Give classical music a chance

According to the Classical Music Consumer Segmentation Study conducted in 2002, out of a national survey of U.S. adults, only sixteen percent had attended a classical music concert in the past twelve months. And while the number rises to twenty five percent for college graduates and varies depending on age, ethnicity, and year, I would guess that the percentage of Colby students who have attended a classical concert is still on the lower side, discounting those who participate in music. Now, I know that “classical” music isn’t to everyone’s taste and that Colby students are generally far too busy to go out of their way to see a concert anyway, but just consider it for a moment.

Right here, right now at Colby you have probably the best chance you’re ever going to get as a casual concertgoer. Every semester offers dozens of new performances from all sorts of groups. All of these are free, conveniently located right on the campus you probably live on, easy to find out about, and fairly short in length.  You can probably count on knowing at least a few people playing in them, and you’re also going to an event that was put together by people in your demographic that liked it enough to rehearse it for months and to share it with the audience. Even if you’re not particularly interested in the subject or motivated to go, it might well be worth it to check out a concert or two just to experience it. After all, when else will you have this plethora of concert opportunities without even having to drive there and buy a ticket? At this point, I have to urge you to show up a time or two to see—you might like what you find, and I can guarantee you that someone performing there will be glad to have spread something that they’re passionate about.

Concert attendance is a little sparse at Colby. Sure, some of the more popular acapella groups can sometimes rack up a full student audience, and lots of theater productions frequently have a full house.  But many groups are lucky to have a sizable audience, and for smaller recitals and niche performances, the numbers in the audience can be less than the number of performers. It’s pretty clear that popularity is a large factor in concert attendance.  And yet, I feel that the decision is made less on a true preference educated by experience than on a presumed preference. Trying a concert isn’t a guarantee that you will like it, or the next two you go to, but the range of genres and presentations offered just at Colby alone means that there probably is something here that you will enjoy. It’s also a very different experience going to a concert you chose to attend, with people you’re connected with playing in it with an adult attention span, than something your parents might have dragged you to as a child, which may have been your only experience with ‘classical’ music.

Finally, I have to say that I sometimes feel people get the wrong impression from the phrase “classical music.” In this article, I’ve been promoting all of the genres performed at Colby that could use some attendance whether or not it strictly fits the definition.  But besides that, the term is a summation of centuries of musical development in the Western world, and, arguably, outside of it. You can no more describe it all as Bach as you could compare it to Wagner, Glass, or Gershwin.  You might find classical music (a very specific era including Mozart but excluding Handel) to be boring and predictable because of its emotional equilibrium and repetitive themes, but Wagner and Tchaikovsky are epic and interesting for their use of two hundred-person orchestras and cannons as a percussion instrument. Conversely, you might find Romantic era music to be lengthy and impenetrable (with Mahler’s longest symphony clocking in at around a hundred minutes), but Baroque to be relaxing and stimulating, and great for studying. Either way, being exposed to a piece or two out of a plethora of genres isn’t in any way a definitive test of your preferences, and while you will probably find something you dislike, I can guarantee you there’s something out there that you will love. Between jazz band, baroque improvisation, drumming ensembles, your friend’s piano recital, and a visiting Broadway pianist—and everything else not covered by that—there’s probably something you would enjoy watching.

So as the semester winds down in a flurry of performances of all kinds, try something new and come to a concert or two. You never know what you might like, and the performers will definitely appreciate it!

Leave a Reply