Reviving the "Classical" Music Audience
By Roger Lakins

If "classical" music is to survive, it must be moved from the sphere of the an elite few and into the lives of the masses. It must not exist in a vacuous "art for art's sake" world, perpetuating the trend once noted by C.S. Lewis where the aesthetic life is so dislocated from "real" life that we find ourselves left with little more than high minded works which fewer and fewer people want to read or hear or see, and 'popular' works of which both those who make them and those who enjoy them are half ashamed. The chasm between "pop" culture and "serious" music may never be breached, but there is much that those who believe in the importance of "classical" music can do.

Audience development is the key. Education plays a crucial role in this. We must enlist the aid of the musicians who daily encounter the greatest number of nonmusical people: music educators and church musicians. There is a definite "missionary" zeal within those who love art. Tap into this. Develop a sense of collegiality with them. Offering a day of brain storming and discussion on audience development in which they are brought into the solution of the problem and made to feel a part of the musical culture (which they certainly are) and ending the day with setting goals and enjoying a performance by the host organization could be an annual event.

Young audiences need to experience performances by young performers. Our conservatories and music schools could make this possible. Send outstanding young players and scholarship winners to perform for young audiences. It would give the incipient love of music in a young person a huge boost to see that others of one's own age not only like classical music, but can perform it well and with conviction.

Funding and financial support of our musical life must be accepted as the responsibility of all who love music: musicians, the privileged patrons, the devoted aficionados. Relying on government funding for the arts is not only too risky from a financial perspective, it is too risky from a freedom perspective. We have seen this abused by both those in the government and those in the arts. If the artist is to survive, the artist must share responsibility for finding, developing and reaching an audience.

Let musical organizations once again play a role in the civic lives of their cities. Just as we saw many musical responses to 9-11 in our major cities, so too must other events be celebrated in "occasional" concerts. Let more of our performing musicians become real members of the cities in which they work and visible off stage. Yo-Yo Ma, Wynton Marsalis and others have made Public Television appearances, opening the minds of countless young listeners. Bring concert music back to the center of the city's life, or the venues will disappear without so much as a tear being shed on the part of the average citizen.