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Klarinet Archive - Posting 001529.txt from 1998/04

From: Roger Garrett <rgarrett@-----.edu>
Subj: Re: [klarinet] Attracting Wind Ensemble Audiences
Date: Mon, 27 Apr 1998 10:01:46 -0400

Someone wrote:
> >Trust me, it was one heck of a great concert! However, once again, even with
> >a wonderful program, outstanding musicians, and fine conducting leadership,
> >the members of the Claremont Symphonic Winds outnumbered the audience!! All
> >of us in the Claremont Symphonic Winds (at least me, the contrabass clarinet
> >player, would like to know if this is a LALA Land (Claremont is about 35 miles
> >due east of Los Angeles) phenomenon, or is there a proven way to attract an
> >audience to a really outstanding concert of wind music?

Merlin Williams responded:
>>>> I attended a band concert last night - an odd thing for me, since I
generally play, and don't go to concerts much. The concert was fairly
well attended. The audience numbered about 225 to the band's 45 members.
Not stellar, but better than many band concerts. However, given that
this concert had been given media coverage by two major Toronto TV
stations, due to the band featuring an unsung heroine of Canadian music,
I was a bit disappointed by the turnout. Five million people live in the
broadcast area, yet only 225 could make it out.

BTW, I went because the band was playing a medley I wrote of the songs
written by the honoree - it definitely makes the long hours spent in
front of a blank page seem more worthwhile when the music is finally
played before an attentive and appreciative audience.>>>>>>>

[Somewhat long response]:
Band concerts are generally not well attended - although there are pockets
of places where bands have done a very good job of building a regular
audience, most band audiences have dwindled to the numbers Merlin
describes and less. I remember attending U. Michigan in 1978, only six
years after Revelli packed the house - Hill Auditorium seats 2000 I
believe. We had less than 500 people attend our concerts - and this is a
world class band.

Why does this happen? H.R. Reyonlds talked about this with us once, and
his philosophy was based on one major issue.......bands shold play only
high quality music. His feeling was that bands have a bad reputation as
ensembles that only play "commercial" or popular music (popular not being
the genre associated with pop music......rather, music written or arranged
for band that is popular to listen to......such as Selections from Guys
and Dolls or something like that). His approach was more like a symphony
orchestra conductor.......play great music and people will be
enriched. Of course, the problem is that the orchestra has a wealth of
great music.....centuries of wonderful composers have contributed to the
repertoire. The current band instrumentation has only been around for
about a century, and the first half of that century was really limited to
marches (unique to bands) and transcriptions of orchestral works. The
band really did not begin to develop a large body of significant
repertoire until the latter 20th century (Grainger, Holst, Vaughan
Williams, Jacob notwithstanding). Fredrick Fennell introduced the Wind
Ensemble Concept to us, and H. Robert Reynolds has been responsible for
organizing large numbers of commissions of new works - as well as
championing significant works already in the repertoire. All this is
good.

What does any of this have to do with audiences? 100 years from now, more
people may attend a band concert (if orchestras and bands don't die away
altogehter!) - simply because there will be 200 years of repertoire to
for bands to draw from. If orchestras could only draw from the past 100
years of repertoire, I would assume they would have less people attending
their concerts as well.......just my opinion of course. How many people
could sit through 12 subscription concerts of ONLY Stravinsky, Copland,
Bernstein, and Rachmaninoff? (Just the composers I am throwing out....I
know there are many more). A nice diet of Beethoven, Vivaldi, Bach,
Mahler, Tchaikovsky, etc. really adds a lot!

Ok.....so.....what does a band do to attract an audience? Play a balance
of music designed to attract an audience.....if having an audience is
important. Many band programs are represented by 80% music that is, upon
first hearing, difficult to listen to or at least concentrate on. It does
not appear beautiful or soothing.....often it is loud and terrifying.
"Heros Lost and Fallen" by Gillingham (I hope I got that composer
correct!), band works of Guenther Schuller and Karel Husa - all works that
require explanation before performing - tend to make up a large amount of
repertoire being played by the best ensembles. The conductors, in an
effort to prove the worth of this medium, throw only the best, most
interesting (to them and the band) music at the audience.....and a much
less musically educated audience responds by gradually not attending -
simply because their ears cannot tolerate an hour and a half of this kind
of "good" (and I believe it IS good) music.

I used to attend the annual CBDNA (College Band Directors National
Association) convention each year......but the concerts were either
cheesy, or they were so advant garde that I couldn't tolerate a full three
days of them. I needed a mix.....played by really good bands. I stopped
attending those conferences.

It would be interesting to see a thesis or dissertation written on the
impact bands on music audiences nationally. It would also be interesting
to be around in 100 years to hear what bands are playing and see what
kinds of audiences are attending.

Roger Garrett
IWU

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