Classical Music Is Alive and Well In.... Mexico
I’ve just returned from a weekend in Mexico City, where I attended a concert by the Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional. I was surprised by the experience in a few ways. First of all, the orchestra was really good and turned out a stirring performance by any high professional standard.
The bigger surprise was the age of the audience — it was young. I have no statistics to share, but my guess is that the average age was mid 30s. There were parents with little children – I mean, really little kids all dressed up and sitting quietly listening to the music. There were 20 somethings on dates. There were people dressed casually; There were people dressed up. And, when the concert was over — the crowd was standing and shouting for an encore. I counted 5 curtain calls, and it looked to me that the conductor, the American Kenneth Jean, could have had many more.
Doesn’t this sound like the world all American orchestras would like to live in? I wonder what’s going on there. The researcher in me wanted to immediately interview a dozen people and find out what their motivations were for coming to the concert. Goodness knows they don’t have sophisticated e-mail, direct mail or telemarketing like we do. It’s just part of their culture to go hear live classical music. Sounds like the oft reported death of classical music may be simply a local phenomenon. And, I also hear the same thing is happening with audiences in China.
I can’t make a broad sweeping statement about why classical music works in Mexico City, or China for that matter. But it does. And it was great to see. So the problem clearly isn’t with the art form, or it’s relevance to our time. It’s got to be either with our audience, or our marketing or both.
Maybe it’s not such a bad idea to examine more closely why the arts are successful in other countries. Maybe we’d learn something?