There is a great deal of talk in the industry about building a new audience, but all that I’ve read in newspapers and discussed with those in the industry tends to focus on "things" to help solve the problem. But in a recent Reader Response letter from Emily in Toronto, she says "…orchestras haven’t meant to shut people out, but it would seem that some people have been alienated." This is a very poignant statement that helps us begin to realize that it’s an atmosphere which surrounds the entire concert experience that is alienating many younger patrons.
The trouble is that you can’t really put your finger on any one "thing" because it’s not a "thing" that is to blame. What needs to change is the fundamental feeling a person has when they walk into a concert hall. And even adding some friendly Starbucks kiosks won’t solve the problem (but speaking as a caffeine addict, it certainly isn’t a bad idea). Here’s what should happen: orchestras need to hire a psychologist to help find a way to address this problem head on.
A good psychologist will be able to help identify the fundamental problem and find a way to make the atmosphere of an orchestra concert welcoming, friendly, and comfortable for everyone – an atmosphere that will make them want to return. I don’t think anyone wants a "touchy-feely" environment, and that’s a pit fall that should be actively avoided given the vast amounts of trendy pop psychology today. Sorry, Dr. Phil should not be on the top of the list to call.