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.”

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Giving USA 2013: Establishing Context for Annual Giving in the U.S.

Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy is the seminal publication reporting on the sources and uses of charitable giving in the United States.  For the past 57 years, these reports have provided fundraisers, nonprofit leaders, donors, and others within the charitable sector, with “the most comprehensive charitable giving data available.”  Here are the highlights from Giving USA’s 2013 report, establishing the context for annual giving in the United States for 2012-2013.

GivingUSA2013-Highlights

“Slice of Life: Lila (Oliver) Asher, an active artist for more than seven decades”

American University graduate students – including myself – and others are helping older artists save our national legacy in the ART CART: Saving the Legacy project.

Lila Oliver Asher – ART CART: Saving the Legacy, DC Artist 2013

ART CART DC Artist Lila Oliver Asher has been featured on WTOP radio’s website. “Slice of Life: Lila Asher, an active artist for more than seven decades,” by WTOP intern Hoai-Tran Bui. Check it out! http://www.wtop.com/1232/3278510/Lila-Asher-active-artist-for-more-than-seven-decades-

“Useful Dog Tricks” by Jesse the Jack – Dedicated to Service Dogs Everywhere (VIDEO)

Sit back and enjoy the sprightly, enthusiastic, thoughtful, and talented tail-wagging fun. (All taught with positive reinforcement and relationship-based training!) 😀

Systemic arts – What if we took a holistic approach to managing nonprofit arts organizations?

I am pleased to announce that my post has been featured on the Americans for the Arts blog as an Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium (EALS) post!!  You can check it out here>>

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I have always thought of symphony orchestras, or any large musical ensemble, to function somewhat like clockwork.

As a musician, one quickly realizes that the success of the symphony (e.g. high-quality performance, beautiful tone, expressive phrasing, etc.) is dependent on the sum of its parts. The performance of every individual must be sensitively adjusted to compliment the rest of the ensemble in order to produce one cohesive musical story.

The internal intricacies, typically unseen by its admirers, must be functioning properly and working together in order for the larger system to operate properly.  In the case of a clock, even the grandest, most impressive-looking ones may cease to operate with broken or damaged parts.  Similarly, symphony orchestra management can be most effective when all of its departments are working well and moving forward together.

Source: Tai Toh on flickr.com

What if we, as nonprofit leaders in the arts, took a systemic approach to orchestra management? Rather than focusing on issues separately and only when we are forced to deal with them, one might adopt the mindset of always doing what is best to maintain the overall health of the organization in the long run.  Perhaps we should start asking ourselves: How does the health of the organization affect the community it serves or the field as a whole? How can you help your art-form continue to be resilient in an environment of constant change?

I have thought about the idea of holistic management for a while and now a new book, appropriately named Resilience, is making me think that it is not only a good way to manage arts organizations, but may also be a better way of living life.  In no way am I an expert at this and I am still learning, but I wish to be the best arts manager I can be.  I believe in the importance of symphony orchestras in society and hope to inspire others to continue to engage in their performances and events.

  • What do you do in your daily life and work to make sure you’re seeing the larger picture?
  • What mechanisms have you built-in to ensure that your organization has the ability to “bounce back” in the face of hardship?

More ideas to come… for now, I welcome your thoughts and comments!

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Thank you, Professor Andrew Taylor for inspiring me, as well as other emerging art leaders at American University, to embrace new ways of thinking about the arts and career readiness around the concept of resilience.

Metro Musicals II: Capturing Everyday Life (…in a bottle) – VIDEO

Last week, I wrote about the ingenious and resourceful initiative fueling the Land-fillharmonic, as well as SoundCloud’s remix challenge involving Metro sounds in Washington, D.C.  I used these projects to exemplify creative and musical applications of urban sounds.

What if you could capture your life in a bottle, what would it sound like?  Now there’s a way to find out!

Daily life – what would that sound like?
Tokyo-based design student Jun Fujiwara has created a bottle with the ability to capture and remix ordinary sounds with the pop and plug of a cork.  Introducing the Re:Sound Bottle (pictured below)!

How is this possible? How does it work?

Fujiwara’s the Re:Sound Bottle captures everyday noises, remixing the various sounds into a different song every time the bottle is opened. (It) imagines everyday interaction with the noises around us, turning them into an auditory record of our day. Instead of passively listening — and not paying attention — to the mundane noises around us, Fujiwara transforms listening into an interactive experience.

Click here to learn more about the Re:Sound Bottle‘s hands-on recording/playback process.

More about the inventor
Jun Fujiwara was awarded the Mitsubishi Chemical Junior Designer Award 2012 for the Re:Sound Bottle and received the Naoki Sakai Prize.

Metro Musicals: Getting Creative with Urban Sounds (VIDEO)

Land-fillharmonic:
Young musicians in Paraguay, South America make beautiful music with a collection of unconventional instruments.  Colá, a local professor, transforms aluminum and other discarded materials into respectable, recycled symphony orchestra instruments.  The idea for this magnificent initiative comes from Maestro Szarán.  The orchestra’s educational offerings have expanded to include this innovative instrument building program, ultimately improving the emotional and intellectual well-being of these young musicians and overall cleanliness of the community.


Metro Sounds:
Another example of urban musical creativity comes from the mechanical clatter emitted by the DC Metro.

Listen to the escalator engines’ meditative rhythm, cool and even like a sleeping drum machine. Listen to the impatient patter of human footsteps quietly rebelling against the escalator’s master tempo.

Even if Metro ever gets all of its escalators running this smoothly, they’ll never lose their secret music. We’ll only have to listen more carefully.

Can you remix the Metro?
The Washington Post’s Pop Music Blog – Click Track – challenged readers to remix the sounds of the Metro’s aging escalators in Washington, DC.

The Accidental Music of Imperfect Escalators on SoundCloud captures the unique musical experience:

Chris Richards is a music critic for the Washington Post, and after years of ignoring the wailing and screeching of the much maligned, often broken escalators in the DC Metro, he began to hear them in a new way. He began to hear them as music.


Share your urban music experiences:
What and where are urban sounds creating music in your community?
What other examples or ideas would you like to recommend or explore?

I look forward to hearing your stories.  Please share your comments below!

How Millennial Are You?

How Millennial Are You?  This is what Pew Research Center – an organization known to track, analyze, and report on “numbers, facts, and trends shaping your world” – is asking American generations.  As an emerging arts leader (one who’s researching the Millennial generation and working to identify and describe fundraising and marketing strategies to effectively engage this generation in symphony orchestra concerts and events), I was excited to take THE QUIZ in order to gauge my overall Millennial-ness.

As a member of the Millennial generation, I scored 86 out of 100 (see below).  Questions asked relate to the type of data collected by Pew Research Center for their landmark project: Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next.  From politics and values, to media and digital life, as well as demographics and social trends, Millennials have been deemed “Confident. Connected. Open to Change.”

How Millennial are you? Take the quiz!>>  

HowMillennialAreYou?PersonalScore12.08.12

Top 20 in Social Media: Google+ takes the bronze (can be effective promo tool for nonprofit arts – here’s how)

SilverPop – a digital marketing technology provider – decided to research trends in social media growth among the top 20 social networking sites.  The usual suspects topped the list: Facebook takes the gold with a mere 1 billion users and Twitter comes in second with 500 million registered users.  Another somewhat unexpected player has joined them on the winners podium, however.  Coming in third, Google+ gets the bronze.

On Nov 27, 2012, SilverPop announced their findings (data as of Nov. 15, 2012), using a nifty infographic to illustrate the rapidly evolving social networking landscape.  Participants were ranked, in most cases, by total registered users and then grouped into 5 different clubs according to growth patterns.

At the top, social media celebrities Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ mingle in The 100 Million User Club; the increasingly popular location-based, photo-sharing, and microblogging platforms, Foursquare, Instagram, and Tumblr, shine among The Rising Stars; from XING (never heard of it), to Yelp, and LinkedIn, let’s not forget to acknowledge The Steady Freddies, showing steady growth over the past 3 to 5 years;  The Child Prodigies of social media, Pinterest, Soundcloud, and Path, have achieved a meteoric rise to fame despite their young age (between 2 and 4 years old); Friendster, MySpace, and Orkut, which were launched in 2002, 2003, and 2004 respectively, have taken a seat in the Cooling Off club in regards to popularity.

By mid-September of this year, Google+ reached 400 Million users.  Less than three months later, Google+ now has more than 500 million members, which is on par with Twitter in SilverPop’s 100 Million User Club.

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Despite initial skepticism, Google+ has grown from 40M users in Oct 2011 to 500M users as of Dec 2012.  Google+ is definitely on the rise and I would like to share my ideas with you for using this growing platform as an effective promotional tool for nonprofit organizations (particularly the arts)!

In recent news, Google+ has also launched Google Communities, encouraging groups to gather around common interests, connect using Google Hangouts and the Google+ mobile app, and explore current or new passions with your communities.

As an emerging arts leader, I am excited at the prospect of using Google+ Hangouts and Google Communities to connect with symphony orchestra and other performing arts enthusiasts.  I think Google+ will prove to be an innovative and effective tool for building relationships with current and future audiences, donors, administrators, board members, volunteers, etc.

Will you join the club?