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New Classical Music Book Unravels Mystery of Classical Music to Young Persons



“Classical musical audiences are getting older, and older. If they are not replaced by a new crop of younger listeners that means more empty seats and even less revenue. At the same time, costs to run an orchestra, pay staff and management, and the musicians, aren’t going down. Eventually, there’s a breakpoint. The result could be staff cutbacks, fewer concerts, and in some cases orchestras folding completely. “

Noted classical musicologist Earl Ofari Hutchinson warns against this troubling and controversial concern in the world of classical music in his new book A Young Person's Guide to Classical Music (Middle Passage Press).



Hutchinson says, “One especially gloomy classical music doomsayer went further. The headline of his piece said it all, “It’s Time to Let Classical Music Die.” His gripe was the seeming lack of ethnic diversity within classical music orchestras. He contended that this was a big reason so many young and not so young persons are the disappearing act in classical music.



“Loads of reasons have been given for the apparent absence of young persons from the concert halls. The concerts are too long, too boring, you must sit still interminably long in stone silence. You certainly can’t dance and sing to a symphony. It’s also said concerts are too costly and too robotic,” Hutchinson observes, “The more charitable answer is that young people aren’t regularly exposed to the music. Many public schools have cut back arts programs and instruction, eliminated field trips to concert halls, and invitations to classical musicians to perform at schools. There is some truth to all these explanations for the non-appearance of young people in the classical music concert halls.”



Hutchinson points out that there is no miracle or magic formula to get masses of young people rushing to classical music concerts. Classical music is no different than any other music, rock, pop, Reggae, R&B, Rap, Jazz, country and western, bluegrass, and other musical genres from everywhere else on the planet. It has its rabid fans, rabid detractors, and a significant majority in the middle ground who could care less about the music one way or the other. It's a matter of choice, taste, and to a degree, exposure.



A Young Person's Guide to Classical Music is not an attempt to make new converts to classical music, “he says, “It’s certainly not an attempt to duplicate, let alone match, the kind of passion, expertise, and professionalism other classical music conductors have spurred young persons to listen to and even love classical music back in their day. In any case, there's not an aspect of classical music that hasn't been written about, in more instances than not repeatedly. The books on classical music fill dozens of public and private library and bookstore shelves.



He makes no pretense that A Young Person's Guide to Classical Music is comprehensive, and touches all bases on classical music. His goal was a fast-paced, highly readable basic primer for those young persons interested in classical music or who want to develop an interest in it. It's a layperson's guide to standard musical terms, instruments, selected composers, influential works, and the styles, forms, and structures common to classical music. I present a capsulized history of the different periods in classical music's evolution.



Hutchinson includes many important compositions from different periods of the music's evolution as recommended listening. He tosses in interesting factoids about the best-known composers and their works. I also squeeze in the section "From the Concert Seat" some interesting and amusing tidbits about the composers, the instruments, and their works.



He ends with thoughts on what can spur interest in more young persons in classical music. Hutchinson’s aim is not to proselytize young people on the music. It's to try to make classical music and its components understandable---for those interested. “

From PRLOG (full quote allowed with link):
 

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As a firm believer in early imprinting in the arts, I would recommend a hodge-podge of different approaches to introducing CM and the young to each other. Not in any order: exposing them to film/video soundtracks and suggesting that CM is or can be a place or way to further explore the sort of soundtrack music they really like. I loved as a kid the Richard Rodgers music for Victory at Sea--very stirring, and I wanted to hear more of such.

Pointing out that music they may hear in ads or as intro music for TV shows, etc., with examples, may be taken from CM--an example is the intro to Judge Judy episodes where we hear the opening 4 notes of Beethoven's 5th.

Playing for kids in the classroom bits of tone poems or ballet scores and asking them whether they hear in the music a thunderstorm (Beethoven, Grofe) and who did the more convincing job. Nightride and Sunrise suggests itself; also Villa-Lobos BB #2, more Grofe (On the Trail); which Rachmaninoff preludes and Etudes Tableaux sound the most like bells ringing. Hard to go wrong with The Nutcracker or Peter and the Wolf. Respighi offers many examples. It will take with those predisposed for whatever reasons to begin to like CM.
 

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This book will be bought by:
-- A few kids already interested in CM
-- Some adults hoping this would give the answer to getting a new generation to like CM
-- With luck, it may be purchased in bulk for music appreciation classes.

Kids who don't like CM won't read this book, so it won't fix the issue of greying CM listeners and concert-goers. It'll be one of the guides for the few kids who are really starting to enjoy CM already. (And most would probably look on the Internet for CM guides-- quicker and more convenient, especially since they'll be getting CM music from Youtube and streaming services).

That's my two-cents, anyway. I hope that some people get hooked on CM as adults, even as older adults, in sufficient numbers to make the CM audience's decline plateau or reverse
 

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As a firm believer in early imprinting in the arts, I would recommend a hodge-podge of different approaches to introducing CM and the young to each other. Not in any order: exposing them to film/video soundtracks and suggesting that CM is or can be a place or way to further explore the sort of soundtrack music they really like. I loved as a kid the Richard Rodgers music for Victory at Sea--very stirring, and I wanted to hear more of such.

Pointing out that music they may hear in ads or as intro music for TV shows, etc., with examples, may be taken from CM--an example is the intro to Judge Judy episodes where we hear the opening 4 notes of Beethoven's 5th.

Playing for kids in the classroom bits of tone poems or ballet scores and asking them whether they hear in the music a thunderstorm (Beethoven, Grofe) and who did the more convincing job. Nightride and Sunrise suggests itself; also Villa-Lobos BB #2, more Grofe (On the Trail); which Rachmaninoff preludes and Etudes Tableaux sound the most like bells ringing. Hard to go wrong with The Nutcracker or Peter and the Wolf. Respighi offers many examples. It will take with those predisposed for whatever reasons to begin to like CM.
One of the big problems is, to me, is that kids are already imprinting on the repetitive, rhythmic, three minute pop song complete with music video (because the song alone is perceived to lack the substance to entertain listeners). Also consider that kids have short attention spans that inhibit enjoyment of many Certified Masterpieces of CM.

By the time their attention spans get long enough to take in a four movement Romantic symphony, their brains have already been wired to appreciate songs pretty much exclusively.
 

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One of the big problems is, to me, is that kids are already imprinting on the repetitive, rhythmic, three minute pop song complete with music video (because the song alone is perceived to lack the substance to entertain listeners). Also consider that kids have short attention spans that inhibit enjoyment of many Certified Masterpieces of CM.

By the time their attention spans get long enough to take in a four movement Romantic symphony, their brains have already been wired to appreciate songs pretty much exclusively.
I am an example of one. I grew up in a household where the day's pop music, Tin Pan Alley music, CM, Broadswy musicals, all were heard constantly. Get kids young enough and they are still open to all musical stimuli and will let CM be part of the mix. Short pieces or excerpts first, like bits of Peer Gynt, or Lt. Kije, or of Respighi. Over the years, the interest will (maybe) grow and the tolerance for longer works will also grow.
 

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As a firm believer in early imprinting in the arts, I would recommend a hodge-podge of different approaches to introducing CM and the young to each other. Not in any order: exposing them to film/video soundtracks and suggesting that CM is or can be a place or way to further explore the sort of soundtrack music they really like. I loved as a kid the Richard Rodgers music for Victory at Sea--very stirring, and I wanted to hear more of such.

Pointing out that music they may hear in ads or as intro music for TV shows, etc., with examples, may be taken from CM--an example is the intro to Judge Judy episodes where we hear the opening 4 notes of Beethoven's 5th.

Playing for kids in the classroom bits of tone poems or ballet scores and asking them whether they hear in the music a thunderstorm (Beethoven, Grofe) and who did the more convincing job. Nightride and Sunrise suggests itself; also Villa-Lobos BB #2, more Grofe (On the Trail); which Rachmaninoff preludes and Etudes Tableaux sound the most like bells ringing. Hard to go wrong with The Nutcracker or Peter and the Wolf. Respighi offers many examples. It will take with those predisposed for whatever reasons to begin to like CM.
In short, my issue with these methods is that they are already common wisdom, and have been tried before. They are ineffective. Did playing stormy compositions in music class make a lot of young converts? No. Did the early 2000s era preschool cartoon Little Einsteins get my generation hooked on Mozart? Don't think so. Hmmm...maybe it influenced me to start listening to CM a few years later, but I am an outlier.

I don't think there is a solution to reversing the decline of CM audiences. All the above methods can do is create a slightly-higher proportion of CM listeners among the youth.
 

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I am an example of one. I grew up in a household where the day's pop music, Tin Pan Alley music, CM, Broadswy musicals, all were heard constantly. Get kids young enough and they are still open to all musical stimuli and will let CM be part of the mix. Short pieces or excerpts first, like bits of Peer Gynt, or Lt. Kije, or of Respighi. Over the years, the interest will (maybe) grow and the tolerance for longer works will also grow.
I'm not saying that exposing children to CM never works. I'm saying that it doesn't work for most children. You and me are outliers, and I gravitated to CM over time from the meagre exposure every child in America gets.
 

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People respond to the arts if they have a frame of reference. When I was young, everyone knew about Van Gogh's Starry Night because of Don McClean's song about it. And I had never heard of Also Sprach Zarathustra until it showed up in the 2001 movie.

My feeling is, everyone likes classical music; they just don't know it yet.

One thing I have noticed is, rock music isn't as popular among young people as it used to be. They lean more toward rap and hip-hop. Maybe this writer's next book will be about getting young people to listen to Journey and Toto.
 

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"How to Make Classical Music Appealing to Young People"

Who says that classical music isn't already appealing to young people? The question may depend on what you consider to be "classical music"? You say that you can't "dance" to classical music but little children have been dancing spontaneously to the "Nutcracker" probably since it's premier. Moreover, did you ever see Leonard Bernstein jitterbug his way through conducting the orchestra? Go to Youtube and see how Sergiu Celibidace conducts Enesco's Romanian Rhapsody #1 with lots of booty-shaking! Then try to tell me that you can't dance to classical music. Everyone likes at least some "light" classical music, the Strauss family waltzes, the 1812 Overture, Bolero, the Ride of the Valkyries, etc; and almost everyone who likes those numbers does there own little dance as they grab for the nearest pencil conducting their own imaginary orchestra in their minds. I've done that lots of times when I get carried away with the music and I imagine that many of you have too. I've gotten so caught up in the majesty of the symphonies by Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Bruckner, and Mahler that I've missed my exit driving on the highway.

The fact is that young people today are being more exposed to classical music and other genres than ever before. Because of Youtube and the internet young people are no longer limited to the music that just a few radio stations, TV networks, and music corporations can control. Moreover, the technology has made it so that listening to music is no longer a communal experience. Gone are the days when a group of teenage girls would take the latest Beatles record or Michael Jackson record and listen to it together on one of those portable turn tables. So now that every teenager has their own private playlist that they plug into their own ears, there is no longer a "generation gap" no longer have camps armed against one another; i.e. "Disco vs. Rock". In this sense I'd guess that teens and young adults are more receptive to classical music than ever before, since the peer pressure involving what music you like has become practically non-existent. Case in point, back in the 1980s, Boomers and GenX considered Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin to be "square"; music that Grandpa and Grandma should like; and now everyone young and old, including the Boomers and Gen X, are saying how Sinatra and Dean Martin are the kings of "cool". The new technology has eliminated this kind of generational tension in regards to music.

But the problem is that technology as always is a double-edged sword. You have to give to get. So I think that while the technology had broken down many barriers in terms of young people and the population at large to become exposed to classical music as something that is beautiful, that same technology prevents people from going deeper into classical music. You take a composer such as Brahms whose symphonies don't grab you right away with a catchy melody, and whose layers of thickness appear to be a massive wall of sound until you listen to it several times and then hear the warmth that lies beneath all these layers of fine German craftsmanship; that takes patience and some work. The same process may apply to Bach's St. Matthew Passion, and certainly to composers such as Bartok and Schoenberg who, in my case, took me years, even decades, to "get". With teens and grown-ups on their phones every waking minute the attention span that is learned through high speed technology just isn't conducive to delving that far into the classical music experience. So now, even on classical radio I'm noticing that they are careful not to push the attention span very far as they limit things to soothing brunch/Baroque, Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto, light classics, and Pops music; and every once in a while during evening hours they'll play a complete symphony by Brahms or even program a new work by a living composer that might just challenge the audience to have some patience and work a bit, and just to make it look good.

As for concert attendance, here again electronic media is the double-edged sword. While the age of COVID made social distancing something new and very different for us older ones to adjust to; young people were already social distancing themselves, communicating and interacting with their world through social media and YouTube. In this sense many teens and young adults are fine enjoying classical music on the computer and not the concert hall.

The OP talks about dwindling classical music record sales and concert attendance and this begs the question: Is classical music really dying or is it just the classical music industry that is dying? Though a few young people have caught on the fad of purchasing vinyl, they don't purchase CDs, and given how they've grown up in a virtual world they may see the need to attend a concert. So even we have a teen or young adult who loves classical music to the extent that they are sincere about placing the time and the work into delving further, why should they spend money on a concert when they can have access to it anytime they want for free and without leaving home?
 

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People respond to the arts if they have a frame of reference. When I was young, everyone knew about Van Gogh's Starry Night because of Don McClean's song about it. And I had never heard of Also Sprach Zarathustra until it showed up in the 2001 movie.

My feeling is, everyone likes classical music; they just don't know it yet.

One thing I have noticed is, rock music isn't as popular among young people as it used to be. They lean more toward rap and hip-hop. Maybe this writer's next book will be about getting young people to listen to Journey and Toto.
Hmmm...guess which generations listen to rock music? Boomers and Gen X (now parents and grandparents).
 

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All of these comments are interesting and there's a lot to think about. Even in the past, how many younger people gravitated to classical? Think of the 1000s of kids who attended or watched Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts. What effect, if any, did it have? When I was in school they would pipe in Deems Taylor and his music appreciation lecture over the PA system. Did it work? How few of us took to classical because of that? I'm always disappointed with our school orchestra programs: despite some amazing playing by youngsters, it doesn't seem to have a life long effect of turning them to classical. What caught my ear were Saturday morning cartoons (Warner Bros. especially) and Universal horror movies. Those are long gone. So about the best way to catch young people now is through video games. There are serious and fine composers writing for gaming, but whether it will translate into live concert attendance or worthwhile listening is still an open question. One thing is for sure: orchestras large and small must stop being Museums of Sound, quit playing the same old stuff over and over and play more appealing music. Go look at the Philadelphia Orchestra schedule for 2022/23; they're moving in the right direction, I think.
 

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Playing for kids in the classroom bits of tone poems or ballet scores and asking them whether they hear in the music a thunderstorm (Beethoven, Grofe) and who did the more convincing job. Nightride and Sunrise suggests itself; also Villa-Lobos BB #2, more Grofe (On the Trail); which Rachmaninoff preludes and Etudes Tableaux sound the most like bells ringing. Hard to go wrong with The Nutcracker or Peter and the Wolf. Respighi offers many examples. It will take with those predisposed for whatever reasons to begin to like CM.
As a teacher, I've been doing this for years, introducing classical music heavily into my music lessons. However, there's little interest in classical pieces amongst children these days. The kids don't dislike it (far from it) but they seem to like the throwaway nature of autotuned pop pap more readily. It may be formulaic crud but it's what they seem to get hooked on and desire more readily. Obviously some will branch out and make their way to CM eventually but it's getting harder and harder to convince kids that CM is valid and not music for dinosaurs, these days.
 

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As a teacher, I've been doing this for years, introducing classical music heavily into my music lessons. However, there's little interest in classical pieces amongst children these days. The kids don't dislike it (far from it) but they seem to like the throwaway nature of autotuned pop pap more readily. It may be formulaic crud but it's what they seem to get hooked on and desire more readily. Obviously some will branch out and make their way to CM eventually but it's getting harder and harder to convince kids that CM is valid and not music for dinosaurs, these days.
I applaud your teaching efforts. A question is how old are the students that you are interacting with. Age is key here, I think. I am talking the earlier the better before hormones and peer pressure kick in full time.
 

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All of these comments are interesting and there's a lot to think about. Even in the past, how many younger people gravitated to classical? Think of the 1000s of kids who attended or watched Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts. What effect, if any, did it have? When I was in school they would pipe in Deems Taylor and his music appreciation lecture over the PA system. Did it work? How few of us took to classical because of that? I'm always disappointed with our school orchestra programs: despite some amazing playing by youngsters, it doesn't seem to have a life long effect of turning them to classical. What caught my ear were Saturday morning cartoons (Warner Bros. especially) and Universal horror movies. Those are long gone. So about the best way to catch young people now is through video games. There are serious and fine composers writing for gaming, but whether it will translate into live concert attendance or worthwhile listening is still an open question. One thing is for sure: orchestras large and small must stop being Museums of Sound, quit playing the same old stuff over and over and play more appealing music. Go look at the Philadelphia Orchestra schedule for 2022/23; they're moving in the right direction, I think.
The warhorses are warhorses for a reason-- they are appealing. In particular, they're safe bets for the demographic that goes to CM concerts (middle-aged and older people).

To grow its audience, orchestras would have to keep its main audience happy while attracting new concert-goers. If they totally switch gears, they could lose their reliable customers while not making up for it in new enthusiasts.
 

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It helps to participate in some form of classical music in order to make it a lifelong interest. Many people start by playing an instrument or singing in church or school. That's where I started. My parents liked music and my mom and sister played piano bit I never had exposure to classical music until I sang choruses from Handel's Messiah in high school. I liked popular music but aged out of its limitations and looked for something more in college. Classical music became a lifelong passion without ever having read a book or seen a concert. I did lots of both in the past half-century -- all because I sang in school..
 

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I applaud your teaching efforts. A question is how old are the students that you are interacting with. Age is key here, I think. I am talking the earlier the better before hormones and peer pressure kick in full time.
Do kids, in general, develop their musical tastes really early? Is what their parents listen to at home the music that they listen to when they're 30? Does that music "plant seeds" so they get into it when they're middle-aged (not just admire it-- regularly listen to it)?

If not, that route will be mostly ineffective, too.
 

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All of these comments are interesting and there's a lot to think about. Even in the past, how many younger people gravitated to classical? Think of the 1000s of kids who attended or watched Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts. What effect, if any, did it have? When I was in school they would pipe in Deems Taylor and his music appreciation lecture over the PA system. Did it work? How few of us took to classical because of that? I'm always disappointed with our school orchestra programs: despite some amazing playing by youngsters, it doesn't seem to have a life long effect of turning them to classical. What caught my ear were Saturday morning cartoons (Warner Bros. especially) and Universal horror movies. Those are long gone. So about the best way to catch young people now is through video games. There are serious and fine composers writing for gaming, but whether it will translate into live concert attendance or worthwhile listening is still an open question. One thing is for sure: orchestras large and small must stop being Museums of Sound, quit playing the same old stuff over and over and play more appealing music. Go look at the Philadelphia Orchestra schedule for 2022/23; they're moving in the right direction, I think.
If they have a lower than normal amount of ticket sales they should not complain about that
 
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