The Millennials’ Orchestra: Changing Styles of Engagement

“The Millennials’ Orchestra” series of blog posts are not meant to be opinion pieces, but rather founded in research, which I gathered and reported as part of my graduate Capstone project from 2012-2013. This is a personal blog and does not represent the views or opinions of my employer.


The Millennials’ Orchestra: Changing Styles of Engagement

The prominence and use of technology is one of the most distinguishing factors of the Millennial generation.101 Authors of the Pew Research Center’s comprehensive study Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next, consider Millennials to be the first “always connected” generation.102 The increased use of social media and mobile Internet is readily apparent.103 Aaron Smith, author of the Pew Internet & American Life Project gadget survey, reveals in an interview with NPR that 96% of the Millennials in the U.S. own cellphones and are accessing information in different ways, even when compared to just a few years before.104

Carolyn Boiarsky, Journal of Popular Culture contributor, acknowledges the influence of technology on young adults, referring to those raised in the “Electronic Age” as the Nintendo or N-generation.105 The National Endowment for the Arts106 and Pew Research Center107 reveal the multimodal tendencies of the Millennial generation, reflecting their preference for more personalized and media-based creation, expression, and arts participation.108  Boiarsky also notes how members of the Millennial generation are more visually and kinesthetically oriented in a digital and electronic world.109 Westwater’s Symphonic Photochoreography110 may be one way to address such needs, enhancing the experience of symphony orchestra performance and engage Millennials through relevant technology. Symphonic photochoreography combines video projections with symphony orchestra performances to create a synchronized concert experience that incorporates classical music with dynamic, digital imagery.111  Pointing to the social nature of Millennials, Tamsen McMahon and Roger Sametz of MarketingProfs.com emphasize the need for marketing professionals to create, sustain, and evolve in the “Age of the Social.”112 It is important to note that much of this 21st century social interaction occurs online, and increasingly through the use of mobile technology.113

Regarding classical music engagement, audiences can be categorized in a variety of
ways. Henk Roose of Acta Sociologica categorizes classical music audiences based on aesthetic inclinations (or musical tastes), socio-demographics (social and demographic factors affecting status in society), motivations, and frequency of attendance. In this way, Roose recognizes three categories of classical music audiences: passers-by, interested participants, and inner circle.114 Alan Brown with Audience Insights LLC has idenCircles of Valuetified seven layers of value associated with attending live classical music performance by U.S. adults, including both intrinsic (artistic or educational; spiritual; healing/therapeutic) and extrinsic (ritual/ambiance; social interaction; relationship enhancement; occasion) values (pictured left).115 In addition to these considerations, Brown’s Classical Music Consumer Segmentation Study examines how classical music consumers relate (or perceive their connection) to their local symphony orchestras.116

The National Endowment for the Arts released a new media report in 2010, discussing the influence of technology on arts participation and exploring the concept of Audience 2.0 – or the ways in which “Americans participate in the arts via electronic and digital media”117 In this report, the NEA examines participation among U.S. adults (18 to 75+ years old)118 in benchmark arts activities. “Benchmark arts activities include jazz, classical music, opera, musical plays, non-musical plays, ballet performances, and visual arts.”119 Respondents are divided into four participant segments based on their inclination, or disinclination, to engage in the arts through media, live performance, or both.120 Segments included those participating through both electronic media and live attendance; electronic media only; live attendance only; neither electronic media nor live attendance.121

Given the choice, how would you prefer to engage with your local symphony orchestra in the classical music concert experience?

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101 Pew Research Center, 2010, “Millennials: Confident-Connected-Open to Change.”
102 Ibid.
103 National Public Radio,”Survey: 96 Percent of Young Adults Own Cellphones,” 2010,
published electronically, October 18, 2010. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130639028.
104 Ibid.
105 Carolyn Boiarsky, “This Is Not Our Fathers’ Generation: Web Pages, the Chicago Lyric
Opera, and the Philadelphia Orchestra,” Journal of Popular Culture, 36 (Summer 2002): 14-24.
106 Jennifer L. Novak-Leonard and Alan S. Brown, “Beyond Attendance: A Multi-Modal
Understanding of Arts Participation,” 104: National Endowment for the Arts, 2011.
107 Pew Research Center, 2010, “Millennials: Confident-Connected-Open to Change.”
108 Jennifer L. Novak-Leonard and Alan S. Brown, “Beyond Attendance.”
109 Ibid.
110 Dr. James Westwater and Nicholas Bardonnay, “Westwater Arts: Home,” http://westwaterarts.com/home.html.
111 Ibid.
112 Tamsen McMahon and Roger Sametz, “Create, Sustain, Evolve: Engaging Your Organization
to Keep Your Brand Healthy and Relevant,” In Marketing/Branding, http://www.sametz.com/news-and-articles/authored-articles/430-create-sustain-evolve.
113 Amanda Lenhart, Kristen Purcell, Aaron Smith, and Kathryn Zickuhr, “Social Media &
Mobile Internet Use among Teens and Young Adults,” In Millennials: A Portrait of Generation
Next, Washington, D.C., 2010.
114 Henk Roose, “Many-Voiced or Unisono? An Inquiry into Motives for Attendance and
Aesthetic Dispositions of the Audience Attending Classical Concerts,” Acta Sociologica, 51, no.
3 (2008): 237-53.
115 Alan Brown Classical Music Consumer Segmentation Study: How Americans Relate to Classical Music and Their Local Orchestras. Southport, (Connecticut: Audience Insight LLC, 2002), http://www.polyphonic.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/2002_Classical_Music_Consumer_Report.pdf.
116 Ibid.

You’ve Cott Mail: Some thoughts on how to connect Millennials with classical music

In the May 1st, 2014 edition of You’ve Cott Mail, the topic of conversation was how to connect Millennials with Classical Music.  Copied below are some of the thoughts shared around this topic.  In what’s to come, some of the key factors in engaging Millennials emerge – the importance of trust and social consciousness, consideration of themed programming and relaxed atmosphere in entertainment, and breaking convention through social technology.  These examples, of course, could never speak for an entire generation and (heads up) they certainly shouldn’t reduce Millennials down to whiny, pot-smoking, sex-crazed social media users in our minds’ eye.  I think these authors are simply pointing out that each generation has different interests and expectations that require different kinds of attention.  It is also important for long-standing art forms and those who run our cultural institutions to remain open to change and be welcoming to all generations through their outward approach and community involvement, organizational innovation and programmatic offerings, and social atmosphere.

Would you agree/disagree?  What are your thoughts on how to connect Millennials with Classical Music? I’d love to hear from you.

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You’ve Cott Mail: Some thoughts on how to connect Millennials with classical music
May 1, 2014

COMMENTARY: To attract millennials, be more socially conscious
Cellist/composer Peter Sachon on his blog, 4/8/14

Orchestras need to offer compelling reasons for millennials to make live symphonic music a part of their lives.  After all, millennials are the largest generation in human history, and at nearly 90 million people they will very soon make up the vast majority of our orchestras’ stakeholders, constituents, audience, staff members and supporters – and instrumentalists.  By 2017, they will surpass the buying power of the baby boomer generation.  There is simply no generation in the next forty years that will have the size and potential purchasing power to influence American orchestras more than millennials.  While orchestras aren’t the only institutions that have abandoned the young, they can still be among the first to reclaim them — and in so doing they can begin to reclaim the position of live orchestral music in American culture. These millennials have very different expectations for nonprofits than baby boomers.  Their expectations that nonprofits be socially conscious institutions goes beyond what is traditionally expected, especially from performing arts organizations.  Being able to trust a nonprofit organization and its mission is very important to compelling millennials to attend and donate.  One telling statistic is that nine out of ten millennials would stop giving to an organization that had lost their trust.  American classical institutions’ stoic reactions to human rights abuses is making that trust difficult to develop.  For example, when Pussy Riot was sentenced to two years in a labor camp for a peaceful political protest, many of those 90 million American millennials along with people like Madonna, Sting, Yoko Ono, Björk, Moby, Peter Gabriel, and more than a dozen international papers as well as the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and the New Yorker Magazine all publicly supported Pussy Riot’s human right to peaceful protest.  And yet, even after so many people across a range of musical and intellectual disciplines voiced their support, not one American orchestra dared even a tweet. Things were no different after Russia enacted Putin’s outrageous anti-gay law.  The Metropolitan Opera attempted to be detached from the controversy while protesters pointed out that two of Putin’s most visible supporters led the Met’s season-opening production.  The famed music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gustavo Dudamel, refuses to speak out against Maduro’s government, even after students were beaten and arrested during his concertizing in Venezuela. Orchestras can play at being apolitical, but their choices have political resonance whether they like it or not.  Given how important trust is to millennials’ interactions with nonprofits, the idea that institutions should refrain from voicing widely-held human rights positions is silly and counter-productive.  The worry of upsetting existing donors pales in comparison to the danger posed to orchestras who undervalue the changes brought by the millennial generation. It also doesn’t hurt that speaking out against human rights abuses is the right thing to do.

Connecting classical music to millennials with bring-your-own-marijuana concerts
Ray Mark Rinaldi, The Denver Post, 4/29/14

The cultural revolution that is making marijuana part of everyday Denver life conquered another established front Tuesday as the Colorado Symphony Orchestra announced a series of performances sponsored by the cannabis industry. The concerts, organized by pro-pot promoter Edible Events, will start May 23 with three bring-your-own marijuana events at the Space Gallery in Denver’s Santa Fe arts district and culminate with a large, outdoor performance at Red Rocks Amphitheatre on Sept. 13. The events are being billed as fundraisers for the CSO, which will curate a themed program of classical music for each show. While acknowledging that the arrangement is unusual, even groundbreaking, CSO executive director Jerry Kern said the concerts will help the orchestra reach beyond its conservative, fine arts demographic while raising money for an organization that has struggled financially in recent years. “We see ourselves as connecting classical music with all of Colorado,” said Kern. “Part of our goal is to bring in a younger audience and a more diverse audience, and I would suggest that the patrons of the cannabis industry are both younger and more diverse than the patrons of the symphony orchestra.”  The connection between classical music and marijuana culture is surprising on its surface. But the partnership may be logical for the CSO in particular, which has worked hard in recent years to present a more democratic lineup. It still has its Beethoven and Brahms concerts, where cellists dress in tuxedos and tradition rules, but it has been playing more contemporary music and collaborating on concerts with pop acts. Orchestra musicians are already set to play Red Rocks shows Aug. 8 and 9 with Pretty Lights, one of the biggest acts in electronic dance music, a genre widely associated with marijuana and harder substances like Ecstasy.  As trumpet player Justin Bartels points out, the musicians have already smelled the waft of marijuana smoke at shows, and playing before mind-altered audiences won’t be shocking. “Denver is a different kind of city, and you have to program your orchestra for the community you’re in,” he said.

COMMENTARY:
To attract millennials, dancers twerk to classical music
Joel Eastwood, Toronto Star, 4/23/14

You rarely use the words “twerking” and “classical music” in the same sentence. But that’s the only way to describe a controversial new music video that fuses a piece of classical music with a gyrating, scantily clad Korean dance troupe. The eye-popping video was masterminded by a Belgian classical music festival in a bid to bring a century-old symphony to new ears. It seems to have worked — the clip has racked up more than 1.7 million views in the past week. “It is indeed a very different clip than your average YouTube clip,” explained Frank Peters, a Dutch classical pianist and the spokesperson for the B-Classic music festival, in a short documentary accompanying the music video. “I’m not convinced that youth are uninterested in classical music. I think that it’s simply more difficult for them to discover,” said Sam De Bruyn, a radio DJ in Brussels. Because YouTube has become an essential engine for discovering and listening to music, an engaging music video is essential to grabbing people’s attention, De Bruyn said. So the B-Classic music festival commissioned director Raf Reyntjens to make the video with Korean pop-dance group Waveya, who are YouTube stars in their own right. Unlike the pop songs they normally move to, the dancers are twerking to Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, composed in 1893. Dvorak, who lived from 1841 to 1904, was a rock star in his day. “Everywhere he went, something happened, the atmosphere changed, and people were enraptured and moved by his music,” Peters said. The video tries to reignite that popularity with a new generation. But not everyone thinks classical twerking is an appropriate combination. “It comes across as hollow and trashy,” writes Michael Vincent on the classical music blog Musical Toronto. Other commenters argue classical music doesn’t need to resort to modern dance moves to stay relevant. “The two just don’t connect for me and, to be honest, it feels somewhat embarrassing,” writes Clyde Smith on Hypebot.  Regardless, the critics might be in for more disappointing videos — B-Classic is calling on people to create their own Classical Comeback videos “to give classical music the audience it deserves.”

The Millennial Alumni Research Project

Millennial Alumni

It’s hard to believe that I’m coming up on one year post-graduation from American University’s Arts Management program and the completion of my Capstone Project, ‘The Millennials’ Orchestra – Marketing and Development Strategies for Engaging Millennial Audiences and Donors in the U.S. Symphony Orchestra Classical Concert Experience.”  During the research process, my understanding of the Millennial generation as a whole and their inclinations to give was greatly enhanced by the studies and articles published by Achieve, Pew Research Center, and the Chronicle of Philanthropy.  I became a big fan of these Millennially-charged fact tanks, so you can imagine my nerdy delight when I found out my Alma mater was selected to partner with Achieve and the Chronicle of Philanthropy in the 2014 Millennial Alumni Research Project.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy, in partnership with Achieve, will research the attitudes and engagement preferences of young alumni (Millennial generation graduates age 22-32). Through research surveys, focus groups, and user testing, institutions of higher education will have a better understanding of how alumni prefer to be involved and ways to connect and seek their support.

Flickr photo, ITU/Rowan Farrell

Flickr photo, ITU/Rowan Farrell

As a Millennial alum, I received an email asking me to participate in the survey.  I was excited to help out my school and contribute to the continued learning around the Millennial generation. Of course, I had to say yes!

I clicked on the link, taking me to the online survey.  In an appreciative and upbeat manner, the general purpose of the survey, as well as the length of time I could expect to devote to completing it, was explained upfront:

Thanks for agreeing to take the 2014 Higher Education Millennial Alumni Survey!  Your university is partnering with the Chronicle of Philanthropy and Achieve to understand the interests and preferences of Millennial alumni.  The survey will take approximately 10 minutes and we thank you for your time.

The survey began with a couple of simple, demographic questions, asking me to identify my gender and birth date (to verify that I fall into the Millennial age-range, I suspect).  Having completed the introduction, I was informed that the survey would be broken into three main components.  Compelled to know more, I continued with the survey.

As I completed one section and entered another, I received a clear message indicating the section/topic change.  I appreciated these mile-markers, not only for the reminder of the topics, but also for the structure of the survey.  Before we go any farther, however, you’re probably wondering what these mystery topics were all about…

  1. Alumni Attitudes
  2. Alumni Giving
  3. Alumni Involvement

As you might expect, I was asked a variety of questions about my interests, career development as it relates to my degree, giving preferences, and involvement with my Alma mater post-graduation, among others.  By the end of the survey, I was invited to participate in their on-going Millennial Involvement Focus Group and agreed.

It will be interesting to take part in this focus group over the next several months and exciting to read about the results of this research initiative.  We’ll have to stay tuned!

The research findings of the Young Alumni Engagement and Attitudinal Study will be released at MCON14 on June 18-19, 2014 in Chicago, IL.

MCON14

Restoring Classical Music in the New Millennium – Part 3

Recap of Parts 1 & 2:

PART 1: The first installment of the “Restoring Classical Music in the New Millennium” series placed the spotlight on a couple of young and talented classical musicians.  At the same time, it helped demonstrate the charitable nature that is characteristic of the Millennial generation as a whole.  Illustrating young talent and their attention to benefiting the greater good, I shared the stories of two amazing Millennial classical musicians: Jourdan Urbach, a 21 year-old violinist and philanthropist, and Nicola Benedetti, a lovely 25-year-old violinist with a passion for music education.

PART 2: The second installment highlighted Nadia Sirota, a 30 year-old violia player with a flair of hip hop, and Gustavo Dudamel, the 32-year-old “Dude” of the LA Phil, brandishing his conductor’s baton. Together they symbolize the fire, spirit, and ingenuity of the Millennial generation.  Although they come from very different backgrounds, they align on the international stage as performing artists trying to make a positive difference in the world through the amazing power of music.
_____________________________________________________________________

As for PART 3 of this series, we explore the backgrounds and accomplishments of an extraordinarily hip pianist and a tremendous violinist with a rather quirky sense of humor. Let’s begin our third round with pop icon and internationally acclaimed concert pianist, Lang Lang.lang-lang-2
LANG LANG
Lang Lang exemplifies the hope, wonder, and excitement of achieving the American Dream. Since a young age, Lang Lang has impacted others through his piano performance. Now, at the age of 31, Lang Lang has become a globally recognized classical music ambassador and icon for the next generation of concertgoers and performers with his own new-age flair.

A Piano Prodigy
Lang Lang’s journey began in Shenyang, China, his hometown.[1] He began studying the piano at the age of three, played his first public performance at the age of five, and has since progressed with only extraordinary outcomes.[2] From conservatories to competitions and piano performances, Lang Lang has made a name for himself in the new world of classical music.Lang_Time

He joined the Beijing’s Central Music Conservatory at the age of nine, and by the time he was 13, Lang Lang had become an international sensation.[3] After winning the renowned Tchaikovsky International Young Musicians’ Competition,[4] he set off for America to study at one of the world’s greatest classical music conservatories – the Curtis Institute of Music.[5] Like something out of a movie, Lang Lang performed a Tchaikovksy concerto in place of world-famous pianist, André Watts, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.[6] Thus, at the ripe old age of 17, Lang Lang the classical music superstar was born.

The Hottest Artist in Classical Music
The New York Times has proclaimed Lang Lang to be one of the “hottest stars in classical music.”[7] Not only is Lang Lang young and extremely talented, he also has a fashion-forward sense of style and seemingly endless amount of energy that, in my opinion, has helped to rejuvenate classical music performance and Millennial interest in this important art-form.Lang_adidas

Classical music meets pop-culture with Lang Lang at the keyboard. In 2009, he released his limited edition black and gold, piano theme Adidas Gazelles. From major sporting events and open-air concerts, to Hollywood films, dub-step and social media inspired collaborations, and the Lang Lang International Music Foundation, Lang Lang is engaging listeners and performers in new ways. He actively expands the musical horizons of those young and old and has proven himself to be a new-age master of classical music performance and an inspiration to the next generation of musical artists. (Stay tuned for Hilary Hanh, soon to follow in Part 3!)lang-lang-spotlight

LANG LANG
Age: 31

Nationality: Chinese
Instrument: Piano

Claim to Fame: Piano prodigy and internationally recognized classical musician; Lang Lang International Music Foundation

Facebook: 113,789 likes – Lang Lang Piano
Twitter: 44,193 Followers – @lang_lang
Website:
www.langlang.com; www.langlang.com/adidas


[1] http://www.langlang.com/biography
[2] ibid.
[3] ibid.
[4] ibid.
[5] http://www.curtis.edu/about-curtis/history/timeline/
[6] http://www.langlang.com/biography
[7] http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/04/arts/music/04clas.html

Full Series: Restoring Classical Music in the New Millenium – Millennial Magazine

The Millennials’ Orchestra: From The Millennial’s Perspective

“The Millennials’ Orchestra” series of blog posts are not meant to be opinion pieces, but rather founded in research, which I gathered and reported as part of my graduate Capstone project from 2012-2013. This is a personal blog and does not represent the views or opinions of my employer.


The Millennials’ Orchestra: From The Millennial’s Perspective

Symphony orchestra concerts – Where are the Millennials?  Why aren’t they in our audiences?  What are they interested in and what would excite them to attend classical orchestra concerts?

So many orchestra managers have lost sleep over these types of questions – including myself.  As a Millennial and self proclaimed orchestra-lover, I knew there had to be others out there like me who love the art form, but perhaps they chose to participate in symphonic music in different ways than in the traditional sense of attending a concert… With these questions and more, I set out on a mission for answers.  From there, my graduate research survey was born.

Through this survey, I was able to gain valuable insight into the current public sentiment around classical music and symphony orchestra performance in the 21st century and across the U.S.[1]  The survey was distributed on social media networks  – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and WordPress – which may account for the lack of responses from the two oldest generations.[2] Within ten days, however, 110 people had voluntarily participated in the survey.[3] Out of those 110 respondents, 62 had identified themselves as Millennials.[4]  (Here’s where it gets really interesting!)

Millennials Speak Out:

What in your opinion are the biggest challenges facing symphony orchestras, especially when it comes to engaging younger audiences in live performance?

    1. Approximately 60% of Millennial survey participants selected “lack of interest”[5] as their response. When answers such as, “all of the above” or “combination of expense and lack of interest” are also included, that figure increased by nearly three percentage points (to 62.9%).  Across all survey participants, however, “lack of interest” was clearly the outlier (45% selected this answer).[6]
    2. The second most prevalent answer among Millennials was “concert experience” (10 out of 62, or ~16%).[7]

Contrary to common belief, “expense” is not the biggest concern for Millennials when it comes to orchestra concerts.  Albeit it’s still an important and influential factor, only 6 out of 62, or ~9.7% of Millennial survey takers[8] selected this as their answer.  It appears that Millennials place greater value on relevance and appeal when making the decision to attend a symphony orchestra concert.

So where are the audiences? The young people?
Thought-Leaders Share Their Opinions:

Greg Sandow, author of The Future of Classical Music ArtsJournal blog, believes that the concert experience is at the heart of the lack of Millennials in attendance at classical symphony orchestra concerts.[9]  Other limiting factors face U.S. symphony orchestras. With increasing reliance on social and handheld technology in our modern society, Engaging Art contributing authors highlight how the interests and expectations of contemporary audiences have changed, as well as the nature of arts participation.[10] Dan Laughey, author of Music & Youth Culture, emphasizes the connection of “youth culture” [11] to the energetic, social atmosphere of music clubs and other pop culture environments.[12]  Mark Shugoll, of Shugoll Research outside of Washington, D.C., suggests that aligning program offerings with such inclinations can help arts organizations become more relevant and appealing to the elusive Millennial generation patrons.[13]

What do you think, readers?: 

What is the key to symphony orchestra appeal in the eyes of our Millennial populations?

What do you think it will take for symphony orchestras in the U.S. to inspire recurring attendance among these coveted audiences?


[1] Catherine Starek, “Graduate Research Survey 2013 – Classical Music and Symphony Orchestra Performance,” Google Form, 2013.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Greg Sandow, (ArtsJournal blogger), interview by Catherine Starek.
[10] Steven Tepper and Bill Ivey, 2008, Engaging Art.
[11] Dan Laughey, Music & Youth Culture, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press Ltd, 2006.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Mark Shugoll, “BSO’s Symphony with a Twist,” interview by Catherine Starek, 2013.

Millennial Classical Musicians – Part 2

Millennial Classical Musicians: Part 2

This is the second installment in a 4-part series that takes a close look at how Millennials are shaping the future of classical music.

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Part one of my four-part series on Millennial classical musicians placed the spotlight on a couple of young and talented virtuosos, who are also inspiring examples of the characteristic charitable nature of the Millennial generation as a whole.  In the second part of this series, I would like to turn your attention to another brilliant duo, pioneering and shaping the new world of classical music.  This journey begins with the Millennial violist, Nadia Sirota.

NADIA SIROTA – The Urban Violist

Nadia Sirota is 30 years old and on the cutting edge of classical music.  Coming from a family of musicians, she was exposed to classical music and began studying on stringed instruments at a young age.  With an older, violinist brother to compare with, Nadia has always had a strong competitive drive.  They both started on the violin and then switched to the viola in their early teens.  The viola was, in her opinion, way cooler than the violin.  Since the switch, she has done a lot to reinforce this perception among audiences far and wide.  Nadia took to the viola with a fiery passion and never looked back.

For generations, the violin (not the viola) has been considered the rock-star of orchestral instruments.  Although the viola belongs to the violin family, it’s quite a bit larger and tuned lower than the violin.  The violin’s higher and more brilliant tone is often more desirable for orchestral showcases, such as violin concertos and other virtuosic works (i.e. music requiring great artistic skill).  Forced to take the equivalent of the backup-singer role, the larger and deeper sounding viola is often taken for granted and made the butt of musical jokes.  Nadia is changing this unflattering stereotype for the better, proving to the world that the viola is unique and well worth our undivided attention.  Check out her latest album to hear just how amazing the viola and this Millennial classical musician can be!

Nadia has not only been a champion for the viola, she has made it her mission to showcase and promote contemporary classical music.  Her newest album, Baroque, was selected as Q2 Music’s Album of the Week in late March of this year.

The corresponding article, “Violist Nadia Sirota Puts the ‘Rock’ in ‘Baroque,’” points to the edgy, new age character of her classical viola sound:

The injection of the spirit of the 17th and 18th centuries into a recording that is otherwise entrenched in the 21st century is what makes Sirota’s “Baroque” sound otherworldly, bold and new.

Interestingly, Nadia discovered her passion for contemporary classical music only after she graduated from Julliard with her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in viola performance.  Friend and colleague, Nico Muhly, had written a 14-min. viola sonata for Nadia called Keep in Touch.  She performed the piece at the 2006 Airwaves Festival in Reykjavík, Iceland, in rather unusual circumstances – “…in a hot, smokey venue in front of hundreds of whisky-soaked standing spectators.”  She had the audience on the edges of their seats and was pleased with the acceptance and appreciation they showed for the viola and concert music outside of the concert hall.  This experience changed Nadia’s approach to classical music altogether.  From that point on, contemporary classical music became her brand and career.

To her credit, Nadia’s accomplishments are already numerous.  In addition to being a solo violist, she performs as a member of yMusic, ACME (the American Contemporary Music Ensemble), and Alarm Will Sound.  She also hosts a show on WQXR’s New Music radio stream.  Here are some of her outstanding achievements:

New Music Initiatives:

  • Co-founder of Julliard’s AXIOM ensemble
  • Initiated the New Music Project with the Castleman/Amory/Huang studio
  • Created the Julliard Plays Julliard program for student composers and performers

Recognition & Awards:

  • Winner of Julliard’s concerto competition (2005)
  • Joined the faculty at the Manhattan School of Music (Fall 2007) – New masters degree program in contemporary music
  • Debut album, First Things First (2009) – Record of the year by The New York Times
  • ASCAP Deems Taylor Award (2010) – Radio and Internet Broadcasting
  • Southern Methodist University’s Meadows Prize (2013) – Pioneering artist with emerging international profile

This trailblazing violist is breaking the mold of classical music performance with her expressive urban sound.  Her entrepreneurial style, combined with new age classical music, is opening doors for herself as a musician, contemporary audiences, and emerging professional musicians and composers all over the world.  Her job is one of translation – conveying the ideas of talented young composers and providing exciting experiences for classical music connoisseurs and newcomers alike in the 21st century.


Nadia Sirota
(Photo Credit: Samantha West)

Age: 30
Nationality: American

Claim to Fame: Violist; New Classical Music & Contemporary Performance

Twitter: https://twitter.com/nadiasirota
Facebook: https://facebook.com/nadiasirotamusic
Website: www.nadiasirota.com

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GUSTAVO DUDAMEL – “the dude” Dudamel

In the effort to provide a well-rounded overview of Millennial classical musicians, I turn now to the conductor’s stand and, more specifically, the music director of the LA Philharmonic – Maestro Gustavo Dudamel.

If Gustavo’s warm smile and long curly locks haven’t already caught your eye, his incredible energy and skill as a conductor certainly will.  Gustavo Dudamel, aka “the dude” Dudamel, is a vivacious, 32-year-old orchestra conductor who has brought fame and fortune to the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  His larger-than-life attitude is a perfect fit with the LA Phil’s home venue- the unparalleled Disney Hall.  This magnificent hall and the talented music director who brings the space to life with music are astounding and unique in so many ways.  Let’s go back to the beginning…

Welcome to Venezuela, Gustavo’s native country.  Despite increasing poverty and dangerous crime, residents harbor an unrelenting passion for life and sense of positivity.  A major catalyst of this aptitude for survival, it seems, is a revolutionary music education system known as El Sistema. The website for El Sistema Venezuela explains:

El Sistema is a tested model of how a music program can both create great musicians and dramatically change the life trajectory of hundreds of thousands of a nation’s neediest kids… Its approach to music education emphasizes intensive ensemble participation from the earliest stages, group learning, peer teaching and a commitment to keeping the joy and fun of musical learning and music making ever-present.

Gustavo is a tremendous advocate for El Sistema and representative of the benefits that come from the program.  As an El Sistema Venezuela graduate, he has since become an internationally renowned musician, composer, and conductor.

Gustavo Dudamel signed as an exclusive artist of Deutsche Grammophon in 2005.  Now in his fifth season at the LA Phil, and fifteenth season as Music Director for the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, he continues to widen the depth, breadth, and diversity of classical music programming, audiences reached, and children served.  He is a true musical leader who knows no bounds.

Additional Achievements

  • Inaugural Bamberger Symphoniker Gustav Mahler Competition winner (2004)
  • Grammy winning artist with numerous recordings
  •  ‘Q Prize’ from Harvard University – Extraordinary service to children
  • l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres induction – Chevalier, in Paris (2009)
  • Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people (1990)
  • Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT (2010)
  • Voted into the Gramophone Hall of Fame
  • Gramophone Artist of the Year (2011)
  • Royal Swedish Academy of Music induction – ‘Eminent merits in the musical art’
  • Honorable doctorates – Universidad Centroccidental Lisandro Alvarado in his hometown, Barquisimeto; University of Gothenburg
  • Musical America’s Musician of the Year (2013)

Notable Appearances (TV/Movie):

  • The Inaugural Concert – First concert as Music Dir. at the LA Phil (2009)
  • New Year’s Eve Concert Gala 2011 – Berlin Philharmonic
  • Birthday Concert for Pope Benedict XVI
  • Let the Children Play – Documentary (2011)
  • Dudamel: Conducting a Life (2010) – PBS special with Tavis Smiley
  • Sesame Street with Elmo (Feb 2012)

Gustavo Dudamel’s musical career began on the violin, transitioned to the baton as a conductor in Venezuela, and now he continues to help under-served youth through music and The Dudamel Foundation, which he founded with his wife in 2012.  His interests and actions demonstrate unwavering dedication to advancing music education and social justice for people across the globe.  I can only hope to be half as accomplished by the time I reach my early thirties!

Gustavo Dudamel
Age: 32
Nationality: Venezuelan

Claim to Fame: El Sistema Venezuela; Violinist/Composer/Conductor; Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra, Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, LA Philharmonic

Twitter: https://twitter.com/#GustavoDudamel
Facebook: https://facebook.com/GDudamel
Website: www.gustavodudamel.com

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Nadia Sirota and Gustavo Dudamel are two, very different Millennial classical musicians, but they align on the international stage as performing artists trying to make a positive difference in the world through the amazing power of music.

Join me soon for Part 3 of this series, where I will explore the backgrounds and accomplishments of an extraordinarily hip pianist and a tremendous violinist with a rather quirky sense of humor.

Originally Published July 31, 2013 – http://genyhub.com/page/performance-art#ixzz2groIHdzl

Gateway to the West

For those of you who know me, or already follow my blog, you may have noticed my hiatus from publishing new posts.  A lot has happened in my life over the past 5 months, and now that I’ve settled in to my new life, I’d like to get back to one of my favorite hobbies – writing about cultural experiences and the performing arts!

*     *     *

This past May, I graduated from American University in Washington, DC, with my master’s degree in Arts Management.  In early July, after many months of careful consideration, I received a call notifying me that I got my top choice, dream job.

I nailed down an apartment rental in what was to become my new home and career location in the arts.  Before I knew it, my cross-country journey to Colorado Springs, CO had begun.  Starting in my hometown of Wilmington, NC, I drove for 28 hours over 4 days to Boulder, Colorado (just outside of Denver) where my older brother lives.  From there I headed into Colorado Springs and jumped into Project Coordinator training.  My boyfriend and I up-rooted from North Carolina, making this journey out West together.  Of course, we had to stop and see a few sights along the way.

 

For the first night of the trip, we stayed over in Nashville, Tennessee.  Most of the second day was spent exploring the Country Music Hall of Fame.  We learned about the roots of country music, some of the instruments played and how they evolved, and many of the stars who made music history and shaped American tradition.  I saw the beginnings of the country music industry evolve through radio, recordings, and other technological and stylistic innovations.

Our next stop was St. Louis, Missouri.  Here, we visited the famous “Gateway Arch,” a 630-ft. architectural marvel symbolizing the ‘Gateway to the West’ (how perfect, right?).  We quickly reserved tickets to make our way to the top of the arch.  Despite the enormous summer crowd waiting to get in, we managed to make our reservation and get a view of the city from hundreds of feet above.  Queuing behind doors 2 and 3, we were finally allowed to enter the family-sized pods, in which we trollied to the top.  The view from the top was amazing.  We could see the famous Old St. Louis Courthouse, the St. Louis Cardinals baseball stadium, and the amazingly large shadow of the arch stretching across the bright green lawn below.

On the third day of the trip, we made it to Junction City, Kansas.  We wanted to stop in Kansas City, Missouri – “one of the most popular ‘cradles of jazz’” – but we still had a long way to go, so we kept driving.  Throughout the state of Kansas, we passed fields of large and whirling windmills.  The enormous turbines rotated ominously, with the tips of the blades emerging through the thinning haze.  The dreariness of the cloudy fields was briefly enlivened by the possibility of seeing the “world’s largest prairie dog,” an 8,000lb prairie dog made of reinforced concrete, mind you…

The fourth and final day of our cross-country road trip arrived and we were welcomed by the beautiful, Rocky Mountains of Colorado.   Because we took several days to drive, crossing a distance of approximately 1,800 miles, we had adjusted to the 2 hour time difference – from Eastern Daylight Time to Mountain – more gradually.  Within a couple of days, I arrived for my training and first day of work.

In my new position, I am contributing to an organization that I’ve admired for some time now.  My knowledge and skills will be put to the test, as I continue to learn, grow, and develop my professional knowledge.  It is so fulfilling to know that my work contributes to a wonderful company, ultimately helping arts organizations across the nation to thrive.

I’m living my dream by helping artists and working with other arts managers whose mission is to advance the performing arts industry.  Cheers to new frontiers, and the new 2013-14 season!

Based on my original post on GenYHub: http://genyhub.com/profile/Catherine#ixzz2fmFheBFd

Millennial Classical Musicians: A Who’s Who of Rising Classical Stars (Part 1)

By Catherine StarekClassical Music Contributor, Gen Y Hub’s Millennial Magazine

Classical music…it’s stuffy, boring, and something that only old people enjoy, right? I beg to differ (and I’ll prove it to you)! While the term “classical” may be misleading, classical music is actually a very exciting, inspiring, and powerful musical genre. Millennial musicians are not only embracing the past, they are also shaping the future of classical music performance and putting a fresh twist on what it means to be a classical musician. As a fellow Millennial and modern classical musician, I am happy to shine a growing spotlight on a hand-selected list of young classical superstars. Stay tuned throughout the Millennial Classical Musicians mini-series to get the scoop on all eight of these fantastic modern musicians.

• Jourdan Urbach –
21, violin
• Nicola Benedetti – 25, violin
• Alisa Weilerstein – 30, cello
• Nadia Sirota – 30, viola
• Gustavo Dudamel – 31 32, baton
• Lang Lang – 31, piano
• Hilary Hanh – 31, violin
• Cameron Carpenter – 32, organ

Classical Context
When talking about classical music, however – an era of music that emerged around 1750 – it’s difficult to keep history out of the conversation. Don’t worry though, I promise to keep it brief! The classical music era extends from the mid-18th to the early-19th centuries (c. 1750 – c. 1830).[1] This era is often associated with the works of Beethoven and Mozart, two of the most well known and respected classical musicians and composers in the world.

Modern Classical Musicians
Fast-forward to the 21st century and classical music is still widely heard, appreciated, and performed. Millennial musicians are mastering the classical style, while infusing their personalities, passions, and interests into their performances. The first of eight musicians in the Millennial Classical Musicians line up is 21-year-old, American concert violinist Jourdan Urbach.

JOURDAN URBACH – Musician, Composer, and Philanthropist
JourdanUrbach2Jourdan Urbach was born in December of 1991. Just seven years later, Jourdan hit the stage, making his professional debut on the violin. For comparison, Mozart premiered around the age of five. Music critics delight in Jourdan’s “buttery smooth” sound and the brilliance and technical acuity of his playing. Recognized as a child prodigy, this young superstar has already become a Grammy-winning concert violinist. He has even had the rare opportunity to perform – twice – as a featured artist at Carnegie Hall, an internationally renowned concert hall in Manhattan.

The pressure to succeed is understandably intense in these high-profile performances. His strong love of music, however, and positive attitude helps to carry him through. He reflects on the performing experience and his mindset as a modern classical musician in a 2011 interview with Charles Osgood, “I get a huge rush out of performing,” he shares, “and I can tolerate the practice because I know it leads up to that.”

Jourdan Urbach performing Aerion:

The Cherry On Top
Jourdan Urbach is not only a tremendously talented musician, he’s also passionately philanthropic and participates in what he calls “Responsible Music.” According to Jourdan, “music is designed to be heard, but it is also to be used to further the greater good.” In this spirit, he founded Concerts for a Cure (originally Children Helping Children) when he was just seven years old. Over the past 14 years, his charity has raised more than $5 million through classical music, benefiting children in New York hospitals and the international medical community. Jourdan’s musical and philanthropic passions play an important role in his service as an international representative of the United Nations’ Arts for Peace program that he promotes on his website,  “As a Goodwill Ambassador and Artist-in-Residence for UN (Arts for Peace), Jourdan serves as a cultural link between the UN community and the artistic community in NY and abroad.”

Jourdan actively impacts the world through his music and dedication to society. As a modern classical music performer and composer, he is vibrant, successful, and clearly high in demand. I look forward to watching his music career and charitable efforts grow and evolve, affecting the hearts and minds of people around the world.

JourdanUrbach

JOURDAN URBACH
Age: 21
Nationality: American
Instrument: Violin
Claim to Fame: Grammy-winning concert violinist; Contemporary composer; Founder of Children Helping Children
Facebook: JourdanUrbachMusic

Twitter: @JourdanUrbach
Website: jourdanurbach.com

As we move on to the second remarkable Millennial classical musician on the list, you’ll see how she impacts society through her music and advocacy efforts as well, and has risen to classical stardom with modern flair.

NICOLA BENEDETTI – The Silver Violinist
Introducing the ravishing, young classical violinist, Nicola Benedetti. This beautiful, Scotland native has already captured the hearts (and ears) of audiences throughout Great Britain and across the world. She will turn 26 in July.

NicolaBenedettiNicola’s musical journey began when she started violin lessons at the age of five. Approximately ten years later, she entered the Yehudi Menuhin School (YMS) in Surrey and studied with the acclaimed violin professor Natalia Boyarsky. After leaving YMS, she continued to develop her musical talent as a student of the Polish and Russian violinists, Maciej Rakowski and Pavel Vernikov, respectively. Her talents have been featured with professional symphonies and among prominent music festivals and events all over the world. And when she’s not touring, she enjoys playing regularly in her chamber trio with cellist (and also boyfriend of 10 years) Leonard Elschenbroich and pianist Alexei Grynyuk.

Big Sister
Nicola is also fiercely dedicated to music education and participates as a “Big Sister” and Board Member for Sistema Scotland. In recognition for her service to music and charity, she was appointed by the Queen of England to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2013 New Year Honours.

Life Achievements
Since the launch of her career as a modern classical musician, Nicola has managed to accumulate a spectacular list of accomplishments:

  • BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2004, performing the unconventional Szymanowski Violin Concerto
  • Recipient of the Classical BRIT Award for Young British Classic Performer in 2008
  • Debuted at the 2010 BBC Proms
  • Signed exclusively with Decca Classics in 2011
  • Best Female Artist at the Classic Brits in 2012
  • Listed as Classical “Best Female Artist” in iTunes Best of 2012
  • Released a tremendously successful CD, The Silver Violin

The Silver Violin on SoundCloud:

Bringing Sexy Back to Classical Music
Nicola produces the warmest and most heartfelt violin tones. She plays the Gariel Stradivarius (c. 1717), which is considered to be one of the highest quality and most valuable violins in the world – it’s considered the Gucci of instruments. Her modern-day patron, bank executive Jonathan Moulds, purchased the Strad for her to play for a mere £10 million, or the equivalent of nearly $15.5 million today.

Although she is known for her performance of classical music, she is also unafraid to dive into a wide variety of repertoire. Her latest album The Silver Violin is Hollywood gold, bringing the iconic sounds of the silver screen to her Silver Violin. The enormous success of her CD led to The Silver Violin Tour, which took place this past March in nine venues across Scotland.

NicolaBenedetti2

NICOLA BENEDETTI
Age: 25
Nationality: Scottish/Italian
Instrument: Violin
Claim to Fame: Best Female Classical Artist; plays the Gariel Stradivarius; Sistema Scotland – Big Sister and Board Member
Facebook: Nicola Benedetti Violin

Twitter: @NickyBenedetti
Website: nicolabenedetti.co.uk

Millennial musicians, such as violinists Nicola Benedetti and Jourdan Urbach, are taking the world’s stage by storm; challenging convention; and providing amazing classical music performances for growing audiences, excited listeners, and a variety of populations across the globe. Through music, modern classical musicians are conveying a message of passion and beauty, education and healing, and perhaps most of all, a message of encouragement and hope.

The next article in the Millennial Classical Musicians mini-series will feature a pioneering violist, and one of the greatest advocates for El Sistema, a revolutionary music education program originating in Venezuela; His weapon of choice – the baton.

Originally Published June 28, 2013 – genyhub.com

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[1] http://www.naxos.com/education/brief_history.asp