Friday, April 3, 2009

Shutting children out of classical music? Not us!

Tom Service is arguing that not learning an instrument means that less young people go to classical music concerts. Do you agree? Do you have to play or have played an instrument at some stage in your life to attend and appreciate a classical music concert? Thoughts please!

Here's what Julian Knight (the New London Orchestra's Executive Manager) said in reply:

Dear Tom,
I read with interest your article entitled “Why we are shutting children out of classical music”, and agree with your bleak assessment of the state of music provision in schools across England especially with regards the opportunity to learn a musical instrument. Although the many government initiatives you mention will increase access to music-making in schools, these programmes do little to address the problem of individual instrumental tuition. You are right to draw the comparison between playing an instrument and attending classical concerts – I am sure that the more people who learn, the greater our future audiences will be – but there are other ways we, as classical performers, can attract younger people to our concerts.

The New London Orchestra is not alone in delivering a wide range of musical experiences within schools: our own projects use music as a tool to enhance learning in the key subjects of Literacy and Maths. However, there is little evidence that the education projects taking place across the orchestral sector over the last decade have yet had much impact in reducing the average age of the concert-goer, although anything that successfully engages young people with classical music can only be a good thing. We need to look at the concerts themselves.

Two weeks ago the New London Orchestra performed in a nightclub in Newham in east London, a venue more commonly associated with hiphop and dance nights (and, unfortunately, stabbings and shootings). We brought in an audience of more than 500 people of mixed ages from primary school children to older people, most of whom had never attended a classical concert before. 90% said they would like to see more such concerts in their area (there is currently no regular series of orchestral concerts in Newham and no concert hall anywhere in the area). This concert was part of the Orchestra’s long-term community involvement programme in Newham, and was presented from the stage by Artistic Director Ronald Corp. Over the next few years we plan to experiment with other simple ways to change the classical concert experience from being one that is perceived as intimidating to the uninitiated, to an experience that feels accessible, relaxed, and fun. These changes to the format or ‘feel’ of a concert need not be expensive – and need not involve any artistic ‘dumbing-down’.

I am not suggesting that all orchestras in the UK should adopt a different approach to concert-giving overnight: there is still a market need for the ‘traditional’ concert. But a fresh look at the way of presenting and programming some of our concerts – and where they happen – will start to change the demographic of audiences.

Yours sincerely,

Julian Knight

1 comment:

  1. It was a nice and intersting article --Clssical concert are also very important in terms of spreading traditional music and culture..