This is part of some research into the direction of music education, the mysteries of its funding and the associated role of community music-making. Contact me to contribute your opinion.
constant complaint from music societies and promoters alike is the
problem of audience numbers. I'm not well-enough informed to know if
audience numbers in the classical music field are dwindling in general
but I have some experience with certain aspects of it. It's a multi-fold
subject and can't be considered as a whole to arrive at any useful
conclusions. For example, classical music encompasses a whole range of
genres, from early music and Baroque, to early 20th-century and
contemporary, each genre with overlapping, but different audiences.
are also different types of division to be recognised. For example, the
division between those who know about music, who are versed in its
esoteric jargon of cadences, codas, sonata forms and suspensions, and
those who love listening to and playing music, know what they love, but
don't know why and don't understand the jargon. Narrowing this gap would
be a big help.
Age is a factor. At one end of the spectrum, the
traditional classical program audiences, particularly for chamber music
and music festivals, are aging and conservative in their taste. At the
other end, the youthful end, potential audiences find it difficult to
find a way in, discover only institutionalised pomposity and lack of visceral
pleasure in concert going. It's the conservatism that is the barrier.
Informality may be a key here to combating this.
generalising, but whichever aspect of this problem you consider, the
solution seems to lead back to music education and the relationship of
grass-roots music making to this. The heart
of music education is in our schools and colleges, but it should also be
considered further afield. Music societies, for example, have a role to
play in not only presenting music but, through education - presenting workshop programs, say - encouraging
new members and involving audiences in the process of making music.
has come into focus because of severe funding pressures on music
education in schools, where everyone seems to recognise the benefits of
learning about and participating in music but places too low a monetary
value on it. Consequently, there is a void in music education opening up that can be filled by music societies of all kinds.
In terms of the practicalities of how to increase
audience numbers, well, imagine concerts that are not based on 'them and
us', not based on audiences down here and musicians up there, but which aim to make
connections between the them and the us. We need a new word to describe
the audience plus musicians symbiosis: the living together of two
dissimilar organisms. The musience?