What do I think?
After interviewing 30+ musicians, this is my perspective regarding the future careers of musicians and Classical music in general. Here's the showdown.
1). In the 21st century, it is simply not enough for musicians to be good at their instrument. Diversity in all forms needs to be encouraged and taught in music conservatories, whether this means branching out and doing brass hip hop covers, or sticking fishing line into violins to sound like a tuned bagpipe. It’s simply not enough to be good at one thing anymore. Classical musicians who have just graduated need to find a way to share classical music and make it relevant in a way that doesn’t dumb down or artistically demean the art form.
2.) Classical music is a complex web, which people start to spin later on in life after having achieved the traditional benchmarks of success: college degree, car, a house, a family etc. Once people are empty nesters and have their “outside” figured out, they embark on a journey of finding more meaning. Usually, the arts provide a space for the exploration of existential questions. Classical music is no exception.
3.) Traditional concerts, ( overture, soloist, full symphony) in traditional venues are not necessarily appealing anymore, at least to Millennials. In an age where people are having “church” in yoga studios, coffee shops and bars, it seems that mobility is the new stability. Pop up parties in warehouses, and flash mob like performances in public squares throw a dash of spontaneity in the mundane. This is already happening in major cities, so why not apply this same principle to less populated areas? This would manifest itself through bite sized concerts, whether that means performing only one symphony at 6pm for the nine to fivers, or a couple of tone poems at 9pm for artistic night owls. The point is, different concerts will appeal to different people.
4.) The key to artistic success is making Classical music relevant to its consumers. We will never recruit audience members without finding ways to make this old tradition relevant. The other side to the coin is that, just how some people strongly dislike country music, or rap, not everyone likes Classical. Therefore, we shouldn’t be trying to convert every Tom, Dick or Harry. Only provide an inside, personal and relevant look into the music through explanation. Relevancy can also be communicated through new music. Who better to reflect and make the music of our time than Millennials? Our ears have two hundred years more of music than Beethoven and Brahms, so why not capitalize on that and use it to our advantage?