Thursday, April 12, 2012


I've seen this article circulating on facebook. While I think it brings up some interesting points, I don't think it brings up any solutions, or really addresses the root of the problem.  One of the biggest mysteries to me is, why are there SO MANY young musicians out there who love classical music so much that they want to devote their lives to a career in music, and yet there are so few people willing to support symphony orchestras or even attend concerts?  I really don't understand this.  And while it would be nice if we received more support from the government, maybe that's not the answer.  Although I would love to have a job a in a good orchestra, maybe these organizations need to change if they are going to survive.  Other parts of the music industry (record labels, for example) are facing similar challenges; it remains to be seen how music will be purchased and enjoyed in the future.

At any rate, no one is going to even know what classical music if we continue to slash it from education.  In my experience, children love making music of any kind, and are often very open to all sorts of music (much more so than adults).  I think the answer lies in continuing El Sistema projects and making an effort to include music education in public schools.  I also think in the future salon-style concerts and other, perhaps yet-to-be-discovered, concert venues will be the answer unless symphonies can find a better way to engage their communities.

One other aspect of musical life not mentioned in this article:  elitism within (not of) the classical music community.  Whereas I think that there is actually less elitism in classical music than people give it credit for (it's generally less expensive to buy symphony tickets than tickets to a major sporting event or pop concert), there is elitism amongst musicians.  The more I play music and continue to be in the bottom of the pile (not in a major orchestra, not playing major recording sessions) I see the classical community as having many rigid tiers, like 18th century British society, and I think that this tiered system is affecting our success as a genre as well as the public's perception of us.  The 99% vs the 1%?  Look no further than the Los Angeles freelance community, where the same 1% of musicians get the vast majority of recording work, not even allowing the rest of the 99% to even get a foot in the door (and the union only solidifies these rigid tiers, if you ask me).  To me, there is sometimes, among some (NOT ALL, in fact, not even most, but it's still there) musicians with orchestra jobs or regular session players, an attitude of superiority.  There is a divide amongst those who perceive themselves as talented, above the rest, and those who do not.  I even see it in young students, who think that playing the violin well somehow gives them license to play by different rules than everyone else, and that their music is a gift that they are bestowing on to an audience who should be grateful.  This attitude needs to change.  The way we make money from our music needs to change.  The way the often completely isolated classical music community interacts with the world around it needs to change.  I'm not sure precisely how, but I do think it involves a lot more community activism, more music education, and a ton more flexibility.

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