Panel of critics discuss future of classical music

The future of classical music is at stake, according to a panel of art critics who spoke last night to a crowd of music enthusiasts and educators.

The panel consisted of Greg Sandow, former music editor at Entertainment Weekly and critic of both classical and pop music, his wife, Anne Midgette, a classical music reviewer whose writing has appeared in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, Donald Rosenberg of The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, and Elaine Guregian of the Akron Beacon Journal and David Dupont of the local Sentinel-Tribune.

The decline of interest in classical music was first addressed by the lack of funds for art education in schools, panelists said.

“The big failing is the erosion of art education in schools,” said Rosenberg.

“Unless children have hands-on experience, it’s very difficult for people to really love it.”

Dupont had a different opinion on the education of the arts, stating that art and music programs are striving in this area.

But despite the local success of art programs, other panelists agree there is a nationwide lack of interest.

But Sandow disagreed.

“Ticket sales for classical events have been declining,” he said, adding the age of the audience has been increasing, even though student musicianship is a high as ever.

But not only is student musicianship high, the quality of musicians is better than ever, Guregian said – getting an overall agreement by the panel.

Sandow said the biggest problem is cultural.

This “cultural problem” was a common theme throughout the night.

Part of this problem was the misinterpretations on the knowledge needed to enjoy classical music, panelists said.

“We live in a culture who identify themselves through music,” said Midgette.

“You don’t need a masters or doctorate to appreciate it,” said Rosenberg.

He said learning to understand all types is like learning a foreign language.

But the “problem” doesn’t only lie within the communities but in interpretation of classical music, Sandow said.

“Pop music can be more complicated and tricky than classical. We’ve never had a society where so many people are making music on their own,” he said.

He added there is music being made that’s very original and striking, and classical music “needs to embrace that.”

The new music being made is something classical that can integrate with and appeal to a wider audience, several panelists pointed out.

“Ideally, new music finds an audience of its own,” said Sandow.

The panelists agreed another reason behind the decline of classical music involved the media itself.

Since newspaper circulations are falling, they cut staff members meaning less classical coverage, Guregian said.

But it’s up to the public to demonstrate what they want to be covered, Sandow said.