The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music news: Veteran American conductor David Zinman reveals ways for symphony orchestras to attract young audiences

May 26, 2012

By Jacob Stockinger

How do you attract young listeners to classical music concerts?

Whether you are a performer or an audience member, a presenter or a sponsor, the question is an urgent one.

The question is also constantly and hotly debated these days, and so are the solutions.

Play more new music, say some, and live more  in the present culture.

On the contrary, play the old standards and great masterworks that young people need to know and hear live for once, say others.

Play in non-traditional venues like bars and coffeehouses.

Play in concert halls, but offer cheaper tickets.

Book young performers and soloists that young audiences can relate to.

Program more crossover music with echoes of rock, folk, bluegrass, jazz, blues and world music.

So, just what is an orchestra or other classical ensemble or preenting organization to do?

Well, NONE of those well intentioned ideas are really the way to go, says veteran Grammy-winning conductor, the American David Zinman (below) who leads the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra but guest conducts and tours around the world.

Zinman — who also is famous for championing a modern and seemingly more austere approach to Beethoven (see bottom) — has different ideas.

He got them by simply going to his young 16-year-old son for suggestions.

And he got what he asked for: ADVICE.

Start late, exclude parents, allow casual dress, play anything and host a post-concert all-night dance party.

But he didn’t just ask and listen, and then ignore the advice.

He acted on what he heard and implemented his son’s suggestions – with outstanding success, he adds.

So, do you want to know more about  the “secret” solutions Zinman heard and implemented?

Here they are, as he told a reporter in New Zealand where was preparing to conduct “An Alpine Symphony” by Richard Strauss.

Here is a link to his revealing and optimistic interview:

Read what David Zinman says and tell The Ear what you think of the suggestions – especially if you are a young person or know young people and whether you think his suggestions would work or not.

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