BackStage

Re: Drawing Kids to Classical

Re: Drawing Kids to Classical

Jun 6, 2006

My thanks to those who posted comments regarding my recent diary entry about the Merit Focus Group. I'm happy to offer my reaction to some of your observations. ---"given your original goal to raise more listeners in the coveted 25-54 y.o. category, more kids talking on WFMT would be a distinct turn-off. Unless you hope to engage the kid's parents, how would this help attract the desired demographic?"---Actually, some of the young people in the Merit focus group were in their 20's and in college. Most were younger, but if you read the comment posted below from one of the high school students, you'll hopefully be surprised at the level of maturity and sophistication they bring to their thinking about music. ---"Your program, "From the Top," already offers a sufficiency of young people chatter and I assiduously avoid the broadcast."---Early in my career a radio manager I admired and learned a great deal from said something about how he programmed the station that I've always remembered. He said, "If there aren't at least two hours per week on this station that each listener can't stand then I'm doing something wrong." That was 35 years ago and it’s going a little far with respect to WFMT today—I hope From the Top is the only program you try to avoid but there is wisdom in that statement. ---"As to kid's opinions of whether or not there is too much vocal or opera on WFMT, I give not a whit of credence to their judgment or opinion. I enjoy ALL of the vocal and operatic programming that your radio service does so well."---We have no plans to change the way we program vocal and operatic music on WFMT. Nonetheless, I was surprised by what the Merit young people had to say about opera and I feel their comments deserve attention...not because we're going to change anything, but because they've given us a hint that we need to think about how we present vocal and operatic music.---"Band and wind ensemble music can be done marvelously well and the various groups that do it well are usually at the college or adult level. Please spare us the inevitable torture of a high school version."---There are many wonderful pre-college ensembles in the region that deserve to be on the radio. If we work hard to find the best ones, I'm sure they'll be well received by our listeners. In fact, while I don't think we've had a high school wind ensemble on lately, we've had student choirs and chamber ensembles on WFMT, and some of them are truly astonishing. ---"I'm not a Midnight Special or Folkstage listener. However, kids singing folk music I will also take a pass on that as well."---We'll have to let Rich Warren make the final judgment on that. ---"Having representatives from WFMT get out into the community is excellent advice and would be welcome at schools, universities and job fairs."---Agreed.---"Please don't go to any more kid's programming. Where did you ever get the notion that your core audience would endorse this pandering?"--- I think that depends on how you define "kids' programming." Please take a look at the letter the Merit student wrote to us a few hours ago. It's posted below. ---"I do not think that altering the character of the station would attract the young generation to WFMT."---We have no intention of altering the character of WFMT. It has served the region with great distinction and success for nearly 55 years. The challenge is to figure out how to make the station more appealing to younger listeners without changing the fundamentals. It's a difficult challenge, but one worth pursuing. The following is the aforementioned note received on Wednesday, written by one of the young people from Merit who attended the focus group. His comments are extremely thoughtful and I can imagine him selecting a few hours of music and co-hosting a shift some day with one of our announcers. The note was address to Noel Morris, the producer of Exploring Music: We met this past Saturday in a focus group at Merit. First, I would like to congratulate you on making such a wonderful production: week after week after week. Its got to be as hard as writing a symphony like Haydn, which was the subject of yesterday's "lesson". I listened and enjoyed as always, except this time while critically thinking. So now I have a few comments, as you asked. First, I like how Bill M. opened the "lesson" by explaining the scale, and the important notes in the scale as they relate to dominant and tonic chords. However, it became fuzzy when he tried to relate it to the symphony. Though I understand the theory of music very well, I couldn't see how Bill M. planned on relating the dominant/tonic chords to the symphony. My suggestion is to play a passage in the symphony on the piano that fiddles around the dominant. Then play its resolution. Second, after playing the London Symphony, I really enjoyed hearing Bill M. dissect the melody as it passes though different instrumentation and key areas. This was perfect! I think, however, that it would be better for the untrained listener to hear that explanation before he plays the whole symphony. This way, when they hear it in context it "clicks!" the listener retains the information better, and has a greater understanding. Third, I would have like to hear more about how the symphonic form developed for Haydn: Tempo marking, number of movements, instrumentation. He did touch on the latter a tiny bit, but a little more depth would really have driven home the, "Under the Hood" subject.Thank you for wanting my comments. ---Merit Student

Comments

WFMT

Steve,I wanted to share a few quick comments.  A few months ago the Chicago Sinfonietta presented a number of high schopol-age student ensembles as the culminating event in an educational program we offer entitled SEED: Student Ensembles dedicated to Excellence and Diversity.  This program provides six weeks of mentoring in ensemble playing skills provided by Sinfonietta musicians to a select group of small student ensembles.  These young musicians performed very well, and a couple of the ensembles played so well that we will present them at some of our upcoming functions during our 20th anniversary season in 2006-2007.  I mention this because we feel an acute sense of responsibility to encourage the next generation of diverse musicians, soloists, composers, and audience members so that our field remains strong.  I applaud your efforts to reach out to these young musicians and I have complete faith that you will use their feedback to keep WFMT the great station it is.Jim Hirsch

One of the last great

One of the last great prejudices we have in this country is against the youth.  What most of the commenters seemed to be dreading was an unprofessional broadcast -- not necessarily a youthful one.  I'm sure you, as I can, can imagine many adults who would be insufferable to listen to.  In fact, I find more adults that are insufferable than kids.  Given the opportunity, I know younger participant would offer not just a competent addition to the broadcast but a refreshingly new and challenging one.

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