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Commentary

29 Dec 2004

Marketing Classical Music

Folks tirelessly trying to market classical music these days will settle on almost any hook to lure customers, from martini bars in lobbies and cutesy program titles to that reliable, when-all-else-fails measure, the deeply discounted ticket price. I’m just old-fashioned enough to prefer come-ons that actually have something substantive to do with the music itself, and I’m a sucker for promotions that involve historic pegs – the anniversary of a composer’s birth or death, or of a composition’s first performance, for example.

Lament for lost opportunities for concert lineups this year
Look to calendars to see if composer's time has come

By Tim Smith
Sun Music Critic

December 28, 2004

Folks tirelessly trying to market classical music these days will settle on almost any hook to lure customers, from martini bars in lobbies and cutesy program titles to that reliable, when-all-else-fails measure, the deeply discounted ticket price.

I'm just old-fashioned enough to prefer come-ons that actually have something substantive to do with the music itself, and I'm a sucker for promotions that involve historic pegs - the anniversary of a composer's birth or death, or of a composition's first performance, for example.

Almost every calendar year contains such built-in musical hooks, notable dates from the past worth acknowledging in some form, from a single concert to a whole festival.

This is hardly news. In fact, it's bleedin' obvious. But, aside from a memorable, cross-genre celebration of St. Petersburg's tri-centennial in 2003, Baltimore's music community hasn't revealed much interest in using historic angles to spice up a season and get people thinking more, not just listening.

Consider 2004. It's about to slip away with hardly any local notice having been paid to two milestones involving Czech composers - the 150th anniversary of the birth of Leos Janacek and the centenary of the death of Antonin Dvorak. What a missed opportunity all across Baltimore's musical board.

Yes, there were a few nods in the direction of these guys in the occasional recital or chamber music program by local and visiting artists, as well as in at least one choral concert. But nothing major, and nothing to speak of from our biggest musical guns.

As for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, it programmed a little bit of Janacek and Dvorak - in 2003, not 2004.

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