The Music Maven’s Valediction

Let me offer some final thoughts on the NEPR Classical Blog. Thanks to all who’ve read and commented; please keep an eye out in the blogosphere for me and my irrepressible opinions, starting sometme next year.

Classical lovers, be of good cheer!  No question, our dear classical music is in a bit of a fix in this country.  Declining audience, aging demographics, orchestras on the brink — you name it, we’re facing it.  Yet I remain optimistic for the future of classical music.  Why?  Because the music itself has never been better.  And the latest generation of artists is the most capable, widest-ranging, most open-eared, entrepreneurially sharpest, and all around best our country has ever produced.  I have no reason to think the next generation won’t be even better, either.  So while classsical music is unlikely to recapture the cultural market share it owned during the glory days of the mid-20th century, I’m confident that it will soon start to trend in the upward direction, artistically and otherwise, and will continue to grow for all the years I’m lucky enough to be around to enjoy it.  Wishful thinking?  Perhaps.  But wouldn’t it be great if it came true?

Classical musicians, presenters, et al., honor thine audience!  Of all the people required to keep classical music going, of whom is the most asked financially, but the least asked about everything else?  The audience, of course.  Really, look around the classicalsphere for an hour or so.  You’ll have little trouble finding the opinions of everyone from composers to performers to presenters to publicists to fundraisers to media professionals to critics.  The audience?  Not so much.  Oh, the audience comes up occasionally as an abstraction, mostly in terms of the ungodly sums of money they’re required to donate to keep the big classical institutions alive.  

But let it be written, anytime, anywhere, that perhaps audience appeal should help determine what music get played and where and how it’s played,  and angry counter-charges of pandering and dumbing-down will fill the comments section.  You see, according to a small but loud and influential minority, the audience is supposed to fill the hall (they’ll be criticized as unadventurous if they don’t), fork over the dough (they’ll be branded as cheapskates if they don’t) and take whatever musical challenges are presented to them from on high (i.e., the stage), no matter in what form they’re presented.  And if any audience members should express their disapproval with either their voices or their feet, they will be branded as Enemies of True Art.  This strikes me as grossly unfair.  If anything, the audience represents to me the “99%” of classicaldom, or if you prefer, the “silent majority,” ignored if not outright derided by the elite taste-makers, while also asked to fund the whole shebang.

You know, I’ve spoken to hundreds of listeners and concert attendees over the years.  And yes, when it comes to breadth of taste and level of adventurousness, they’re all over the map.  But I never have spoken to anyone who wanted to be pandered or condescended to.  In fact, I’ve seen just the opposite occur in recent years, with even aged audiences expressing their greatest enthusiasm for new and even fairly edgy sounds — as long as those sounds speak a language the audience understands, and present challenges that are inviting, even fun , not work.  Of course, no one is going to like everything.   But the vast majority of classical listeners, I have found, will respond enthusiastically to music that lives up to their standards and respects their sensibilities.  So, my musician and presenter friends, honor thine audience, and they’ll honor you back.  Disregard their tastes and needs, and you’ll deserve whatever opprobrium they fling back at you.  Your choice.

Stay tuned!  There they are, the two most important words in radio.  The voice behind the microphone will change, but the music goes on.  If you  should feel the need to honor a 35-year classical radio veteran on his retirement, the greatest honor you could do him is to continue to listen to and support the station that afforded him and you such a great opportunity to share so much wonderful music together.  Stay tuned!




  1. Anonymous says

    In case you did not spot this on Facebook, your honorary godson Duncan sat entranced through the entire PBS televised version of Silent Nig, screechy high notes and all! There is hope for the future.

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