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Laurie Niles

100 Things To Do in Classical Music Before You Die

January 1, 2013 at 2:48 AM

You might remember that we started this list in September, in response to Conductor Bramwell Tovey, at a performance of the 1812 Overture at the Hollywood Bowl. He told the audience that, if this was their first time seeing the 1812 live and outdoors, "then count it off your 100 Things to Do in Classical Music Before You Die." And also, "How are you doing on the rest of the list"?

My question was: WHERE is the rest of the list? Thus I asked you to help me come up with it, and readers responded with wonderful creativity and imagination -- as always! I've taken the best responses, added some links and spiffed things up, and now we have our list! If you feel it is not yet complete (how could it ever be complete, after all?) please feel free to go beyond 100 and make more suggestions!

If you see anything on this list you'd like to do (or do again), then 2013 might be the year!

100 Things To Do in Classical Music Before You Die

1. See a live, outdoor performance of Pyotr Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture.

2. Go to (or play in) a Handel's Messiah sing-along (whether you sing or not!)

3. See a concert at Carnegie Hall in New York.

4. Watch at least a few of Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts.

5. Attend a master class and watch a great music teacher work with a great music student.

6. See Gustavo Dudamel conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra or the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela.

7. Go to a concert at the Aspen Music Festival in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

8. Buy season tickets to your local symphony orchestra's concerts.

9. Go to Salzburg, Austria and celebrate Mozart's life and birth in some kind of very touristy manner.

10. See a big performance of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, complete with choir and vocal soloists.

11. See Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Ballet, with live orchestra -- and take a child with you!

Vieuxtemps Guarneri del Gesu

12. See a Stradivarius or Guarneri del Gesu violin in person, or better yet, play one!

13. Go to an opera.

14. Know at least one composer's birthday -- or which composers share your own birthday!

15. Listen to at least five symphonic pieces that were composed in the last 80 years.

16. Watch film of the great cellist Jacqueline duPre (1945-1987).

17. Go to an organ recital in an old cathedral with a good organ.

18. Hear an English cathedral choir live.

19. Hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir live.

20. Hear a song cycle, such as Franz Schubert's Winterreise, sung live.

21. Go to a performance of a late Beethoven quartet.

Disney Hall

22. See a concert at Disney Hall in Los Angeles.

23. Hear Gregorian chant performed by monks.

24. Take a music lesson from a virtuoso or a member of a major orchestra.

25. Attend the Queen Elisabeth Competition finals in Brussels (or watch online if you can't go).

26. Keep track of a major music competition one year, listening to the players and thinking about whom you'd like to win. Suggestions: the Queen Elisabeth (linked above), the Indianapolis Competition, the Menuhin Competition, the Wieniawski Competition, the Montreal Competition, Paganini Competition, Sphinx Competition -- there are many, and most are streamed online these days!

27. Attend an intimate concert in an unusual space. Socialize with the musicians after.

28. Listen to a recording of Arturo Toscanini conducting a Beethoven symphony.

29. Experience Wanda Landowska's legendary expressive capabilities on harpsichord

30. Attend the Boston Early Music Festival.

31. "Adopt" a student musician--find a person, child or adult, who will regularly play for you and let you cheer them on as they progress.

32. Listen to 100 Symphonies in 100 Days.

33. Go to a performance of Igor Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring," and ponder the fact that this piece caused riots when it was premiered in Paris on May 29, 1913.


34. Actually listen to all four movements of Beethoven's Fifth, not just the first!

35. Hear the Vienna Mozart Orchestra at the Musikverein Golden Hall in Vienna.

36. While you're in Vienna, hear the Wiener Philharmoniker -- the Vienna Philharmonic -- perform live, too.

37. Go to the Haydnhaus in Gumpendorf, Vienna - the house where Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) spent the last twelve years of his life.

38. Visit the Zentralfriedhof in Vienna, where so many famous composers and musicians are buried.

39. Go to, or participate in, a great live performance of Vivaldi's Four Seasons.

40. Hear a live performance of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto

41. Hear Itzhak Perlman play live.

42. See a Broadway musical.

43. Watch the 1939 Samuel Goldwyn movie, They Shall Have Music, which features the 20th-century violin legend Jascha Heifetz.

44. See the great cellist Yo-Yo Ma live in performance.

45. See a recital with violinist Joshua Bell and pianist Jeremy Denk.

46. Play a contemporary hand-made violin by one of the top makers from the recent list on (Here's a few, and here's a few more.)

47. Busk in downtown New York City (or major city of your choice).

48. Conduct an orchestra.

49. Play a Stradivarius or Guarnerius with a Tourte bow.

50. Go to the BBC Proms festival.

51. Attend a performance of a piece you love and treat yourself to front-row tickets.

52. Find a piece written in the 21st century that you like.

53. Participate somehow in commissioning a new piece of music. (Kickstarter?)

The Arena di Verona

54. Attend an opera at Arena di Verona, an Roman amphitheater in Piazza Bra in Verona, Italy.

55. Bring someone who hasn't ever heard live classical music to a performance. Maybe it will stick, and that's one more fan!

56. Watch the El Sistema documentary, Tocar y Luchar. (watch on the Internet or purchase the DVD.)

57. See the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela live.

58. See John Williams conduct a live concert of his movie music.

59. Listen to an a capella performance of Renaissance music (e.g. Ockeghem, Orlando di Lassus, Josquin des Prez, Byrd etc.) in an old cathedral in Europe, such as the Reims Cathedral in France.

60. Take a tour of famous organs in the churches of Germany, Austria, and Alsace, especially the Wiesekirsche in Bavaria. (Also, see

61. Attend Mass at Notre Dame de Paris, and listen.

62. Go to the Bayreuth Festival in Germany.

63. Go to an opera at La Scala in Milan, Italy.

64. Go to most any restaurant in Hungary. Listen to the Gypsy bands. Think how they influenced Liszt, Brahms, Bartok, Dohnanyi....

65. Listen to a great live performance, or participate, in the greatest choral works written by Bach: the St. Matthew Passion and the Hohe Messe.

66. Listen to a great live performance, or participate in, the greatest pieces by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: the Requiem, "Don Juan", "Figaro" or "The Magic Flute" -- in Salzburg would be fantastic.

67. Listen to a great live performance, or participate in, Beethoven's Symphony 3, 7 and 9, and his 5th Piano Concerto.

68. Perform Brahms chamber music (piano trios and quartets; string quartets, septets, etc.)

69. Attend a great performance of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" with the Mendelssohn score.

70. See Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" ballet, with live music played by an orchestra.

71. See a performance of Stravinsky's "Sacre du Printemps" or "L'oiseau de Feu".

72. Play or see a live performance of Schoenberg's "Verklaerte Nacht".

73. Play or see a live performance of Shostakovich 8th String Quartet, or the orchestra version.

74. Perform in a grade school for the kids.

75. Perform at a retirement home for the elderly.

76. Watch a performance of Aida in the open air market in Verona or any place else in Italy.

77. Witness the making of an instrument first-hand.

78. Watch the entire process of your bow being re-haired.

79. Attend a pre-concert lecture to learn more about the history and background of pieces featured at a concert.

80. Make an instrument.

81. Invent an instrument.

82. Buy an instrument.

83. Sell an instrument.

84. Attend a performance at Verbier Music Festival.

85. Play an instrument from each instrument family.

86. Hear a non-Western instrument in concert.

87. Play a non-Western instrument, such as a sitar.

88. Attend a period-performance baroque concert, by a group such as Tafelmusik.

89. Sing in a choir.

90. Tell a viola joke.

91. Make a recording of your own playing.

92. Write a piece of music by hand that includes bass+alto+treble clefs.

93. Get an autograph from a famous musician.

Laurie with Itzhak Perlman

94. Take a picture with a famous musician.

95. Perform for your church.

96. Donate money to or find some way to support your local classical music radio station.

97. Read Song of the Lark by Willa Cather.

98. Discover The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (in a music library, or Grove Music Online) and look up at least five things of interest to you in there.

99. Go to a Music Library -- that is, a library dedicated to nothing but music, with scores, recordings, books about musicians and music, etc. (You can find them at many universities -- and there are a few public ones as well, like the Brand Library in LA). You can find treasures that you will not discover on the Internet!

100. Listen to all of Bach's Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin, and all of his Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello/Viola.

From Eloise Garland
Posted on January 1, 2013 at 3:33 AM
5, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 20, 21, 23, 26, 27, 33, 34, 40, 48, 52, 53, 55, 65, 66, 70, 74, 75, 82, 85, 86, 88, 89, 90, 91, 93, 95, 98, 99.

37 ticked off! Only 63 to go! :P Happy new year everyone :)

From Kate Little
Posted on January 1, 2013 at 3:31 AM
Better yet, for that 1812 Overture: Get a Montana hunting license and sign up at the local 7-11 in Big Sky to be a member of the cannon brigade. Only works if you're over 18 (or is that 21?)
From Francesca Rizzardi
Posted on January 1, 2013 at 5:27 AM
In the spirit of "How much do all those gifts from 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' Cost?", add up the cost of doing all 100 things! I don't think I'll ever get to hear a Gypsy band in Hungary. But playing at a retirement home costs you nothing and could be priceless to the residents.

Happy New Year, everyone.

From Elizabeth Elliot
Posted on January 1, 2013 at 6:00 AM
What a fantastic list! I have done 66 of these. I'm sorely lacking in my exploration of Europe, having only been to London, so I guess that's on the docket.
From Royce Faina
Posted on January 1, 2013 at 2:17 PM
@ Kate; I live in Wyoming... I agree!!!!
What astounded me is how many of these I have under the belt! Thanks for the list!
From Paul Deck
Posted on January 1, 2013 at 2:40 PM
I've done several of these things. Some of them will have to wait until I start to get better returns on my lottery tickets.
From Ellie Phillips
Posted on January 2, 2013 at 3:23 AM
I've done several of these, but I want to do them all, so, so indescribably much!
From Bart Meijer
Posted on January 2, 2013 at 7:22 AM
42. But I never got around to playing Brahms' septet.
From Tom Holzman
Posted on January 2, 2013 at 4:33 PM
I have about 45. I think you should add going to a concert at St. Martin in the Fields Church in London.
From Kerry Dexter
Posted on January 2, 2013 at 6:45 PM
thst one about going to a music library is brilliant. I've done that quite a bit but for someone who has yet to experience that -- go!

though I spend almost all my time in a completley differnt musical tradition (Celtic) it surprises me how many of these I have done.

I second the idea of a concert at St Martin's in the Fields as a fine addition, and I'd add a visit to the Galway Early Music Festival too.

From Louise Ghandhi
Posted on January 3, 2013 at 12:11 AM
Yes, splendid list- I had a lot of fun reading it out loud to my 17 year old violinist.
One more: The 2013 Oregon Bach Festival in Eugene, OR will be quite special- retiring director Helmuth Rilling will be there for the last time after forty years of running this amazing two week classical music experience. A treat!
Happy 2013 to all!
From Katherine Moller
Posted on January 3, 2013 at 4:06 PM
Half way there... 50 down, 50 to go!
From Terez Mertes
Posted on January 3, 2013 at 5:11 PM
Wonderful list!!!

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