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Classically Speaking

Classical music in West Virginia and Beyond

Passions of the Young and Old

(Commentary) Permanent link   All Posts
As I get a break from the madness of fund drive, I’ve been pondering Leon Botstein’s article in the Wall Street Journal, "The Unsung Success of Live Classical Music."

I keep coming back to one sentence in the article: “Classical music has never been the passion of the young.” 

Perhaps as we get older, we do take the time to seek out things with more substance, things that take longer to appreciate (Botstein cites the acquired taste of fine scotch), and maybe we're also better able to sit still and pay attention to longer musical works.  

But I haven’t yet reached 30, and I love classical music. I love going to classical concerts.  I don’t think I’m that much of an aberration.  Any others (of any age) want to chime in on this subject?

I have noticed my opinions changing as I’ve aged.  In elementary school, we watched Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors in music class. Even though I listened to classical music at home and played the viola, I mocked the opera singing style along with all the other kids in my class.  It just seemed so ridiculous to us.  Then a few years ago, I started going to operas at my school and then attending the HD Met Opera broadcasts.  Now, I love opera (well, I'm still working on French opera, but that's a conversation for another day).  I also generally stay engaged with music for longer periods of time than when I was younger (it’s no longer a given that I will fall asleep during a Bruckner symphony).

On the other side, do people who aren’t exposed to classical music or dislike it in their youth suddenly have a switch flip inside them?  What brings someone to classical music as they age?

One of my older relatives never listened to classical music; she had no use for music other than hymns and the Stadler Brothers.  Aging did not give her patience or appreciation for classical concert music. Her husband played clarinet and loved Brahms, but she just wasn’t interested in any of it.

These are just isolated examples, but they illustrate my skepticism of whether aging is enough to make someone interested in classical music.  I can see appreciation deepening over time, but I have a hard time imagining a sudden conversion.  In fact, I’m inclined to think that listening habits just get more fixed over time.

I am encouraged by Botstein’s observations that audiences aren’t going away and that new audiences are constantly discovering the beauty of classical music and the thrill of live concerts.  I love this music, and selfishly, I want it to stay strong so that I (and others) have the chance to appreciate it in abundance.  

When did you start liking certain genres, composers, pieces?  How has it changed for you over time?


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