I am concerned.
I had a disquieting conversation with my concert companion at the opera. During intermission, he asked me: “Do you think classical music is going to die out?” And to illustrate this, he pointed to the myriad “old” people in the audience. The age range skewed so high that even the sprinkling of younger individuals I pointed out did not deter him. “I think yes, it’s going to die out,” he said with finality, and I was annoyed.
But more than that, I was concerned. Not because of the idea that the orchestral arts are primarily attended by an older generation. We’ve all had and heard this debate before, and it’s the perpetual focus of marketing departments everywhere: how can we attract young people? How can we attract young people? And for the most part, the kids ignore their efforts.
Okay, fine. It’s just a matter of education, right? It’s not because there’s anything wrong with classical music; it’s a lack of exposure. I am not of the group that believes that we must make any alterations to classical music to make it more “hip” and “accessible.” We don’t need pyrotechnics or gimmicks. As a musical genre it can stand just fine on its own, as evidence by my experience playing this same guy Holst’s “Jupiter.” I just needed to educate him, see?
Yet this is what worries me: in pronouncing classical music a dying art form, he was NOT ignoring it. He was taking a look at it and declaring it done. And sure, those who do not appreciate the art form will often do so, but generally without examination. Again: he took a look before sounding the death knell. And worse yet, he was at the opera voluntarily, and enjoyed it. Still he called it doomed. Is this common? Is this something you hear a lot?
How are we supposed to fight THAT?