For years (decades) there have been discussions about “the problem with classical music.” In the late 1980s I predicted that orchestras could begin dying in 20 years. Those that didn’t sit up and listen proved my point – it is sad to see Bellevue, Honolulu, New Mexico, & Syracuse Symphonies and Orchestra Nova amongst others removed from our communities with many more frankly holding on to a few more borrowed years (Many, many others did wake up!). But the wider discussion continues.
What, exactly is THE problem with classical music?
Tristan Jakob-Hoff, an advocate for the horrible (IMHO*) noisy regurgitation of novelty sounds created by many modern ‘intellectual’ composers, has hit the nail squarely, firmly and bountifully on the head: “The only serious problem facing classical music today is that people keep saying there is a problem with classical music.”
I totally agree. Perhaps what these victim-story masses are actually referring to is that we want more audience members to attend our concerts more frequently. That’s a real and genuine problem! As can be seen by the calendar right here on TampaClassical.com there is an abundance of classical music in our region, as there is in many regions throughout the world. However, chat with someone about the music you and they like and more often than not the following sentence appears in some form at some point in the conversation: “I just know what I like.”
We all have specific likes and dislikes in music – hence why music is completely subjective despite what some academics like to have us believe – and very few people truly like all styles of music. A fan of classical guitar may yawn violently during an organ recital. A Puccini opera fanatic may cringe whilst listening to a Beethoven piano sonata. And vice versa. So, there isn’t actually a problem with the music, or with what the music industry is offering for consumption, but there is a problem with the number of people who attend the concerts we want people to attend.
And because each concert caters to a “specific niche” (that’s trendy-speak for “a selected group of people”) we are naturally going to limit who wants to participate. We should focus our efforts towards those people who actually like what we have to offer and encourage THEM to share it with others (Tristan recommends the same thing at the end of his post). Why a brass quintet might focus their efforts trying to get Hilary Hahn fans and community softball players to appreciate a Christmas Special I have no idea, yet it happens day in and day out. If YOU like brass quintet OR Christmas music, go the the concert. If you really like brass quintet AND Christmas music, invite some people to go with you (there are actually community softball players who do like classical music already). And if someone suggests “Hey, I love this [piece/ performer/ style] – why don’t you come with me?” then go. Try it. You might actually like it!
*Social Media speak meaning “In My Humble Opinion.” Not to be used widely.