“Classical” music, like all labels, may have outlived its usefulness.
My first-year seminar class is putting on a concert in a few weeks as a class project. The goal is to get non-music students in the door, to an event that includes at least some classical music.
They have decided to hold the performance in a large room near the food court in the Student Union Building, and to have free desserts, so there will be somewhat of a coffee-house atmosphere. Or what a few of them think of as a coffee-house atmosphere. In doing some “market research,” asking friends what they though of various titles for the concert, my students discovered that few of their friends knew what a “coffee house” is. In this age of Starbucks, where the music is not live (usually) but the CDs being sold, the association between a coffeehouse and live music no longer exists.
They also discovered that nearly 100% of their non-musician friends said they wouldn’t go to something with the word “classical” in the title. (They had been thinking about “so you think you know classical music.”)
“Classical music” supposedly refers to everything from Gregorian chant to Steve Reich and Kronos. It is an increasingly counterproductive label.
My students are calling their event “A Musical Buffet,” and will emphasize the inclusion of jazz and African music and not use the word “classical.” And they’ll do some of that formerly-known-as-classical music, too.