Is Classical Music Elitist?
Am I a snob?
As somebody who performs in a symphony orchestra, I usually get all kinds of reactions once I inform individuals about my job.
Once I was younger, many children at my elementary and excessive faculties thought classical music was silly and couldn’t comprehend my stage of dedication to working towards my instrument. They thought it was bizarre that I might put Brahms symphonies on my iPod when everybody else my age was listening to rap music. I acquired some fairly cool alternatives to journey with orchestras once I was younger, however nobody cared as a result of it was classical music-related.
Even as an grownup, individuals query why I might need to play classical music for a dwelling and brag about how they earn more money than me working at such and such place.
On the opposite finish of the spectrum, individuals could view classical musicians, particularly these of us with a symphony place, as snobby high-class individuals who suppose they’re higher than rock musicians.
Classical music is attention-grabbing, as it may be seen concurrently as a frivolous pursuit and an elite artwork type.
Society tends to view these of us with careers in classical music and high-quality arts careers usually as inferior human beings, and the Covid pandemic has not helped with that. Pursuing a profession in a high-quality arts self-discipline takes years of specialised coaching, and even then, there is no such thing as a assure of employment. Even for somebody comparable to myself who performs in a small orchestra, my yearly earnings is beneath the poverty line. There are 1,000,000 jobs with increased wages and extra stability, so why on earth would individuals select music?
But, whenever you consider a symphony live performance, you most likely consider an elitist type of music or leisure. Individuals who ceaselessly attend these live shows have excessive expectations for viewers etiquette and nil tolerance for texting throughout the efficiency or clapping between actions. Even orchestral musicians will rant backstage about how the viewers’s clapping ruined a serene second after a sluggish motion.
The mere skill to pursue a music diploma or profession can also be a mark of privilege and elitism. Most music college students come from rich or upper-middle-class households, as the price of personal music classes, devices, musical equipment, sheet music, summer time program tuition, and competitors entry charges might be prohibitive to lower-income households. Not solely that, many mother and father might not be keen or in a position to assist their grownup youngster within the years following a music diploma the place they are going to be making poverty wages.
There may be elitism inside the classical music world itself. Sure music professors and establishments are placed on a pedestal above others. I went to a college with a smaller music program for my undergrad that was usually related to accepting much less superior college students to fill area within the applications. The scholars who went to my college have simply as a lot of a proper to check music as college students at Julliard or Curtis, however individuals are fast to negatively decide your enjoying skill for those who went to a lesser-known college.
Not too long ago, TwoSet Violin launched a video addressing this very subject. I’ve been following their channel for years, and I bear in mind after they didn’t even have 100,000 subscribers. Now they’ve over three million. Initially, they had been identified for creating classical music comedy movies about violin enjoying. Previously month, they’ve been making extra sit-down movies discussing vital subjects about life as knowledgeable musician, comparable to psychological well being and elitism.
The video was well-done and made me suppose critically about how I painting myself and my profession to my colleagues and people exterior my subject. The primary takeaway is that classical music isn’t inherently an elitist artwork type, however elitism is an angle individuals have.
Elitism might be current inside any style of music or any subject of examine, for that matter. As I discussed earlier, individuals can suppose they’re higher than classical musicians as a result of they’ve a extra secure job, earn more money, or merely don’t perceive classical music. And on the flip facet, individuals can suppose that classical musicians are a part of society’s higher echelon due to their household privilege and means to pursue a high-quality arts profession.
They did tackle the concept of how classical music live performance etiquette (i.e. no clapping between actions) could create an unwelcoming atmosphere to “outsiders.” The truth that we now have these unwritten guidelines at our live shows shouldn’t be meant to be elitist. It’s the way you present respect to the musicians on stage and the individuals round you. As talked about earlier, it may be jarring for musicians on stage to listen to applause once we’re not anticipating it. Usually, we depend on the silence between actions to mentally put together for what comes subsequent.
For those who went to see a film at a cinema, you wouldn’t clap after watching a scene you loved or speak on the cellphone at some stage in the film. These etiquette guidelines’ existence shouldn’t be elitist; it’s what’s broadly accepted by the tradition. Individuals is not going to benefit from the film as a lot in case you are disruptive, so the identical goes for symphony live shows.
Once I look again on my music pupil days, I can consider many eventualities the place both myself or a classmate portrayed an elitist angle. As an example, the longer I used to be in college for music, the harder I discovered it to take care of friendships with individuals who weren’t finding out music. It’s not essentially that I believed I used to be higher than them; my subject of examine was so particular that I had bother discovering dialogue subjects or hobbies that didn’t contain classical music efficiency.
As a violist, I discover it tough to clarify to individuals, significantly strangers who see me with my instrument case in public, what a viola is. After all, I attempt to body it from an academic perspective and see it as educating individuals about an instrument they might have by no means heard of earlier than. However will individuals discover that condescending and suppose I’m a wise aleck? Definitely, if I’m at an airport and combating for my proper to take my instrument within the overhead bin, I’ll lie and say it’s a violin to keep away from conflicts, however is that elitist of me to imagine that this random flight attendant doesn’t know what a viola is?
By the best way, a viola is a string instrument that’s just like the violin however bigger and decrease in pitch.
As a younger skilled musician, I need to educate and improve curiosity in classical music for individuals of all ages so I can proceed enjoying with the symphony for many years to come back. You don’t should be a wealthy 65-year-old to attend a symphony live performance.
In a means, the Covid pandemic has allowed symphony orchestras and classical music organizations a possibility to reinvent the wheel. Authorities restrictions on occasion sizes power us to maneuver our live shows on-line. Whereas that’s not ideally suited, I feel it opens up many potentialities.
Individuals who really feel intimidated by live performance etiquette can watch the live shows from the consolation of their very own front room. Households with younger youngsters can watch their youngster’s trainer carry out with out worrying if the kid can sit nonetheless for a full-length live performance. As soon as individuals get extra acquainted with classical music in a snug, non-intimidating atmosphere, they might be extra desperate to see a live performance in particular person when it’s secure to collect.
Classical musicians can even become involved within the on-line content material creation world. An important instance is the Viola Mom on TikTok. Rebecca Younger is a violist within the New York Philharmonic and is on TikTok as Viola Mother. She showcases the viola and collaborates along with her symphony colleagues in her movies.
Having a social media presence as a classical musician helps to interrupt the obstacles and present society that we aren’t snobs who put on tuxes on stage. We’re human beings who need to share our artwork with you. TikTok is a wonderful platform to get Gen Z keen on classical music, which is what we’d like if we would like individuals to come back to our live shows within the subsequent few many years.