Peabody's Bronstein to lead discussion on the future of classical music

Event will be shown live on the Johns Hopkins Ustream channel

Over the summer, new Peabody Institute Dean Fred Bronstein appeared on National Public Radio's "The Diane Rehm Show" to talk about the future of classical music. It's a topic that orchestras and classical music critics and administrators have mulled over for at least two decades, and the discussion touched on two of the big problems orchestras have faced: sustaining an expensive art form and audience engagement.

Bronstein was joined by New Yorker critic Alex Ross, concert pianist Orli Shaham, and critic and Julliard faculty member Greg Sandow, who maintains a blog on the subject.

During that discussion Rehm asked Bronstein about the role of music training in classical music's future, and he responded with a message he's maintained since his arrival in Baltimore. "It's not enough anymore to be a great pianist or a great violinist," he said. "You've got to be able to be a communicator. You've got to be an advocate. You've got to be an educator." He added that the Peabody community is consistently thinking about the role of education in the music's future.

To that end, Peabody will host a symposium titled "What's Next for Classical Music?" from 2-5 p.m. on Oct. 21 in the Miriam A. Friedberg Concert Hall. Bronstein will moderate a panel discussion featuring maestra Marin Alsop, music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra; Ben Cameron, director of arts fundraising at the Doris Duke Charitable Trust; Thomas Dolby, Homewood Professor of the Arts at Johns Hopkins; Marina Piccinini, concert flutist and Peabody faculty member; and Jesse Rosen, president and CEO of the League of American Orchestras. The event will be shown live on the Johns Hopkins Ustream channel.

Some of the questions the symposium will address—what role do conservatories play and what responsibility do they have for fostering a love of music and building audiences for it—are very much part of the classical music discussion right now. In August Robert Freeman, veteran music educator and musicologist, penned an editorial for The Chronicle of Higher Education title "Needed: a Revolution in Musical Training". (The piece is a very abbreviated prĂ©cis of the passionate argument Freeman makes in his new book, The Crisis of Classical Music in America: Lessons from a Life in the Education of Musicians).

The singular music writer Joseph Horowitz, reflecting on his reading of Crisis, calls it "unignorable for anyone invested in the musical education of young Americans" on his the Unanswered Question blog.

Elements of Freeman's argument reinforce those made by Bronstein—that music training has to do more than train musicians how to play the music; it needs to teach them why it matters and how to champion it.

"We face the task of how to get young artists ready for a hugely challenging, constantly evolving world," Bronstein said at Peabody's convocation last month. "We face the challenge of how Peabody plays a role in making sure there will be audiences in the future. You are all part of this."