions, and even involve audience participation or interaction between composer, performers and the audience. But orchestras bear also the responsibility of presenting the classical works in ideal listening circumstances, which in my opinion requires certain formality of the occasion. Maybe there can be two contrasting sides to every concert? Or a "challenging" concert series with mainly modern music? Personally I don't believe in revolutionizing the concert format we have had for the past hundred years. I think it is a beautiful tradition and the problem is it stands in contradiction to the fast-paced lives of young people today.

posted by Sasha Mäkilä | 06/21/07, 1:39 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

I really enjoyed Lynne Conner's comments. It was interesting to reflect on the history of acceptable audience behavior. Perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that as appropriate behavior became more prescribed and restrictive, fewer people have chosen to participate on fewer occasions; particularly where "live" behavior could be observed. This seems particularly contrary to our more casual and participative lifestyles...

posted by Judith Konen | 06/21/07, 1:38 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Mr. Tepper mentioned that he had to recalculate his spreadsheet because we were so far off the other cultural genres. What does that say about our industry? Are we relevant any more?

posted by | 06/21/07, 1:37 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

In my recent experience, one of the most successful ways to engage an audience was the most low-tech -- just talk to them. At both symphonic and chamber music events, when either the music director or a participating musican gave out some information or personal insight about the music to be performed, it went a very long way toward helping the audience feel included and engaged. Of course, this was an audience already present in the hall, but it seems to relate to some other comments here about getting audiences to tell us what they want. Their responses to an simple act that reaches out to them leads me to think that the more we can do that, the better off we will be, whether we do it via the internet, traditional mailings or from the concert stage. When we present more adventurous programs, inviting the audience to come along for the ride rather than demanding that they do inevitably produces more positive reactions to music about which, only a few moments before, they had grave suspicions. And it doesn't "tart anything up" or demean the listeners. Not a brilliant suggestion perhaps, but a low-cost one - and it's surprising how few institutions make it a regular practice.

posted by mardi | 06/21/07, 1:35 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Atul thinks we need an orchestra Wiki; the rest of the table thinks it's a wonderful idea.

posted by Robert Levine | 06/21/07, 1:34 PM | permalink

re: Discussion Time


posted by Eric Near | 06/21/07, 1:34 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Listening behavior is different than attendance behavior. Many of us have music on our ipods that we would not go to hear live in concert. Much of the symphony concert draw is social. In other words, perhaps we don't go to symphony concerts because we have the music on our ipods.

posted by Table Comment | 06/21/07, 1:34 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Our discussion time is far too short in between speakers. Stop interupting!

posted by Liz Wheeler | 06/21/07, 1:32 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

The way we teach our musicians to be professional musicians in our music schools and conservatories hasn't changed in 100 years. Our professors often have a myopic prejudicial point of view. As a result, many of our orchestra have removed themselves from an always changing cultural society.

posted by Barry | 06/21/07, 1:32 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Wow - that could make for some abrupt tempo changes!

posted by | 06/21/07, 1:31 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

From the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra; we began blogging last year and have found that our audience use it mainly to give us feedback about our concert activity, but they also use it to 'get personal' with our musicians. Also people who have no physical link to the NZSO - i.e. can't get to concerts - have begun to use it to connect with us.

posted by Rachel H | 06/21/07, 1:31 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

If you want to have some real fun but intellectual conversation regarding classical music in general or even a specific concert, team up with a local cafe or bar and do music trivia before and/or after a concert. I think we all know that sports fans have a great deal of knowledge (trivia, stats, etc.) about their interest, why shouldn't concert-goers?

posted by Justin | 06/21/07, 1:30 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Real Estate

Let's put it all into perspective, please. In 18, yes EIGHTEEN, 88 (1888), the Boston Pops was founded to "attract a broader public with lighter musical fare". Now that we are down the line a bit, say a mere 120 years, we are still searching for a broader public for classical music, but we are now, unfortunately, in fifth gear, ergo, panic mode.

Thank you, American Symphony Orchestra League Congress and Arts Journal, for this public conversation on Engaging Arts. As an American born arts manager working here in Europe, it is a refreshing way to discuss our common lot simultaneously in differing time zones.

Before leaving home this morning, in the erudite company of a chaired professor in musicology no less, one willing and even dedicated to accompanying eighty 11-12 year olds to a rehearsal for a classical concert, I printed out the first 86 pages of this now international discussion for good reading material in a commuter train full of kids (some of them with decidedly Euro-American DNA): The Netherlands Philharmonic was rehearsing for next Sunday's concert, a bel canto extravaganza with diva Edita Gruberova, the grand finale in The Concertgebouw of this year's 60th anniversary Holland Festival.

I look forward to reading the book that has initiated this discussion, surely. I anticipate the discussion as it unfolds this coming evening (afternoon for you in Nashville). I feel, however, that I must react to the blog as it has unfolded 'til now.

We 'here' (and I assure you, the grass is always greener), as opposed to you 'there', complain to the government regularly that arts subsidies are not now quite sufficient to engage those ideal, broad publics (young, old, black, yellow, white and of course, red and purple and not speaking our specific language) as specified in our 'targets' for continued financial support. You 'there', as opposed to we 'here', complain that those said ideal publics are just not interested anymore (but whose fault is that, certainly not the true artist's ). Ergo, despite the significant salt water pond between, classical music is complaining on both sides of the Atlantic about a decrease in interest. So we oldies webblog together to explore ways in Engaging Art.
I welcome the discussion, certainly, and yet, after reading 20% of the 86 pages produced up 'til this moment (European time), I have yet to read the words I am yearning for:


'Choices are overwhelming' writes Douglas McLennan. Absolutely spot on.
But what if we cannot choose?

'I insist on peak experiences', he continues.
For sure, but maybe some kids have never, ever, had one.

'technology rules': certainly,
so why isn't everyone interested in absolutely everything as absolutely everything is so easily accessible?

'fan cultures' are now supreme:
right again, but Lang Lang has a smaller following than Justin Timberlake...if only the difference was in perspective.

Ok, I admit, I finally did see the word I was breathlessly awaiting:

"When did education get separated from core programming?" queries Alan Brown.

Answer: never did, never will.

Some things worth learning need to be learned first to be appreciated.

A few pages later, Ed Cambron asks: 'How do we deal with choice?'

I would prefer he asks: how do we deal with those unable to choose?
Answer; we educate them and in doing so, give them a choice.

Mr. Cambron goes on to suggest that an orchestra's repeating a programme parallel to opera house schedules would work wonders. I precociously suggest, only if programmed parallel to a series of romantic sit-coms (would the world have fallen for Friends in just one season-?).
I would love to agree with Mr. Cambron, but reserve the right to hordes of tickets to those repeat performances for those yet to reach puberty and musically 'challenged' as it were. I gladly bequeath the same education on the school children of today that I was fortunate to have: one Grandmother enamoured of Richard Wagner, the other of Tony Bennett and a Mother who got to sing under Stravinsky and was in love with Nadia Boulanger. All of them made sure I attended the Boston Symphony Orchestra as often as possible, lovingly so, also making sure I watched 'Uncle' Lenny Bernstein on TV as well as the Ed Sullivan Show (where Tony B would perform from time to time).

Why? Because good music enriches you, it enlightens you, it can be thrilling. So irregardless of subsidies and patrons and ticket sales and careers, great music we cannot live without. And if we, the over forty crowd, are able to appreciate it, are able to choose it, it is because we have been exposed to it before we reached puberty, that decisive time in which we reject things in order to define ourselves in positive impulses.

In real estate, there are three keys to success: Location, Location and Location.
For engagement in the arts, there are but three keys to success:
Education, Education, Education.

Cynthia Wilson

posted by cynthia wilson | 06/21/07, 1:29 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Lynne uses examples that are theater, not music. Listening to music has always had a different aesthetic - I do not think you can use the staged arts to point to a direction for classical music. Listening to classical music usually lends itself to a more focused enviroment. Just because an audience is quiet does not mean that they are passive. Hence the term "active listening."

We, in the world of classical music performance, need to take up the gauntlet of music education in the schools. Opening the ears of young students and encouraging critical listening is one way to ensure an audience for the future.

posted by John Kieser | 06/21/07, 1:26 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

I've grazed, discarded, examined further and ultimately programmed more contemporary music in the last two years as a result of online music providers (both purchase and library) than I would have done without this technology. It has been a powerful reminder of the joy of exploration and new experiences.

posted by Rachel H | 06/21/07, 1:23 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Young people ARE including clasical music in their playlists - this could be observed if we actually made the effort to inquire what youth are thinking.

posted by atonalprime | 06/21/07, 1:23 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

I love the advance of new techs, so I hope one day my husband would conduct his orchestra from home, so we would be able to interact more with each other.

posted by A Conductor's wife | 06/21/07, 1:21 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

With adventurous progrqamming (i.e. melding latin tango w/contemporary Argentinian music - or a silent film masterpiece w/ contemporary orchestral score), we find new audience members, along w/ the old - and the conversation precedes and follows the performance. But what we need is a downloadable ring tone from each concert and a playlist accessed from Naxos.

posted by anonymous | 06/21/07, 1:21 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

I've been musing about the divide between professional and amateur, about the ways in which our commitment to the highest artistic standards might actually have contributed to a profound chasm between Us and Them. This wasn't the intended outcome, nor does it need to be our future - but we surely need to get smarter about just who our orchestras are here to delight and amaze (and it may not be Us, either).

posted by Katherine | 06/21/07, 1:20 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Some thoughts from my table: We wonder if you polled the various age groups in this room about the level of fear about decreasing audiences, would the concern among the younger group be less than the older? Is that an indication of experience or change in culture?

posted by Vanessa Rose | 06/21/07, 1:19 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

How we balance the audience interaction and engagement in real time while an orchestra is performing is key to getting back to a interactive concert experience. This would also change how musicians are trained to perform for their audience.

posted by Paul Jan Zdunek | 06/21/07, 1:19 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

I love the full-circle natue of the arts! The groundlings were able to comment directly to the performers and characters in the performance. The "I want to participate too" emotion is strong in me as well. The first thing I feel after seeing a wonderful ballet performance is that I should take a ballet class next week. I go home, put on my favorite CD, and dance around the living room. I feel the same way after seeing a wonderful concert. After seeing Carmina Burana, what do I do? Crank the CD!!! I want to sing along too! Wouldn't it be great if we could harness that energy at our concerts! Why can't we? Perhaps that desire to participate too is the core reason for the amateur artists these days. It's the background of why people want to blog and share their thoughts. It's a celebration of what is best about the arts, they ignite our emotions!

posted by Rachel Ligatti | 06/21/07, 1:18 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

We need a cultural modulation such that society will be interested in symphonic music. Let's max out technology to lead ears to the concert hall.

posted by Dennis Sullivan | 06/21/07, 1:18 PM | permalink

re: Join us Today

If new audiences want to be co-authors, and if we feel that we should explore some new artisic models that provide this ability, we're going to need an entirely new dialog with our musician colleagues. Are our orchestra musicians willing to encourage co-creation?

posted by Karen Gahl-Mills | 06/21/07, 1:18 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

I often wonder what some of these composers would react to seeing us being so stoic in our concert halls? They wrote the music to be background music, aesthetic music - not to be "worshiped" as we do.....

posted by Michael | 06/21/07, 1:17 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

It strikes me that this entire session has become a metaphor for the kind of multitasking that is necessary today, to make sense of the variety of technological input we receive constantly. Here we have at least five simultaneous streams of information, at the same time similar and different.

posted by Mike Peluse | 06/21/07, 1:16 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

The anology to sports only works when the rules of the game are known and are clear.

posted by | 06/21/07, 1:16 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

The football analogy was very interesting. Certainly the audience doesn't approach our offerings in the same way - so then do we feel duty bound to provide this kind of information?

posted by Harold Grant | 06/21/07, 1:15 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

(table comments) Orchestras need mosh pits...

The high barriers of access to this art form are frustrating. (money, education, etc.)

Musicians playing and talking about the art is a step to help remove those barriers. The advent of blogging also opens (reopens) the field of music criticism to everyone

posted by | 06/21/07, 1:15 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

We could all try putting laptops in our lobbies so that audience members could add comments which could be posted in the concert hall before the second half starts. There is a real tension between types of audience and how they like to experience a concert.

posted by Christopher Deacon | 06/21/07, 1:15 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Lynne Conner's comments about arts audiences not being as "engaged" as sports fans is very interesting. I know from personal experience that audience members discuss what they've seen on stage at the theatre, heard at the symphony or experienced from a film. Maybe we should offer more chances for our audiences to engage in this way post concert or post event.

posted by Janice Nelson | 06/21/07, 1:15 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

There was a ripple of wry laughter when the "greenhouse orchestra" was defined -- an orchestra freed from financial constraints??

A pony would be nice, too.

posted by Jayson Greene | 06/21/07, 1:15 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

There is a greenhouse orchestra, the New World Symphony. We have certain fiscal constraints, but function as a laboratory. If you'd like to collaborate, let us know.

Howard Herring

posted by Howard Herring | 06/21/07, 1:15 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

PAST: Tomatoes thrown at Shakespearin actors.

FUTURE????: Attention deficit disorder.

posted by Sean Sutton | 06/21/07, 1:15 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

I disagree with the idea that arts "fans" do not interact like sports fans. We as a culture have the capacity to discuss our feelings and experiences - particularly from external sources. Listen to the young people who hang around to chat after a concert. Today's teenagers/college students/young adults have no problem divulging personal information throughout the world via blogs, MySpace, Facebook, and the like. Why not encourage public response to arts events in the same way that sports bulletin boards light up with irate fans after the latest Sunday disappointment or victory?

posted by Eric Near | 06/21/07, 1:14 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

If audience surveys show that the majority of our adiences once participated actively in the music making, what is our role in encouraging continued participation in civic music groups? How will continued participation result in audience growth and retention?

posted by Diane Syrcle | 06/21/07, 1:14 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

There was a ripple of wry laughter when the "greenhouse orchestra" was defined -- an orchestra freed from financial constraints??

A pony would be nice, too.

posted by Jayson Greene | 06/21/07, 1:13 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Are people looking for a social experience in the concert hall? Do we need to 'market' the social aspect of these kinds of events?

posted by Harold Grant | 06/21/07, 1:12 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Check out the League's Innovation Forum for updates and a catalogue of the newest in orchestra innovations, including podcasts, streaming, etc. Located on the League's website.

posted by Jan Wilson | 06/21/07, 1:11 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Do we need to reflect about what we are asking of new audiences? Money and time seem to be resources people are less willing to part with. I occasionally sit at rehearsals thinking about what I could be getting done at the office. What must a new concert goer be thinking? Does engagement need to have an element of removing the risk for first time concert goers?

posted by Jeffery Sells | 06/21/07, 1:11 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

As one of the chronic IM/TXT'ers I must say I disagree. Mediated communications is nothing new, it's the multitasking aspect that has changed. I can sit here, watch the presentation, IM with folks back to the office and add to this blog... I'd have to duck out altogether for a phone call.

If I choose to go to a concert it's a leisure time decision, same with going to a baseball game or the ballet. It isn't to "engage" with the performance.

Just a different perspective...

posted by SB | 06/21/07, 1:10 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Why are we frightened to have the audience talk, respond or interact with the artists? Are we worried we will lose ownership of our art form?

posted by | 06/21/07, 1:09 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

I am glad I finally can peep in. It was difficult for a non-blogger to find. From my perspective, I think it makes great sense that we look to tap into the cultural arts to attract people to the tradition of classical music. Personally, I feel classical music for most common fans starts at an early age as part of a "culture" that parents might impose (not necessarily just because they learned music in school), but for cultures such as those of minorities (myself included) classical music was no where near my neighborhood. The cultural arts can be welcomed into the communities so that we can show respect, appreciation and use it as a catalyst to attract people to the orchetsral environment. This must be something you already know, but I need validation. Does the book reveal any study or concrete evidence that there is a link between orchestra audience growth and the cultural arts? Do you feel that with the lack of music education in our schools- especially in minority communities- we need to concentrate on pure involement (whatever genre) and stray from a focus of purely classically focused development tactics?

posted by T. Ramirez | 06/21/07, 1:09 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Is there an economic angle for orchestras in a tech-mediated participatory music culture, Aaron has asked. No, nor, was there an angle in home pianos or amateur choral societies. These networks and resources create the fertile musical culture in which orchestras can flourish. The new participation in barreling ahead. Are we going to be part of it, or irrelevant to it?

posted by Ted Wiprud | 06/21/07, 1:08 PM | permalink

re: How much involvement?

Dear Greg,

Heady stuff all of that back and forth on the subject of audience behavior in the 18th, 19th, 20th centuries...I wish someone could interview Mozart.

I've been going to the Opera and to the Symphony and to recitals and to concerts for the best part of my 60 years on this planet. In my teens in Havana I saw and heard Heifetz, Menuhin, Casals, Tebaldi, de los Angeles, Segovia, Gilels, Babin and Vronsky... Igor Markevitch and, before him, Erich Kleiber conducting our Havana Philharmonic...I think that Cubans were a pretty hip audience back in the 40's and 50's and still are. I remember moments of near mass hysteria in audiences at the Ballet Nacional with Alicia Alonso doing Giselle. Ovations that went on for minutes on end...We, as Latinos, have always been pretty demonstrative. And this has NOTHING to do with politics, as I am recalling pre and post Castro events. I miss all that and, these days, rarely get it except at the opera.

My rambling leads to one main point: American classical music audiences should learn to cut loose, shake off their Puritan baggage, and shout with joy. A recent Beethoven 9th at our Performing Arts Center elicited at more than one moment supercilious looks from the stuffy German conductor at the helm of the visiting Cleveland Philharmonic. Too damned bad, say I. If Beethoven's second movement of the ninth prompts me to burst out with un-programmed applause, then so be it! Music-making is a communal act.

Look: Mozart, Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, Puccini, Verdi, Gounod, Bizet, Meyerbeer, Massenet, and many of the German and Slavic opera composers - except for the obsessive Wagner - planned, encouraged, programmed, rejoiced, and celebrated all applause at any time in all their works. And, to this day, opera fans - a loud, passionate, and, admittedly, often overbearing breed - let it rip when they feel like it. Oh that symphonic audiences could do just that! And the proof is in the pudding: of all the performing arts, Opera and its audiences are growing apace all over our map.

I hope your leg is doing much better. Don't break a leg, "in bocca al lupo!"


posted by Rafael de Acha | 06/21/07, 1:08 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Arts vs sports. What's changed over the past 30-40 years that sports attendance has skyrocketed and orchestra attendance has, at the least, not grwn in the same way? Not newspaper coverage or the nature of either sports or concerts. So what else?

posted by Robert Levine | 06/21/07, 1:08 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

With the rate at which we are moving for instant gratification and passive participation, what end is our inevitable future? I'm afraid.

posted by mollie fry | 06/21/07, 1:07 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

I struggle personally with the idea of sacralization ... ON one hand, it seems a dismaying perversion of what the live concert art is supposed to be about -- communication, unity, etc. But do I really want the opposite -- some yob loudly voicing his disapproval during Beethoven's "Eroica"? Though I hate the words "high" and "pure" and what they imply about other artistic traditions (low? impure? Can you imagine applying these terms to people?) I do innately believe there is something high and pure about live performance of music. How could I not?? That's why I'm here. So how do we talk about that without casting aspersion on other art forms?

posted by Jayson Greene | 06/21/07, 1:07 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Does the Boston Pops incident prove that the audiences need to be involved in the concert experience despite all our efforts to encourage them to be passive?

posted by Erika | 06/21/07, 1:07 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Check out reactee.com it is a great way of using text messages (via a T-shirt) to promote your orchestra in your community

posted by gaby poler | 06/21/07, 1:06 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Interesting that orchestra musicians seem to feel more free to express their appreciation of their colleagues' during rehersals and performances (feet shuffling, bow tapping, even some stomping), than do audiences.

posted by Robert Levine | 06/21/07, 1:06 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

We should be careful in "educating" the public that we give the impression that the public is ill prepared to attend a concert unless they are well versed about a program they are interested in attending. While we should have information available to those who seek it, we need to make clear that being well read on a particular piece is not a prerequisite for enjoying a performance. Sometimes, a performance that doesn't move the listener can be due to a shortcoming of the composer or performers, rather than a lack of education of the listener.

posted by jon mosbo | 06/21/07, 1:05 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Does the Boston Pops incident prove that the audiences need to be involved in the concert experience despite all our efforts to encourage them to be passive?

posted by | 06/21/07, 1:05 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

INTERACTIVE PAST: Tomatoes tossed at Shakespearian actors.

INTERACTIVE FUTURE: Attention deficit disorder.

???????????????anthing's possible??????????????????????/

posted by Sean Sutton | 06/21/07, 1:04 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Is the word "arts" - in the context of the USA in 2007 - a unifier or a divider? What is the overtone of the word? Do the millennials understand the whole concept differently?

posted by Captain Chaos | 06/21/07, 1:04 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Young people do love our art...the problem is we are too concerned with "royalties" that our music is beginning to be left behind in the masses - do we need to rethink this economic aspect of the art??? I know it is scary to think about, but a vital point to whether we are participants in this new engaging of arts or just viewers....

posted by Michael | 06/21/07, 1:03 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Hi all, am following this from New Zealand. I think a large part if the issue is that symphonic music is traditionally thought of as an aural experience, whereas technology now is perceived as "visual and/or interactive", how do we merge the two without losing "integrity"?

posted by Megan Gyde | 06/21/07, 1:03 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

I was excited to join in this discussion and participate with the folks in Nashville, however, the online format is not what I had anticipated. I had expected that there would be a way to hear what the speakers were saying, or at least to see the comments of those in attendance. Without either of those elements, it makes online participation difficult. Maybe for next year you could do live feed of the speaker, or have the comments of the attendees be posted to the web immediately. The topic is wonderful--I just would like to be able to follow the discussion.

posted by Jenny Sargent | 06/21/07, 1:03 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

In 15 years as a professional going to concerts, I've heard good honest booing at a concert only one time. It was well deserved and remains one of my favorite memories. Frankly, I wish it happened more often.

posted by Andrew Berryhill | 06/21/07, 1:02 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Isn't part of the problem significant barriers to entry? As an example, as a teenager I became deeply involved with comic books. Cost of entry- walking to comic shop, couple of bucks to sample product. That led to collecting, attending conventions, and now social networking online. What does a kid who wants to get into classical music have to do? Well, they have to get to the orchestra hall, which in many cities is not easy. They have to plunk down a good chunk of change on a ticket. They have to dress in a way that is unnatural to them, and then if they actually enjoy what they hear, they may make the mistake of clapping, which gets terrible hissing from fellow concert goers.

There are many elaborate strategies we should all be testing and developing to engage new and younger audiences for sure, but perhaps the first steps are right in front of us. Casual concerts, low ticket prices, and performances in the community (where possible)

posted by SB | 06/21/07, 1:01 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

In practice, "luring young patrons into the classical concert hall through orchestral rock shows and the like" simply does not work. It may create an audience for that product, but only for that product.

posted by Steve Collins | 06/21/07, 1:01 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

I continue to be concerned about the concept held by many young people that everything on the Web should be free, including downloads and podcasts. The young people making claymation films and putting them up on the Web have no or very few, financial obligations. I wonder how many of them will want to do do this artistic work and offer it free of charge in the future when they have bills to pay.

posted by Gayle Ober | 06/21/07, 1:01 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Marin Alsop raised the problem of "musician malaise" yesterday. Isn't that what drives the Chloes away from our concert halls?

posted by Fred Gouveia | 06/21/07, 1:00 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

If we are afraid of this 'new' environment then the people we are trying to engage can only react with fear. We have to shake off our trepidation and embrace our fears and if we make mistakes, at least we've made them bravely!

posted by Rachel Hyde | 06/21/07, 1:00 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Marin Alsop raised the problem of "musician malaise" yesterday. Isn't that what drives the Chloes away from our concert halls?

posted by Fred Gouveia | 06/21/07, 12:59 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

As we all look at what we can do to bring this younger, more technologically adept audience to our product, I'd like to know what organizations are doing? Can we poll who is conducting podcasts, blogs, RSS feeds, etc.? What have they found to be successful and unsuccessful?

Also as we begin creating and implementing these technological items how can we all better know the hindrances associated with union/musician's contracts. We need a resource center to better help us implement these great resources quickly instead of being consistently stalled and bogged by legal issues.

posted by Andi Bordick | 06/21/07, 12:59 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

This conversation is great. How interesting to be able to comment immediately on our thoughts! An interesting point raised at our table though, is who we are trying to reach with new technology. The audiences we have are not necessarily tuned in to blogging and iTunes and camera phones. The audiences we do not have at our concerts are. So, are we reaching out to new audiences to the exclusion of our current ones? Another great question was what role new technology could have in a concert experience. I asked, why not allow people to blog during a performance? Perhaps then, they wouldn't whisper their comments to each other so much during the performance? "But to what end would we do something like this experiment?" I'm asked. It would be to involve the audience in the performance. "That is because young people don't have the attention span." I disagree. Involving the audience in the performance could bring a new level of interest in the performance and excitement about contributing. How wonderful!

posted by Rachel Ligatti | 06/21/07, 12:59 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Who will be the new gatekeepers of quality and standards in this transformation? How might this shift change our understanding of what interaction is necessary for a real arts community?
(table comments)

posted by Aaron Flagg | 06/21/07, 12:58 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Our table is looking at the challenges of on- demand, interest in a deep learning experience,and active participation. We have lots of opportunities to work differently to co-create value today with our audiences and communities and to be facilitators, organizers -- adding new meaning and attracting new participation. What resonates immediately is the need to be social, the interest in digging deeper. Orchstras provide these opportunities already, But as institutions we can't just serve all of this up top down. How do people find us, and how do we prepare to provide what they need on demand and according to this vast array of interests?

posted by Sandra | 06/21/07, 12:58 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

At an arts seminar earlier this year, we learned that technology, such as instant messaging, emails, and blogging, actually "disengages" people because they substitute personal contact with electronic communication. My 17 year old stepdaughter would rather send text messages to her friend over a 3-hour period than just call her and have a 1/2 hour conversation. So if we're trying to reach these young people via electronic means, how do we balance communicating with them via their preferred means, but yet encourage them to get engaged with our live event?

posted by Samantha | 06/21/07, 12:58 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Greetings from Madison, Wisconsin!

Many, many kudos for this deep dive into conference innovation. Hope the format adds insight to the sloppy, glorious, surprising, and disconcerting things that can happen when a normally passive audience directly engages with the "professionals" on the stage (or the dais, in this case).

posted by Andrew Taylor | 06/21/07, 12:58 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Marin Alsop raised the problem of "musician malaise" yesterday. Isn't that what drives the Chloes away from our concert halls?

posted by Fred Gouveia | 06/21/07, 12:58 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

A greenhouse orchestra? It's an orchestra freed from the constraints of funding. An orchestra that could experiment, try things with the purpose of failing (and succeeding too). But the point is - how are you going to experiment if the only thing you can worry about is keeping the doors open?

posted by Don | 06/21/07, 12:58 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

It is important tofocus on the process and fundamentals of engaging communication, and not on the technology tha creates it. we each have to adapt the means to serve our missions and goals. most importantly, we need to constantly seek out information from young people and not only older and experienced people. the innocence of an unbiased mind is where true insight will be found.

posted by atonalprime | 06/21/07, 12:58 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

In what ways do these forms of engagement represent opportunities and/or challenges for orchestras?

The greatest opportunity, I think, has to do with building a strong community, at which the orchestra is the center. By letting people "behind the curtain," we're forming deeper and more lasting bonds with those who will support - and fight for - the orchestra for years to come.

posted by Michelle | 06/21/07, 12:57 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

I believe that an important starting point for this conversation is to recognize the generational diversity and perspectives present in the room. As administrators in this industry, we are not exclusively "boomer generation" and the expertise of Gen X and Y colleagues could provide valuable leadership in this area.

posted by Megan Denell | 06/21/07, 12:57 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Speaking as a parent of three young adults, I know that my sons have found their own way into the world of the arts. A love of art comes in many forms. I, for one, was a rock and roll baby who would never have imagined my life as it is now - immersed in the orchestra world. How do we help them find their way to "our" art? I dont know that we can. All we can do is provide access and wait.

posted by Jenifer Akers | 06/21/07, 12:56 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Comment from my table following Vanessa's talk: How does an orchestra approach and plan for this new age of cultural engagement when our genre is steeped in history and presented as a classical legacy? How can the consumer have input on this kind of historic content?

posted by Angela Han | 06/21/07, 12:56 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Can you take a poll of the various hi-tech efforts used by Symphonies represented in the room? Here's a brief list from the Pittsburgh Symphony:

Message Boards
MySpace Page
Website Video Previews
YouTube Videos

posted by Jeff | 06/21/07, 12:55 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

What is the statistical evidence that the current decrease of participation in live arts events is a one-way trend as opposed to one part of a up-and-down long-trend "sine wave?" Are we just looking at too small of a timeline sample? Are we really measuring the wrong thngs?

posted by Captain Chaos | 06/21/07, 12:55 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Following Vanessa Bertozzi's presentation, the conversation at our table focused on the fact that we could not have even had this conversation at a League Conference 5 years ago. A small step, but a step nonetheless.

posted by Michael Lawrence | 06/21/07, 12:55 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

The way we teach our musicians to be professional musicians in our music schools and conservatories hasn't changed in 100 years. Our professors often have a myopic prejudicial point of view. As a result, many of our orchestra have removed themselves from an always changing cultural society.

posted by Barry Kolman | 06/21/07, 12:54 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

The music is not the problem...whew! That is good news...the even better news is that we are coming to the point of change and engagement in symphonic music that we are just beginning to discover...new possibilities are scarey! Perhaps, the listening to a symphonic presentation will radically change in the future...however...the engagement for many will remain within their own soul...and the experience especially of clasical music will remain within the context of the human heart.

posted by Scott Peter Leigh | 06/21/07, 12:54 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Is the future orchestra experience going to be accessed through a plasma screen on the wall?

posted by Rebecca Stone | 06/21/07, 12:53 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

The role of the professional musician in the new age is changing. Blurring of lines between amateur and professional. Are we looked up to as mentors or as competition?

posted by Mark Table 37 | 06/21/07, 12:53 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

How do we adapt what is primarily a non-visual art form to new interests that are largely visual? Do we need more integration of classical music into other art forms? How?

posted by Nancy March (from Tucson) | 06/21/07, 12:53 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

What struck me in Vanessa's presentation was the vocabulary was so foreign to me. "Greenhouse orchestra, cosplay, etc" are new to me. That suggests a disconnect.

posted by | 06/21/07, 12:52 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

In the slide about folk art the word "depth" was used - is the better word, "breadth?"

Can somebody with a psychology background speak to "perception compression?" ie, is it possible that breadth and depth are inversely related - the more multi-level activities that one engages in, the less depth one really experiences/retains as related to the actual art event? Does new media favor one over the other?

posted by Captain Chaos | 06/21/07, 12:51 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

What is a greenhouse orchestra? We all want to know.

posted by Ann D | 06/21/07, 12:50 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Just as it has proved difficult to attach a workable business model on search engines and their popularity, I wonder how the arts industry can attach a viable economic model to a more participatory culture?

posted by Aaron Flagg | 06/21/07, 12:47 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

If they're all just tools, aren't they supposed to be in service to us, rather than us in service to them?

Absolutely! The challengem then, is knowing your audience - or who you want your audience to be - and figuring out which technologies to use to reach them.

posted by Michelle | 06/21/07, 12:44 PM | permalink

re: Pictures

This has nothing to do with this photo, but I dearly love that we have an author patiently explaining what "cosplay" is to a roomful of orchestra professionals. This is exactly the sort of thing we in this field need to be hearing about -- the young people who aren't coming to our concerts do, in fact, love art. They might not yet love our art, but they do love art, and they treat their chosen art with the rigor of grad scholars.

posted by | 06/21/07, 12:41 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Bill Ivey says that the audiences we know are aging. This, I think, ties directly into the issue of encouraging young people and "emerging leaders" to work in the nonprofit arts - how can you imagine encouraging younger audiences if the producers and presenters of this art can't identify with this group?

posted by Angela Han | 06/21/07, 12:41 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

One way to think about technology is to find ways to use it to "better" accomplish things that orchestras have always done. For instance, using evite to invite and organize groups of people to come to the symphony together. Getting concert listings onto online public calendars such as Google Calendars to better promote the concerts. Including sound clips on the orchestra's website so that potential ticket buyers are more familiar with the music when they buy tickets. All of these uses of technology don't change the actual experience of the symphony - they just make it easier to attract and engage potential concert-goers.

PS - a shoutout to Robert Levine from Milwaukee! ;) Megan

posted by Megan Holbrook, MSO Board Member | 06/21/07, 12:35 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

You don't have to change the music just change the way people get to or find the music. You can call it "tarting it up" but isn't that basically what all marketing is? I think you have to speak to your target audiences in a language they can relate to and understand. If that means the mass media of MySpace or YouTube so be it.

posted by Leslie August | 06/21/07, 12:35 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Having not yet read the subject book, I would like to ask if the book addresses international travel for the arts world?

posted by Curt Wilson | 06/21/07, 12:28 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

Technology has always changed culture. Bill Ivey is talking about piano manufacture. Well - a piano is technology. Paper is a technology. Computers are technology. f they're all just tools, aren't they supposed to be in service to us, rather than us in service to them?

posted by Carol Hill | 06/21/07, 12:25 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

It always makes me a bit nervous when people start talking about changing something that has worked for hundreds of years. Tarting something up is... well... tarting it up. What is it we're really talking about here?

posted by George | 06/21/07, 12:22 PM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

It seems that if you want to engage today's "audiences" in symphonic music it will have to brought to the listener in a venue/medium that he/she is accustomed to accessing. Get em hooked on a cool ring tone or a new alternative rock song based on a symphony and maybe you can lure them into a symphony hall. Or at least a bandshell during the summer at a festival! Make the concert experience a multimedia one otherwise all is lost.

posted by Leslie August | 06/21/07, 12:22 PM | permalink

re: Join us Today

I very much like the idea of this type of hybrid of online and offline engagement - the problem is that without an audio or video feed, it's difficult for the online group to engage in the discussion in ways that will seem in sync with the offline presentation. Maybe next year...?

posted by Megan Holbrook, MSO Board Member | 06/21/07, 12:19 PM | permalink

re: Ready, Set...

Hi Molly! I just wanted to tell you that I am following this conversation on the other side of Atlantic in my home country Finland. Last three weeks I spent in US on a small music festival and had many interesting conversations with my colleagues about the state of classical music in US. Today when I returned home I spotted the ASOL link in my email so of course I had to check out what's going on! I hope you have a great time there and "HI!" to all my friends who are taking part to the seminar. Sasha Mäkilä, orchestra conductor, Finland

posted by Sasha Mäkilä | 06/21/07, 12:00 PM | permalink

re: Join us Today

I can't participate in the discussion today, but I want to thank Douglas McLennan for this discussion and the many invaluable services he provides to the arts community. AJ has become an indispensable resource for so many people in the arts world. Thank you.

William Osborne

posted by William Osborne | 06/21/07, 11:16 AM | permalink

re: Write Your Comments/Questions Here

A big part of this remarkable and badly needed conversation has been an emphasis on practical ideas and new ways for orchestras and other arts groups to stay commercially viable and communally valuable at the same time. I'd like to describe and I suppose to hype one experiment being launched this week right here in Nashville.

The Nashville Chamber Orchestra (NCO) is about to announce the launch of NCO UNCOVERED, an on-line subscription or membership program that will give fans, locally and we hope worldwide, a look inside the building of a concert season. It's sort of a fan club and sort of a documentary or news channel. Starting with this week's season-closing Gypsy Nights concert (Friday), and running for a year, NCO Uncovered will post a regular stream of audio, video and documentary content on its members-only site, in hopes of opening up the orchestra's creative process and humanizing its members.

Uncovered is a direct extension of the NCO's motto: "music without boundaries." We're trying to break through the wall between orchestra and audience and reveal the inspiration, perspiration and challenges that have traditionally been off limits to audiences. My own feeling is that when audiences only see an ensemble in performance, where the emphasis is on a perception of effortlessness and polish, a kind of estrangement can set in. A certain breed of fan is attuned to appreciate the music, and that's good. But so many more fans might be won over through an understanding of the work involved getting to a place where effortlessness seemed possible.

We hope Uncovered fleshes out the orchestra, turning the phalanx of suits and dresses into a community of real people, with whom Uncovered members feel free to communicate on line. We want to encourage and answer questions, prep audiences for upcoming shows, profile our guest artists and generally reveal what it means to commission and stage new works many times a year. We believe that will translate to empathy and curiosity, which will be the life blood of a social network built around the NCO and the community of Uncovered members.

Our Uncovered blog just went live a few days ago. Please visit for a more complete description of the project. Your first stop should be www.nco.org and the blog is prominently linked on our home page. There's a video that describes what we're doing and that will introduce you to some of the NCO's musicians. We're eager for feedback. I'll be at today's meeting on Engaging Art, and look forward to meeting some of you.

Craig Havighurst
Uncovered Writer/Producer

* NCO Uncovered is a partnership with ArtistShare in New York, a company that's helped dozens of artists earn revenue through sharing of the creative process. The NCO's project is being made possible in part through a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

posted by Craig Havighurst | 06/21/07, 9:12 AM | permalink

re: How much involvement?

Actually, I think the scheme you outline in the last paragraph is already here: in the past six months alone I've seen meticulously recreated 17th-century music, straightforwardly presented 19th-century music, and informally presented contemporary music. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't, but I think (in agreement with Molly) this is the current state of things, and has been for a decade at least. One question I would have looking ahead is if a reliance of the free market (which I don't trust to value anything about the arts correctly) would collapse this set-up to one dominant style of presentation, which would inevitably work against the effective experience of a lot of repertoire. The best thing development and foundation support could do is provide the breathing room to let experimentation and evolution happen at its own pace. (Sometimes I wonder if the culture is really changing any faster than it always has. It certainly seems that way, but, on the other hand, you can go back a hundred years and find the same bewilderment--just substitute telephones and automobiles for iPods and the Internet.)

One last thought: if we're considering revolutions, we ought to distinguish between bottom-up revolutions (which tend to work rather well, although they take time) and top-down revolutions (which almost always bring unintended consequences that far outweigh any possible benefits). The history of music is one of percolating revolution--there's a reason periods don't acquire a name until sometime afterwards. Right now, modes of presentation are allowed to evolve to match the repertoire being presented. I think the current "we have to change everything now" feeling I sense among administrators and critics verges a little close to a top-down revolution for my taste. A short-term view got us into whatever trouble we're in--a short-term view isn't going to get us out of it.

Incidentally, I love a good mosh pit, but I have trouble keeping the thread of a two-minute punk song while I'm in one, forget about a tricky false recapitulation.

posted by Matthew | 06/21/07, 9:03 AM | permalink

re: How much involvement?

I have to smile at this, because I'm wondering where this dream audience is that "en masse" is going to pick up on the Eroica's 1st mvt. recap "unexpectedly going its own way..." We make music in the hope that every member of the audience picks up on such miracles, but I don't think we're there yet.

Fundamentally I still have to side with ACD on this one. Within the context of audience behavior of the time naturally Mozart would prefer clapping to, say, hissing. Greg, you say "obviously there are many moments when you would not want applause..." but who, then, is going to decide what those are? All it takes is one person to disturb everyone's else's absorption of a given musical moment. In this era of ever-increasing incivility, is this the direction we really want to go?

Classical form cannot be reduced completely to a series of contrasts or an overarching narrative. What is an absolutely sublime moment for some listeners may be merely a passing transition for others, and vice versa. Encouraging or fostering an atmosphere where the way the music is received defaults to the behavior of the most demonstrative of the mass negates the fundamental power of this music as an experience unique to each individual listener.

posted by Phillip | 06/21/07, 6:10 AM | permalink

re: How much involvement?

What a great article, Greg!, What a great solo by Aretha!

posted by Robert Jordahl | 06/21/07, 3:41 AM | permalink

re: How much involvement?

Oh dear indeed -
Mr. Douglas has evidently never had the joy of being in the middle of a mosh-pit..


posted by Jonathan Mayes | 06/21/07, 3:13 AM | permalink

re: How much involvement?

Oh dear. Here we go again.

Greg Sandow writes:

Would we even want what Mozart describes in his letter [concerning the audience response at the first performance of his "Paris" symphony, No. 31, K. 297]?

Somehow, the answer we often seem to jump to is "no." It just doesn't feel right.

But I can think of a very simple reason to say yes: This is what Mozart wanted. We talk a lot, in classical music, about being faithful to the intentions of the great composers. Well, here are Mozart's. He wanted the audience to jump in and applaud. He set that up -- he wrote the piece to make it happen. In a very basic sense, it's what the piece is for. (Well, one of the things it's for.) And yes, he did this in an environment when almost every piece that anybody heard was new, and he also planned his provocations for this particular audience. But still -- how can we think we're doing what he wanted (or how can we think we're giving an authentic performance), if we don't allow one of the things he wanted most?

This choice red herring is a favorite of those who advocate concert hall audiences being permitted, even encouraged, to behave like the denizens of the mosh pit at a rock "concert". The fact is, Mozart wanted that sort of audience response NOT because he thought that's the way audiences should behave, but because it's the way they DID behave when a piece met with their approval. Today's concert hall audiences are way more civilized, way more knowledgeable, and understand the music way better than did audiences of the 18th century if for no reason other than that they've had a couple hundred years more experience of that music. There's no legitimate reason -- none -- for them to comport themselves like little barbarians as did the audiences of the 18th century. Reserve that sort of behavior for the mosh pits where it rightly belongs, and eschew it in the concert hall where it manifestly does not.


posted by A.C. Douglas | 06/20/07, 10:32 PM | permalink

re: A paradigm shift?

Aren't the concepts "building participation" and "engaging" audiences ultimately the same thing. How can you build participation if you don't engage? And how to you engage if people aren't participating? Obviously, hospitals are about the health of patients. Healthy hospitals create healthy patients. So where are we supposedly going here?

I don't find very much new in this blog. The value of orchestras and operas were already being seriously questiond (and seen as outdated) by the 1930s and even earlier. During the 60s composers looked for entirely new paradigms for composer/performer/public relationships. Boulez even stated rather seriously that an elegant solution would be to blow up all of the opera houses. Concepts such as "Happenings" and Pauline Oliveros' "Deep Listening" are just of couple examples the innovations that were created. During the 80s postmodern theory again redefined creator/audience relations. The hierarchies between classical and popular music were questioned, and academic music was thrown into a bad light (finally.) We ended up with "Downtown Lite" and a lot of suburban neo-romantic composers "engaging audiences."

Spin your wheels. In the end, the solutions will always come back to education and funding. As we see in the rest of the entire industrial world, both are best solved by governments, and usually on a municipal and regional level. Of course, the last people to acknowledge this will be those who have built specialized careers dealing with foundations, trust funds, corporations, and the rich. Genuine progress toward public funding would weaken their position and status in society by making them less relevant. Conferences such as the one in Nashville are thus often studies in denial about America's extremist and isolated form of funding. They can't admit the problems are systemic.

William Osborne

posted by William Osborne | 06/20/07, 4:39 PM | permalink

re: The change

Eric: you raise a good point about masterpieces and superiority. I think more than a couple of classical warhorses are overrated, and I hate when they keep turning up as the benchmarks of the genre; but I do think there's a danger of shortchanging the ambition of classical music, particularly Romantic and post-Romantic (in chronology, not necessarily style) music. Of course, the problem is, if you believe that those pieces have worth beyond their own time, you have to keep reintroducing them to subsequent generations. A vicious cycle.

Lindemann: good point about the shorter works (although--and this is just my preference--I'm always loath to separate out Haydn symphony movements). I remember a young Joshua Bell releasing a full-fledged music video for one of the Brahms Hungarian Dances back in the day--dramatic lighting, closeups of the technique, some vaguely gypsy-like lady dancing around, the whole megillah. Didn't get much traction, but it didn't hurt him, either.

As for moving about during an orchestral concert: that's a sticky wicket. Personally--and this is not a joke--I can see concert venues experimenting with the sort of thing movie theaters have been trying: big, comfy chairs/sofas, waiter service, etc. (Of course, Boulez, always on the cutting edge, was trying this with those Rug Concerts way back when.)

posted by Matthew | 06/20/07, 1:24 PM | permalink

re: Smarty Pants

Molly wrote:

But why are we trying to force the music into people's lives? Once they escape public school, there's no organization running around trying to make Americans buy copies of Joyce. If popularizing the orchestra seems a false step, maybe we should go the other way and make it a very exclusive event. Beautiful settings, great food, and an intimate concert performed by the most talented musicians we can find. Premium product, premium price. I believe they did this in the courts of France, and it worked out quite well. (Fine. The general populace can watch via webcam.)

Okay, I didn't really mean that last graph seriously.

Why the hell not? It's a damn good idea, and the way to go. Marketing types and their fellow travelers in the music critic fraternity obsessed with putting "young butts in seats" can't seem to get it through their heads that, "it's not a matter of putting young butts in seats, but of putting the right kind of young butts in seats; butts belonging to those who are in those seats because they've been lured there not by the promise of a circus act or quasi-rock or -pop "concert" or vaudeville show in which classical music plays some part, but by an interest in, curiosity about, or love of classical music," to quote myself.

Your only-kidding graf is, IMNSHO, a start in the right direction.


posted by A.C. Douglas | 06/20/07, 1:01 PM | permalink

re: The change

Unlike Mr. Hessenius, I didn't mean my comments to be personally insulting.

posted by Marc Geelhoed | 06/20/07, 11:51 AM | permalink

re: New Help for and Old Problem

Dear Andrew:

Re: spending more time with potential funders (foundations):

The Giving Institute (formerly American Association of Fund Raising Counsel) won't release its statistical analysis of giving for 2006 until July 1, but it will not be materially different from the 2005 results or any year for which the statistics have been compiled. Of the $260 billion (in round numbers) contributed to non-profits in 2005, living individuals gave $199 billion, or 76.5 percent of total giving. Individuals gave another $17 billion through bequests and other testamentary gifts, or 6.7 percent. Thus individuals, whether living or otherwise engaged, gave a total of $216 billion, or 83.2 percent of total giving.

The remaining $44 billion was given by corporations ($14 billion, 5.3 percent) and foundations ($30 billion, 11.5 percent). The corporate percentage of the pie has remained pretty constant over many years. The foundation slice has grown by four points or so in the past decade, probably due to two phenomena: 1) foundations are required to spend only five percent of their holdings each year (grants and expenses) and thus have seen their portfolios rise with the economy and markets, and 2) increasing numbers of individuals and families have established foundations to manage what otherwise would be individual giving.

So where do gifts come from? Individuals - they give 83 percent of gifts. Where is the first place to which nearly every nonprofit thinks to turn when they need money? Foundations - but they give only 11 percent, and they are awash in proposals which means you have to get in line. By all means, spend time cultivating foundations along with corporations, but be aware that it is likely to be a long courtship. I advise committing more resources to increasing the sophistication your individual solicitations. Follow the money.

posted by James Hopkins CFRE | 06/20/07, 10:48 AM | permalink

re: The change

Oops. The Anonymous comment is mine.

posted by Eric Lin | 06/20/07, 10:16 AM | permalink

re: Greetings from Nashville

Alan, you are right of course about more research and I really appreciated your summary of these key observations - (you research guru you). Reflecting on the various posts, I think part of what we need to determine is what we are measuring and how we are doing that.

Connie Yowell from the MacArthur Foundation addressed this subject at a recent conference on Games for Change. These could easily be applied to our field.

Some of her key points:

1. Research - Are we using old measures to look at new things?
She sited a recent NY Times article about taking lap-tops out of schools in N.J. because 'test results' showed no improvement. But did it actual measure other skills that may have been acquired?
2. The need to shift metrics and also rethink learning environments
3. Look at how learning environments reshape institutions - e.g. what should a library look like, how should one be able to access information?
4. New set of research methodologies

Alan, I can't agree more about the concert experience. The Magic of Music program showed pretty clearly that the people who attended the extra-curricular learning events were the people who were already in the family. New acquaintances didn't come, though they may certainly have enjoyed and gotten value out of the experience if they had. Obviously, the 'whole experience' is important and we need to find ways to make it okay to have a whole range of experiences, some of which are okay at the hall and some perhaps online or in other venues. I want it all - to dance to Bolero and also have attentive listening so profound that you hear your neighbor's watch ticking.

posted by Rebecca | 06/20/07, 10:12 AM | permalink

re: On Mediation: The Pittsburgh Experiment

I agree with you completely. The audience has been left out of the feedback "loop" long enough. They have opinions. They know what they like and what they expect.

I lament the lack of feedback I got as a student musician. Eveyone was afraid of criticism. Without it, we breed, oversensitive and unprepared musicians who don't know a good performance from a bad or worse, mediocre one. They live in an imaginary world where they think they are great.

If there were a venue, electronic or otherwise, where audiences could say what they liked or disliked about various programs, a place where everyone from lighting designers, to divas could be critiqued, the whole industry would benefit.

posted by Megan | 06/20/07, 9:32 AM | permalink

re: The change

Re: Marc Geelhoed's gratuitous trashing of a study I authored for the Hewlett Foundation on Youth Involvement in the Arts, the point of the project was to acknowledge the obstacles arts organizations have in trying to compete for an ever scarcer pool of new, younger talent - be it as future arts leaders, administrators, board members, volunteers, patrons, advocates, audiences or artists - and to try to determine which organizations were addressing those barriers and still succeeding in recruiting and retaining the involvement of younger people so that the rest of the field might replicate some of those strategies that were working. We purposefully focused on strategies that were not expensive to duplicate; did not require extensive staff oversight.

If indeed there are going to be 27 million qualified young people to fill the jobs of the next decade, but 30 million jobs that need filling - obviously some jobs will go unfilled - or filled with not necessarily the best qualified people. How many of those jobs will be in the arts field? Talk about naivete, of course the arts have to make an attempt at involving young people despite the fact they lack the money to do it in some optimum manner. Every business -'for profit' or nonprofit has to do that. You work with what you have.

The purpose of comparing and contrasting what the arts sector has done / is doing with another sector of the nonprofit universe - in this case the environmental movement (chosen because of their success in involving young people)- was so that the arts sector might replicate some / any of those strategies to improve its own attempt when engaging young people. The fact is the environmental groups are more successful in recruiting and involving young people in their organizations. They have some advantages over the arts and lag behind the arts in other ways. They too don't have as much money as they would like in addressing the problem - but unlike many in the arts - including apparently Mr. Geelhoed -they appreciate that they have no choice and look for ways to deal with the situation as it is. They have more successfully embraced use of the internet in communicating with young people; they have more successfully delegated authority in decision making to young people they recruit; they have gotten young people to act as their grassroots advocates and lobbyists; they have begun to tap into young people as financial donors -- all things the arts have yet to do, and would be wise to emulate. You play the cards you were dealt. Or, I guess, some people's attitude is to just not play at all. Good plan.

Indeed the study also points out that the solution to the problems arts organizations face in trying to involve more young people are likely to be "local" - and what will work in Chicago may not work in Pittsburgh.

Those who work to save the whales Mr. Geelhoed -can teach some valuable lessons to those who want to save the philharmonic. Fortunately, there are many in the arts who don't have to struggle with that concept.

posted by Barry Hessenius | 06/20/07, 9:13 AM | permalink

re: We the Audience

Ms. Connor

Anyone who will "plunk down" their hard-earned cash has likely already done some advance research. How many movies do you watch that you haven't read any reviews of? How many dance performances do you go to where you have no idea what to expect from the choreographer? How many books do you read where you haven't at least read the back cover or the dustjacket?

I once went to a club to see the Norwegian pop singer Annie. A young woman was bouncing on a couch singing along at the top of her lungs to a song from her album Anniemal which hadn't, technically, been released yet. Most people have at least an inkling of what they're getting into, and are far from flying blind.

posted by Marc Geelhoed | 06/20/07, 8:30 AM | permalink

re: The change

Hey Matthew,

Thanks for the response. Ok, I agree with the notion that some of the panicky, 'we're cool too!--we're like rock!' attitudes are neither helpful, nor does it make classical music look cool. (In a way, it kind of reminds me of the awkward kid that can never get the girl, and the more desperate he gets, the less attractive he is to the girl)

This sort of attitude is fundamentally useless and worse of all, misrepresents what classical music is.

Yet, you must admit there are a good portion of folks to still believe in a 'Classical Music is great! It's the best music because it has complexity that no other music has!' model. I'm not going to argue whether I think 'Western Classical Music' is inherently better or not compared to other music; my opinion on the issue is beside the point.

I think this model is fundamentally unhealthy--I have many literature savvy friends and they have debates about the merit of Joyce and Faulkner all the time. Thus, even aknoledged classics and 'masterpieces' can be open to discussion. I love it when every so often, some guy denounces a landmark album like Sargent Peppers and says its really not as great an album as everyone says--it's a provocative act and it opens up discussion about the merit of art.

Yet, our current approach to Classical Music is that the Masterpieces are perfect: that is what's taught in music appreciation courses (at least most of them--and these are the bad ones). There is an aspect of untouchable reverence to say a Beethoven Symphony. God forbid if one day I said the Fifth Symphony is not really that great! (I don't really think that by the way...)

I certainly don't believe in 'dumbing down' classical music to make it look more like rock music (it sure as hell doesn't SOUND like it). That certainly won't do any long term good--but, I must say, condescending 'educational programs' started by orchestras in recent years don't do much either. They're fundamentally boring and function with a complete misunderstand our culture today. I find the titles of programs such as these laughable: "What makes it Great?" Maybe I am nitpicking, but doesn't this presume that a piece is 'great' and without fault?

Perhaps its not that audience education is bad, but rather the METHOD in which we educate or encourage involvement.

Ok, I know I'm starting to go off on a tangent, but here's the deal, I just want to say that I'm not disagreeing with anything that you've written, Matthew. In fact, I find most if not all of your reasoning valid.

Further, if you read my earlier post, I never did advocate for a rock music like presentation for Classical Music.

Ugg, I feel like I need to collect my thoughts in a more organized format--an essay or something. Comments of a blog aren't ideal.

P.S. Greg, Thanks for reposting my comments in this discussion! I'm glad you found it interesting enough for a wider audience.

posted by | 06/20/07, 8:03 AM | permalink

re: The change

I agree with Eric that it is difficult to get a visceral experience for certain pieces when you are concentrating on sitting absolutely perfectly serenely still. "Bolero" wants you to feel the rhythm, and you feel it with your body. (Or I do, and Eric apparently does, and I know a whole bunch of other people do also.) The way classical music is currently presented asserts that listening is entirely an experience of the mind, that the body is merely a container for the brain and the perceptive organs. I just don't see it. I'm not asking for a concert hall experience in which I am allowed to replicated my home listening experience (to jump around like a four-year-old on a sugar high, as I do to parts of the last movement of "Scheherazade," or to pound on the nearest piece of furniture for emphasis, as I often do in the final pages of the "Death and the Maiden" quartet), but the current concert hall ethos allows for absolutely no reaction in the body, which is just silly.

To put this another way: Are Dvorak's "Slavonic Dances," or Haydn's symphonic minuets, classical music? Not if we use Matthew's criteria: "the long forms, the frequently gentle sound-world, the striving on the part of the composer for a universal, sublime (in the 19th-century definition) experience." But they do get played in concert halls. Is the current concert hall ethos suited for appreciating this music? My gut (and my butt) tell me no.

posted by Lindemann | 06/20/07, 7:27 AM | permalink

re: The change

Marc: I agree with you--more and more, the action is on the local level, and the engagement isn't going to come from broad one-size-fits-all initiatives, but from the efforts of enthusiasts and performers within the community.

Eric: the point isn't that classical music shouldn't change, it changes all the time. But if the change you're advocating is going to fundamentally interfere with the ability of listeners to hear the aspects of the repertoire that distinguish it from other forms of music--the long forms, the frequently gentle sound-world, the striving on the part of the composer for a universal, sublime (in the 19th-century definition) experience--then maybe the rewards of classical music aren't what you're looking for. (And let me be absolutely clear: I'm not implying that those rewards are superior to the rewards of pop, rock, or jazz.) Concert presentations evolve over time to best suit the needs of each genre's audience--imposing a large-scale change imported from another genre is just borad-brush prescriptivism that ignores the expectations inherent in each style. It's one thing for classical music to generate new methods of presentation that grow up alongside new forms of musical discourse. (Bang On a Can, etc.) It's very much another to panic at attendance figures and insist that orchestras should be like rock bands, which is a bad marriage even if you consider that concept in a non-facile way.

If society changes to the point that there's no longer a need for the sort of experience that the classical repertoire of the past 200 years provides, then I would rather society move on to a repertoire that does meet their needs instead of trying to package up classical in a way that trivializes it. I don't believe that society is changing in that direction, though. Nor do I believe that it should--one of the things that seems to be lost in this conversation is the notion that art should point towards an ideal, not follow the population around pandering to their immediate wants. I still need to experience the classical repertoire, not as a nostalgia trip, but as a vital source of the sorts of virtues--reflection, universality, an appreciation of the complexity of the human condition--that are going to guide the only way forward for humanity that doesn't involve widescale conflict and fear.

So I don't object to the sort of rock-style change that's being suggested simply because it's change, but because it's fundamentally a craven apology from people who don't believe the repertoire has the power to inspire in the 21st-century. Look over here, it says, you like rock music. Well, now we're just like rock music, too! The rock music experience evolved to serve rock music. Any other genre just dumped into another mold without a pre-existing coherent engagement with its ideals and goals only reduces the visitor to a facile, surface-level version of itself. (Think about rock music played by an orchestra, for example.) You think I'm hypocritical--I think you're cynical.

By the way, "Bolero" is plenty visceral in a concert hall. Isn't that the point?

posted by Matthew | 06/20/07, 6:55 AM | permalink

re: On Mediation: The Pittsburgh Experiment

The myth: orchestras simply don't want to have fun, they play shrouded in seriousness, they ought to just cut loose.

I wonder why the bottom line is "fun" insofar as it means a lack of seriousness? After all, what's wrong with a temple? Yes, I admit that this is blood and guts music that is often mistaken for holy writ, but come on, what's wrong with something being a little holy?

I spent 18 or so hours at symphony space watching a group of devoted people both take James Joyce (our most difficult son) deeply seriously and enjoy themselves doing it. Was it "fun" in the way of Knocked Up or an Iggy Pop concert? Not hardly, but there are times I want to be serious. I think, then, when I am repeatedly told that's the attitude supposedly killing the music I love most, it puts me off.

If people want rock bands, who supposedly cut loose, they are out there, they should go see them. Yes, I think the shroud of mystery should be lifted a little, but that's a matter of availabilty and not accesibility. What's wrong, from time to time, with having to work for something. There's great reward there.

posted by Daniel Felsenfeld | 06/19/07, 11:03 PM | permalink

re: The change

I think it's crucial for these arguements to separate the music business from the music, or the arts from "the arts." I mean, if "the arts" are behind, removed from the real world, who's in it? Hollywood? Bloggers? The smart people at HBO? I wonder. We all, whatever we do (unless we make guns or bombs) live in something of a shadow world, time we admitted it.

Seabrook's book makes your point in an oblique way: that once something like a Dylan (or, in the book, Star Wars) exists, zillions of capitalists (not artists, but "the arts") seek to replicate it for profit. This changes the climate, making the thing they are seeking to replicate impossible in its subsequent iteration. The world changes, gets more expensive, tires of things quicker.

Why, I wonder, is an orchestra playing more like a rock band so appealing? Because more people see rock bands? Rock is as dead as anything--the whole "music business" is in massive trouble, with a lucky few CEO's wealthily scraping by while middle people suffer, and new artists with something interesting to say are often shunted away for easier fixes. Same problems, different timbres. So a classical concert aping that is something like an Elvis impersonator, and who qualifies that as art, more "the arts."

I think the important distinction to draw is when one is speaking of the business and of the visionaries who care to carry on the tradition. Mr. Sandow, you are a pessimist, and the world needs pessimists, but I wonder how effective this sort of thinking is in fixing the problems. After all, anyone can say the sky is falling.

posted by Music Lover | 06/19/07, 10:55 PM | permalink

re: Smarty Pants

Yet again very interesting and stimulating thoughts, Molly. You humorously suggest that we might consider elite, exclusive concerts for the wealthy. Actually, we have many practices similar to that already. The Met, for example, holds numerous Galas and other special events for rich people that are almost exactly what you describe.

For perspective, we might look at ticket prices at the Met and compare them to the Stuttgart Opera. (Forgive me for the sea of numerical data here. This would best be presented with graphs and charts.) In 2001, the Met's website showed that the average price for a ticket was about $150. (It's probably a good bit more now.) By comparison, the website of the Stuttgart opera showed that the average price of its tickets was only $30. Tickets for the Met were thus on average five times more expensive than in Stuttgart. ( The gap is likely wider now.)

It should also be noted that Stuttgart is a world class house. In 2001, critics had named it the best opera house in Germany for two years running.

The problems with high priced tickets at the Met are made even worse because it runs a priority ticket, and special privileges service, for its extensive donor program. In 2001, the donor program was broken into categories that required donations ranging from $1500 to $15,000. The more money given, the more privileges. Members in each category are given names such as "Subscribers, Patrons, and Guild Members." There is competition among the donors for special status, so the sums for entitlements actually go many, many times higher.

The worst part is that most of the good seats at the Met are only available to people in the donor program. Here is how the Met website described the situation:

"Subscribers to Full-Series or Mini-Series receive the best seats in the
house which are guaranteed for renewal each year. Subscribers', Patrons',
and Guild Members' ticket requests are processed before tickets go on sale
to the general public. Additionally, Subscribers have exclusive privileges
including ticket exchanges, advance notice of all Met performances, and
priority invitations to Galas and other Special Events."

People can thus be assured of getting good seats ONLY if they are in the donor program. And as noted, these "Galas and other Special Events" are for the most part exactly like the elitist, wine-and-cheese under candelabra events you humorously suggested. Those who only donate $1500 are often not even invited to the Galas. Those who pay around $7000 are allowed into special bars at the Met. Those who donate $15,000 get to sit closer to the artists at lavish, gala dinners. Those who donate millions get to sit even closer, and so.

The "series" ticket packages reserved for donors range from 6 to 10 tickets. For the most economical decent seats (Dress Circle) the series prices for a couple were from $960 to $1600. For the most expensive seats it cost a couple from $1650 to $2750.

But the reserved seating program required on average a donation of $7000. Combined with the average series ticket prices for a couple, the sum came to about $9000 a year. What middle class couple can shell out around $9000 for six opera evenings per season in mid-range seats? By contrast, six evenings for a couple in excellent seats at the Stuttgart Opera would cost less than $200. In fact, in 2001 the most expensive seats in the house were only $70. And a status oriented donor program doesn't even exist.

I admire the attempts of the Met and many other arts organizations to reach a wider public, but they face systemic problems in funding that create forms of cultural plutocracy. The preferential treatment given to the wealthy in many of our top cultural institutions is often distastefully ostentatious. It is exactly our funding system that creates these exorbitant prices and repugnant patrician rituals that drive people away from classical music.

When was the last time you had an orchestra level seat for opera in all of its glory, performed by a top notch professional ensemble in a real, fully equipped opera house? Do you even plan to experience that in your life time? In the United States, about 250 million (a quarter of a billion) people would have to travel hundreds of miles to see an opera in a real opera house. Including the trip, it would probably cost them at least a couple thousand dollars. These problems with the performing arts are an astounding circumstance for the richest country in the history of humanity.

Anyway, our funding system really is a joke, Molly.

(There are two state-funded "experimental" ensembles in Europe like the ones Steven Tepper suggested. If I have time before this blog ends, I will write about them and some of their projects. I am tied up with things so I might not make it.)

William Osborne

posted by William Osborne | 06/19/07, 10:26 PM | permalink

re: The change

Matthew, I buy your point that just because certain conventions of performance and audience behavior were true back in Mozart's days, it doesn't mean that we have to try to emulate those practices in performances today. (But try telling that to 'authentic' and 'period' performance specialists...apparently authentic performance means only 'authenticity' from the performers. Some day I'm gonna get dressed up in 18th century European garb and start imitating the actions of 18th century audiences...)

What I'm find problematic about your (and some other posters) is the somewhat hypocritical message that you guys are sending. You acknowledge that 'classical music' (little 'c' classical) has essentially changed from the 18th century version with new ideas from 19th century Romantics and certainly with 20th century Modernists and 21st-century Post-Modernists etc.

You write: "Pointing to the 18th-century Classical era relationship between music and listener ignores the fact that the revolution in thought brought about by the 19th-century romanticists completely changed the way we expect to interact with art, the way we think about our individuality, the way we construct that individuality within our experience of the world."

So, when Greg and others remind us that the performer/listener relationship in 'classical music' used to different, people balk and say that it's changed for the better: performances and no longer noisy and we can finally hear the music! Why revert back to the old ways?

Herein lies the hypocrisy of the position: Why does Classical music have to stay the way it is now? Did we really approach and reach the 'best and final' stage for classical music? Is introspective listening REALLY the best format? Perhaps Greg and others (and I myself) simply hope for another revolution; another change in the way we approach the performing arts. If the Romantics were allowed to do it, I'm sure we can too.

Now, am I advocating that introspective and attentive listening (for all the wonderful modulations and thematic and motivic transformations or what not) is bad? No! Surely a late Beethoven String Quartet or Bach's Passions deserves that sort of attentive listening. But what about the third movement of Ades' Asyla? What about Bolero? What about a Strauss waltz? Surely, this music 'wants' the listener to be visceral. By G-d, listening to music originally meant for movement, (or evokes dance music) in the dead stillness of a huge concert hall doesn't always make me too comfortable. I'm not advocating that we shouldn't listen to Bolero in rapt silence anymore--but, is that the ONLY way to listen?
nce specialists...apparently authentic performance means only 'authenticity' from the performers. Some day I'm gonna get dressed up in 18th century European garb and start imitating the actions of 18th century audiences...)

What I'm find problematic about your (and some other posters) is the somewhat hypocritical message that you guys are sending. You acknowledge that 'classical music' (little 'c' classical) has essentially changed from the 18th century version with new ideas from 19th century Romantics and certainly with 20th century Modernists and 21st-century Post-Modernists etc.

You write: "Pointing to the 18th-century Classical era relationship between music and listener ignores the fact that the revolution in thought brought about by the 19th-century romanticists completely changed the way we expect to interact with art, the way we think about our individuality, the way we construct that individuality within our experience of the world."

So, when Greg and others remind us that the performer/listener relationship in 'classical music' used to different, people balk and say that it's changed for the better: performances and no longer noisy and we can finally hear the music! Why revert back to the old ways?

Herein lies the hypocrisy of the position: Why does Classical music have to stay the way it is now? Did we really approach and reach the 'best and final' stage for classical music? Is introspective listening REALLY the best? Perhaps Greg and others (and I myself) simply hope for another revolution; another change in the way in the approach to the performing arts. If the Romantics were allowed to do it, I'm sure we can too.

Now, am I advocating that introspective and atentative listening (for all the wonderful modulations and thematic and motivic transformations or what not) is bad? No! Surely a late Beethoven String Quartet deserves that sort of listening. But what about the third movement of Ades' Asyla? What about Bolero? What about a Strauss waltz? Surely, this music 'wants' the listener to be visceral. By G-d, listening to music originally meant for movement, (or evokes dance music) in the dead stillness of a huge concert hall doesn't make me all too comfortable. I'm not advocating that we can't listen to Bolero in rapt silence--but, is that the ONLY way to listen?

posted by Eric Lin | 06/19/07, 5:58 PM | permalink

re: The change

Your "real world" is no more or less real than the world of classical music. Whatever portion of the culture you're holding up as an example--I don't care if it's pop, or jazz, or steampunk, or politics, or investment banking, or haute cuisine, or motocross enthusiasts--is its own construct, the rules, codes, and boundaries fashined over time by its participants. Dylan's great stuff, but saying that it's somehow more "real" than a Beckett play, or a Beethoven quartet, or even a Jerry Bruckheimer movie is merely a statement that you subjectively find whatever stylistic trappings or semiotic signals associated with that particular subculture to effectively communicate a sense of "authenticity" that's personally satisfying.

If that's what's most "real" to you, that's fine. But trying to impose that particular cultural construct onto classical music, is, ultimately, an admission that you don't trust classical music anymore. I've played back every classical concert I've been to in the past year in my mind--new music, early music, warhorses, obscurities, orchestras, quartets, soloists--and I can't think of one where the performers weren't physically engaged with the music, and where that engagement wasn't apparent to the audience. But it's subtle--they're not telegraphing a theatrical physicality like it's a stadium concert. Their movements, their physical demeanor, is in service of the music, because they believe that's what ultimately matters.

That may not be the way it's always been, but that's the way it's been for the past two centuries. Pointing to the 18th-century Classical era relationship between music and listener ignores the fact that the revolution in thought brought about by the 19th-century romanticists completely changed the way we expect to interact with art, the way we think about our individuality, the way we construct that individuality within our experience of the world. People may have listened to Mozart differently in his own time, but they were listening for different things; Mozart's music persists because, underneath its 18th-century surface, he was fashioning structures that resonated with the ubiquity of being alive. The crucial point is not that Mozart is still being played today, but that less sublime composers aren't. (No such thing as a Mostly Dittersdorf festival.) The Western classical tradition still matters to some of us not because of the prevailing conditions at the time of its creation, but because the condition of living in the 21st-century world is made more comprehensible by the universality that great composers embed in their creations in spite of their distance in time and culture.

That doesn't mean that I walk around wishing that rock music was more like classical music. If it was, it wouldn't be rock music, and vice versa. I don't expect anybody to love classical music just because it's classical music; while I'm convinced that its importance in my own life is something that could conceivably be shared by more people than there are now, I don't begrudge rock fans their own taste--we all choose what's most important to us. But I do get suspicious when people who claim to love classical music as much as I do insist that the way I experience it is all wrong.

posted by Matthew | 06/19/07, 1:17 PM | permalink

re: The change

The more I read these posts and forums and symposia, it strikes me
ever more forcefully that the solutions to these problems are local.
What works in Chicago will fall flat in Pittsburgh, and vice versa. Audience priorities, levels of experience and engagement, and flat-out dedication are all different from city to city, market to market. At any rate, Messiaen will get a different crowd here than he will in Pittsburgh. What this means is that attempting to find solutions that will work across the board, across the nation is like trying to navigate Chicago's El with a New York subway map: Sure, they both use trains and travel on tracks and have color-coded signage, but the similarities end there.

This extends to the presentation of the artforms and the choices made in extending invitations to artists. Pierre-Laurent Aimard may sell out Zankel Hall, but
he won't sell out 300 seats in Indianapolis, I guarantee it, and I say that as someone who went to college there and continues to admire that city and its citizens.

The Hewlett Foundation study Sandow ecstatically cites about arts
organizations engaging young people to work for them and to serve on their boards is naivete in written form. It acknowledges that most arts organizations
don't have money for the extra training a young staff requires, yet
says they'd better do it, anyway.

The mot juste/nail in the coffin
that kept me from taking the study at all seriously was when they said that environmental groups have done an outstanding job w/ bringing in young workers, and arts organizations should try to model themselves on them and follow their success. I'm struggling to find the connection between Save the Whales and Save the New York Philharmonic.

posted by Marc Geelhoed | 06/19/07, 12:42 PM | permalink

re: The change

The more I read these posts and forums and symposia, it strikes me
ever more forcefully that the solutions to these problems are local.
What works in Chicago will fall flat in Pittsburgh, and vice versa. Audience priorities, levels of experience and engagement, and flat-out dedication are all different from city to city, market to market. At any rate, Messiaen will get a different crowd here than he will in Pittsburgh. What this means is that attempting to find solutions that will work across the board, across the nation is like trying to navigate Chicago's El with a New York subway map: Sure, they both use trains and travel on tracks and have color-coded signage, but the similarities end there.

This extends to the presentation of the artforms and the choices made in extending invitations to artists. Pierre-Laurent Aimard may sell out Zankel Hall, but
he won't sell out 300 seats in Indianapolis, I guarantee it, and I say that as someone who went to college there and continues to admire that city and its citizens.

The Hewlett Foundation study Sandow ecstatically cites about arts
organizations engaging young people to work for them and to serve on their boards is naivete in written form. It acknowledges that most arts organizations
don't have money for the extra training a young staff requires, yet
says they'd better do it, anyway.

The mot juste/nail in the coffin
that kept me from taking the study at all seriously was when they said that environmental groups have done an outstanding job w/ bringing in young workers, and arts organizations should try to model themselves on them and follow their success. I'm struggling to find the connection between Save the Whales and Save the New York Philharmonic.

posted by Marc Geelhoed | 06/19/07, 12:41 PM | permalink

re: The problem with government funding

Dear Greg:

When we look for government funding, organizing, and lobbying, I contend we focus on the wrong place. Federal funds function as a big band-aid, or perhaps a tourniquet would be a more apt analogy, in that the application thereof stops the bleeding but risks the limb.

Orchestras must organize locally. Pack the school board meetings. Demand music education in the schools, taught by music educators as a basic component of the primary and secondary school curriculum. Be prepared to do this for years. At every school board meeting in every school district in the United States for the foreseeable future parents and concerned citizens must show up in force and demand funding for music education and generally cause trouble.

We've tried for too long to fill the music education gap with kiddie concerts, ensembles in the schools, etc. That's all valuable, but it does not have the impact of a regular course of study taught in the classroom. The federal government cannot do this for us. We must organize locally, bring local political pressure to bear on school boards, and run our own candidates for school board positions.

In politics, especially local politics, organized, persistent, and vocal minorities get much of what they want. We've been distracted by the promise of big federal money for forty years. Put meaningful music education back in the schools, taught by professional educators, and we will find our audience in the next generation.

posted by James Hopkins, CFRE | 06/19/07, 10:23 AM | permalink

re: Musicians and engagement

Greg Sandow continually uses the example of the orchestra as the starting and ending point for most of his views concerning the state of classical music and certainly one cannot argue with many of his observations as they apply to that institution. But as you point out, quartets (or any chamber music group with one-to-a-part) are more fun to watch, because the music demands that sort of interaction between them. If they're bona fide musicians, they're not moving around for the sake of moving around, though.

Which brings me to a couple of other points: this belief that movement-for-its-own-sake is essential for classical music to reach its audience has resulted in many performers who substitute a lot of dramatic-looking thrashing-about for actual expressive content. We can all think of many examples of this phenomenon.

Secondly, I find it extremely hard to believe that there are very many examples of teachers at the level of Juilliard or other top music schools who actually forbid facial expressiveness or moving in any way in relationship to the rhythm of the music. I know an enormous number of teachers at that school, other conservatories, or other major university music schools, and I have never encountered one who takes that draconian view. The student(s) who related this to Mr. Sandow may have misunderstood the directive. Many teachers, myself included, may direct the student away from extraneous motion that makes them LESS able to expressively convey what they would like, towards physical motion that enhances their expressive goal.

posted by Phillip | 06/19/07, 9:06 AM | permalink

re: The problem with government funding

Greg makes the same mistake the arts continue to make. Gaining government funds has little to do with what your argument is or is not. It has to do with politics and politics has to do with fundraising, lobbying and playing the political game.

The arts have more than enough arguments to justify increased government funding support - benefits to the economy, to civic life, to education, to tourism, etc. etc. What the arts don't have is any organized, political muscle that would allow them to lobby effectively. As a special interest group (and in the overall scheme of politics, that is what the arts are - a special interest group - no more, no less), whether or not the arts succeed at winning greater government support has little to do with how you "justify" what you want, and everything to do with whether or not you have political clout. And clout comes from what kind of lobbying and campaign support machinery you have developed. It is naive to ask "what can we tell them". What you tell them is that there is money and votes for elected officials that support the arts, and that money and those votes go elsewhere for those who do not support the arts. Again, it isn't about a sector's "arguments" - that's not how the political system works.

Now if the arts sector doesn't want to be political, doesn't want to engage in the process, doesn't have the "will" to do so - that's another thing. That's fine, but don't confuse the reason why government funding doesn't increase to the extent desired with not having a good argument.

posted by Barry Hessenius | 06/19/07, 8:16 AM | permalink

re: Musicians and engagement

I work in a concert hall where many different orchestras perform, from first class orchestras with mediatic conductors to young amateur orchestras. From my experience I must say that you do not need very enthusiastic musicians in an orchestra to experience the most exciting concert. However, when you see musicians smiling to each other, glimpsing with complicity through the performance and moving and breathing with the music, the audience tends to respond with much more enthusiasm. Therefore, the task of the public performance linked to joy and amusement is easily fulfilled.

posted by Jose Sanchis | 06/19/07, 1:20 AM | permalink

re: Audience as Orchestra?

Dear Laura:

It was easy to mistake me for Sasha, I know (and it gave me a fleeting cosmopolitan sort of thrill), but I'm James. And please forgive my tardiness in responding; I generally reserve weekends for computerless pursuits.

I'm happy to see that you find something to ponder in my posting, and I wish to comment upon your remark, "We mustn't forget, however, that our primary service as artists is to the composers and creators of art moreso than audiences. An audience may hate what we do from time to time, and although this can't be our goal, it can't and shouldn't be completely avoided."

I contend we must primarily serve composers AND audiences. Composers known beyond the confines of their attics create art within some shared context, and the sharing implies that at least one other person understands that which is being communicated. "Art for art's sake" is not the professional's creed; professionals create with an economic imperative, seeking compensation for their art from perhaps a single patron, a college music department, an adoring public, or somebody who will pay, and thus make the continued creation of art possible. If composers must be mindful of their audience, how can we not be mindful of ours? Of course our audience may not be their audience, but if I wish to champion a difficult work I need to educate our audience. It does little good to make people sit through something they are not prepared to receive.

There is so much to say on this and related topics, and from so many perspectives...but I won't bore you too much longer. But I do wish to restate the theme of this entire discussion in this way: the ubiquity of electronic communication has empowered the audience with near-infinite choice, and we ignore an empowered audience at our - and our art's - economic peril.

We face not so much an artistic problem as an economic problem, and the grousing about audiences I've read over the past few days tells me it we face an educational problem as well. First, we must educate ourselves to respect and embrace our audience, and then to educate them to develop a deeper appreciation for our art. Dismissing them risks our art's undoing in the long run, or perhaps in a shorter run than we can imagine given the increasing rapidity with which so much vapidity is sold as music to hapless holders of I-Pods and cell phones.

I also suspect some of the dismissive attitude toward our audience stems from fear of "selling out," of cravenly composing or performing music for economic benefit (pops concerts excepted, of course). Several great composers come to mind, however, who wrote simultaneously and successfully for the musical elite, the musical middle, and the musically dull: Bach (chorale preludes, cantatas), Mozart (Die Zauberflöte - who besides he and Frank Loesser has begun a theatrical entertainment with a fugue?) to name but two.

But we are not the great Bach, or Mozart, or even the lesser...okay, I'll spare you the pun. Maybe we need to walk up and down the aisles drawing diagrams and explaining what the heck is going on up in the front. Or maybe we are slogging uphill against a pervasive message repeated through generations that "classical" music is hard, or boring, or fear-inducing.

It's not the case, of course. But it is the case that the mid-20th century audiences that built the orchestras and at least wanted to understand music are about gone. In their place have risen the musically neglected and their offspring, great swaths of whom were given little or no opportunity during their miserably inadequate educations to sing in the chorus, play an instrument, or develop an appreciation for great music. They are now our audience, and God bless them for showing up at all. They need us to embrace them, respect them, teach them, and give them a love for great music both established and new that our orchestras play so well.

That'll be awfully darned difficult, but won't it be worth it?

posted by James Hopkins, CFRE | 06/18/07, 9:19 PM | permalink

re: Musicians and engagement

Robert, are you talking about Schickele's faux baseball commentary version? That's a great recording.

posted by Eric Lin | 06/18/07, 8:17 PM | permalink

re: Musicians and engagement

Though it is rare among orchestras, the Berlin Philharmonic encourages its members to move when they play - by that is meant swaying around in their chairs. It is rumored that you can't pass your trial year there if you don't wobble enough. They stress that it is important for the members to show enthusiasm. New members are judged by whether or not they are "begeisterungsfähig" which roughly translates as "capable of being enthused." In Germany the orchestra is sometime nick named "The Wobblers." Catch a video of them sometime. You will likely see what I am talking about.

William Osborne

posted by William Osborne | 06/18/07, 7:57 PM | permalink

re: A sports moment

One of the best ways to draw more attention to musicians' personalities would be to do away with (or add modifications to) one of classical music's most entrenched traditions: the dress code. No matter what is being performed -- whether liturgical music of the late 17th century or modern music of the 20th century -- musicians and their conductors always look like they're performing at a high socity ball in 19th century Vianna. Even period ensembles do this. One concert I have in mind was by a period ensemble performing Bach's St. Matthews Passion. Everything was done according to historical accuracy. Everything except the dress, that is, which was even more formal than usual, with the males soloists in white ties and tails and the female soloists in flowing ball gowns. Changing the dress code would be a very easy was to convey personality to an audience, but that can't happen until classical music overcomes the ghost of Beethoven and realize that it's in the 21st century. Audiences would be much more likely to give classical music a try -- and give classical music sustained attention -- if orchestras did away with the high culture pretense and dressed more honestly.

posted by John Stoehr | 06/18/07, 2:18 PM | permalink

re: The problem with government funding

Some very interesting neo-con arguments against public funding for the arts, Greg. Perhaps the Wall Street Journal will give you a raise. :-)

But seriously, it's true, America now has such widespread cultural illiteracy, and it has such a pervasively debasing mass media, that most Americans have no idea why public support for the arts would be beneficial.

It's a very clever argument you make. Through not funding the arts, and through eliminating arts education, we are destroying appreciation for our cultural heritage. Then we turn around and use that lack of appreciation as a justification for -continuing- to not fund the arts. Bravo! It's almost Orwellian.

Of course, decent educations would leave people with few doubts about why classical music is invaluable. Perhaps that's why you attack arts education as well. Let's protect the tender ears of our children from the evils of the musical cannon. See:


I am all for brave new worlds, but not those shaped by aesthetic zealotry. We should beware of ideologically driven artists who want to clear the stage of every kind of music they personally don't believe in, including much of our classical music heritage. This is a surprisingly wide-spread problem among composers. I have suffered from it myself.

European arts funding fundamentally disproves Baumol's theory. The cost of the arts there have actually remained stable. The German orchestra musicians union has not had a single strike during the 27 years I have lived there. For the most part, salaries have only been adjusted for inflation. (Compare that to what Baumol's "market" has done to gasoline prices.)

And let's not fall for the specious argument that something so utterly subtle and complex as arts appreciation can be summed up in five pages or less for Jesse Helms and his ilk.

Greg, please be careful. Your arguments are shaped by a totalizing aesthetic zealotry. That's OK for a composer, but very unfortunate for those involved in arts administration.

William Osborne

posted by William Osborne | 06/18/07, 1:08 PM | permalink

re: The problem with government funding

There's another argument against increased government funding, or at least against any belief that government funding would be a stable remedy for the arts' fiscal problems.

Actually, the cost-disease is the main economic argument for government subsidization of the arts, as it argues that the free market will, as time goes on, render the fixed costs of performance more and more expensive relative to the economy as a whole. In other words, orchestras and opera houses can operate at levels of efficiency that would make Frederick Taylor weep for joy, and they'll still lose money. Hence the need for outside funding to make up the difference. (That's if you buy the theory, or course--since Baumol and Bowen first suggested it, market-oriented economists have been trying to poke holes in it.) There's a perennial discussion in this country over whether the best source of that money is public or private, but Baumol's point was that subsidization is increasingly necessary, not increasingly futile.

Looking at government funding solely through a federal lens distorts any arguments for the arts towards broad-stroke meaninglessness. NEA funding isn't insubstantial, but in the grand scheme of things, it's largely symbolic. On the more important state and local level, though, the argument is an easy one: a healthy arts community increases the "livability" of a city or state, making it more attractive to possible residents/workers/businesses, etc. And while it's easy to roll one's eyes at yet another economic-impact study, having data that says the arts are providing this many jobs in your district/county/ward and pumping this much money into your constituents' businesses is speaking in politicians' language. (Again, there may be holes to be poked in any specific argument, but this is the argument that's most often being made, not some appeal to arts-are-good-for-you elitism.)

posted by Matthew | 06/18/07, 12:17 PM | permalink

re: Also RE: "Is Retro good?"

Those are very interesting thoughts, Molly. In the mid 1980s, the Symphony Orchestra Project at Harvard under Prof. Richard Hackman found that the only profession among their surveyed groups that had lower job satisfaction than orchestra musicians were prison guards. If I remember right, even beer truck drivers were happier.

I have had a LOT of contact with orchestra musicians, and I can tell you the study is true. The work is boring, stressful, and repetitive, and worse, it is deeply authoritarian and hierarchical.

Strangely, I have also noticed that the large majority of full-time orchestra musicians don't often make other kinds of music, even if they have the free time or money to do so. Orchestras seem to sap the desire for creativity almost completely out of them. In fact, many creative musicians avoid orchestras like a plague, but they usually have few alternatives for making a living.

There are always a small few in an orchestra who really do want to make other kinds of music, and they seem to find ways to do so. Most of it is chamber music and very traditional - string quartets, and brass and woodwind quintets are common examples. Some of the first chairs aspire to solo work, but are usually frustrated by the lack of invitations. Only the tiniest number deeply involve themselves with new music, or even new methods of presenting traditional music.

Even in Europe, public funding of music is of little help because almost all of the money goes to orchestras and operas (I would say 99%), though there are a small number of performers who make good livings doing just new music. This is possible because Europe has many more new music festivals and they are better funded.

I advocate for better public arts funding, but from a more personal perspective as a composer, I refuse to even write for orchestras, and rather wish they would just fall off the planet. I know that is very ironic, but that is art. It seems that to strengthen the new, we must strengthen the old.

William Osborne

posted by William Osborne | 06/18/07, 11:57 AM | permalink

re: Also RE: "Is Retro good?"

While it's certainly true that orchestra musicians do not, for the most part, get to choose their attire for the concert hall, and while it is also true that their jobs become, to some (presumably large) extent, drudgery (just like most jobs), it's oftentimes hard to see our way out of the thicket.

Some have suggested a slight tweak to the orchestral wardrobe -- say, updating it from 1850 to something closer to 1880, or even 1900. But bringing whalebone into the concert hall might not quite solve the problem of low morale.

That's where Molly's fresh and brilliant idea hits us full in the face, like pie:

Rather than ask that foundations and corporations dole out funding to arts groups merely to keep them in tuxes and sheet music or whatever, Molly (if I read her correctly) is suggesting something bolder:

Give the money directly to the musicians. And not just a little bit, either. Not just enough for some new clothes. Enough, in essence, to make them all "independently wealthy."

Even if it only means Prada and Armani instead of whatever was the haute orchestral couture in the 19th century.

posted by klinger | 06/18/07, 10:29 AM | permalink

re: Some Questions

One cannot discuss the issue of arts participation (attendance, appreciation, engagement...) without talking about the level of education which, by all standards, has been rather abysmal in this country for over a generation. My father, who teaches European History at one of the best American universities, has recently given his history(!) majors a test to gage their general cultural awareness. In response to the question "What is cubism?" one of the students wrote "Cubism was the war between USA and Spain for the independence of Cuba." I suppose it is a "chicken-and-egg" sort of dilemma but one simply cannot ignore it.

posted by Nastya | 06/18/07, 9:50 AM | permalink

re: Our Conversation Starts Thursday Morning

I share William Osborne's conclusion as to arts funding in America as at the heart of our systemic problems. Both the Fine Arts and the more "popular arts" - encompassing everything from classical to avant garde - from music to video and everything in between, need support so as to promote creation and increase public access, and that support absolutely MUST have some public funding component (all the foundation, corporate, patron and other pockets of support simply aren't as deep as the public trough). And public funding in America is pathetically, ridiculously, unacceptably inadequate, and yet it is accepted - by the arts community, the public and the media. And so, for example, California ranks dead last of all 50 states in per capita state support at 3 cents. THREE cents. And has languished in that position for going on four years now. Why? Because there is essentially no "political will" to change that reality, and because to the scant extent their is any willingness to act to change the situation, the arts community here, as elsewhere, clings to the erroneous assumption that if the field can "just more convincingly make the case for the value art brings", legislators and elected officials who control the decision making as to that public funding, will "see the light" and miraculously change their attitudes and not only fund the arts but address the other needs of the sector. That "Oliver Twist" mentality totally ignores political reality and how the system works. Poor little Oliver - holding his bowl out and meekly asking" "Pleas Sir, can I have some more" - thinking that plea will work is what the arts are doing.

There are scores, if not hundreds of ideas and programs, the arts might employ to expand audience participation - some which would likely fall flat on their face, others of which might actually put bodies in seats or otherwise change the dynamics, but most of them will have some cost invovled, and thus most of them will never be tried, because there isn't the money, as Mr. Osborne rightly points out, to even adequately pay competitive salaries to orchestra members, let alone allow the arts to provide public access at prices the public can afford or engage in basic marketing. And those orchestra member salaries and the funds to allow those orchestras to drop ticket prices to the point that more people will attend, aren't likely to just appear magically from the sky. It isn't just the orchestra members who are under paid - the average arts organization leadership in this country is grossly undercompensated as well, and we have a crisis at the lower end with mid-career arts administrators leaving the field for purely financial reasons (like putting their own kids through college). Money is never the only answer, and only part of the problem, so more money, by itself, won't solve all the challenges the sector faces. But the lack of money has direct bearing on every aspect of this discussion.

When will the arts realize that public funding is one of the absolutely essential three legs of any stool on which they will sit and mobilize their efforts to effectively gain that support?

It isn't about advocacy. Advocacy is trying to convince somebody what you do is a "good" thing. It's about lobbying - give us our share of the pie or we will support somebody who will - with money and votes.

posted by Barry Hessenius | 06/18/07, 9:13 AM | permalink

re: The Talking Cure

Lynne, you struck a chord with the following comment:

"A great deal of attention and money and human resources have been poured into 'arts education' programming for children. But adult audiences also seek to learn 'in and through' the arts. The problem is, open learning is a risky undertaking for most adults, because the process underscores what we don't know, and, as such, exposes our weaknesses. Think about it this way: many careers are built on the notion that as a highly educated, highly trained professional, we know a lot. It's no surprise, then, that for an adult it is very difficult to go into an environment where you don't know the background and therefore don't have a context for understanding and analyzing what you are about to see and hear."

In today's environment where few children and few adults have any familiarity with our music, it is no longer sufficient for orchestras to play great music well and offer some music education for children. Orchestras must embrace an additional mission of creating a demand for our music.

In 2001, the American Symphony Orchestra League, in partnership with more than 300 of its member orchestras, conducted an Audience Motivation Research study. A striking finding of that study was the Frequency Spiral, which may provide insight into the process of Audience Engagement.

Analyzing nearly 2,000 responses, the study concluded that the most significant driver of Frequency of Attendance was Enjoyment (how much the listener had enjoyed his/her concert experiences). It then found that the most significant driver of Enjoyment was Familiarity (how familiar the listener was with the work being performed or the genre). And finally, it found that the most significant driver of Familiarity was Frequency of Attendance. It sounds circular, but almost like compounded interest, it actually is an accelerating spiral.

The beauty is that you can intervene in the Engagement process at Frequency, at Enjoyment, and at Familiarity. Let's look at an intervention at Familiarity. Familiarity can be gained over many years of concert-going or listening to broadcasts/recordings. It can also be jump-started by conscious intervention.

For example: Many years ago a prominent orchestra opened the season with a tribute to Nadia Boulanger. The most accessible work on the program was Elliott Carter's Concerto for Orchestra. It was well rehearsed and performed, yet after intermission only a handful of ticketholders returned to their seats. It was not a successful concert, and I would venture to say that only a handful of audience members were engaged.

Ten years later, that same orchestra, under a new music director, again performed Carter's Concert for Orchestra, this time on a program with a Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto. The concert was well sold and opened with the Carter work. However, before the performance began, the conductor bounded onto the stage, grabbed a hand-held mike and said (to the best of my recollection):

"Okay everyone, fasten your seat-belts, this is going to be one of the most challenging pieces you will hear this season, but I'm going to help you. This Concerto for Orchestra is one of the most significant works of the 20th Century and one of the most difficult. We've spent extra rehearsal time preparing it for you. It is really a theme and variations. Here is the theme. [The orchestra performed a short sample] You will not hear that again because Carter hides it. It may come back as timbre, or as rhythm. Here it is in the percussion. [Another short musical sample] That you will hear, and it is important to note that at this point you are half-way through." [audience laughter]

That was about it. He then turned around and conducted the piece. You could have heard a pin drop in the packed auditorium. Everyone was on the edge of his/her seat. When it was over, the conductor was called back to the stage for five curtain calls. The Rachmaninoff was also well performed and well received. Did this audience return after intermission? You bet they did, and what did they talk about during the intermission? Not the Rachmaninoff, but the Carter. That audience was engaged.

Jack McAuliffe

posted by Jack McAuliffe, President, Engaged Audiences LLC | 06/18/07, 8:51 AM | permalink

re: The Talking Cure

Yes, yes! Encourage talk. Or to dress it up a bit, support discourse-based epistimology. This is so, so different than "object-based epistimology" which dominates the DNA makeup of museums and traditional performing arts organizations.

posted by Ken Finkel | 06/18/07, 8:41 AM | permalink

re: Our Conversation Starts Thursday Morning

The majority of Americans think going to a symphony concert is boring. And, often times for them, it is. We, as music people, can be inspired simply by sitting and listening to music. But this is our passion and, through experience, our minds have been educated and focused on the intricacies of this music that turn us on so much. Many people need (or think they need) more of an overall stimulating experience these days to relate, understand, appreciate and become inspired by orchestral music. Most people only hear a symphony as the soundtrack backing up a movie plot. It is background music that underscores the emotional movement of the story - subtly touching the hearts and minds of the audience unconsciously. Is this a bad thing? Music, though of course it can stand on its own, is fantastic (dare I say even better?) at supporting other mediums. So combining other forms of entertainment with the symphony experience can be a dynamic and exciting way to touch those hearts and minds that may need a little extra stimulation. Combining visual media, dance, singing, acting, even athletic interests can create a more exciting experience for someone who doesn't understand why you would just sit and look at a bunch of people playing instruments for an entire evening. Combining mediums can pull non concert goers into the world of music. Touch their hearts, inspire their minds any way you can and perhaps they may eventually become educated, aware and appreciative of the music itself. You may even eventually get them to sit through an orchestra concert.

posted by Paul Pement | 06/18/07, 8:19 AM | permalink

re: Analogies and their discontents

Fact checker: the idea of generating cash by offering wealthy patrons expensive year-long subscriptions to exclusive luxury boxes was invented by Lorenzo da Ponte (also known for his libretti to Mozart's Don Giovanni and Cosi fan tutti). He devised this system to save the Burg Theater in Vienna from bankruptcy in 1788 when Imperor Joseph II decided he no longer wanted to subsidize it. He also sucessfully piloted subscriptions for various single ticket packages.

posted by Nastya | 06/18/07, 7:24 AM | permalink

re: Our Conversation Starts Thursday Morning

The public never stopped being engaged with music it could receive as communicative. It has been the institutional crowd which has so codified the analytical basis for everything which has turned things upside down for them as far as audiences go. They are further decieved when they get together in their little mutual admiration cliques on campus, and hogwash each other into thinking their "music" is the next, future thing. This is because we now have teachers who simply have no idea what they are talking about - that is why real composers are turning inward and offering up serious and communicative art to a public which not only understands, but appreciates it. As for those who sneer at whatever is "popular," who cares about their "music?"

posted by John Graham | 06/17/07, 9:12 PM | permalink

re: Brave New World

I'm so glad someone had brought foundations into this conversation, because foundations seem to be increasingly the tail wagging the dog in this buisness. I'm glad Moy, that you call yourself an arts supporter, but many funders simply don't think of themselves that way. If you start reading some of the consultant driven new mission statements, they often include bits about growing democracy and changing society and the like. We have to remember that one reason that we are all talking about this, is because influential funders have suddenly decided that this topic is important. The old idea, that someone would look around for some great artists or companies and give them general operating support seems old hat to funders. So they have changed their mode to project support, because they want to fund things with IMPACT, with juice, that will get their name in the newspapers, which of course are becoming ever more likely not to write about any of us at all.

Also, if he's reading this, a question for Mr. Sandow, you have often mentioned that you believe that classical music needs no explanation to get its point across to the audience, but your story about the teens going to see Tosca would point to an opposite conclusion. If you go to an italian opera expecting a realist drama, then you are likely going to be confused. This happens to me all the time; I'll invite my friends over to watch 'Double Idemnity' or somehing, but they are all expecting 'The Wire', and of course are dissapointed. It seems there would be less dissapointment if there was some way to introduce better expectations of stuff we are going to see, don't you think?

posted by Jonathan Gresl | 06/17/07, 12:02 PM | permalink

re: Being There

I'd like to provide some research-based support for Ed's Comment:

"Attending a concert is a shared experience. Right now a typical classical music concert may be a lot like church. People come together to share an emotional experience that many audience members refer to as spiritual"

One of the findings of the American Symphony Orchestra League's 2001 Audience Motivation Research study was that, at its best, a live orchestra concert is "an intensley personal experience, shared with others."

One of the secrets of engagement may be creating intensley personal experiences that can be shared with many others.

Jack McAuliffe, President, Engaged Audiences LLC

posted by Jack McAuliffe | 06/17/07, 10:55 AM | permalink

re: Shaking Up the Ways of Working

Molly writes: "Regarding making opera (or any performing art) connect: I don't think it would take more opera houses, more orchestras, etc. I think it takes supporting the companies already fighting for their lives in a way that allows them the freedom to get far enough outside their usual ways of working (that aren't working)."

No matter how much you dress up or dress down classical music, the basic offering isn't changed that greatly. And in reality, it is probably not going to be significantly changed through the various forms of digital mediation we will have at hand for the foreseeable future.

I know that it is fun and stimulating for the cognoscenti (including myself) to toy with ideas suggested by postmodern theory and new technologies, but the effects of this sort of toying-around will not really solve the problems. The vastly more serious and long-term approaches of public funding and music education will. Other countries have shown this works and we must change too. To state it hyperbolically, we can't live off of Finish talent and education forever. Esa-Peka in LA, Osmo Vanska in Minneapolis, Magnus Lindberg at Chamber Music at Lincoln Center, Kaija Saariaho at the Santa Fe Opera, and so on. We are being put to shame.

I also wonder if the problems of getting the public to "connect" with classical music aren't being exaggerated in this discussion, and in a self-serving manner. People are stylizing problems to fit their pet interests. We enjoy our gizmos and hip pomo theories and then try to universalize them as solutions in ways that are not especially useful. Sober sociological, political, economic and pedagogical observation of countries that have solved these problems is a more rational approach - even if less fun and hip.

Why do tens of thousands of people show up to see the Met perform opera in Central Park? If people could afford the prices for good seats any larger city in America could be filling a well-run opera house. Finns, Germans, Austrians, and Spaniards are not some sort of exotic creatures different from us. They just have affordable access to live, classical music. And if we could improve our music education, the effects would increase exponentially over time. But then issues like public funding and education just aren't as much fun as chatting about digital technology and applications of pomo theory.

There is one other observation about Europe I would like to add. It is exactly the countries that spend the most on historical classical music (such as Germany, Holland, Austria, France, and Scandanavia) that also spend the most on contemporary classical music. The thinking in this blog follows the paradigm that we have to get rid of the old to have the new, but that is not how it works. The reality in classical music is that strengthening the old also strengthens the new.

It will be difficult to change the thinking among the "luminaries" here and elsewhere, because they have a vested interest in maintaining an absurd and isolated American status quo that has afforded them a modicum of status and power.

William Osborne
William@ Osborne-conant.org

posted by William Osborne | 06/17/07, 10:30 AM | permalink

re: Was the past really like the present?

I would like to add some information to further correct Greg's confusion about European arts funding - though it is far more than most of you will want to read -- especially since the indentation for the many quotes does not seem to appear. I include a lot of documentation from the press. The articles confirm that arts funding in Britain doubled from £198m when Labour came to power in 1997 to £411m in 2004. The articles also note that in 2004 French governmentl spending for the arts rose 5.9%, which was three times inflation. They also discuss the generous funding systems in other countries such as Finland. The economies of Spain and Ireland have skyrocketed since they entered the European Union. Their per capita increases in arts funding have been phenomenal.

In general, there is much more lively discussion and debate in the European press about arts funding than in the States. The first clip is from the BBC's website, May 24, 2004 and is entitle "London is 'Classical Music Capitol.'" It argues that public funding actually helps orchestras stay in touch with the public's musical interests and tastes.

The LPO had just performed Howard Shore's score for Lord of Rings for an audience of more than 3000 people. Timothy Walker, artistic director of the LPO noted, "We have to do great symphonic repertoire. But film music is a great part of our musical life. We are funded by the taxpayer and we have a duty to appeal to as wide an audience as possible."
Mr. Walker pointed to London's "five great orchestras and two opera houses" as proof of the city's musical pre-eminence. "New York has just one symphony orchestra," he said by way of comparison.

(For those who might not know, the orchestras are the London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Philharmonia, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. London also has two opera houses.)

The article notes that even though the city has five orchestras, the LPO sells about 82% of all tickets for its concerts, and many events are sold out. No big need for iPods and Indie Rock influenced concerts there.

Mr. Walker said it would be possible to raise attendance to 90%, but he would be:

"...worried that our program was not adventurous enough. If we program in a conservative way, with great conductors and soloists, we are confident we would sell out the concert hall. With new, edgier work, and younger artists, the risks are higher. Orchestras are very fragile organizations. It is always difficult to balance the commercial and creative aspects of the orchestra."

The article stresses that public funding gives them the freedom to find a reasonable balance between popular and innovative programming.

Helsinki also has five symphony orchestras even though its population is only 565,186. A per capita comparison would give New York City 80 full-time orchestras!!!

Here are some clips from a commentary in the Star Tribune of Minneapolis from April 23, 2004 entitled "Music Education Permeates Finnish Society" written by Kristin Tillotson:

"Helsinki alone is home to five symphony orchestras. Nationwide, there are 21 more, as well as 12 regional opera companies. At least eight world-class conductors, including the Minnesota Orchestra's Osmo Vanska and the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Esa-Pekka Salonen, were raised and trained in Finland. More than 30 full-time classical composers live and work there.
"How has a nation of 5.2 million people -- a population only slighter greater than the state of Minnesota's -- produced such a surplus of talent?
"Outstanding music education is the primary reason. But at its source is a national attitude that music is not dessert, but an essential food group for personal, cultural and civic sustenance, and as deserving of government subsidy as health care and schools."

The Star Tribune article continues with a quote of the director of advanced studies at the Sibelius Academy, Osmo Palonen:

"'[Music] is so ingrained in our culture; there is never a question about the government putting a lot of money into it. This also makes music very democratic here, not just something for the elite.'"

The Tribune adds:

"Direct comparisons between music education in Finland and Minnesota are unfair. The Finnish government subsidizes the arts and education to a much greater degree than here. Finnish schools are structured differently, and the country's entire education system is superior in general to most others around the world.

"But taking a look at how and why the Finnish system works can offer inspiration and ideas."

Indeed it could if we could just get off our high horses and take an honest look. (First, this means stop listening to nonsense about supposed reductions in European arts funding. And second, it means stop being so ethnocentrically arrogant.)

In an article in the Guardian on May 3, 2004, Louise Jury quotes Tessa Jowell, Britains's Secretary of State for Culture:

"'MPs are waking up to the fact that cities such as Birmingham and Liverpool are being brought to life by culture. Labour must lead from the front in advocating arts as a public good in itself', she said. 'There is a parody of culture which is prevalent, that these are issues of interest only to a disconnected elite. But it is the enthusiasm and hunger that people have for culture that is driving this.'

"The arts are not just 'a pleasurable hinterland' for the public to fall back on after the 'important things - work and paying tax' are done, [Jowell] argues in a 19-page pamphlet.

"'It is at the heart of what it means to be a fully developed human being. Government should be concerned that so few aspire to it, and has a responsibility to do what it reasonably can to raise the quantity and quality of that aspiration.'"

How different such ideals seem to be from the defeatist attitudes regarding public funding among the members of this panel.

The Guardian continues:

"While spending on the arts has doubled since 1997 [sorry Greg] and scrapping entrance charges to national museums has boosted attendance by millions, some MPs are still inclined to lob the elitism charge at expenditure on opera or orchestras. Arts leaders have felt despair that the Prime Minister has seemed so unwilling to be seen in their museums and theatres. But they will be encouraged that Ms. Jowell says 'intelligent public subsidy' is vital if the arts are to take their place at the heart of national life. Audiences will be developed only through 'determined policy initiatives,' she says."

"Determined policy iniatives" that create "intelligent public subsidy." Again, a big contrast to the wimpy leadership shown among the "luminaries" in this discussion. And these "determined initiatives" have had a profound effect. As noted, funding for the arts in Britain rose from £198m when Labour came to power in 1997 to £411m in 2004. (That latter sum is over 800 million dollars, and is, by the way, one of the lowest per capita rates of public funding for the arts in Western Europe.)

An article in the rather conservative Bloomberg News, dated February 2, 2004 mentions that the cultural budget in Italy was cut by 2.5% leaving a sum of 1.97 billion dollars. Ironically, that's still 1407 times larger than the NEA budget, and in a country with less than one quarter of America's population. The Italian government's per capita cultural spending is thus over 5600 times higher than in the US.

The Bloomberg article also notes that:

"Among European countries, museums fare best in France, where about 1 percent of the national budget is spent on culture each year, and this year's package is up 5.9 percent -- three times inflation -- at 2.79 billion euros."

(Again, an utter contradiction of Greg's bizarre confusion about reductions in European arts funding. 2.79 billion euros of over 3.8 billion dollars. Imagine what our country would be if the NEA had that much money.)

Arts funding in Italy was indeed attacked by the Berlusconi government. He was the sole owner of all of Italy's private television stations. He attempted to eliminate government involvement in almost all forms of media to increase his monopolistic control. He was finally driven from office because his underhanded financial dealing caused the populace to see him as a common crook.

Most Europeans remain deeply wary of corporate sponsorship of the arts. Bloomberg News has written some interesting articles about the problems, but I won't quote them because it is a little off topic. The Guardian also addresses this problem in an article by Peter Kennard entitled "Hung out to dry by the sponsors: Art's corporate backers decide what we can see in public spaces", published December 30, 2003.

This all isn't to say that the Europeans don't keep an eye on the American scene. They are more open to the world, and unlike Americans, aren't inclined to think their way is the only way. They are often ready to learn from their neighbors.

In an article from the Deutsche Welle website on February 2, 2005, Gerald Mertens, the director of the German Orchestra Union, noted that, "Orchestras in competitive markets such as Berlin, Munich or the Ruhrpott region in North Rhine-Westphalia will be particularly pressured to distinguish themselves. They have to become more active in documenting their societal value." [Munich, for example, has 7 full-time orchestras in a city of 1.2m. And Berlin has three opera houses in a city of about 4m.] Mertens said that while Germany remains the world's No. 1 market for classical music, it lags far behind Britain and especially the US in terms of innovation.

If only we had this modesty and open-mindedness in our relations with the world. In the meantime, don't listen to the rather widespread propaganda about Europe supposedly reducing its arts funding. The neo-con political agenda of such misinformation is relatively transparent. And even more subtly, beware the way artists sometimes become enamored with new technologies and aesthetic theories then project them as solutions for the world's ills whether they are or not. Just like the Europeans, with "determined policy initiatives" we can greatly increase our public support for the arts.

William Osborne

posted by William Osborne | 06/16/07, 6:01 PM | permalink

re: Venues and the audience experience

"However, Carnegie (2,800) and Symphony Hall (2,600) are, as we all know, among the best-sounding halls in the world, and the US now has many fine halls in the 2,500-seat range. Too big for a recital or a string quartet, to be sure, but they work just fine for orchestras, of course."

Carnegie is not regarded as quite in the same league acoustically as the three classics: Boston, Amsterdam, and Vienna. I think there are a number of 2,000+ seat halls that are OK. but they're a long way from providing the kind of audience experience that is ideal.

"But at a time that everyone says that orchestras need to be more accessible, part of that accessibility is ticket prices, and smaller halls usually lead to pricier tickets, thus harming accessibility efforts."

You're forgetting that tickets not only produce revenue but incur marketing costs. Fewer available seats + a better experience = less money spent needing to market to marginally interested buyers.

posted by Robert Levine | 06/16/07, 3:32 PM | permalink

re: Death of an expert

The death of "experts" is certainly a good thing. it was 'experts" who told composers in the 1950s and '60s to write serialism or pack it in. Shame on them.

On the other hand, I'm not sure that swinging all the way to the other side of the spectrum and saying, in effect, "everyone's an artist" is such a great thing, either. The issue is quality. (Greg S. gave me a hard time about "raising the quality issue" in a comment to one of his earlier posts -- and that's cool, Greg -- but if quality isn't the issue, then why are all these pixels being spent in chin-strokes about the advent of untrained artists?) I suspect that, after a while, things will settle back into a middle ground, where mere access to media and the desire to "make art" are just not enough to make one an "artist."

I wrote about this last fall by way of a column for the Desert Advocate, a weekly here in Phoenix. The piece is now posted to my blog; follow this impossibly long link:


posted by Ken | 06/16/07, 1:14 PM | permalink

re: Not so Different, Yet All The Difference

It's all about multitasking, friends. I cannot remember the last time I JUST listened to a recording (classical, jazz, hip-hop or other). My days are filled with music. I listen while I eat breakfast, ride the subway, walk the streets, work, shop, talk, make dinner... How much of it I really hear between the traffic noise, chatter, phone ringing, etc. is a whole different matter. I cannot fathom a situation where I would switch my phone off, shut the door, sit comfortably in my chair and just listen to a 45-minute recording of a symphony. I can be stopped in my tracks by something I hear on the radio but the spell does not tend to last more than just a few minutes. I feel like I have to get on with my day. The only situation that disciplines me to give my undivided attention to music is a concert hall. Which is why I regularly attend concerts. In the world of endless possibilities it is sometimes nice to have no choice but to listen, for a change. And the chance of hearing something extraodinary is enough to justify the risk of running in to a bad performance or a snoozing fellow audience member.

It is assumed that a 20-year old who owns five CD's of their favorite rap star they will do anything to attend a live performance and meet the artist in person, but I find that the reverse is true for classical music. I have heard countless recordings of Elgar Cello Concerto in various contexts but I went and bought my own after I was smitten by a live performance. If only to capture an imperfect reflection of that catharsis experienced live. I bought my own recording of Hélèn Grimaud's performance of Shuman Sonata for Piano and Cello in E minor only after I met her in person and was fascinated by her intense emotional talk of love and friendship.

I wonder if the binary opposition of live vs. recorded isn't slightly overrated. Do we really chose one over the other?

posted by Nastya | 06/16/07, 12:14 PM | permalink

re: Venues and the audience experience

Having recently spent two years in Moscow, listening to dozens of concerts in two magnificent halls - the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory and the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall (both around 1,600 seats) - I do agree that smaller can be better.

However, Carnegie (2,800) and Symphony Hall (2,600) are, as we all know, among the best-sounding halls in the world, and the US now has many fine halls in the 2,500-seat range. Too big for a recital or a string quartet, to be sure, but they work just fine for orchestras, of course.

The bottom line, surely, is the bottom line. Orchestras, as Mr. Levine of course well knows, have to sell tickets, and you can generate more revenue in a bigger hall. There's a tradeoff, of course, in that the larger venue might provide an inferior experience and therefore draw fewer people. But at a time that everyone says that orchestras need to be more accessible, part of that accessibility is ticket prices, and smaller halls usually lead to pricier tickets, thus harming accessibility efforts.

posted by Marko Velikonja | 06/16/07, 11:14 AM | permalink

re: Was the past really like the present?

Greg, your assertion that funding for the arts in Europe has been falling is not at all true. In fact, in most countries it has been rising. Germany was placed under strong economic pressures due to the massive task of rebuilding East Germany. During that period they eliminated 8 of the 144 State run orchestras leaving a total of 136. And about half of those were actually redundancies due to unification. The German economy has now regained its strength, and once again the Germans are increasing their arts funding.

France and Holland voted to reject the European constitution exactly because its neo-liberal agendas would have forced them to dismantle much of their social democracies. Even the Blair government in Britain greatly increased arts funding. In fact, it was one of the most important parts of the party's political platform. Your comments are just more American misinformation and squirming about international comparisons.

The Berlin Philharmonic is a special case, and your use of it as an example is entirely misinformed and misleading. The orchestra decided to go private in the early 80s for the simple fact that they make so much money they no longer wanted to the profits to go to the State. (They were also angered by politicians insistence that they accept women as members.)

And I wouldn't put too much stock in Berlin presumably bringing in American consultants for fund raising and marketing. The orchestra has over 95% capacity attendance rates and is one of the richest orchestras in the world. The Vienna Philharmonic is also an interesting case. I forget the exact number but most of its tickets are sold out for something like the next 15 years. The Munich State Opera has such a demand for tickets it has to distribute them with a lottery system.

Americans would likely respond to classical music this way too if they were given adequate opportunities and better educations.

I wonder if you aren't a bit biased, Greg. How happy would they be down at the Wall Street Journal to see you advocating greater governmental support for the arts? The editorial board there is radically neo-con.

William Osborne

posted by William Osborne | 06/16/07, 10:43 AM | permalink

re: The Arts Experience vs. The ARTS (Warning!-- this entry contains a sports analogy)

Thank you, Lynne! These days performing arts are often (somewhat jealously) compared to sports in conversations about audience egagement. Usually one blames the difference on the lack of "spectacle" (e. g. Robert Levine in his yesterday's post). However, as you rightly point out, the single most essential aspect of sports is COMPETITION, not SPECTACLE (think golf and cricket, baseball's English cousin, which have massive fan bases and generate substantial revenue). Anyone who dreams of towns engaging with and rooting for their local orchestras like they do for their local baseball teams should be able to imagine a competitive situation in which two orchestras face each other in a showdown (glad you mentioned the competitive 5th-century Greek theatre, though ancient Greeks judged the authors, not the interpreters - also an interesing thought).

posted by A. | 06/16/07, 10:29 AM | permalink

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