The Classical Music Education of a Generation
In today’s world, people consider everything from Gregorian Chants, Beethoven and Brahms, through Ives and Gershwin “classical music.” So how shall we go about reestablishing the relevance of traditional classical music? And just how are we suppose to rebuild concert audiences with a generation that lives and thinks in the moment, considering the true classics to be something better fitted to our grandparents’ tastes? Education!
We do need to take a cue from our past in order to build a robust future. As a society, we need to make classical music a priority in our homes and in our lives. It needs to start at a very young age, as early exposure is not only vital to the continuation of the arts but also the growing of a healthy, well rounded human being. Classical music not only nurtures our soul but grows our mind in ways that have been substantiated by myriad of studies over recent years. Exposing the very young to classical music has been documented to help develop language skills, reasoning, and spatial intelligence. As we humans grow and are further immersed into the classical music world through private lessons, school orchestras, youth orchestras, concert attendance, and the like, we learn self discipline, problem solving skills, a written, spoken, and deeply felt “second language”, collaboration, cooperation, better motor skills, and creativity. We have a means of self expression which fosters self esteem – and we all know how important that is to a life well lived! As we reach adulthood, these skills carry over to enhance all other areas of our professional and personal world. So maybe our parents and grandparents knew something after all! Who among us would not want to see these skills instilled in future generations?
Classical music expresses the deepest thoughts of our civilization. Through their music, composers paint a picture of the society and times in which they lived. You can experience the greatness and achievements of another generation through its music. If we don’t pass on this incredible thread of creative living history that binds us – one generation to the other – then we diminish all of the humanity that came before us and certainly leave a gaping hole for the future. We must always remember how important classical music is in a world that constantly feels like it stands on the precipice of a frighteningly dark chasm. Music continues to bridge the great divide between cultures and countries. It can bring hope for peace in the darkest of times.
So, how do we groom and nurture another generation of classical music lovers, soloists, professional orchestra members, music teachers, public, private, and youth orchestra board members, audiences, and arts advocates through education in a time of budget cuts and instant gratification? By example! We must not leave the job of educating our children or the public solely to someone else. If you are a musician, share your gift (as I know you are already doing)! Teach your art! Bring students of different cultures, classes, and countries together through the beauty and universality of the music. Form community partnerships to weave classical music into the threads of everyday life. If you have limited resources, you can still be a teacher by the example you set. So support other programs that bring classical music to your community. That includes everything from youth orchestras, private music teachers, classical music festivals, local and national news organizations that review student performances and educational programs, colleges and conservatories. If you are not a musician, get involved! Help out in whatever capacity you can. Take yourself and your children to neighborhood and professional classical music concerts. Play classical music on your i-pod and computer. Clearly, not everyone has the same gifts, but we can each get involved using our individual talents in whatever ways they are relevant. Also, professional musicians and orchestras will have to become creative and imaginative in their marketing strategies to attract today’s much faster paced, younger crowd. Although it’s hard for me to imagine professional orchestras on Twitter, tweet they must!
There is ample hope for the survival of classical music for generations to come. The shear power of the music itself will ensure a life that is not easily extinguished. But our goal is not to ensure that classical music survives, but that it thrives well into the future!