The quotes below came from papers written by students in my freshman
seminar. The first set came from the assignment, "why don't young people
like classical music." The second set of quotes was from papers responding
to the question, "how should one market classical music."
While many of the responses would seem likely, some seemed like good
food for thought. From my perspective classical music continues to
suffer from the trends that can be traced to the very beginning of the
marketing of classical music. I am reminded of the chapter "The Gendered
Phonograph: Women and Recorded Sound, 1890-1930," from the Kenney book,
"Recorded Music in American Life." Basically, classical music is good
for you and that it is marketed in part as a way to suggest that you too
can become "cultured." Then, we have the other side of the coin "marketing
today" which tries to change classical music into popular music, or
what I like to call the watering down of classical music "wall to wall
Pachelbel" or its equivalent "endless programming of the "hits" and music
to clean house by on classical radio. Ok, I am preaching.
Reading the students' comments I could not help but wonder has anyone
ever considered marketing classical music based on its inherent worth.
It can provide wonderful listening and engage one's mind. After all,
isn't it art?
I also wondered about educating young people to classical music.
I remember Lenny's Young People's Concerts. No endless "Variations
on Pop Goes the Weasel," or the themes from Star Wars. He spoke about
music on its own terms and did so with great enthusiasm. He was also
a "personality." I guess what we need is another Lenny.
In closing, I should add that after I handed back the papers, we had
an open discussion about the questions. I remember one statement in
particular "if you want me to try something, don't ever tell me it is
good for me." Perhaps a reflection of how one was given medicine as a
Today, people are not taught to think. Classical music requires
No lyrics to help you along to find the meaning in the music.
Classical music is not in the media. Most people don't even
know about it.
The lack of peer approval makes it difficult to find someone
willing to go with you to a concert.
People do not want to have music that makes them think, they
are in too much of a hurry to listen to a 10-20 minute song,
let alone, ponder its meaning.
The Society of today wants upbeat, superficial music that is
pleasing to the ears.
Attention spans are not as long as they were. People look for
Popular music becomes familiar quickly and does not require much
In my thirteen years in public school there were many times
teachers encouraged me to listen to classical music for its
education value or its profound meaning, but never just because
it was good music. While I never found "educational value" a
good reason to try something that was in every other way unpopular,
I might have listened more if a teacher had showed a genuine
enthusiasm about classical music simply as music.
The reality is most people like what they hear the most of and
that is not classical music. Not only that, but the little
classical music people do hear is the same few pieces.
Certain tenets of the classical style include an emphasis on
reason and form, causing the majority of the music from the
genre to be purposefully devoid of emotion.
Whole centuries worth of musical styles are ignored for not
"getting to the point fast enough."
For the most part, people are not able to stop everything they
are doing to just sit and listen to the music for a lengthy
amount of time.
Classical music concerts are mostly performed in beautiful
auditoriums where one dresses nicely, reiterating the fact that
it is reserved for formal settings. This creates the idea that
classical music concerts are not something to participate in on
Also, most people have been given the idea, through school and
parents, that music is just a form of entertainment.
Most successful orchestra musicians, directors, and composers
have been doing what they do for many years. This has created
a population of classical artists that are from middle age to
elderly that have a hard time identifying with today's youth.
Nothing makes sense, how can you be telling a story without
In classical music you are not able to show your talent because
you have to stick to the guidelines, if you don't then you will
be booed of the stage.
Make classical music popular music:
Have popular music musicians play classical music in their own
Don't tell anyone that classical music is good for you.
Include lyrics or visuals to make the music easier to understand.
Make the music shorter.
Advertise heavily on television.
Have celebrities, actors and actresses endorse classical music.
Advertise the music for its ability to sooth you.
Advertise composers as rebels.
Concerts of classical music are generally too formal. Encourage
people to wear casual clothing. Have the orchestra members wear
Most classical music performances are dull. They seem too intent
on getting all of the right notes and see less interested in the
expression. They want it to sound "like the record."
Have the musicians show some enthusiasm in their playing.