Kiddie Classical

To get kids interested in classical music, orchestras need to use more imagination. And robots.

How to Get Kids to Like Classical
Photo courtesy of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra

Whether or not the Minnesota Orchestra and The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra resolve their respective contract disputes by the time you read this, there remains in our culture a big problem with classical music: No one knows how to get young people to like it. If the next generation of concertgoers doesn’t start buying more tickets, CDs, and Osmo Vänskä bobblehead dolls, things are going to get ugly—or at least a lot less classical.

Since nothing else is working, here are a few ideas worth trying:

Ban It

The surest way to get young people interested in classical music is to make it illegal. No one under 21 can listen to it, period. When they ask why, we can tell them that classical music alters human brain chemistry so profoundly that it can’t be properly processed by the adolescent brain. Crazy things can happen when Mozart gets in your head, so regulation is the only responsible solution. Then make classical music 10 times as expensive as anything else on iTunes. Sales will soar.

Replace Conductors

To kids, watching an old guy in a tux dance around with a stick in his hand is gross and pathetic. Replacing conductors with a robot that shoots lasers would go a long way toward making conducting look modern and cool. If the lasers actually burned holes in the musicians’ clothing, or seared their eyes out, so much the better.

Engage More

During any given concert, a third of the orchestra is just sitting there doing nothing. The brass and percussion sections, especially, seem to have a lot of time on their hands. These musicians could use their time more wisely by texting with kids in the audience, commiserating about how boring it is to sit and do nothing while the strings and woodwinds do all the work.

Use More Artillery

If the classical community wants to capture the attention of boys, it needs to figure out ways to incorporate more gunfire and explosions. The 1812 Overture uses cannons, and that’s a good start, but the range of explosive noises—from bottle rockets to concussion bombs—is woefully under-utilized in classical music. More cowbell won’t do it; more firepower will.

Allow Movement

For kids, sitting still and shutting up is physically painful. Kids need to move, which is why Orchestra Hall needs a mosh pit. Not a big one, just an area large enough for kids to smash into each other and draw a little blood.

Get Happy

Lots of classical music is very slow and sad. It reminds kids of church or driving to Fargo with grandma. Would it kill the orchestra to throw in a Justin Bieber song every now and then? Sure, some members of the orchestra might die a little inside, but the kids would never notice. They already think slowly dying is part of the show.