Hi! Allow me to tell you a story of my childhood.
When I was in, oh, I think it was fifth grade, my music class took a field trip to see a children’s matinee at a symphony; it might have been the BSO, actually (in which case, please remember that my issue in this tale is not with the musicians. Love ya, BSO!). On the program that day was Copland’s Rodeo, or at least the finale.
Since no one can put together a children’s program without inserting some kind of hook, an artist was brought out before the Rodeo segment. She had a great big easel over which was thrown a big pad of black paper, and assorted chalks. It was announced that, as the orchestra played, this artist would draw what she saw in the music. I distinctly remember thinking: oh, this should be interesting!
It was NOT interesting. It was LIES.
The orchestra played Rodeo, which, if you aren’t aware, is a ballet about cowboys and cowgirls. The artist drew, in various traditional Old West scenes, cowboys and cowgirls. So what you’re telling me, artist lady, is that what YOU see in the music just happens to coincide with the precise plot of the orchestrated ballet? Lies.
I am STILL bitter about this, and here’s why: even as a fifth grader, I was not an idiot. I knew when I was being patronized. And yet somehow, at every children’s concert I attended, I felt like the organizers couldn’t tell the difference between fifth graders and idiots.
I’ll admit that the fact that I was brought up with classical music probably colored my perspective on these matters. I didn’t need actors making up some stupid story to correspond with Beethoven’s sixth to love it, but then I already knew it — maybe others needed the story to hook their interest.
We talked last week about whether and why classical music is dying, and many hit upon the question of how to properly interest younger generations in the genre. If the adults in charge are still talking down to the kids in the audience, I don’t know what good it will do. But then maybe the quality of children’s programming has improved. Or maybe I’ve always been oversensitive and it’s fine the way it is. Somebody educate me!