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Music Mondays: because life’s better with a soundtrack.

There’s been quite a discussion brewing regarding audience-building in classical music and I’m fascinated by it. It all started with this post by Greg Sandow. Now, I don’t know Greg or his work, but it should be noted that this is actually his interpretation of Bo Young Lee’s presentation. She’s a diversity consultant (Do we really still need these? Wish we were past it!) and, for her sake, I hope Sandow took her squarely out of context.

Her speech was ostensibly about diversity in orchestra audiences. “Diverse programming” isn’t the solution, she says, and I think a lot of organizations figured that out a long time ago. What she does, however, is contrast “respectful” white culture and more colorful other cultures (seriously). She basically advocates for pandering and it’s just sad.

Bill Eddins has a fun take that has plenty of references to Blazing Saddles. It’s worth a read.

The best take so far, though, came from Ethan Iverson (of The Bad Plus – a recent MUSIC MONDAYS feature band):

Instead, my classical orchestra would be composed only of obsessives who believed in the message. All our concerts would be played from memory. No union could tell us how long rehearsals were supposed to be: we’d rehearse until we were ready. We wouldn’t dare to play anything rhythmic that borrowed from Afro-American or Latino traditions unless we could really cut it.

If we kept it up, interested people from all races would support us eventually.

Frankly, I don’t know what the solution is, but I do think it involves a complete and utter change of orchestra culture. Maybe Ethan’s on to something.

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