California Symphony’s executive director Aubrey Bergauer says, “I warned them I was going to do things differently.”
Unlike many orchestras that try to appeal to younger audiences (in the symphony world, “younger” means “under 60”), Bergauer and Donato Cabrera, the California Symphony’s music director and conductor, didn’t start with the premise that there was something wrong with the music itself.
“People think that to bring in younger audiences you need ‘The Symphony Meets the Beatles,’ but a Beethoven symphony is amazing to anyone. You don’t have to ‘symphonize’ pop music,” Cabrera says. “We needed to change the experience, not the repertoire.”
People outside the organization have taken note. “She’s recognized that, as a field, we tend to be ritualistic about how we do things and how we’ve operated behind a sort of veil,” says Jesse Rosen President and CEO of the League of American Orchestras.
“She’s focused on the quality of the experience, beginning with how an orchestra comes across online, and worked to make it more in line with contemporary audiences. She’s a gifted leader who’s getting good results.”
Participants in a focus group noted that the lack of visual stimuli contributed to a feeling of being ‘disconnected’ or ‘distanced’ during the concert. “When you can watch, you can focus more easily.” When they were purely listening to music with which they had little affinity, it was easy to become disengaged. However, they experienced the event becoming ‘personalized’ through the ability to see or interact with the performers, as was the case in the other concerts.
Being aware of the audience’s expectations.
Thus the presence of novelty in a classical concert perhaps reemphasizes live classical listening as a distinctive, special experience, as it is distinguished by a greater period of anticipation from the more immediate gratification of recorded listening.
Visual cues are indispensable in helping the listener to [accept] every event just as it comes and [resist] the temptation to fight each one by comparing it with a private version.
Multimodality in the 21st century has caused educational institutions to consider changing the forms of even its traditional aspects of classroom education. According to Hassett and Curwood, authors of Theories and Practices of Multimodal Education, “Print represents only one mode of communication…” and with a rise in digital and Internet literacy, other modes are needed, from visual texts to digital e-books.
Other changes occur by integrating music and video with lesson plans during early childhood education; however, such measures are seen as augmenting and increasing literacy for educational communities by introducing new forms, rather than replacing literacy values.
The same holds true for classical music. We don’t need to replace the crucial values of Classical Music but can introduce new forms of presenting it.
Jordan, organist, with her husband, David Jordan, media artist of Pro-Motion
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