I often hear that one of the reasons people don’t attend classical concerts is that they feel no connection to the music or to the composers who created it hundreds of years ago. That’s understandable. Another common complaint is that it is just too expensive and a luxury only the wealthy can afford. With so many other forms of entertainment vying for our time, it’s getting harder and harder for orchestras to stay afloat. In order to survive, the definition of an orchestral experience has to evolve and expand beyond the traditional concert hall.
Forget classical music??
One tactic used to help make going to see a symphony more accessible is to perform music that a wider audience would recognize like popular movie soundtracks or classical versions of current songs. While successful, these types of shows aren’t usually enough to sustain an entire season. Perhaps bringing in film and television composers to create original pieces for orchestras, incorporating newer instruments and technologies, could keep the sound fresh and more relatable?
Make it stimulating
At one of my recent performances of the Canyon Concerto, we showed a slideshow of the Utah national parks that each part of the concerto was named after to the whole audience in the hopes to connect the audience and the musicians to the music. Use of video has become a popular tool for orchestras to maintain the engagement of people who are used to watching things on screen. Now companies are taking it even further by commissioning fine artists to create custom imagery to match the mood of the symphony.
Take it to the people!
If people aren’t coming to watch symphonies then we need to bring the orchestra to the public. Organizations like Groupmuse and Sofar are hosting shows in homes, parks, libraries and other common spaces. Live concert streams via social media platforms like Facebook. And some companies even allow audience members to live tweet about the concert they are watching to give those who aren’t there a sense of the experience. Any way we can expose more people to live classical performances, the more likely we will create new fans, including those who never thought they could enjoy classical music.
What does the future hold…
In order to keep classical concerts alive we have to keep experimenting with different ways make orchestras relevant. teamLab, a digital art collective in Japan, recently debuted a ROBOT that conducts an electric orchestra and starting this month, the LA Philharmonic will be incorporating video projected on the ENTIRE concert hall that will react in real time to the music being played! Interactive, high tech and non traditional venues seem to be the wave of the future, but what do you think will help bring back people to orchestra experience? I’d love to hear your ideas.