Orchestras, Composers Try Different Strategies to Regain Classical Music Fans

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fresh ideas for classical music

Fresh Ideas for Classical Music

An excellent article from a topic much discussed these days in the music world. As a performer, soloist and orchestral clarinetist, I must adapt and evolve or fade away. There is no choice, really.

I recently suggested to a friend how fun it would be to have a concert of all (or many) of the "storm" scenes from music of different eras. There's Rossini's William Tell Overture, Vivaldi Four Seasons, Beethoven's 6th symphony, to name a few. Can you suggest a few other storm scenes from classical music?

Orchestras, Composers Try Different Strategies to Regain Classical Music Fans | TheLedger.com.

A "greatest hits" approach - playing just part of several lengthy works in order to attract an audience - would be considered artistic sacrilege by major orchestras like the New York Philharmonic.

Albert Moehring says "Purists are upset, (but) you have to think outside the box. We're living in a fast-moving society. What's wrong with going, 'Taste this; taste that'?" said Moehring, who started in July as the new executive director of the Imperial Symphony.

Gone are the days when children watched on TV as conductor Leonard Bernstein explained that the music they knew as the theme song of "The Lone Ranger" was really part of an overture by Rossini. Those children are now in their 50s and 60s, most of them aren't patronizing their local orchestras and their children and grandchildren have no idea who Rossini, Bernstein - or, for that matter, the Lone Ranger - are.

Conductors such as Bernstein and Arturo Toscanini once were recognizable cultural figures. Today, the orchestras they commanded either no longer exist or are struggling financially.

"There's no question there was a much more homogeneous cultural esthetic in the last century," said Judith Kurnick, vice president for strategic communications for the League of American Orchestras in New York.Today it is possible to see or hear a performance of just about any work in the classical repertoire with a few clicks of a mouse. And young composers and artists are creating classical music videos and using YouTube and social media like Facebook to spread the joys of classical music among members of a new generation.

There is even a new wave of compositions that is leaving behind the cacophony of mid-20th century music that had audiences holding their ears at the premiere of a new work. Composers are creating music that borrows from pop, jazz and Americana and is aimed once more at the emotions.

The question is whether people will pay to hear it, or the older music of Bach, Mozart and Verdi. A 2009 survey by the National Endowment for the Arts demonstrates that audiences are shrinking and aging.

There are more than 1,800 symphony, chamber, collegiate and youth orchestras across the country, according to the League of American Orchestras, and about half of them are volunteer or community orchestras like the Imperial Symphony Orchestra, based in Lakeland.

However, there is hope. Technology is providing better opportunities for exposing people to classical music. The National Endowment for the Arts survey found that "more U.S. adults watched or listened to classical music through electronic media (18 percent of adults) than any other art form studied."

Mark Thielen, music director of the Imperial Symphony and a man conversant with sports, suggests "If you're going to be a 19th century orchestra on stage, you better be 21st century everywhere else," he said. "Is it entertainment? Of course it is. It's like the movies. Some have deep thought, but if you've enjoyed it, it's because you were entertained. Music has that power, too."

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