Happy new year!
I thought I might start 2015 with a few words about myself. Of course this is my online home, and many of you know me. But maybe it’s good to be a little bit comprehensive, partly to sell some of the things I do, but also to have a more me-like presence here.
I live in Washington, DC, with my wonderful wife Anne Midgette, chief classical music critic for the Washington Post, and our three-year old son Rafa. A smart, enterprising, funny, affectionate kid, and growing into a good family citizen.
For 18 years I’ve been teaching graduate courses at Juilliard (more on that below), and each week I go back and forth to New York for that.
My specialty — well, of course it’s the focus of this blog, the future of classical music. Which, in one of my courses, is what I teach at Juilliard. And give talks about, in the US and abroad. And get hired as a consultant about (though, as you’ll see, my consulting reach goes further).
I’ve done some online teaching, too, in courses I’ve organized myself, about the future of classical music and about learning to speak and write about music better.
And about branding, on which I’ve taught some intensive workshops, with fulfilling results.
And I compose music — something else I’ll say more about — with a notable concert of my work planned for a year from now. I go in and out of composing, but, when I’m in, I’ve been happy and successful.
All of which is a lot to summarize.
And so, for more…
My take on classical music’s future (which I’ve posted in many forms here):
The old ways are falling away — the formal concert halls, the central focus on music from the past. These things don’t fit with our current culture. Which is why our audience has aged, why ticket sales have for many years been falling, and why funding is harder to get.
So we have to join contemporary life, and take our place alongside everything else that’s going on. Including things in popular culture that too many people in classical music sadly (and wrongly) despise.
And this is happening! Classical music is changing, faster than most people know. It’s being reborn, getting livelier, more contemporary, and — this is the best part — more artistic.
Two quick, and very mainstream examples: The New York Philharmonic offering a top jazz singer on its New Year’s Eve concert. And tenor Ian Bostridge telling the world that one big influence on how he sings Winterreise is Bob Dylan.
Back to my work…
My favorite project last year? Maybe the talk I gave at an arts marketing conference in Madrid, which took what I’ve just said about classical music, and extended it to all the arts. I called my talk “Time to Join the Rest of the World,” and the link above gives you a summary. Plus you can read an expanded version of my presentation slides here.
What I said: That art isn’t limited, these days, to what’s certified as art by the arts industry. It’s exploding all through our society, and our job, in the arts, is to join that. Not stand apart from it!
What we’re seeing is the end of the arts, as we’ve known them. And in their place there’s an explosion, a flowering of art, in so many forms, more art than the world has ever seen before. We need to catch up.
Which is radical, I know. But I mean it very seriously, not as a provocation, but simply as the key fact about the arts today. On a related point, I blogged last year about something else I think is crucial — that we in classical music should put outreach, education, and advocacy aside for a while. These are loser’s games, which take for granted a hidden assumption, which is that nobody much cares for what we do. We should change that! And go out into the world with exciting performances, ready to build an excited new audience.
But we don’t do that. And I also blogged about why.
I’ve appeared around the world, given keynotes, spoken on panels, you name it. Australia, Tunisia, Amsterdam, Madrid, the UK, and around the US. Including commencement talks at Eastman and the Longy School.
Last year was quiet, apart from my Madrid arts speech. But I appeared on the Diane Rehm Show (an important public radio talk program). And spoke at the Doctoral Forum at Juilliard, about what I called “The Hidden History of Classical Music,” — hidden, because it involves things about classical music’s past that we don’t always acknowlege: How young the classical audience used to be, and how it used to react more loudly than it now does, even (in past centuries, when Mozart was alive) applauding during the music, the moment it heard something it liked. An important reminder, when we wonder if our present audience really needs to be as raptly silent as our present habits demand.
And I spoke at two music conservatories, Peabody and the Escuela Superior de Música Reina Sofia in Madrid, in both places getting students — and faculty, since faculty members came to both talks — to imagine what classical music would be like in the future. The most common answers: It would be less formal and more relaxed, and that musicians would become entrepreneurs, taking far more control of their careers. A very common thought, these days.
A keynote talk in March, in Boston, at the northeast conference of the College Music Society. They’ve asked me to talk about sustainability. Will universities, in the future, still want to have music schools and music departments that mainly teach classical music?
And, in June, at the University of South Carolina, I’ll have an active role as mentor and workshop leader at what must be the liveliest and most intensive entrepreneurial retreat in the US for classical musicians, “The Savvy Musician in ACTION”. I’m looking forward to that! And shortly will promote a chamber music competition that’s part of it.
Plus, very likely, something nice that hasn’t fully blossomed yet.
And, more briefly, consulting…
My biggest client in the past two years was the School of Music at DePauw University, where I worked with faculty and students, helping them adapt to a radical new curriculum, aimed at producing 21st century musicians.
And I’ve also worked with the Northern Iowa School of Music, a community institution, helping them develop a strategic plan for growth.
And with many small groups and individuals. My current client is a new music group outside the US, which I’m helping form and organize ideas for branding and for enlarging their audience. A lot of the ideas were already there. But were they forceful enough? Active enough? Which should have priority? And — very crucial — who in the group will act on them? I’m urging that they find some new people for this work, because the people who run the group now are already maxed out. And because if you want to make audience development a priority, you have to really do that! Which means finding some people who’ll make it their main job.
Two of my specialties: career development (especially forming ideas of what you’d like to do, and removing blocks). And branding, which I’ve taught both one on one, and in small online groups.
And, though it’s not quite consulting, I’ve done projects with two big U.S. orchestras, the Cleveland Orchestra and the Pittsburgh Symphony.
My courses at Juilliard: in the spring semester (starting next week), “Classical Music in an Age of Pop,” about the future of classical music. The link takes you to last year’s syllabus. And, each fall, “Speaking of Music: How to Talk and Write About It,” a course that partly deals with practical things, like writing bios and program notes, but (as I’ll explain in a future blog post) goes beyond all that to widen students’ ideas of what music is.
I’ve taught versions of both courses privately online. Contact me if you’re interested. And, as I’ve said, I’ve also taught branding.
What a long and patchy career I’ve had with this! For the moment, let me refer you to the page on my website about that. But I’ll have more to say in future posts, in which I’ll feature some of my pieces. Maybe starting with Mahler Variations, a long — and so far unperformed — string quartet, a set of variations on the theme of the last movement of Mahler’s Third Symphony, in which each variation has its own musical style, ranging from Elvis to Webern. A tribute, taken as a whole, to all kinds of music (and other things) that I’ve loved. (Go here for the score, here for a computer demo.)
And then there’s my long-delayed book on the future of classical music, about which I’ll soon have an announcement…
And so, to bring this to a close:
What can I do for you? Write you some music? Speak at your school? Or spend a few days in residence? (Anne and I have done this together.) Help you or your group, with branding, career development, enlarging your audience, adapting to our changing culture?
Something I did in 2013, at the League of American Orchestras national conference: Led/inspired/provoked people to imagine a future very different from our present classical music reality, a future in which all our problems have been solved. How would we get there? I loved doing that, and would be thrilled to do it again. (More here, and here.)
Why not contact me to talk about all this?
Within a year of taking Greg Sandow’s branding workshop, I found my dream job and earned a 9000% return on my investment. -No exaggeration. Greg’s approach is subtle, but it runs very deep. With gentle guidance, razor-sharp perspective, and just the right questions, Greg helps you to become clearer about who you are and who you really want to be. Through a highly individualized process of examining yourself and others, you develop a keen sense of how to communicate your identity effectively and genuinely- without hype, and without self-serving egotism. Whether you’re an emerging artist or a seasoned professional, Greg Sandow’s branding workshop clarifies your unique strengths and empowers you to share them joyfully. Highly recommended.
David Wallace, Chair of the String Department, Berklee College of Music; author, Reaching Out: A Musician’s Guide to Interactive Performance
When I started to read about your work, I not only got inspired, but was so surprised: I felt your words were mine. I think you have so wonderfully put in words a reality all of us can sense.
I highly recommend Greg Sandow as a consultant. He creatively tailored his expert knowledge to fit my unique needs. As a result, with his help, I have created a plan the may most efficiently help me meet my goals. He even helped me with some practical orchestration tips; which were quite helpful to me as a composer more familiar with recording studios, synthesizers and computers.
In addition to a wealth of information, I feel I have found a genuine new friend in Greg. He seems so sincerely interested in helping me, the consulting fees seem like an afterthought. I will definitely hire Greg again for more guidance as my journey continues. I feel I got more than my money’s worth.
Liza Figueroa Kravinsky
Greg has a wonderful ability to pick out the goals and core values of musicians and guide them toward the track that is right for them.
Haley Rempel, Canadian flautist, founder of Aurelia Productions, which puts on performances that challenge people to see classical music in new ways
I learnt ever so much, both from you and from my fellow students. What a gift! I have suddenly become acutely aware of how much branding is actually a kind of misinformation, how classical musicians manage to dull everything they do. It’s time to get honest about how excited we feel, to communicate it. Easier said than done. Thank you for leading the crusade!
Sally Whitwell, Australian pianist/performer, teacher, composer