Be Who You Are (While Knowing the Tradition)

Thanks to a few Will Robin tweets I just got hip to a rather astonishing discussion about audience outreach in classical music. The post by Greg Sandow is well-intentioned but misguided, the response by Bill Eddins is fabulous.


The only way to move anything forward is by being who you are to the best of your ability.

Take the classical orchestra. Many people, including Sandow, worry that the classical orchestra is dying.

If I was in charge of moving the classical orchestra forward, the last thing I'd do would be try to sporadically and superficially outreach to "new" demographics like Afro-Americans or Latinos. ("New" is in quotes out of deference to the many brilliant non-white composers and performers heard on programs featuring classical orchestras.)  After all, European Classical Music was the house band for centuries of racist oppressors. Until all those years of hurt have been properly addressed, what good reason will there be for non-white communities to come out and support yet another moneyed white flagship?

Instead, my classical orchestra would be composed only of obsessives who believed in the message. All our concerts would be played from memory. No union could tell us how long rehearsals were supposed to be: we'd rehearse until we were ready. We wouldn't dare to play anything rhythmic that borrowed from Afro-American or Latino traditions unless we could really cut it.

If we kept it up, interested people from all races would support us eventually. 


Related DTM:

Interview with George Walker



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