Very little has stayed the same today as it was one, two, three hundred years ago; the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the technology we use. So if everything else has changed, how can we expect our symphony orchestra to thrive, unaltered?
The answer is we can’t.
We are at a time within symphonic music where the definition of the orchestra has room for change, and diversity is absolutely necessary. Everywhere you look, there are statistics and figures displaying the decline in audience members, forcefully stating that the orchestra is dying, outdated. We can challenge this though, the orchestra can continue, all that is required is a little innovation. But what should a 21st century orchestra look like?
The question we must ask ourselves as musicians and music lovers is why is the symphony dying? Is it the way that the organisations present themselves, lack of education in the next generation of audiences or the repertoire being played? For me, the answer is all of the above. Every orchestra can and should be doing more to connect with their audiences, finding solutions to all of these problems; after all, these organisations exist not selfishly for the musicians, but to serve their communities.
If it was in my control, the first thing that I would do is redesign how the orchestra displays itself to the public. Traditional, classy and sophisticated are all words that would describe many orchestras’ current media presentation, although realistically these are quite interchangeable with stuffy, outdated and elitist. The effect that this has on potential audiences is: “classical music is for posh old people”, however most symphonic musicians would argue this is not the case. Symphonic music is for ev...
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...ssional orchestras is the perception that the symphony is only for those perhaps advanced in age; old music played for old people. The symphony orchestra must change, there is no escaping it. This is a hugely exciting opportunity to watch the symphony develop into new and stimulating medium of art. For the symphony orchestra to remain the same would be futile. By changing to cater for wider audience demographics, orchestral organisations will ultimately better serve their communities; a service mutually beneficial for the audience and musicians alike. As our orchestras evolve to better serve the people, nobody could possibly argue against the fact that it firmly holds the position of the perfect space to paint the beautiful complexities of melody, harmony, rhythm and texture for everyone to see. Come on symphonies, be brave and change. We dare you.
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