How do you engage young audiences? How do you make them enjoy the art form that we love with such passion? How do you win and recruit new listeners/supporters to classical music? These, and similar questions, have haunted me since I began performing at age twelve.
There are no quick and easy answers or solutions for this. For decades, concert series, orchestras, and opera houses all over the world have develop countless strategies for this kind of recruiting. Some have been more successful than others. At the same time, great efforts have been made by outstanding soloists, singers, conductors, many of whom have crossed into other musical styles such as Jazz, Pop, Folk, Rock, etc, in an effort to gain new listeners and expand their reach to more general audiences.
Throughout my career, I have been constantly intrigued about these issues, as I have experimented with my own thoughts and instincts on how to reach out to and win new listeners, regardless of age. This has led me to seek a direct contact with my audiences, guiding their listening experience, pointing out specific aspects of the pieces that I perform for them, in much the same way that a tour guide will do to show tourists the wonders of a specific city, cathedral, etc.
Program notes are often not relevant to an artist's interpretation and distract the reader/listener with historical data, anecdotes, or other information that have nothing to do with the artist interpretation of the music. Most of what you read in program notes can be found in a google search, but the artist's feel for the music, his/her views, opinions, ideas, can only be shared by the artist himself/herself. In my experience, this kind of contact helps break the ice between artist and his/her audience, making the listener more interested in discovering the wonders of the music.
The use of social media resources is an important factor in reaching out to general audiences. New generations form new habits thanks to the technological advances, and this affects and changes the way we listen to and consume the music that we want to hear. Asking young audiences to attend concerts may be asking too much nowadays, as they have unlimited access to live streams, videos, tracks, internet radio and so much more. We must bring the music to them using all these resources, facilitating their consumption in their own terms, in their own turf.
Whether or not we like it or accept it, we live in an increasingly "virtual world" which has become our new reality. The internet has permanently changed the way we live, the way we purchase goods and services, pay bills, send letters, make friends, socialize, so it is no surprise that we, the artist community, find ourselves learning to survive in a new environment. We have become a society of spoiled individuals, who expect to find anything we want with a few mouse clicks. Record stores, music stores, video stores and so many others have become obsolete because it is now easier, less expensive, and more convenient to listen to and print music, as well as watch movies and other forms of entertainment. The rules are changing day by day. The challenge now becomes to preserve the beauty and purity of music by the great masters and pass it on to new generations of listeners the same way it was passed on to us by previous generations. My personal quest is to decipher the mysteries of each piano work that I perform and to transform and "touch" each listener into falling in love with this repertoire.