Why Is It So Difficult To Promote Classical Music In America ?
Every one who loves classical music and follows what is going on in the field is deeply concerned about the greying of audiences at concerts ,opera and other classical events . Where are the younger people ? Why is it so difficult to sell out performances and attract more people to them ? Who or what is to blame for this predicament ? Can classical music survive and flourish in America ? And given the woeful lack of government support , how can we get private philanthropies and wealthy people to contribute enough to keep our strugggling orchestras and opera companies from going under and jeopardizing the livelihoods of the many talented, dedicated and hard-working classical musicians in America ?
There are no easy answers to these questions . But one thing is certain ; the orchestras, opera companies , the conductors ,musicians , and arts administrators cannot and must not take all the blame, as some music critics and commentators would have us believe . The difficulties with growing audiences are absolutley not due to a lack of artistic excellence or a lack of interesting repertoire . Nor are they due, as some would have us believe , to the fact that so much of what is heard at performances is music from the past and a lack of new music . In fact, within the last 30 years or so , an enormous number of new orchestral works, operas , and other classical works have been performed , more than most peopel realize .
In fact, there is greater diversity of repertoire being performed today than ever before in the history of Western Classical Music . The repertoire is anything but "ossified" as many critics claim . It is in constant flux . There is a core repertoire of lastingly popular works by Mozart, Beethoven, Bach , Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, Schubert, Schumann , Mendelssohn , Rachmaninov and other world-famous composers , but ever year new works are introduced , and long neglected works from th epast are revivied .
Nor can any one claim that standards of performance are not very high , and that lackluster performances are the norm . In fact, standards of performance is probably higher than ever before . Fifty years ago , there were only a handful of world-class orchestras in America ; basically those of New York, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Cleveland , the so-called "big five" orchestras . But now there are world-class orchestras in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Detroit, St.Louis, Baltimore, Washington,D.C., Seattle, Minneapolis, Houston,Dallas, and other U.S. cities, and even the so-called lesser orchestras all over America are now better than ever before , due to the many highly gifted young musicians trained at our top music schools .
Until fairly recently, the only major opera companies in America were the Met in New York , the New York City opera, and those of San Francisco and Chicago . But the number of opera companies in America has increased to a degree which would have been previously unimaginable .
So why is it so difficult to grow audiences ? Things are not completely gloomy , and opera as a whole in in fact more poplular than ever before . There is absolutely no reason why ay one who is not a classical music lover and knows little or nothing about this kind of music should NOT give it a chance . If they would just keep an open mind and try it, they might become highly enthusiastic and wonder where classical music had been all their lives .
Part of the problem may be diue to a lack of music appreciation classes in our public schools , as these have unfortunately been dropped for the most part . Another reason is undoubtebly the fact that th emyth that classical music is "stuffy,boring and elitist ", and not something for "regular people". Another is the fact that classical music is so vastly different from the kinds of music that so many Americans enjoy , whether ,Pop, Rock, Country Western, or what have you . It's much more complex on the whole , and you need to learn something about it first .
You see, when most Americans think about "music", they think of songs . They are not accustomed to listening to purely instrumental music which unflds and developes over a period of time. Vocal music, such as opera, art songs, oratorios etc, is a very importan tpart of classical music , but much is purely instrumental, such as symphonies, concertos, sonatas ,etc . Untile peopel get accustomed to it , classicla music will often seem as difficult to understand as a language with which you are unfamiliar . But it doesn't require as much time or effort as to learn a foreign language .
Again, there are no easy answers as to how to get more people to make classical music a part of their lives . But we must never lose hope !