what prompted you to do this?
Good question. For many years, audiences have been dwindling in classical music concerts across the country. Go to google and type in "symphony orchestras in trouble" and you'll be inundated with results. Classical education has suffered, and people are generally falling away from participating in classical music because of this. In reality, participation in classical music has receded to large coastal metropolises, and even in these areas, it is showing signs of decay. Time and again, people have stated in our interviews and events that that they feel unworthy, unwelcome, and left out. The music is so good, and the experience such a wonderful and life-changing part of our lives, we felt compelled to come together to change the way people engage with and perceive classical music.
We think that people feel unwelcome and intimidated for a few basic reasons: the concert hall, the education, and the human touch. The concert hall has changed into something that it honestly never was in the past, and that is a place where people come to sit quietly, act reverently, and listen to music presented to them as though they were in a museum. We don't believe in experiencing music as an anachronism that is being held up; we believe that the music is alive to this very day, and it should be participatory and cathartic. When we've asked people if they would feel comfortable calling a symphony orchestra or a chamber series organizer and expressing their opinion on a concert, a new composition, or the choice of programming, everyone responded no. Why? Because they either felt like they didn't know what to say, how to express their thoughts, or that they weren't really clear what they were listening for in the first place. That's where we come in.
how are you going to innovate classical music?
The first step is to acknowledge that people don't need to be forced into structures and vehicles that deliver classical music in a certain way. The music can still be just as brilliant and amazing to experience outside of a tuxedo. Innovating new ways for people to engage with classical music can include holding fabulous spectacles, laid back jam sessions and read throughs with cocktails and appetizers, having a musical dinner party, an interactive educational evening where people learn how to listen from musicians and are encouraged to engage critically -- we have many ideas, and we intend to be the laboratory that finds the way people can enjoy and learn about classical music.
The second step is acknowledging that artists are not prophets, and that their work is not a gospel. We intend to create spaces and conversations where artists, composers, and musicians of any stripe must listen to and acknowledge criticism as well as praise from their audiences from a place of mutual respect for one another. People should feel empowered to converse with the musicians and to offer thoughts or evaluations of the music. The days of the educated shaming audiences into silence is over, and it is a poor education indeed that creates individuals incapable of being challenged or critiqued.
The final step we see is to make the music human. We must shake off the self-imposed cult of reverence around composers or performers. If human audiences are going to connect to and enjoy music, the composers and the performers must also allow that they, too, are human. We must allow people to have fun with the music, to enjoy it on their own terms, and to encourage people to commune with the musical heritage of centuries of communities around the world.
What are your immediate areas of focus?
At this time, we are focused on holding public education events, pop up performances, and organizing salon evenings in the homes of people in the community.
At public education events, food, drinks, and conversation will be combined with an educational evening in which people are engaged by musicians in how to approach classical music, how to listen to it, and how to speak confidently when offering their views about a composition or performance.
At our pop up concerts and spectacles, we will take the music into the streets. Our only rule is to bring the music out of traditional artistic or performance spaces and into the every day places where people's lives actually occur. In so doing, we hope to build communities of people whose curiosity has been piqued and who wish to engage further.
Salon evenings are a very old tradition, and possibly our most basic foundation upon which communities, friendships, and education can occur. Coming together in friendship and merriment to experience the music over dinner and drinks returns the music to the safest and most intimate surroundings where people can let loose and welcome the musical experience.