Culture war: The need for younger audiences at classical music concerts

Music major to present at Student Academic Conference April 14

By Meghan Feir

Over the years, as more musical genres have sprung up, concertgoers have been offered a rising selection of performances to attend. Unfortunately, classical music concerts have taken a hit because of the wide variety in music entertainment, along with a lack of musical knowledge and unawareness of concert etiquette. Senior music major Tania Arseculeratne is greatly aware of this well-documented problem and recognizes the need to attract younger audiences to classical music.

“There are a lot of other genres and styles, and it’s more competitive. You don’t see a very young crowd,” Arseculeratne said. “We need to attract a younger audience for the existence of these concerts because the current audience is aging.

As an MSUM orchestra member, music major and sociology minor, it’s easy for Arseculeratne to put herself in the shoes of concerned musicians. “I’ve read a lot of articles recently about declining audiences, and there has been some research done, as well.”

In Arseculeratne’s presentation, “Building Classical Music Concert Audience for the Future,” she will be addressing the issue and presenting her own pool of research conducted among MSUM students.

In her study, she asked 10 music industry students their attitudes toward concert etiquette, along with their suggestions for the improvement of classical music events. She will be encouraging audience members to think critically about the reality of the future of classical music concerts.

“I will mainly be giving information I collected from my interviews,” Arseculeratne said. “Although I will make some suggestions based on the information I collected, I cannot say those suggestions will increase the number of audience members for sure. There needs to be a larger study to see what students are saying.”

Despite a diminishing audience, Arseculeratne has not noticed plummeting interest in students entering the field of music performance and orchestral participation.

“I don’t think there’s a decline in people joining orchestras. Even though the Minnesota Orchestra is struggling right now, most of them (orchestra members) have found jobs in other places.”

Arseculeratne’s research could lead to larger studies that could help classical music save its place in the large spectrum of entertainment options.

“The audience will get to see what other problems students see as obstacles preventing these students from coming to the concerts.”