May 3, 2012
Walk into Wellin Hall on a Friday or Saturday night, and you will probably find it half-full, at best. Then again, I am sure that a handful of people reading this wouldn’t know that because they have never actually done this. The weekend should be reserved for heavy partying, right?
But let’s back up a little bit. For those who aren’t aware, Hamilton brings many professional musicians and other types of performers to the Hill each year through the Performing Arts Series. The concerts are funded in part by the Bristol Endowment, the James T. and Laura C. Rhind Fund and New York State Council on the Arts. My guess is that these funds provide a larger part of the money needed to bring the Series’ performers than do ticket sales, at least based on the low attendance I have witnessed.
In all honesty, though I go to some concerts because I enjoy classical music and am genuinely interested in hearing them, others I go to as a way of fulfilling my five-concert attendance requirement as a music student here at Hamilton. I admit that I sometimes avoid weekend-night concerts because I don’t want them to interfere with other plans I have. I still get frustrated, however, when I see how empty the audience is for performances I do attend that feature such talented musicians.
I have performed in poorly attended concerts myself. For example, at the chamber ensembles concert two Fridays ago which probably had a total of 10 people in the audience; it does not exactly inspire feelings of accomplishment.
Now I’m sure these performers don’t need an ego boost. That’s not my point. What I do wonder is why more Hamilton students don’t take advantage of such great opportunities to hear high-level music. To hear a good classical concert in Boston will cost you at least 50 bucks. Here, with the help of the Endowment and other funds, student tickets often cost as little as five dollars!
I think it might partly come down to a certain culture that seems to define Hamilton’s social scene, known as the “work hard, play hard” ethic, or the idea that students study intensely during the week and then party hard on the weekends. So students may not go to a Performing Arts Series or Music Department concert during the week because they are too busy studying, and may opt out on the weekends because they’re drinking, or letting loose in other ways. Going to listen to a symphony immediately after finishing an academic paper may not seem like the best way to relax. Maybe this is an oversimplification, but I am sure that it in part rings true.
It could also be that there’s simply not very many people at Hamilton interested in the genres of music that are represented in the Performing Arts Series—classical, jazz and experimental, among others. If this is the case, then I respect it. But I would also urge students to put aside their skepticism and attend a concert in Wellin. They might discover a new interest or passion.
Some student concerts may be better attended than the professional ones, simply because students ask their friends to come support them. But even these, as I mentioned before, are not as full as I think they could be. The music department definitely does their fair share of advertising—through posters and all-campus e-mails. Some of it may get lost in the slew of other information that is thrown at us (20 + emails a day?! and have you seen the bulletin boards/bathroom stalls?). So where’s the answer?
A Google search on classical music appreciation brought me to the page of the Electric Opera Company’s “Classical Music Appreciation Project.” They describe my dilemma succinctly: “Despite containing some of the greatest artistic achievements in the history of mankind, the Classical Music Catalogue has lost its luster in modern pop culture. Modern ears don’t take to the works of Mozart and Beethoven as easily as they take to Katy Perry, Rihanna and many other artists who sit atop the pop charts in 21st Century society.”
The project seeks to expand classical music appreciation through education and performance, and by “presenting them in a modern, accessible medium.” The Electric Opera Company does this by having its orchestra perform on electric instruments and by re-working scores. It’s an interesting idea that has apparently brought them some success.
I think Hamilton should explore the idea of classical concerts in new mediums, but in a different sense than the Electric Opera Company has. Concerts in smaller, more casual venues such as Opus might be better attended. This would take away the stigma that seems to be attached to going to classical music concerts. Other than that, I think it’s really up to the students. I could urge you all to come to more concerts, but would that do anything? Just remember, you only live once (or YOLO, as some prefer to abbreviate)! The opportunity to go to a five-dollar concert won’t be around forever.