A recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer caught my attention; it examines the use of visual imagery during orchestra concerts. The article’s writer, David Patrick Stearns, does a good job with the piece but I think the industry is missing a fundamental fact about the best way to connect to a new audience.
All of the visualizations in the world won’t bring people into concert halls in any great numbers. At best it will bring in a number of people who are fascinated by visual imagery who also think classical music being played along with those visualizations is a cool idea.
Although these efforts aren’t bad they should be taking the place of interpersonal connections. That’s where you’ll find your new audience and you won’t have to worry about offending the current core of subscribers either.
I’ve written about this issue at length using a number of different mediums (orchestra docents, ORBIT, tsoundcheck, etc.) but in the end, whichever way an orchestra can capitalize on and create additional opportunities for interpersonal connections, the better.
As Klaus Heymann, the chairman of HNH International parent company of Naxos records, once said there are millions of piano students in the U.S. it’s a built-in audience waiting to be discovered.
Regardless of how MTV oriented or attention deficit afflicted any generation becomes, it doesn’t mean they lack the basic facilities of an imagination. They just need to know that there’s no wrong way to use it at an orchestra concert.
The sooner orchestras begin focusing efforts in that direction the better.
Postscript: There’s a great article in today’s Tacoma News-Tribune by Jen Graves. In it, she has the following great line:
“Vigorous human contact is the only thing keeping [music] alive.”
I couldn’t say it better myself, bravo Jen!