Sunday, March 30, 2008

Thoughts on the symphony, youth and diversity

Last night at the Alabama Symphony concert I studied the audience--as I usually do. Although my survey was in no way exhaustive, it still was indicative. I saw one young black man and no one else as young as my Girl Scout companions.

I will admit that an audience full of the very young would likely be squirmy and noisy, but there are many children who would be enraptured by the music and the musicians, whose lives will be changed by the experience of a symphony or might be inspired by a soloist. And for many of these children, the only way to light their fire for classical music is to take them to a concert. Not a children's concert, but one where there is an obvious expectation for them to behave well and show respect for the performers. And if they can interact with the symphony musicians as my charges did, the impact would be profound.

Yesterday I spoke with a mom who brought her daughter to Cave9 for music lessons. We discussed the lack of diversity in our youth orchestras and whether the city has enough passion for music to support a program like Scrollworks. This mom said there's plenty of passion in her community--just not the money to pay for lessons. In fact, the three families that came to Cave9 this weekend want to take lessons in everything we offer--eager to dabble in every genre the way they have tried every sport until discovering their favorite.

We have two young men beginning viola lessons at Cave9. My goal is to get them and their families to the symphony. And I want to find the interested few at Hill Elementary who would benefit from the experience. Someday I want to go to an ASO concert, survey the audience and discover that it better reflects the population of Birmingham. I think that will be good for the city and good for the ASO.

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