Ah, publicity. Ken Owen, the director of media relations at DePauw, read this blog and decided to write a story for the DePauw website about the classical-music-in-jeans concert. (If you are visiting this blog for the first time, following the link from the article, welcome.)
The story even has a video clip. And comments from audience members can be found at the first post-concert post. The clip shows the first episode of dancing at the concert. As some of the comments indicate, the dancing and the laughter perhaps had more to do with the transgressive spirit of the event than just allowing one’s self to music. And I’ve since realized that the concert was also a piece of theatre, an event about smashing rules, and in that it connected deeply with the energy of college students making the transition from feeling constrained and repressed by the rules of the adult world to being part of adult culture themselves.
The news story has already resulted in one comment, on yesterdays’ post, from a DePauw alum. When we talk about the “crisis in classical music,” there are some who will point to the new concert halls being built (as described in Sunday’s New York Times article) as evidence that some of us are wringing hands needlessly. Those new halls, and the big jump in ticket sales for the Nashville Symphony, for example (described in the article), are great news, indeed. Not all the news is bad.
Classical music isn’t “dying.” There will always be people who love listening to art music and who love playing it so much that they devote their lives to it. But as far as I can tell, there is indeed a genuine crisis when it comes to classical music being a central part of American cultural life. And from within the music education and music-performance worlds, there’s a crisis in terms of having audiences for all the extraordinary classical musicians being trained. My reader, a graduate student at another university, wrote this in her comment on yesterday’s post:
I saw your article on the DPU website and followed it here. I am at Notre Dame now, and see the same thing you see at DePauw, where people just won’t come to concerts [emphasis added]. The orchestra here is pretty good (we played at Carnegie Hall in March), but we can’t even get people to come to the concerts when we GIVE away tickets! The Glee Club (singers) have no problem, but the orchestra….we’re lucky if the auditorium is 20% full at most.
The current situation is not the end of the world. It’s a time of transition. It’s a time for creative thinking and diversity in presentation and marketing, and for reexamining our assumptions of what defines a classical performance. There are great opportunities for composers and performers to do something new and different.
So experiment away.