Do you every have seemingly unconnected parts of your life intersect, and suddenly you understand each part more clearly than you did before? If you’re thinking in terms of education, it’s really the definition of liberal arts. This happened to me this week with many parts of my life, inside and outside my education, and it provided clarity for so many reasons.
First, in my career aspirations in the arts management field, I have always been interested in the lack of young people invested in classical music. Whenever I attended events as an intern at the Kennedy Center, I brought the average age down significantly at National Symphony Orchestra concerts and similar programs. I have many theories for this, first of which is cost. If classical music concerts were cheaper, it would be infinitely easier for young adults to attend. Cost, though, is not the only factor here. The way classical music concerts are marketed, most often, include the “Opus this,” and “in the key of that,” and do most people even know the form of a symphony? No. Too much fancy jargon, among other things, turns off people who may still enjoy that musical experience. Many people that listen to pop music don’t understand keys or musical forms, and look at how many sold out shows Justin Timberlake has. I understand that not everybody likes every genre of music, but putting a different face on the same musical experience can attract different audiences.
In my class on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, we are learning about his many philosophies and assessments about the church in the early 20th century and Nazi Germany. One word he often uses is “bourgeois,” essentially calling the church a place for similar, upper-middle class people, and not a place for truly everyone. Bonhoeffer holds nothing back in his opinion of problems in the church. His works have fascinated me so far, because he is somehow wholly Lutheran and greatly outspoken at the same time.
This week a friend of mine informed me of a TED Talk about a man who created Street Symphony, an organization that plays classical music for the physically and mentally ill, incarcerated and homeless. Robert Gupta, founder, found a balance for his two loves - neuroscience and music - and has found many positive benefits to music on the human psyche and physical well-being. Music lowers stress hormones, strengthens growth hormones, and lowers anxiety. By playing classical works to inmates, oncology patients, and those committed to an asylum, he is bringing music to the people who truly need it.
Now, why are these three events related? Well, what if you applied Bonhoeffer’s analysis of the bourgeois church to classical music? What if classical music wasn’t only for those who could afford it or have already heard Beethoven’s 9th 1,000 times? What if it was for truly everyone? That’s exactly what Gupta is trying to do, isn’t it? Making classical music less bourgeois. Bonhoeffer strives to make the church less bourgeois, and more for everyone. What if arts marketers took a stand against traditional marketing? What if we strove outside the box to make world-class musical experiences less bourgeois? Would the currently incarcerated and mentally ill be less likely to become incarcerated and mentally ill if they attended a classical music concert once a week? I realize I may have gone a bit too far here, but these are the large, fanciful ideas I have in my head; fixing the world, one classical music concert at a time.