Where is the future in classical music?

Where is the future in classical music?
July 29, 2014 bbritadmin

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I have always loved listening to (and at a low level, playing) classical music and throughout the school days I did the usual round of instrumental lessons in the school orchestras etc.

I have been a regular concertgoer most of my life and although constrained for a couple of decades by the demands of a young family, the last few years have given me much more freedom to go to many concerts, the core being the Classics Series in Nottingham.

Quite simply, I love listening to good, live classical music. But, and it’s a big but, I sit and look at the audiences in the Royal Concert Hall and worry about the future. I suppose I have always been at the younger end of the audiences, but I still seem to be in that category – and now I’m nearly 60! There is no other way to dress it up – the vast majority of classical concertgoers would not be out of place on a “Saga” holiday. Just where are the audiences of the future going to come from?

Well, hopefully from a number of places. Although it is a regular complaint that the demands of the national curriculum do not allow for such fripperies as music, the tide does seem to be turning. At its lowest, the discipline required over years to get to a reasonable level and play any musical instrument gives an obvious advantage. Equally, in their own quiet way, the main orchestras do huge amounts of “outreach” work in schools to introduce youngsters to the pleasures that music can bring. Indeed, the Arts Council is assiduous in giving grants to ensure that all the orchestras do their bit in this respect.

And then, of course, there is the enjoyment factor. Anyone who has watched their own children perform in their school concert and seen the pleasure that both they and their audience get from live music needs no convincing. So, as long as the schools continue to take advantage of the benefits of teaching music then perhaps the future does not look so bleak after all.

Finishing on a high note (an utterly intentional pun), I was lucky enough to sit through the graduation ceremony at the Royal Academy of Music last month. Listening to the performances from some of the graduates of the last 10-30 years and then watching the graduates themselves (all seemingly perfectly “normal” young, lively people) drove home the fact that although not large, the next new young generation of musicians is there ready to stride the platforms of the world’s concert halls.

That just leaves the issue of getting a few younger people into the audiences….