Debating the message of orchestra “lectures”

Posted on: October 29, 2009

Anne Midgette writes in her Wednesday (10/28) Washington Post blog Classical Beat, “Latest in the never-ending series of orchestras’ educational endeavors: the Boston Symphony Orchestra has launched an on-line ‘Classical Companion’ to Beethoven’s nine symphonies, with videos, lectures and a ‘Beethoven Music Lab’ that allows you to create your own development section to three of the symphonies. … The benchmark for this kind of thing is the San Francisco Symphony’s ambitious Keeping Score project. … The part that I question about some of these projects—and about many of the well-meaning pre-concert lectures one encounters—is the relentlessly didactic tone. … It’s true that the more you know, the more you can appreciate what you hear or see—in any art. But do we really want to be conveying the idea that it requires a special education to enjoy a concert? Or to equate concert-going with school? I realize that Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts were wonderfully inspiring, but I still wonder if lecturing at audiences—particularly younger audiences—in the 21st century is really the way to win them over.”

Posted October 29, 2009