The Audience Connection – Course Description

Music, the organic art form that can give a life purpose and fulfillment for the performer and the listener.  Right now, little more than about 1 in 10 people in America listens to Classical music, and even less attend live Classical Music performances.  This class is an attempt to address this problem directly.

1. For students to begin to be able to reach out to audiences of all ages with music in a way that makes the art form accessible, fulfilling, visceral, and most importantly, relevant.

2. To understand and implement advocacy and activism through performance and explanation, to audiences who are on the whole without musical training.

3. To learn skills by which to encourage individuals or groups to attend a fine arts performance who have rarely or never done so.


What the audience feels, as well as the “job” of a musician
A survey will be given for the specific purpose of attaching spontaneous emotions, colors, shapes, seasons, times of day, objects and reactions to excerpts of music, not limited to Classical music exclusively. The purpose of the survey is to put students in the shoes of the audience, and to connect with them.  The question “What is the job of a musician?” will be debated also.

Performance element:
Part 1:
Students who are preparing pieces will perform them (or excerpts of them) to the class.  They will be coached to present the work, bringing in elements about themselves (personal feelings using adjectives that are clearly understood by all), and the use of every day items, activities, terms, feelings, events and objects to describe why the piece is relevant to the audience at hand.  The emphasis will be on relevance and accessibility and not on musical analysis, unless it can be used to illustrate relevance and accessibility.  There will be an additional emphasis on effective presentation to children.

Part 2 (optional but encouraged):
Students who are performance majors will be encouraged to go out and seek connections with potential audiences.  This includes, but is not limited to, organizing performances for themselves at schools, hospitals and assisted living facilities.  This fits right in line with the advocacy component of the course also.

Advocacy and Activism:
This will be a brief historical study on the effectiveness of student activism and how a music student can actually be an advocate for their art form on their own (see part 2 above).  It will focus heavily on world wide newspaper articles and blogs, (that I have collected) as well as in context analysis of the Rand report which brought forward some very pertinent points on the importance and relevance of music to children.  The Knight report will also be discussed as it relates to the importance and effectiveness of an orchestra in a community.  Another report (which came out this month) entitled “Beyond the Ramp” which examines accessibility to the arts for people with disabilities will also be discussed.  This part of the course will involve much discussion and debate.  I have these reports to copy and distribute.


1.   The 10 most important pieces of music of the 20th century and why they are.:
This will be covered in a weekly discussion, as I present my 10, and argue my case for including each one.  Students will be required to write a paper presenting their 10, as well as a brief argument in support of each piece chosen.

2. The social and historical importance of specific works:
The choral movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony
Mendelssohn’s Wedding March from Midsummer Night’s Dream
Barber’s Adagio for Strings
Students will be required to write a paper on a piece that they believe has important social and historical importance, outlining why.

3. Developing techniques aimed at encouraging people to attend a classical music performance, particularly those who have never done so:
This will include a debate on how to best present new music, and the challenges of doing so.

4.   Formulating the next steps:
With higher music education for the most part following the European model, how can we adapt and change musical training to address the problem of small audiences, and do we need to?

What can be done on an elementary school level, including teacher training, to integrate arts into a curriculum that has no specific arts component.  This is in line with making arts relevant.

Is a performer and/or a composer of Classical Music considered to be an artist, an entertainer or both?  What about popular and commercial music, are the musicians and composers in this genre considered artists, entertainers or both?  This will be a one or two hour discussion.


I will show scenes from films (on DVD) such as Immortal Beloved (Beethoven), the Shawshank Redemption, Philadelphia and the Mystery of Picasso.  The purpose will be to illustrate the importance of accessibility, visceral reaction, and the emotional fulfillment that art and music can bring to an audience, and why those are the key elements to successful advocacy.

Passages of literature will also be incorporated, and authors will include E. M Forster, Spencer Johnson George Carlin and Robert Fulghum amongst others.


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