Four keys to the future

Here, as promised, are the key things we need to do, if we’re going to give classical music a future. When I wrote this, I was thinking of people who present classical performances. But I think it applies to all of us — for instance, to people who write about classical music, for whom the last point might be rejiggered as “write vividly.”

But enough introduction. Here’s my manifesto:

We’re in a new era. To adapt to it, and build a new audience, here are four things you should do:

Understand and respect the culture outside classical music. 

Your new audience will come from the world outside classical music. Where else could it come from? And to reach these new people, you of course have to know them. Who are they? What kind of culture do they already have? You have to respect them, because if you don’t, they won’t respect you.

Work actively to find your audience.

The people you want to reach may not yet care about classical music. So they won’t respond to conventional PR and marketing. They won’t come to you on their own. And so you have to actively go out and find them. You have to talk to them where they live, where they work, and where they go for entertainment and for inspiration. You have to inhabit their world.

Be yourself.

Your urgency, your joy, and your passion will draw people to you. But you can’t be joyful if you don’t love the music that you perform. So never pander. Never struggle to be relevant. Perform music that makes your heart sing. Trust your new audience. Trust it to be smart, to be curious, and to respond with joy when it sees how joyful you are.

Make music vividly.

The people you reach will want to love the music you bring them. But can you meet them halfway? Are you bringing them something they really can love? Your performances should be entirely yours, performances nobody else could give. Your music should breathe. Contrasts should feel like they’re contrasts. Climaxes should feel like climaxes. Are you doing everything you can to bring your music alive?

This isn’t the tactical guide to building a new audience, that one commenter wanted to see. And which we all need! But these four points, if you ask me, are the principles that should guide everything we do. If we don’t apply them, the things we try may not work.

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  1. says

    Brilliant! The first two will be hard, if not impossible, for the classical world to do, but they’re essential.

    Thank you for finding the words to express this so succinctly. I know there were plenty of words leading up to it, but I think you’ve distilled it beautifully.

  2. says

    I especially like the point “Make music vividly”. I have long grasped for the words to describe this hugely important part of the equation while being respecting of my fellow musicians. Having attended Berlin Phil as well as Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra concerts, it was made abundantly clear to me that there was something beyond individual abilities of the musicians onstage. The right conductor makes a huge difference in sparking “vivid performing” but the Berlin Phil is great at being self-starting in this regard. It takes a certain self-esteem or even self-regard for groups to play their hearts out regardless of the externals of the moment.

    • says

      So true, Andy, and wonderfully said. The Berlin and Bolivar orchestras most definitely play vividly. And you’ve seen how the Berlin musicians move while they play! Committing their bodies to the sound, phrasing, meaning of the music. Once, after a NY Berlin Phil performance, a friend who played in the NY Philharmonic came running up to me. “Did you see how they move?” he said. “I’d be reprimanded if I moved that way.”

  3. Todd Reynolds says

    Rock on, Greg! So well said and simply put, and it’s well-tested. Those of us who’ve been living our art this way have reaped its benefits tenfold – financially, yes, to a degree, but more importantly in social and artistic aspects.

    • says

      Thanks, and great to see you here, Todd! New music in NY — which you’re so central to — has emerged as a breath of the future. Too bad I’m so cut off from it, now that I’m living most of the time in DC.

      And you know — all of us should start working on the financial part. No reason, as the audience grows, that musicians can’t make more money. Which they richly deserve. And if they can’t earn more, how will the future be sustainable? This is something I’d love to work on as a consultant.

      • says

        You would be a terrific consultant, to soloist and to orchestras, and to more schools developing their young artists for the real world. Why don’t you do residencies for say, a week at a time, host symposiums at the colleges, visit the orchestras and have public forums for the audiences to be part of what their orchestra is all about.

  4. says

    Terrific, Greg. I like your points. It is about your audience, and what you can do to draw them to you, rather than the opposite. You know, in 1988, and not to name drop here, but when I visited Lucille Ball in her home for a brief two hours, she asked this question: “How can you get close to your audience? Can’t you talk to them? I never liked when there was a wall between the stage and the audience. Talk to them; talk about the music, make them feel what you’re doing, who you are.” Never forgot these words. I suppose it still applies. Knowing your audience is most important. I like to give them the traditional, what they know and can relate to instantly, but, also something they do not know to spark something new inside. Many times, the presenter will feel this vibe and will make suggestions to the artist for repertoire, which is most helpful.

  5. Joseph Gluck says

    I think you left out the most important “key”—–Fight to have great music part of early

    • says

      As I’ve said many times, this isn’t a fight we’ll ever win. Thus a waste of time. Why would you think a culture that doesn’t care much about classical music would spend money — when money is very short — on classical music education?

      And also it won’t do any good, won’t reproduce the old classical music culture. Times have changed, and in the ’50s and ’60s, when classical music education was thriving in schools, kids turned against classical music, and embraced rock.

  6. Carlos Fischer says

    Greg, you’re back in great shape! Hats off for you. The Olympic Games are over but your 4 shots are right in the centre of the target.

  7. Fred Lomenzo says

    Music lovers are facinated by the creative process that composers go through. Preceding a special presentation of some of my music to about 200 people I explained some of the creative process and things to look for while listening to the works. I was amazed at how this seemed get their complete attention through the hour and a half of music. After the presentation I took questions from the audience, some of whom rarely listen to serious music. This was a very rewarding experience for me, and from their comments for them as well. No matter what the presentation however, the most important part is still how the music affects the listners.

    • don mckee says

      Greg Sandow – My perusal of Mr. Lorenzo’s post touches on my point about hubris, even if it is nearly unconscious. He wrote, “…some of whom rarely listen to serious music.” What makes classical music more “serious”? Is it because of its complexity? Is complexity always better? Many would argue that simplicity is often a positve quality in itself with regard to the arts. It is this subtle message of intellectual superiority which drives outsiders crazy. It is not that Mr. Lomenzo said an overtly horrible thing but it is begs to be taken as slight. The best thing I read in all of these posts is Mr. Lorenzo’a last sentence,were he writes “…the most important part is still how the music affects the listeners.” Nothing else really matters. Again, the best of luck in your project.

    • says

      Thanks so much, Steve. I’m getting a wonderful response, as you can see from the comments. I’d love to hear from people who put these four points into practice!

  8. says

    “Work actively to find your audience”
    This is a also a great point. At least as orchestral musicians, nobody stands to gain more than us by cultivating a fan-base among our community and doing fundraising. To simply say “that’s the job of development department” as some colleagues often do, ignores the reality of our situation. New audiences can get loyal to musicians whom they know and like.

    • says

      A very good point. So much marketing and promotion these days is personal. And so much business, these days, is conducted in far more personal ways than it ever was before.

      And, of course, the musicians are one of the most underused resources in most orchestras.

  9. says

    Great points, Greg!! Thank you for your thoughtfulness and persistent inquiry. Thank God there is work for us to do. The classical music field does not have to languish, nor lose hope. Thanks for your positive message!

  10. Lesley Hammond says

    I agree with your points Greg, but part of the problem is that civic authorities (predominantly) have built concert halls and performing arts centres based on formal architectural concepts and practices rooted a long, long way back in the past. The performance venues themselves are very formal, implying a code of behaviour that often intimidates people from attending events in them. Because of the investment in these venues authorities won’t want classical orchestras, ensembles and top name artists to perform elsewhere. Yes, orchestras often perform in wineries, parks and other outdoor venues in summer, but perhaps we need to think more about other types of venues which could be suitable outside summer seasons. Digital technology opens up lots of possibilities, but it will never replace live performances with non-assisted sound. Not better, just different. A subjective response on either side of the digital divide. Maybe we should see it as a glass half full with other performance possibilities opening up which are exciting and have their own positives. Traditional performance structures in traditional venues are just one of them. This way we can open up to other audiences for classical music.

    • says

      I agree, Lesley. We have lots to do, but I see it as an opportunity, not a problem. It’s also striking how much these traditional venues change when you do new things in them, or use them in new ways. But this is a time of change. One of the marvelous things right now is how many people/institutions are doing new things, blazing many paths toward our future.

    • Don McKee says

      The online discussions over the last couple of years about Jackie Evancho have led me to believe that by far the greatest obstacle to bringing new fans to classical music will be the undeniable hubris shown by so many of its supporters. This issue reduces to near irrelevance any problems with regard to architecture. There are a lot of bumper stickers and decals out there where the various music genre’s feign disgust for one another’s music but these have been good natured jabs compared to the flood of ill will heaped upon Jackie Evancho and her fans from the opera folks. So much of their communication was to make sure that those of the great unwashed clearly understood their musical and social place. They won’t going react by going to the symhony or to an opera. Classical supporters badly need to show more generosity of spirit and open mindedness instead of grandly setting themselves apart.

        • don mckee says

          Thank you, but Mr. Sanchon didn’t address the very real barrier for you of personal hubris. How do you overcome this? And how did it develop in the first place? I genuinely wish success for your efforts but I believe there needs to be a real change of heart and healthy dose of humilty for many of your fans and supporters. Actually this should also apply even more to the artists, the opera houses and symphony orchestras, the commentators, the conductors, various organizations, and everyone up the line who fostered so much snobbery. The hubris apparently trickled down from someone, somewhere.

  11. says

    as always, insightful and dead on. the last 2 points concern artistic integrity and should go without saying, i think, for any creative artist. (although the reminder is helpful, especially because in our zeal to reach out to an audience we can try to second guess what they like rather than share what we love.) how to do successfully achieve the 2nd point, of course, is the real 64,000 question, isn’t it? how to reach the new audience. i hope you will elaborate on that one.

    the first point, though, familiarity with non classical music, has been at the heart of it for me. more and more i have been talking about the future of classical music being the future of all music–that is, as the awareness of many different styles of music increases, especially in the younger generation who listen to so much more variety online than previous generations ever did, classical music has become not just the “other” but one of many “others”. and in that sense, i think it is much more easily entering people’s radars as part of the richness of all the music now easily available to listeners. it’s no longer pop vs classical, it’s a big melting pot in which many pure musical styles are morphing into hybrids very rapidly. it seems to me that the younger generation expects this to be the case and view any pure musical style as quaint and possibly delightful, but very 20th century. at the very least, the young audience is very used to hearing a piece in one style right next to another very different one, and see no more issue with that on a concert program than on their ipod in shuffle mode. this is a moment of huge opportunity for classical music to become a part of that mix tape.

    • says

      Yes, that second point is crucial. And needs a lot of expansion. I’ve said a lot about it here in the past, but will recap all of that at some point soon, and add more. For now, one thought: start by looking at who your fans are now. By name, if possible! Who already goes to your performances, buys recordings, communicates with you? And then think what you can do — over time — to keep these people involved. You’ll have to communicate regularly. And get them, maybe, to interest their own networks in you. And then think about where you can find more people like your present fan base.

      This is a start, anyway. About pop music, yes, yes, yes. Pop music creates stylistic hybrids constantly, and classical music has repeatedly been folded into the mix. Then, beyond pop music, I was thinking of the entire range of contemporary culture, which is much wider, richer, more surprising, and edgier than mainstream classical music ever gets. So we have an audience ready for much more than the classical mainstream is currently giving them.

      • says

        Right on, Greg! We are also living in a society which is more accepting of mixed styles–and it doesn’t dumb down the classics at all. If anything, it enhances the classics when programmed appropriately.

  12. says

    Greg, your 4 points are strong and valid. I certainly don’t think anyone could argue with the last two; we all must strive, in our own ways, to express our commitment and passion in as palpably vivid a way as possible. I await with interest your expansion on the first two, more problematic areas- honest ways of finding, reaching out to and building your audience. I totally agree that conventional marketing techniques are ineffective and usually inappropriate. Conversely, I’m not sure we should feel obligated to dramatically change or dumb down our true message just to suit the whims of the iPod generation, simply because they find other styles of music “quaint” or “very 20th Century,” as an earlier commenter put it. This seems an impossible and fruitless burden to place on any artist (especially those, like myself, who SPECIALIZE in music of the 20th C!!!). To be always fashionable is to be always chasing fashion- not the real goal here, I think? I would hope there is some fertile middle ground, where the deep substance of classical music-usually much deeper than popular music-can be celebrated, appreciated AND synthesized into the larger musical arena. Good luck with your trailblazing!

    • says

      No, we shouldn’t dumb down at all. We should be smarter, more diverse, more challenging. Here’s an irony — we do have to dumb things down for the mainstream classical audience, because they love hearing the same pieces over and over. I’m not saying that’s dishonorable, or that they themselves are dumb. Far from it. But they have comparatively simple tastes.

      A pop culture audience, on the other hand, is ready to be challenged. I’ll take for granted that we’re not going to get people whose taste in pop music is simple, but there are millions upon millions of people whose taste is really robust. The existence — how many times have I said this? — of people like Bjork, selling millions of records, proves this. And then consider tastes in fiction, film, art. Dive beneath the well-publicized top hits, and you find intelligence, diversity, challenge. It’s a hallmark of culture today, far more than it was when I was growing up in the ’50s and ’60s. So if we aim classical music at the audience for terrific things in popular culture and the other arts, we’ll do wonderfully well. Without dumbing down at all. Quite the opposite!

  13. Eva says

    Dear Mr. Sandow,

    It is laudable that you invest such profound thinking into the issues facing classical music today.

    However, I have a few observations to make as regards your four points.

    1. Many young instrumentalists understand contemporary “pop” culture quite well and do not hesitate to say so. Rachel Barton Pine, Nigel Kennedy and Gidon Kremer are but some that spring to mind. Also, Friedrich Gulda embraced pop culture in his compositions – his cello concerto is the most famous example – and Yusupov’s Rock Tango Concerto for viola, performed by Yuri Bashmet are also good examples. You can also observe that, e.g., the London SO doesn’t do many cross-over concerts with rock stars. So do many other orchestras these days.

    So how is the classical music society not aware of or disrespectful of culture outside of classical music? It seems that they are, but it is by no means saving the industry.

    2. It seems to me that most musicians today are reaching out at least through YouTube. Pub Concerts in London and the Red Fish in NYC are touted in the press, but only provide small audiences. Musicians are already playing in the metros of NYC, London and Paris for pocket change.

    How can musicians find decent-sized audiences outside of established venues or YouTube? You can’t, after all, set up a pair of 400 watt loudspeakers in the middle of a residential neighborhood and start playing Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier. At best, it won’t make you any money, at worst, you’ll get arrested.

    3. I don’t know ANY good musicians who aren’t “themselves” when they perform. The only “classical” musicians who pander are people like Vanessa Mae, Andrea Bocelli, Kathryn Jenkins and Andre Rieux.

    It seems that the musicians who are profoundly engaged in their art are struggling (unless they’re top stars of course), while those who pander to audiences are making millions.

    4. Try telling the top 20 orchestras in the world that they are not making music vividly. They’ll ask “well what more are we supposed to do that we aren’t already doing?” There are many wonderful ensembles today which make extremely vivid music, but they are all small, specialized ensembles like L’Arpeggiata, La Poeme Harmonique and the Kronos Quartet.

    Chances of hearing them outside of a major town or music festival are minimal. How do other music ensembles – perhaps slightly less talented ones, or focusing on mainstream repertoire – perform such acts? There are only so many ways you can play a Haydn quartet: Either in black or wearing a powdered wig and period clothes. After that it’s just a matter of how well you play – nothing new in that. Again, I dare say all good musicians are already trying to convey climaxes, contrasts and bring the music alive. How do you tell for example the Takacs Quartet to do it better than they are already?

    With all due respect to your expertise, I have a hard time seeing anything but wishful thinking in your four points. That, or they’re meant for musicians to take to Sedona, find a vortex and meditate until contact with a higher power inspires them to understand what it is you actually mean with your four keys to the future.

    • says

      Eva, I’d suggest using a little imagination to look beyond the world as you see it.

      1. The examples you cite of classical musicians doing something with popular culture are nice, but very limited. More to the point might be the legions of young composers who don’t draw any distinction (except maybe in technique) between classical music and pop. But the main point I’d make is that you can go to most classical concerts — at, for instance, the top 20 orchestras (to use your citation), or to anything the Takacs Quartet does, and not get a whiff of current culture. Current culture goes far beyond writing rock pieces for classical instruments, or (like Kennedy) playing Hendrix arrangements. The cultural outlook, outside the classical world, is so different from the ways classical music people think that there’s almost no overlap. You yourself, and the examples you give, pretty much prove that. I suggest you read Richard Florida’s description of the nightlife of the people he calls the “creative class,” in his famous book, The Rise of the Creative Class. I’ve assigned it in courses I teach, and put it online, at It’s hard to believe the people described there would ever be interested in going to classical concerts, and might well consider the examples you cited as patronizing attempts to enter their world. Or you could read the cultural coverage in the NY Times or the Guardian — read it regularly, carefully, especially about visual art, pop music, fashion, books, and film, and try to put yourself in the lives of the people this coverage is written for. What do you think would attract them to the 20 top orchestras? They’re used to culture that’s far smarter, far more diverse and original, and far more challenging.

      2. How nice that you’ve fantasized such tiny, limited ways to find a new audience. Have you looked either at my writing on this subject, or at the extensive coverage (the NY Times business section does a good job) of how marketing is done these days? You might Google a Times piece some months ago on how the Hunger Games movie was marketed. There are techniques for reaching into the lives of people you want to reach, and making your enterprise part of those lives. You may laugh at the Hunger Games example — without having read the story, of course — but it gives a lot of practical ideas for how anyone, not just big Hollywood marketers, can do things you yourself have never dreamed of. My blog post on this (in which I describe the Hunger Games marketing, and show how the Met Opera could do similar things) is here:

      3. The pandering I was thinking of is something musicians worry about — very much, in my experience — when they think of finding a wider audience. Often they think they need to change what they do, to do what the audience will want. That’s why I advised musicians to be themselves. This is a discussion that’s been going on in your absence, Eva, but if you’d been part of it, you’d see how central my point can be. As for not knowing good musicians who don’t think they’re being themselves, here’s a challenge to throw back to you: Are musicians really being themselves, or do they just think they are? I know, from teaching at Juilliard for 17 years, that students there (and at other conservatories I’ve had close contact with, or taught at) don’t feel they’re encouraged to be themselves at all. There’s now, in fact, pretty widespread acknowledgment of that at music schools. More broadly, the concept of what being yourself might be is remarkably limited in classical music, compared to other arts, and to popular culture. And to classical music’s own past! I recommend an extensive immersion in videos of performances from past generations, to see what being yourself (as a classical musician) really can mean. One place to start is a 1946 feature film called Carnegie Hall, with performances by many greats of the time — Rubinstein, Ezio Pinza, Piatigorsky, many, many more. Or DVDs of some of the classical music telecasts from the 1950s. Audio recordings, too, will make this point. Listen, for instance, to a 1957 Ernani, performed live by Mario Del Monaco, Ettore Bastianini, and others, with Mitropoulos conducting. Or to the piano trio recordings by Casals, Cortot, and Thibaud.

      4. The end of my last point blends into this one. The best performances in past generations were far more vivid, on the whole, than the best performances now. And why wouldn’t I dare to criticize the Takacs Quartet? Are they gods? Does their fame mean they’re perfect? Silly to think such things. For many years I was a music critic, and, Eva, this is what music critics do. Say what’s good and not good about performances. Musicians — I’m one — do that, too. Constantly, yes? I’ve written extensively about this in the past. Try telling the top 20 orchestras that they don’t play vividly? I’ve done that, in print and in person. (Since I’ve known many people from orchestras.) An example I’ve often used — to give one quick idea of how performances routinely aren’t vivid — would be most orchestras’ performances of music from the classical period. Constant alternations, in the scores, of forte and piano. But do you really hear the contrast? Are fortes noticeably loud, and pianos noticeably soft? Not in my experience. Not, of course, that I’m exactly alone in finding too much routine — at a very high level, but still routine — in top tier classical performances. Just this week I watched the Immolation Scene from the Met’s new Ring production, as streamed to movie theaters and then recorded to be sold on DVDs and shown on public TV. I have the DVDs. You couldn’t possibly tell me that Deborah Voigt was vivid. Forceful, yes, but vivid? Her tone of voice never changed. So profound moments, like “Ruhe, du Gott,” barely stood out. They were sung in much the same way as everything else. Or the final pages she sings, as she rides into the pyre. Many sopranos, especially in the past, brought transcendent excitement to that. Here there’s not even a flicker. I’m saying this, not particularly to slag Voigt or the Met, but as an example of how to look for things that could be more vivid. You can just as well do it with the Takacs. I agree with you, by the way, that many of the most vivid performances these days come from early music groups. So let me ask you something. Do you think the 20 top orchestras listen to Fabio Biondi (just for instance) and ask themselves why they don’t play with that kind of fire? Maybe they don’t critique their own playing enough, don’t set high enough standards.

  14. Ken Nielsen says

    Excellent thoughts Greg. I think you will agree that these are “essential but not sufficient” for musicians and organisations seeing to save themselves.
    The principle (my words) that you should respect but not pander to the audience and potential audience is a difficult one for many musicians. I spent my career in consumer marketing where this rule was learned over and over again. The market is smart, it can’t me manipulated, but nor can you succeed by just giving it what it says it wants.
    To borrow one of Steve Jobs’ remarks – what if we offered audiences insanely great performances?

  15. says

    What makes a classical performance vivid for me are clear feelings of direction, phrasing, tension and release (T&R), and landing points. The DRAMA of any music should hit the audience over the head with a WOW. The SHAPES, long build up and adventure of classical I find to be what distinguishes it from pop. I think pop and art ARE opposites, but DO coexist (like yin-yang) in surprising ways as I’ve discovered in my own composing.

    Classical artists are loath to think of ourselves as entertainers because we’ve invested so much in the practice room to do this… but if we admit that great art is also entertaining, why not go further occasionally to be more entertaining. Myself, I’ve gone as far as I can go as an instrumentalist in a major orchestra. My body is losing strength. So now I focus on how far I can go as an “inspirationalist”. And that means more than playing the music vividly. It means TALKING about instrumental music BECAUSE it has no lyrics. My brain is just getting warmed up to warm up curious music lovers.

    We would talk to a young audience much differently than we do to a traditional audience. We wouldn’t jump up and down for classical in front of a traditional audience… but we sure CAN for the younger audience… and why NOT? If you really love it… effing SHOW IT! SHOUT IT! Answer obvious questions (elephants in the room) like: Why is it called CLASSICAL? Why are the titles so lame (quartet in C-major No. 5)? How can we play together without a drummer? Why this alternation between loud and soft? Why don’t we take requests?

    My thoughts on musical boundries and styles are: some say they love hybrids and music without boundries, while some profess to prefer music that DEFINES a style. In ALL things, offering a balance of BOTH let’s the beholder chose for themselves. I compose a bit of this and a bit of that to scratch ALL sides of myself and hope you’ll connect with something you’ll like.

    My advice to young musicians is that they first focus on building chops, musicianship, teamwork and leadership skills. It’s important to understand fully the potential TODAY for classical music. Yes, TAKE auditions and win a job to have a stable platform and resources to create a difference-making outreach enterprise. Freelancing can be a platform too, but auditioning makes us stronger (if it doesn’t kill us). We can do ALOT to share the music we love, if we love the people too.

    • says

      Thanks, Linda. Good to hear from you! Thanks for asking about our family. Rafa’s going to be a year old next month, and he’s a fabulous little guy, with a smile that could light up a city. We’re happy. Hard-working, and very happy.

  16. Paul says

    Thank you for bringing attention,clarity and care to this topic.
    Personally, in a nutshell, I don’t feel the majority of performers (not that I know this definitively) have taken responsibility for why they do what they do. Why did they choose music? How does it serve them? What is their “goal” (if you can call it that) in performing for a group of people? I feel that many performers in a sense, “USE” the audience for their own gratification. They seek validation, appreciation , recognition etc. How can a “relationship” like this survive? We need to give back on a deeper level, in a much more meaningful way. To transcend our “self” , to be a purer conduit through which the music is communicated .

    • says

      Hi, Paul. You bring up an important point. For what it’s worth, my experience with classical musicians — and especially music students — is that they’re quite humble about what they do, or many (most?) of them are. In fact, too humble. Not willing enough to say (see my response to Tracy Silverman) they’re doing something of their own, something creative.

      The reaction to the audience can be revealing. Many times I’ve heard musicians say they wish they got more response. Not because they’re looking for gratification, but because they want to know that someone’s there, that two-way communication is going on.

      Big topic!

  17. says

    Hello Greg! I really believe in what you are saying and live it out in ROCO (River Oaks Chamber Orchestra), as you know. We just opened our season with Beer and Brass inside St. Arnold Brewery with our brass quintet. Our full chamber orchestra show opens in October. I think the culture that is instilled in us in conservatory says “play it right before it is musical.” We find it hard to cross over to assume you can play it right and just go for the musical. I give the orchestra a talk at the beginning of each concert run that says “this is a safe place where people are not waiting for you to mess up. Take the chances you want to take and go for that soft note or that super forte. If it cracks or splats, at least now you know how far you can go. Take the chances to give yourself the chills you had when you first experienced corporate performance (group performance).” I think this ‘allowing’ is the key to vivid performance: The space to find the zone because you trust yourself and your years of preparation and your colleagues around you.

    • says

      Brava, brava, brava, Alecia! ROCO is an inspiration, one of the most successful entrepreneurial projects in classical music. Alecia started an orchestra, a chamber orchestra in Houston. Built an independent audience of her own. Offered childcare at concerts. Made the musicians happy. And they play wonderfully.

      When I read Alecia’s words to the musicians, I thought of my students, who’ve sometimes said that, as they moved from high school into conservatories and then to graduate studies at conservatories, they got more and more afraid of making mistakes. One mistake, some of them believe (these are graduate students talking), and their careers are over. Much the same mindset hits when you get a job in a professional orchestra. So brava again to Alecia for doing what she can to set this right.

  18. says

    Delightfully insightful! : ) To add to your remarks, it seems that we must offer safe and inviting entry points into the cultural experience, working to understand and accept all types. It also seems important to take the time to consider the perspective of those within your community, as well as those outside or new to the arts. With the Internet, it is becoming increasingly feasible to reach and share among a wider audience than ever before and building a base of fans and supporters will only be effective if the overall tone and personality are authentic and ring true to the person on the other end. One of the major concepts, as you outlined above, is fostering a love for the art ITSELF. People have to WANT to engage with your “product” and want to keep coming back for more. We must give audiences and cultural explorers a good reason to participate in and share the experience – provide interesting, relevant, personalized, expressive, and emotionally engaging performances, respecting the past, present, and future of classical music, and approaching programming and presentation with a willingness to adapt to modern society.

    P.S. Happy to read the above comment about your family and wonderful son, Rafa.

    • says

      Thanks, Catherine. So many good thoughts there. I might even suggest moving further, and not thinking of entry points. I’d like to move behind the way I and others have been thinking for so long — that we have a project of bringing people to the arts. I’d rather just say, “We have something great that others will love. And that we should promote it just the way anyone without a cultural agenda would promote something they believe in. With excitement, love, passion.

      Another problem with entry points might be an assumption — in my experience with myself, a difficult one to get rid of — that not everything we do will be the best way to interest our new audience. We don’t know that! We have a culture full of diverse, smart, curious people, and I think we should think _anything_ we do will interest some of them. No more timidity!

      Thanks SO much for mentioning Rafa. He’s 11 months old now, and his mind is exploding with new things. Last week he learned to play ball — to throw a ball back when I rolled it to him. We did this over and over again. Each time he threw the ball, he’d grin and wave his arms around in the greatest delight. Sometimes the ball went backwards, over his head, but who cares? He completely got the concept. This is happening in so many ways, about so many things. He’s a joy to be with.

  19. says

    I really loved your outlook and your way of looking or thinking about this very important topic. It definitely begins with visible thinking and preparing analysis using comparison, objectivity, and subjectivity in a manner that broadens ‘dimensionalises’ (new word for the meaning of inner depth and clarity of strategic listening) human spirit and emotion. After all movies have found the way in and many of the composers of the music for those films are both classical genre and are able to respond and listen to the world culture. Using the classical orchestra intensifies their music and creates new ground sometimes which is what all listeners are searching for. Even the most simple listener. I think many performers these days are broadening but it is teachers who teach the old material in the same way that was taught them. But there is so many pathways to music performance and to experience the best that classical music has to offer. It is the innovative teacher who will change the world thinking on this aspect. Gordon

  20. says

    Dear Greg,

    Why is this post signed on 7th March 2011, if it was written on 13th Semptember 2012? It loses the continuity with your other posts.