If you open the classical music section in almost every paper in any metropolitan area, you can find a variety of concerts. Whether you live in New York, Paris, London or Tel Aviv, you can find an interesting, high quality concert. In these cities and around them, there are symphonic orchestras that offer special concerts and series for music lovers. Besides the orchestras, you can also find independent musicians who give concerts, musical lectures on the styles of middle ages with modern repertoire. For music consumers, the present is real Heaven; a supermarket of musical products. Just pick and buy!
But behind this Heaven, there is the hidden dark reality of what the musician’s experience. The classical music performance is dying, along with its representative, the symphonic orchestra. Most of The musicians who work in these ensembles have significant professional experience. But their salary, compared with other academic professions, is very low. They hardly survive, but they are thankful to have the opportunity to work in their profession. As an orchestra player in the past, I can tell you that the view from the stage into the audience is depressing. Our audience is getting older and sparser each year. Orchestras fall apart for two main reasons: the decrease of government financial support and the misconception of the cultural present situation by the cultural representatives.
The leaders of classical institutions have been crying for years that only music education will change and add music consumers who will start to attend concerts. Their assumption is that if children are exposed to classical music in their early years, they will become habitual music lovers when they are older. Is it really what happens?
For more than ten years, many orchestras have taken the lead and offered intensive programs in schools, aiming to expose children to classical music by performing symphonic and chamber concerts. Extravagant budgets were invested in order to achieve this vision. Many institutes invested time, money and energy, but the results are disappointing. The concert halls continue to be empty each year and the audience becomes older rather than younger.
The children who are granted these beautiful programs don’t go to concerts. The inevitable conclusion is that the music education in schools does not have significant results.
In my opinion, the main reason for the failure of music education is that these programs don’t offer the children an updated content. Everyone today understands that our world has completely changed. Within this change, our perception of music, technology and media has progressed. Most of us are aware of this change, but cannot offer a concrete solution that works according to it.
The reality in the concert halls is that we are forced to act like wooden puppets. In a world with so many excitements and stimulations, we need to keep a complete artificial quiet in the concert halls. In a time when everyone can choose to go to the cinema or the theatre, read newspapers, use the tablet or the computer, or chats in social Media, there is no sense in choosing and going to the concert halls and listening without any emotional stimulation to a static symphonic orchestra, that plays pieces from the past.
The will to hear music is very ancient. It is natural for us to relate music to singing and dancing. Considering the history of classical music, the early tradition of music related music to dancing and singing in the practical sense. Where has all this vanished to?
In the popular genres of music, you can still find it. When you attend a Madonna show, you can see the audience singing and dancing, actively participating in the show. Thanks to the multimedia technology, they have a full atmosphere of emotions and a stimulating experience of the event. Most of the classical orchestras offer multimedia in their concerts, but the attitude is non-creative and old-fashioned.
Most of the music consuming is done through listening to the radio or the computer, at home or while driving. The number of children who play on the computer increases more and more each year. But the heads of the musical institutions haven’t assimilated this fact yet. The number of applications available for downloading in most languages, except for English, is still small and non-significant, and most of the English ones are not very creative or attractive.
According to a survey I did, most of the concert music consumers started to go to classical concerts because of their parents, who were also music lovers. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen institutions that offer special programs for parents and children together. Most of the musical programs expose children to classical music, but don’t keep the parents posted about their children’s musical activity. In that way, the musical activity stays as a one-time experience. In our world of social media, it is easy to connect with these parents and invite them to take part in the musical activity. In my experience, most parents are interested in learning about music but lack the ability to instill it in their children.
Many children start to play an instrument in musical schools. Most of them quit after a short time. The two main reasons for that are hating practicing and the teacher, who enforces the practicing. Do you know someone who likes to do homework? Today, in most of the after school activities, the children are not required to practice in between the activities. Playing an instrument is the only after school activity when you are forced to practice. Instead of insisting on conservative practicing methods, why not search for technological alternative, which will accelerate the children’s learning and require a shorter time? More than that, our main purpose should be to create the passion for learning to play. That will encourage the child to play more.
The assumption that music education will bring back the audience to the concert halls is misleading. We first need to ask: which music education should we give? Who do we educate? And what are we trying to teach?
Our cultural world is constantly changing. If we do not find a creative and innovative answer, classical music will disappear.
The musical education today is ineffective. It has failed because it hasn’t created strong passion in both parents and children to discover the classical music arena. The trials of music educators to teach the history of music haven’t connected to the emotional needs of the children to express themselves through playing an instrument. The attitude should be updated to suit our time and not stay anachronistic.
One thing that will never change is the passion you feel when you do something you love. When you feel passionate about playing, you will never check the time. You will keep practicing until you achieve your goal. The same is true for concert consuming. Music lovers tend to go to many concerts because of their passion for music. Our challenge as music educators is to pass this passion to our students. At the same time, we should not ignore the contemporary world, which is full of new technology and innovations.
I invite all of you and your friends to fill and share my survey about music education.