As a music teacher, I’ve taught 4-year-olds, 76-year-olds, and everyone in between! But the vast majority of my students are little people whose legs dangle from the piano bench and beside whom I have to kneel in order to adjust their violin posture. They find universal satisfaction in placing their stickers in the oddest spots on the page; they don’t ask why the first sharp is F, they just take my word for it until they’ve advanced enough to understand the why; and they have energy in everything they’re doing, whether it’s 20 bow circles or “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
However, they’re all different in what they like to play. Romantic music, hymn arrangements, pop, and—oh yes—classical. Whether they know it or not, my students are getting classical training and my goal is to condition them to love classical music as much as I do.
Whenever I go to a concert, whether an Oregon Symphony concert at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland, or a Seattle Symphony concert at Benaroya Hall, or a local concert in my own town, I am a 20-something swimming in a sea of white hair. I love the white hair—but the absence of youth saddens me. What will this concert hall look like in 20 years, I wonder? Will it be empty? Is a 500 year art form truly on its way out?
Then, my students started talking…about middle-aged dads who play classical music (with a healthy dose of popular music like the aforementioned “Pirates”). And my younger siblings started talking about them and playing them. And Disneyland was featuring them. And what choice did I have but to become enthralled by The Piano Guys, made famous by none other than YouTube?
It’s a fascinating time we live in. A time when the musical elite proclaims the intelligence of modern classical music and decries the taste of the masses. A time when the most popular form of instrumental music—soundtracks—is somehow “less than.” I believe the dissonant ugliness of modern classical music is already doomed, and furthermore that soundtracks are the opera music of our age: grand, glorious creativity, telling a story! Does it get better than that?
At the Arlene Schnitzer concert hall once again, I found myself surrounded by a crowd the likes of which I had never seen in a high-brow concert hall. Ever. Families with small children, 20-something couples, white haired gentlemen and ladies, and a generous showing of teenagers. I was at a Piano Guys concert, watching live performances of their own original compositions on acoustic instruments, watching videos (YouTube!) on giant screens of them performing on location, and watching live performances juxtaposed with video in the background.
Before they played Vivaldi melded with the Bourne soundtrack, Steven Sharp Nelson asked, “Who likes classical music?” The audience of several thousand cheered with contagious enthusiasm and energy, and I knew—John Williams isn’t going away, but neither are Handel, Bach, Beethoven, or Mozart. In the hands of creative, innovative performers, music teachers, and music students, a beautiful sunrise is dawning in classical music.
Photo Credit: fusion-of-horizons