In Slate Magazine, Mark Vanhoenacker argues that classical music is dying (or dead). Sales are small and shrinking, few radio stations exist, audiences are aging and shrinking, and while instrument sales are stable, there’s little remaining art programming in our public schools. Moreover, classical music is seen as an effete, elitist past time, as you’ll know if you watch Modern Family.
I think a few things get elided in the article: the importance of preserving classical music as heritage culture; the importance of art education in school; and, the fact that a listenership exists and is small–so we might well expect a contraction of the organizational field. That last thing is a fact: the sector is bigger than it needs to be to serve its public. It’s propped up by private and public donors, and that’s sort of a shame for others who might benefit from that money (assuming the donors would re-direct those dollars elsewhere, and not stuff them in a mattress).
We can think more carefully about the first (preserving heritage), and what organizations might play that role, how they should be funded, etc. As a matter of principle and practice, we should be doing the same thing with the (privately owned) popular media of the past. Bill Ivey’s book “Arts, Inc.” is a compelling argument for why the citizens of the world should be concerned that so much of our heritage culture is privately owned.
The final piece is the educational one, and there’s no doubt in my mind that we need a more expansive program of public arts education, and that classical music has a role to play in that.