I am very excited to be starting a new part-time job as administrator of the non-profit organization, Bach With Verse. This organization uses double bassist Richard Hartshorne’s (Dobbs) unique performing skills to bring music to unusual venues and underserved audiences. His performances have brought him to prisons throughout the US where art programs bring renewed joy to hundreds of prisoners. He has also toured Palestine and Afghanistan and is planning tours to Africa, Ireland and Iran. You can learn more about his programs at bachwithverse.org.
In my work with numerous non-profit music groups, I have always come across a struggle between what the musicians want to present and what the audience wants to pay to hear. Our reading talked about the musicians of the late 19th and early 20th centuries dictating how audiences were to behave and what audiences were suppose to listen to. This worked remarkably well and transformed society. However, I think the pendulum swung too far to the side of giving the musician power. Society responded resulting in reduced audiences for classical music. In all things there needs to be a balance for sustainability and I think music groups are responding to this by swinging the pendulum towards giving the audience more control. Musicians more and more are meeting audiences in their comfort zone – going to where audiences already are at clubs, bars, and prisons, etc. or just trying to create a more relaxed environment in traditional venues, trying to make performances more “accessible.”
I think Dobbs is a great role model of how music can lead musicians to new and exciting places. Music is a part of everyone’s soul and great music can touch anyone. I believe the future audiences for classical music lie in the musician’s ability to swing that pendulum back towards giving the audience some control, meeting them half way so that great music can reach more people. This is not to say that audiences for the very traditional format of performance will die if we don’t reach out in this way. I just think it is incredibly exciting as a musician to have amazing opportunities to expand classical audiences and give more people the chance to appreciate this art form. It is up to the musician to maintain the quality of the music – who we are playing for does not change the quality. For many musicians (since there are now growing numbers of us) creativity in where we perform and who we perform for is going to be key to our survival in the future.