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IDEAS | On Orchestras and Audiences

21cmediagroup / 15th April 2015 / News

Orchestras will continue to do what we have always done: play powerful, intriguing, uplifting, thought-provoking music. But the challenges facing people in today’s world call for something new in the way that music and musicians can touch people’s lives on all levels: emotionally and spiritually, of course, but also socially, psychologically, and even medically.

Let’s step back and ask ourselves why orchestras today talk about changing to meet new audience expectations in order to nourish future live concert attendance. Is it just a matter of self-preservation, or is it something along the lines of what Abraham Maslow wrote about in his theory that psychological health is predicated on fulfilling innate human needs? Obviously, I believe the latter, and I feel that what we now have can be seen as a “What Can You Be?” moment. What orchestras can be for their audiences is changing, and that actually presents a wonderful opportunity for us to grow.

The problem has been that as orchestras are involved in more and more areas, it is often not clear why they are doing what they are doing, When you get the sense that a something might as well be a stand-alone venture, that it actually does not connect to the core of the organization that is behind it, you might reasonably start to wonder what the point is.

There are obviously as many explanations for why orchestras fail as there are orchestras that fail, but I am pretty sure that a common feature one can find in all such unfortunate situations is the sense, in some form, that there are simply not enough people in the community who care about what the orchestra provides. This is clearly not an earth-shattering observation, but it does give the foundation for a meaningful discussion about what can be done about it.

Excerpt from a lecture at the Royal Philharmonic Society, London, UK – April 15, 2015