No, no, I didn't fall off of the face of the earth, I've just been really busy with Dallas Symphony rehearsals lately. We played 9 youth concerts over the past week and a half! The program was John Lanchbery's The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin from The Tales of Beatrix Potter and Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf. Squirrel Nutkin was originally a ballet so we had members of the Black Dance Academy come to perform it. It was well done and extremely amusing - they really got into character! Peter and the Wolf was fun although I'm always surprised at how long the piece seems every time I play it - especially since Prokofiev is my favorite composer of all time.
In addition to the youth concerts last week, we also performed the music of Billy Joel with Mark Cavanaugh. There were 3 concerts and they were pretty entertaining. This week we're doing the film music of George Fenton. He's written scores for over 75 films, I can't believe I didn't know his name before! He wrote the music for EverAfter, Sweet Home Alabama, Hitch, Planet Earth, and You've Got Mail to name just a few. They're going to have clips of the films playing on a giant screen overhead during the concert. I'm really interested to see how it turns out! Our first concert is tomorrow night.
Rehearsals have kind of taken over my life right now. I've also been doing some teaching and seeing a few friends here and there, along with doing homework and my project for my Professional Development for Musicians class. I really want to be practicing more, I get in a little over an hour before rehearsals in the mornings but then I'm pretty exhausted for the rest of the day. I'll have a lot of time to catch up next week though since it's Spring Break - if rehearsing with my Trio and doing make-up lessons for all of my students doesn't kill me.
I wrote a short response paper for my class tonight and it focuses on a lot of things I've been thinking about recently so I'll just share it here (please excuse the brain-dead writing):
I found the readings for this week extremely thought provoking. Riche’s article on Demographics and the Dynamics of Change contained a wealth of information and statistics about our nation’s expansion in race, ethnicity and aging. Just over the past fifty years the percentage of ethnic minorities has increased from 12 to 34 percent and is continuing to grow. Minority groups that once occupied only particular demographics have now spread throughout the country. To top it all off, because of advances in technology and healthcare, the population as a whole is living much longer and the number of people within each age group is becoming relatively the same.
Ben Cameron’s Keynote Address at the Performing Arts Exchange in 2007 touched on a subject that I believe a lot of musicians don’t like to think about. That being the fact that classical music audiences are decreasing because of cultural and technological changes within our society. The lives of our population as a whole are becoming increasingly fast-paced and stressful, and the effects are seen in how people are using their “downtime”. Multiple age groups are staying at home to rest instead of going out at night and a lot of this has to do with the technological changes I mentioned. With the recent advances in computers and the Internet, people can access nearly every form of entertainment with a click of a button. Instead of paying tens or hundreds of dollars for a ticket to a concert, they can download a specialized concert for themselves at a mere 99 cents a track. It is ironic that while the Internet has opened doors for social networking never seen before, people are actually becoming less socially involved as they sit in front of their computer screens at home.
With all of these ideas in mind, what is the chamber music scene to do? Audiences for chamber concerts are smaller to begin with, usually because they are made up of the older “white” population and music students. Observing changes in our society, one might think that chamber music will eventually fade from existence. However, I do not think this will happen. Despite the population’s ever growing desire for loud, fast-paced, mind-numbing entertainment, I believe that there is still a strong part in all of us that longs for a more intimate, and intellectually stimulating world that chamber music captures so well.
There will need to be some changes to help generate audiences; music will need to be much more ethnically diverse, performance venues will need to be more accessible and the artists will need to be more engaging and approachable. There are some ensembles devoted to these ideals already, such as the Turtle Island String Quartet and the Kronos String Quartet. That isn’t to say that traditional Romantic and Classical pieces can’t be performed in normal venues, but reaching out and engaging audiences is becoming more important now than ever. The pages we read in Beyond Talent explain how to talk to audiences. Even though many classical musicians think that their job is to play the music that the program notes describe, they don’t realize how much audiences enjoy feeling connected to the artist in a personal way. Something people can’t get from on demand entertainment in their homes is personal interaction with the actual entertainment. Engaging audiences in a personal manner creates an entirely different experience that people will return for over and over again.
If musicians can continue to take steps in these directions, no matter how our society evolves, classical music will always be right there alongside it.