I recently skimmed through the discussion board and read comments by Mike Pijoan and Stephen Brivati (a.k.a. Buri) that not only inspired me, but really got me thinking: Is there a good way to introduce people to classical music?
In a thread about the beauty of Augustin Hadelich’s artistry, Mike wrote: "His playing is just so incredibly gorgeous. He has the power to turn the heads (or ears) of people who might not otherwise have listened. I had a coworker say 'the only 'classic' music I like is classic rock.' A few days after hearing Hadelich, my friend had Brahms, Tchaikovsky, and Mendelssohn on his iPod...that's pretty great! I nudged him toward Hilary Hahn and now he likes Bach!"
Buri responded with a wonderful anecdote of his own: "Actually, I find that Bach really connects with pretty much anyone once they taste it. I have lost count of the number of times over the years a headmaster at an elementary or junior high school in Japan asked me to play for the students and then followed up with the rider 'please play something from Disney because they don’t really understand classical music yet.' I have always played unaccompanied Bach to the unalloyed amazement and (I believe) pleasure of said students."
Over the years, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to introduce opera to folks who were fairly convinced they wouldn’t like it. (As an aside, I’ve never understood the typical remark, "I don’t like opera." To me, that’s like saying "I don’t like food." There are certainly operas I don’t like. And the antiquated "park and bark" approach doesn’t exactly draw me in. But there are operas that I have literally found to be lifechanging. So, unless you’ve heard them all, don’t rule it out.)
I tend to introduce opera to non-opera people with gems like Butterfly, Tosca, Carmen, and Boheme. But I’ve also had success with more contemporary works, such as Dead Man Walking (Heggie), Nixon in China (Adams), and Mary, Queen of Scots (Musgrave). I took my "little sister" to a 30-minute Boheme at a local library and her response was, "That’s opera? Well, I guess I do like it after all."
What has worked for you in trying to introduce classical music to others? Please choose the answer that best fits your experience. Tell us your stories in the comments section. And now that live performances are coming back in full force, let’s all try to open up the world of classical music to a new generation.
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