Drew McManus, host of the unfailingly sharp Adapistration blog, has been collecting mini-essays from musicans, composers, bloggers, and critics on the theme Take a Friend to the Orchestra Month. The aim is to thrash out ideas for making classical music palatable to newcomers. It's kind of like the Huffington Post for classical music, but less demented and chaotic. William (Bill) Eddins, conductor of the Edmonton Symphony, has just penned an entry which is an instant classic of the Cut the Classical Crap Already genre:
Every week that I'm on the road someone, at some point, will get to the moment in the conversation where they discover that I'm a musician. Usually they are very intrigued. Then they learn I play the piano, which frequently generates stories of how their parents tried desperately to get them to learn the instrument but they didn't have the time/patience/whatever. This last part is always accompanied by a certain wistfulness in the eye that betrays that they wish they had kept at it. But then comes the fateful moment that they discover that I play – gasp! – Classical music. Not only that, I'm that rarest of the specie Homo Musica Musicallis – a CONDUCTOR! Instantly the barrier comes up. They look at me like I'm some Old Testament prophet baying at the moon. I guess the fact that I'm a black guy from Buffalo dressed in jeans, dark sunglasses, a t-shirt, and sporting a silver cuff in my left ear had thrown them off. Gee I wonder why? I look in the mirror and I could just swear I look like a typical conductor. Well, the next several minutes is spent with me trying to assuage them that: 1) No, I don't sleep in a coffin during the day; 2) Yes, I love garlic; and 3) what I do is not the cultural equivalent of selling your soul to Bill Gates (I use Macs anyway). If I manage to calm them down enough then I can move on to #4 – "Say, would you like to come to one of my concerts?" Critical to this idea is getting the mark's email address so that you can hound them mercilessly over the next couple of days.
...I can't help but believe that Mozart, Beethoven, Mahler, whomever, would be down right sick to their stomach with the hero-worshipping over-glorifying idolizing holier-than-anybody veneration that's thrown at them these days. They wrote music to be enjoyed. Please do not approach them as if they are the 2nd coming of Christ. As it is many of the best composers were Jewish, so that's not going to fly at all. Now, if by some odd chance you liked the concert then please applaud, whistle, holler, jump up and down, but definitely do not spare one second worrying about the "stick-in-the-mud" next to you who believes in (the next phrase said in a exaggerated British accent) "proper concert hall etiquette." Said person needs to get over their bad self.
Drew has set up ticket discounts at orchestras around the country, and even offers Take a Friend to the Orchestra merchandise, including a Kyle Gann T-shirt with the legend “Some of you people may think I’m underdressed…but somewhere, Kyle Gann is cheering for me!” That honestly blows my mind.