A national study reported that 60 percent of adults appreciate classical music and 35 percent listen to it regularly, but only 5 percent regularly attend classical concerts. Why is this? The two leading reasons were lack of time and money. But there are other excuses, too.
“Only old people attend.” The average concert attendee is in his/her 50s but people of all ages will be there. The study found that people in their 20s and 30s may feel overwhelmed with careers and kids but often return to classical concerts when they reach their 40s and 50s. Babies and young children love classical music until someone tells them it’s not cool. The Lee’s Summit Symphony works closely with the school district and provides educational opportunities to kids, and the holiday and family pops concerts are especially family-friendly. About a third of the attendees at the recent holiday concerts were 45 or younger.
“They just play music by dead European composers.” It’s true that many of our favorite compositions are from the classic and romantic periods, but most concerts include some contemporary music. Orchestras were originally formed in the 1800s to perform composers’ works, and new music is constantly being written. The Lee’s Summit Symphony has recently played music from “The Firebird Suite,” for example, as well as “Wicked.”
“Symphony concerts are for the wealthy or socially prominent.” This idea comes from the origins of symphonies in Europe, where royalty and wealthy patrons supported composers and performances. The American model has always relied on a combination of patrons, foundations and ticket sales for support. Our local symphony celebrates 10 years of success because of a few stalwart donors (individuals and businesses) and many friends who contribute as little as $15/year. Advance concert tickets are only $6 for students and $12 for adults, slightly more at the door. Nothing exclusive about that!
“Concerts aren’t exciting, they’re stuffy.” Don’t think of a classical concert as entertainment comparable to sporting events or rock concerts. Rather, it should be considered enrichment for the mind and spirit. In a national study by the League of American Orchestras, those who attend concerts report that they are “transported,” “lose themselves in the music,” “have a profound experience – a virtual meditation in sound.” Young couples also report that symphony concerts are romantic experiences, and many mention that attending sets a good example for their children.
“I can just buy the music I want.” With a mouse click, iTunes or YouTube will deliver almost any classical piece you can think of. At a live concert, a squeak or a cough may spoil the perfection…but you can watch the conductor’s amazing connection with the musicians, see which instruments are playing various parts, and watch the players. You become an active participant in the experience.
“I don’t like or understand the music.” Arts education budgets have grown tighter, but you don’t need to know a lot. There are websites that can teach you about the instruments, various composers, and what to expect when you attend a concert, and many concerts offer programming notes and slide presentations to tell us about what we’re hearing.
“I don’t know when to clap.” Many of us have begun to clap enthusiastically, only to receive odd looks from others in the audience. Symphonic music often includes three or more sections (movements) that seem complete but which portray different moods. Still, it happens all the time; the easiest way to not embarrass yourself is to watch the conductor or those around you.
A local audience survey showed that 27 percent of the 1,200 people who came to the Lee’s Summit Symphony’s holiday concert had never before heard our community orchestra, yet 99.35 percent said they would definitely return. If you’re ready to try it, tickets for the March 9 Family Pops Spectacular are available at both Lee’s Summit HyVee stores or at www.lssymphony.org at a reduced rate, $10 for adults and $5 for students 18 and under. To celebrate the 10th anniversary season, 10-year-olds are admitted free with one paid adult admission.
Carol Rothwell is a Lee’s Summit resident who serves on the Board of Directors of the Lee’s Summit Symphony Orchestra.