Charlie Albright is a young, bright pianist whose performances are anything but staid. In this opinion piece for CNN, Charlie expresses his beliefs about classical music’s future and how the current experience in the concert hall is doing more harm than good.
“Classical music,” in its now-traditional sense, has seen better days. The Metropolitan Opera is only one of the many arts organizations that is having a harder and harder time filling its seats.
The National Endowment for the Arts reported that in 2012, only 8.8% of Americans had attended a classical music performance in the previous 12 months, compared to 11.6% a decade earlier. “Older Americans are the only demographic group to show an increase in attendance over a decade ago,” the NEA study found.
So why aren’t more young people showing an interest in classical music?It wasn’t all that long ago when classical music was fun. People went to concerts for a variety of reasons: to be moved emotionally, to be entertained, and as a social event, to name a few. Performances were a chance for artists and audiences to connect on a level unattainable in other media, as a form of mutual communication.
Speaking to audiences, spontaneous applause (including in the middle of pieces), and on-the-spot improvisation were commonplace, with performers wooing audiences with their technical and interpretational prowess. That was real classical music.
But all of that changed in the 20th century when “rules of concert etiquette” began incorporating themselves into performances. Suddenly, clapping mid-piece was unacceptable. Applause between movements, or parts, of pieces became that way as well. Regular concertgoers would shoot glares of disdain toward anyone violating such rules.