A Challenge For The Classical Music World

I’ve been thinking this one for a while, but I thought I might as well put it out there seeing as it’s the beginning of a new year.

In the classical music industry – an industry that I should say I’m quite delighted to be devoting my time to helping – we talk a lot about audience development and trying to increase  audiences. However, this can mean different things to different people. To most in the industry, it’s about finding a few new people who are nearly fans of live classical music and seeing if we can rope them in. Or it’s getting that person who goes to two concerts a year to stump up and go to seven.

There’s nothing wrong with this, but I’d like to suggest something a little more adventurous. Never mind the person who goes to two concerts. (Well, actually, don’t ignore them – they are indeed the next big prospect.) But why not set out sights on the big game?

Yes, I’m talking the person out there who pours a fortune into live performing arts but just does not get your fascination with classical music. You know the person I’m talking about. It could be the theatre junkie who has subscriptions to two of your local theatre companies, loves stories and live performance – but classical music leaves him cold.

It could be the person who adores musical theatre and will think nothing of flying around the world to Broadway every few years to catch the latest shows. But a string quartet seems rather dull in comparison.

It could be that 20-something you know, with their first full-time job, who went and saw Muse, U2 and Bon Jovi, and didn’t batter an eyelid to get in the A Reserve area.

What about these people?

So I’ve come up with a challenge for 2011 – Classical Music Fans, 2011 is the year of the “Convert a Philistine” challenge. Your goal – to see if, in one year, you can take one of your “I think classical music is boring” friends and convert them into a die-hard classical music fan. (Or if not a die-hard fan, at least someone who wants to explore more – which is all good classical music fans start.)

There’s more to discuss about this, but that’ll do for the day. Who’s in?

Film Review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Not a film that you would normally expect to see on this blog, but I’m currently trapped up in far north Queensland, and escaping the rain for a couple of hours (there’s a reason they call this place a rainforest) seemed like a fun idea, and the cinema in nearby Malanda claimed to be Australia’s longest-running cinema. Who could resist a claim like that?

So I found myself in a delightfully decrepit old wooden shed, complete with low-slung chairs that are more like ancient deckchairs than anything else (they really should introduce a couple of rows of them at Event Cinemas in George Street…) watching a slightly out-of-focus and muffled print of The Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

I hadn’t seen any trailers for this film (internet’s not so great up here) and had briefly noticed the books in the young adults section of bookstores, with their distinctive cartoony font and pictures. But I wasn’t really sure what to expect.

What I got was outrageously funny. If you can imagine JD from Scrubs at age 12, about to join middle school, then you’ll get the main character, Greg Heffner. Greg’s chief concern as he joins his new schools is being perceived as cool. And he’s a bit worried, because his best friend, Rowley, is the school fat kid – complete with bad haircut (did I mention his hair is red?), terrible clothes and he uses the word “play” – as in, “Hey Greg, do you want to come over and play with me?” – a terrible no-no at school.

While it is squarely aimed at the 12-year-old audience, the comic timing of the cast and the way the jokes are played works so well, that I’m pretty sure our party of adults were laughing a lot louder and more often than the kids in the cinema. Whether it was potty monsters, the game of “gladiators”, Greg’s older brother, the cheese touch, or any scene with Fregley, the film rarely let up on the amusement.

And in the end – the themes are bigger than middle school. Don’t we all find ourselves doing and saying stupid things to make other people think we’re better than we actually are?

For parents out there, this has a PG rating and there’s a fair bit of adolescent themes and humour in it, so I wouldn’t necessarily take kids under 10. But if you’ve got a kid in this age group, it’d be a great way to get a discussion going about peer pressure and fitting in, and what it really means to be comfortable in your own skin.

4 out of 5.


New Year’s Resolutions

I’m always one to like making New Year’s Resolutions – and it was one such resolution which got me from the private sector into the classical music world, so they can work.

I have three for 2011, in no particular order:

  1. I want to start some experiments with converting newcomers to classical music into classical music fans. The classical music industry does a pretty good job (on the whole) of working to find all the existing fans that are out there. But I’m interested in the bigger question: can we make new ones?
  2. I’m interested in developing a strategy for local mission (ie helping those in need in our community) for the local church that I attend.
  3. I’m not going to buy any books, DVDs or music until I’m ready to read / watch / listen to said item. My original intention a few days ago was not to buy any new books, DVDs or music at all this year – but there are actually a few series and authors that I’m working through that I’d like to continue. But nonetheless, I want to avoid chasing after hundreds of new projects to pursue when I can enjoy finishing the ones I’m already working on. So we’ll see how that goes.

There’s other things I’m interested in, like nutrition and exercise, but I’m still trying to get my head around the best way to do that. In the meantime, those three will do as a start.