I’m worried about the future.
Will CutTime create music jobs for me?
Can CutTime stop the downsizing of orchestras?
We live in an interesting time, when some classical music institutions are in crisis while a few seem as yet immune to the ongoing dramatic shifts to the cultural climate. CutTime is jumping on opportunities to share and reset classical music for curious musical omnivores. Some want to know what they might be missing with classical, but not enough to attend a traditional concert just yet. The time is now to find funding for opportunities to give them positive experiences where they already go.
Where it can CutTime is engaging musicians across the country to play from its huge and growing catalog and to discover new ways we can validate classical and break down cultural stereotypes. It is the only organization in the world dedicated to presenting symphonic music as chamber music. At some point CutTime will audition for touring musicians and assistants to tour and improve New Classical presentation styles.
People today don’t come to music events to worship musicians or to pay homage to the music. They come for the right mix of fantasy and truth, humor and social reality. Often enough they discover real inspiration and experience spiritual epiphany. As classical musicians, just playing well may be fine in traditional concerts— but there are so many other ways to really connect with a crowd that are more indelible. We must realize that
we are in the inspiration business through music.
Stairway to the Future
Our first step as 21st-Century musicians is to practice, rehearse and perform at our best technically. Adopt and meet the standards so we can adapt the standards later. Our second is to make sure each concert really matters to us and our audience. Play every piece with a genuine flow of real emotions, with phrasing and direction. Then we are ready for the third step; recognizing, starting and developing small opportunities to connect with a wider public than just concert audiences. CutTime wants to inspire YOU to create your own jobs with your friends.
These will likely start with a paid chamber group program, which might be extended voluntarily to some non-traditional venue or with new crossover music. But you can’t stay within your own bubble: you have to meet young professionals who love what you’re doing and know how to market, organize, expand and fundraise. The fourth step is to use Finale or Sibelius software to adapt your favorite music for your group. This skill is critical and the most rewarding.
The final step is to embrace that most everyone outside of classical music expects to see more of the unexpected. And what’s more unexpected than when the musicians are pleasantly surprised by their own performance? Encouraging musical curve-balls is a wise plan for great performances; one that some great conductors use. Even the slightest change will spin out in wonderful ways. Show what is at risk. Play with the music!
Dream a Little Dream
Currently, less the 3% of Americans have any desire for classical music. In these ways we can create some vacuum and then feed the keys to accessing classical into it. CutTime is an attitude committed to a dream: a dream of a third of Americans taking in traditional classical, symphony and new classical on a regular basis, with another third who are sometimes open to the idea. And we won’t even worry about the last third who will always be hostile to it. This might be the natural equilibrium now if we hadn’t gone to war over culture and if smoking laws were in place decades sooner.
In a best case scenario, America could experience a counter-counter-cultural revolution of sorts; a rebounding of ideas which had been discarded in the turbulent 1960s but are nonetheless flush with joy, empowerment and balance for all humanity. And if it should take 10-50 years to catch on, what matters is that one third might know that some classical is as accessible, as life-altering and as addictive to them as their other favorite classic. This will in turn raise attendance and support for the industry as a whole.
Some believe the only way this can happen is if every grade school student learns a classical instrument. As wonderful as that would be, we don’t believe it is immediately possible or even necessary. People find so many ways today to be creative, even if we don’t think of them as such. Some like music with beautiful, harmonious and formal structures, while others prefer cutting edge, atonality or even chaos. CutTime validates all creativity to open new listeners to classical. Mastering music, public speaking and personal skills let us articulate what really matters here, because music is so subjective and personal.
Making real differences require some research and assumptions about the audience before us. Fortunately there are copious amounts of research results available online. But by simply imagining ourselves in the t-shirt and jeans of pop culture lovers, we can hear and begin addressing the burning questions and objections in a satisfying manner. We must build street-cred to open new listeners.
A Chinese proverb says, Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I might remember. Involve me and I’ll understand. So we are going to place the audience we want to come to our concerts smack in the middle of our introductory events, both figuratively and literally. Plus, when we bring one audience member onstage, the rest come onstage by proxy. Rather than art-centric, here we can be audience-centric, to share our license, ownership and stewardship of art music with the community. Let’s make new friends with fun, informative, close encounters to prepare them for our orchestras.