High school students get to plan PSO concert, Classical Crossroads, Tuesday April 21 – Matt Campbell

I only recently found out about the PSO’s Audience of the Future program, which gives area high school students the opportunity to plan and promote their very own PSO concert.  And just what kind of concert a bunch of students would plan piques my curiosity not just as a listener, but as someone in the arts management field, too.  You can find out for yourself what a bunch of high school students decided to do with one of the world’s greatest orchestras at their disposal next week, when the PSO unveils Classical Crossroads on Tuesday the 21st at 7:30pm. 

The theme of the concert is travel, and the concert features short pieces or excerpts of works from by composers from all over the world.

Though I am no programming expert, I was very interested to see what they came up with, and I’ll share here what I read into their choices.  First, their program is widely varied and full of contrasts.  You may have a flamenco dance from Spain one moment, and some Americana a few minutes later. What that means though is that you don’t stay in one place too long — perhaps it’s a reflection of our short attention spans.  Or, if that offends, I’ll phrase it another way: we have difficulty focusing because there’s so much demanding our attention, and we are so connected to everybody and everything else through mobile phones and iPods.

Given that, it makes sense young people wouldn’t program a Bruckner symphony that runs for 80 minutes.  So why do we wonder when young people skip the Bruckner?  That’s not to say we should cave to inattention, we shouldn’t, but it’s a problem we have to address somehow.

Another interesting feature of the program is the mix of composers.  The familiars like Tchaikovsky and Sibelius are there, but who on earth is Dorothy Chang, Carlos Chavez or Louis Herold?  Where did these kids find that music?  A lot of this music will be new to listeners, and that’s a good thing.  At age 21, I already gravitate toward new music on programs, or music I’ve not heard before.  I don’t want to pass up a piece I’m not likely to hear live again for quite a while, and I know if I skip Dvorak’s “New World” symphony this season, I’ll likely catch it again soon.  And when you don’t have the resources to attend every concert in a season, you’ve got to go the John Adams concerts, the Turangalila-Symphonies, the Dvorak Sevenths.

I also think it’s really neat that high school students get to plan a concert and experience arts management.  Without Audience of the Future, how would any of these students, who are getting ready for college, have found out they wanted to study arts management?  I didn’t have any opportunity in high school to work with an orchestra, yet that’s where I have ended up presently.

Lastly, ticket sales benefit either the Audience of the Future program or the participating students’ high schools.  It’s very smart of the PSO to donate its services to raise money for the schools’ music programs, programs that are hardly a priority.  Young students need to hear and play classical music in school, they need to be given a chance early on to discover they like classical music. Without those holes being filled by the PSO and other arts organizations, those early experiences of art wouldn’t happen, and we wouldn’t be around.  That’s why education and outreach is so important, and why every orchestra has staff in those areas.

Click here for more information on Classical Crossroads and how you can buy tickets for an entertaining concert, and contribute to education at the same time. 

2008-2009 Participating Schools:
Charleroi High School, Upper St. Clair High School, Beaver Falls High School, Knoch High School, Moon Area High School, CAPA High School, Sharpsville Area High School, Shaler Area High School, Wilkinsburg High School, Bethel Park High School, Lincoln Park Performing Arts School, Fox Chapel High School.

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