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Laurie Niles

Suggestions for 100 Things To Do in Classical Music Before You Die

September 13, 2012 at 8:27 PM

Last weekend I found myself at the sold-out Hollywood Bowl, along with a crowd of more than 17,000 people who had gathered for the Los Angeles Philharmonic's performance of music by Tchaikovsky.

With my ears still ringing from the death gongs sounding last week over the world's financially floundering symphony orchestras, I felt invigorated by this huge crowd of classical music fans and the celebratory feeling of the evening. And in fact, this was the second sold-out night of this performance!

Certainly, this was the kind of concert that everyone loves: all works by Tchaikovsky, including pieces from the Nutcracker and Swan Lake ballets, with ballet dancers and the lovely voices of the Los Angeles Children's Chorus (yes, including my son's voice). Then came the 1812 Overture, complete with fireworks and members of the University of Southern California band, who marched onto stage in their Trojan uniforms to help blast out the very end of the piece.


It was a show, for certain! Conductor Bramwell Tovey told the audience that, if this was their first time seeing a performance of the 1812 Overture, "then count it off your 100 Things to Do in Classical Music Before You Die." If not, "How are you doing on the rest of the list"?

More to the point of this blog, where is the rest of the list? We must make it! While many of us are performers and teachers, I mean this list to be for our friends with an interest in classical music, for our audience. What are the most wonderful things that a person, who may not be a musician, can experience in classical music over a lifetime?

Please contribute your ideas, I certainly need your help! I've started it with a few ideas, and when we have 100, I'll make it into a nice PDF/permanent blog for us all to use!

100 Things To Do in Classical Music Before You Die

We have to make this list, and I need your help. I will get us started:

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

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

3. See a concert at Carnegie Hall in New York

4. See a concert at Disney Hall in Los Angeles

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

6. Attend a master class

7. See Gustavo Dudamel conduct a live concert

8. Go to a concert at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado

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

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

11. See the Wagner's Ring Cycle. (or not, if you think it's just really racist)

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

13. See the Nutcracker Ballet -- and take a child with you!

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


From Emily Hogstad
Posted on September 13, 2012 at 8:39 PM
Wonderful idea!

- Aspire to someday play in a situation where you earn a paycheck. Quartet at a wedding - semi-professional orchestra - teaching somebody. It feels so good to get that paycheck.

- Take a lesson from a virtuoso or a member of a major orchestra.

- Get involved with the business side of your local orchestra in an attempt to muffle those death gongs. Don't assume everyone in power knows what they're doing just because they're powerful.

From Nairobi Young
Posted on September 13, 2012 at 9:17 PM
18. Know at least one composer's birthday
19. Listen to at least 5 symphonies conerti, etc, made in the last 80 years
20. Go to Interlochen
From Lisa Van Sickle
Posted on September 13, 2012 at 9:33 PM
Where to start? I would second several on your list, Laurie: Carnegie Hall, Beethoven's 9th, and the Bernstein Young People's Concerts came to my mind immediately.

Watch film of Jacqueline duPre. Go to an organ recital in an old cathedral with a good organ. Hear an English cathedral choir. Hear the Mormon Tabernacle choir live, Schubert's "Winterreise" and a late Beethoven quartet. Gregorian chant performed by monks.

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on September 13, 2012 at 9:59 PM
- Buy a few collections of your favorite violinist

- Play in a violin exam and play at least one of your things as well as a pro (and enjoy it!)

- Play for young children

- Attend a Christmas or New Year's day concert by a major symphony

- Attend a firework show with a synchronized classical music background

- Attend the Queen Elizabeth violin competition finals in Brussels (or online if you can't go)

- Attend a masterclass given by your favorite living idol

- Play in concerts (group and solo)

- Learn a whole concerto or sonata (not just 1 mvt.)

... : )

From Gregory Lewis
Posted on September 13, 2012 at 10:21 PM
I've only done 1, 6, and 13 so far, but I'm only 15, so I've got time! :)
Here's a couple more for violin performers (I've done all but 18)...
17. Perform Beethoven's 5th Symphony in concert.
18. Perform a concerto with an orchestra.
19. Try teaching violin lessons (if you don't already).
20. Attend the Starling-Delay Symposium at the Juilliard School of Music. (It's amazing!)
From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on September 13, 2012 at 11:10 PM
Does it has to be something everyone (average) can do?

I mean, we would all love to perform with a symphony or teach but I doubt we will all be good ennough...

From Krista Moyer
Posted on September 14, 2012 at 1:07 AM
Attend an intimate concert in an unusual space. Have wine and cheese and socialize with the musicians after.

From Mendy Smith
Posted on September 14, 2012 at 1:40 AM
- guest conduct in a community orchestra.
- sit in the middle of the orchestra during a performance.
From Evan Garey
Posted on September 14, 2012 at 1:49 AM
Listen to a recording of Toscanini conducting a Beethoven symphony

Experience Wanda Landowska's legendary expressive capabilities on harpsichord

Attend the Boston Early Music Festival

Have that "a-ha" moment with atonal Schonberg

Identify with Frank Zappa's ability to cross genres and out-compose classical composers.

From Sue Porter
Posted on September 14, 2012 at 2:17 AM
Take some music lessons, even a few. You'll have a whole new appreciation for those who can play well.

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. My mother will gladly drop anything to hear me play. Help that person to overcome stage fright by focusing on sharing their gift of music with their listeners. When I'm really prepared, (!) I love to play for others.

From Bruce Bodden
Posted on September 14, 2012 at 3:58 AM
A friend of mine just did a "Listen to 100 Symphonies in 100 Days" project. His only rule was that they couldn't be anything he knew. He's a professional musician, so that eliminated a LOT of the repertoire, but I think it's a terrific idea no matter how knowledgeable (or ignorant) you are.
From Richard Watson
Posted on September 14, 2012 at 12:53 PM
Play the second act of Tristan in the pit. Ditto Mandarin. Play performances of Sacre, Music for Strings Percussion & Celeste, Read through the quartet repertory with friends (all of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Dvorak, Brahms, Deb and Rav, Bartok, Shost, Webern Berg). Maybe most important: try to remember every occasion when music has brought tears to your eyes.

From Kathryn Woodby
Posted on September 14, 2012 at 2:26 PM
Actually listen to all 4 movements of Beethoven's Fifth! Then go on to the Seventh :)
From Allan Lewis
Posted on September 15, 2012 at 12:13 AM
14. To play a contemporary hand made violin by one of the top makers from the recent list on
From Rachel Neville
Posted on September 16, 2012 at 4:47 PM
1) go to the BBC Proms festival
2) Attend a performance of a piece you love and treat yourself to front row tickets
3) find a piece written in the 21st century that you like
4) Participate somehow in commissioning a piece.
5) Some friends of mine who have family in Italy said that there are local community opera groups that perform at an old Roman ampitheater and the whole town goes and everyone brings a picnic. If that actually happens, it's on my bucket list.
6) Bring someone that hasn't ever heard live classical music to a performance. Maybe it will stick and that's one more fan.
From Lawrence Franko
Posted on September 16, 2012 at 9:58 PM
*Take a tour of famous organs in the churches of Germany, Austria, and Alsace, especially the Wiesekirsche in Bavaria. (See
* Attend Mass in Notre Dame Paris, and listen.
* Go to Bayreuth.
* Verona.
* La Scala.
* Go to most any restaurant in Hungary. Listen to the Gypsy Bands. Think how they influenced Liszt, Brahms, Bartok, Dohnanyi....
From Kay Pech
Posted on September 16, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Give yourself the pleasure of learning to play ALL of Brahms' violin, viola or cello sonatas and playing them with a fine, sensitive pianist. Then learn his string quartets. There's nothing else to live for.
From Dessie Arnold
Posted on September 17, 2012 at 1:02 AM
Depending on your inclination, ability, and opportunity either play or listen to a live performance of Mahler's 2nd, 5th, or 6th symphonies.

I love the previous idea of taking someone who has never been to a live symphony concert. If all subscribers who REALLY LOVE their orchestra would do that for at least one concert per season (more would be even better), orchestras wouldn't be in the difficult position so many of them are. Symphony management could (and has in some cases) make this easy for people by providing vouchers for free tickets for people who are first-time concertgoers.

From Louise Pallet
Posted on September 17, 2012 at 6:05 AM
try at least one friend to come to violinclasses to give your love of music on
From Aimee Morrill
Posted on September 17, 2012 at 1:53 PM
- Play in an outreach concert, such as a nursing home or hospital engagement, or simply for a neighbor who can't get out to hear live music.

- try other genres, such as fiddle or jazz, outside of your comfort zone (better yet- go to a summer festival for this other genre!)

- play or listen to a live reading or performance of the Mendelssohn octet (best experienced with friends)

From Barbara Hoeper
Posted on September 17, 2012 at 5:00 PM
Watch a performance of Aida in the open air market in Verona or any place else in Italy
From Laurie Niles
Posted on September 17, 2012 at 5:01 PM
These are great ideas, everyone! Thank you so much. I will let you all know when I've completed the list, and I'll post it.
From Hendrik Hak
Posted on September 17, 2012 at 6:40 PM
Listen to a great live performance, or participate, in the greatest works written by Bach: the St Matthews Passion and the Hohe Messe.

Same with Vivaldi's Four Seasons.

Same with Mozart's Requiem;
and "Don Juan" , "Figaro" or "the Magic Flute" in Salzburg would be fantastic.

Same with Beethoven Symphony 3, 7 and 9 and his 5th Piano Concerto. And of course his Violin Concerto (have never been so impressed as when I heard it live by Herman Krebbers in the ConcertGebouw)

Nothing compares to performing Brahms chamber music ( piano trios and quartets, string quartets and septets etc)

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

As mentioned : an Italian opera in Italy.

Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" or "Nutcracker Suite" with ballet.

Strawinsky " Sacre du Printemps" or "L'oiseau de Feu"

Schonberg's "Verklaerte Nacht"

Shostakovitch 8th String Quartet or the Orchestra

Perform in a grade school for the kids and in an old age home.

Haven't done all of the above yet but working on some.

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