There’s a guy out there named Greg Sandow, and he and I seem to think very similarly on many arts-related topics. A few weeks ago, I praised one of his blog posts in a post of my own. Well, he’s struck gold again this week in a post titled “The problem with outreach.” In it, he writes that:
We don’t do much to reach what I’d think is our most natural audience — people just like us, who don’t listen to classical music. Take music students … Just about all of them — this certainly is true of nearly every student I’ve ever taught — have friends who don’t listen to classical music. These friends, culturally speaking, are just like the students. They watch the same movies, hear the same bands. But they don’t listen to classical music, which in some cases (or, maybe, realistically, many) means they don’t even go to the students’ own concerts. Concerts their friends give … So shouldn’t we fix this?
This really hit a nerve in me. Remembering back to the 10 years I played in the Williamsport public school orchestras (3rd grade through and including senior year), the 6 years spent in the Williamsport Symphony Youth Orchestra, and the countless other random gigs and groups with whom I performed, I cannot remember many, if any, performances to which friends not in the music program came. The audiences were always full of parents, grandparents, siblings, and other music students, but even those music students were generally from the same genre: orch-dorks watched orchestra concerts prior to, or post, performing in the same concert; band geeks watched band concerts prior to, or post, performing in the same concert; and choir kids attended choir concerts prior to, or post, performing in the same concert. (NOTE: all nicknames used with love since I fall into 2 of the 3 categories).
Of course, while this concept applies most immediately and crucially to classical music, it really can apply to just about any art form.
So I wonder: music programs teach many crucial and valuable life lessons, but wouldn’t a great addition to all music curricula (heck, to all visual and performing arts curricula) be a working knowledge of how to garner support and an audience for one’s performances? I really had never thought of this, but it seems to dang obvious that I’m annoyed that so many arts educators (including myself) seem to have totally overlooked this fantastic opportunity to increase the size of their audiences while, at the same time, enhancing their students’ educations. Students go out and sell candy bars, magazine subscriptions, and raffle tickets; why shouldn’t they spend a few days prior to their concerts passing out fliers in the hallways and going into classrooms to give “sneak peak” performances for their peers?
I love the idea. Thanks to Greg for putting it into words.