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Building Classical Futures

20th January 2019

Building Classical Futures
Katherine Zeserson

Declaring classical music to be dead, or on its last legs, is a popular critical sport. Audiences are described as ageing, performers as out of touch with the contemporary zeitgeist and concert halls as archaic bastions of privilege. Sadly, these charges are too often accurate. The notions of the classical artist as superhuman, of the music as an untouchable canon and the concert hall as a temple are outdated in today’s world, and often serve to alienate potential audiences and performers alike.

Classical music is dying and elitist only if it is presented as such. If performers, conductors, composers and concert halls choose to embrace a more open, egalitarian and culturally omnivorous approach to sharing classical music then it will continue to occupy a distinctive place in society and culture – if not, then not.

Complacency signals the death of creativity: any artist will tell you that. To stay at the top of the game requires curiousity, courage, research, practice, risk (and its cheery cousin failure);  as well as a passionate, inescapable commitment to the work. And what is true for individuals – performers, composers, conductors – is true for the art form itself. For classical music as a movement to continue as a vibrant cultural force requires exactly that same spirit of adventure, innovation and determination.

Working with the next generation of listeners, artists and promoters is central to that mission, and Classical Futures Europe seeks to engage all these stakeholders in active dialogue over the duration of the Platform. Happily, it is clear that education, learning and participation programmes are becomingly increasingly central to the work of Europe’s leading concert halls and orchestras; forging strong civic links with local communities across divides of class and culture, connecting people with great music and inspiring performers in fresh and accessible ways, providing egalitarian pathways into the profession as well as nurturing the new wave of 21st century artists.

Today’s emerging European classical artists are coming to maturity in a time of unprecedented cultural complexity and change. The internet age, enabling hitherto unimaginable access to musical languages and practices; mass migration of people across borders; political uncertainty and economic fragility all play their part in influencing the sensibilities of tomorrow’s stars. Classical Futures Europe provides a stable platform to nurture young artists; encouraging open-mindedness, risk-taking and authenticity in performance, programming and promotion of classical music. Underpinned by the European Concert Halls Organisation’s many years of experience in supporting young artists through its flagship Rising Stars programme, Classical Futures Europe is all set to blaze new trails for classical music – for artists and audiences alike – securing a future that is inspired by the past but never limited by it; nourished by tradition and invigorated by the challenge of the new.

Classical Futures Europe exclusively supports projects that both celebrate and reach beyond pure performance; engaging communities in a variety of ways including through education, learning and participation.

Note on the author:

KATHERINE ZESERSON  has a varied free-lance portfolio combining organisational and leadership development with design and delivery of professional training in a wide range of music, education and cultural contexts. She is a strategic advisor to the Classical Futures Europe platform on topics including the professional development of artists and Education.

From 2001 to 2015 Katherine Zeserson was Founding Director of Learning and Participation at Sage Gateshead in the Northeast of England. Current organisational clients include: Snape Maltings (Aldeburgh UK)Music Generation Ireland, Wicklow County Council (IE), European Concert Hall Organisation, Dash Arts (UK), Philharmonie Luxembourg (LU), Royal Opera House (UK)Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (UK). She is Programme Director for the Paul Hamlyn Foundation initiated inspire-music,  and holds a consultancy role working with Santa Marcelina Cultura (Sao Paulo, Brazil), delivering socially engaged music programmes with young people . She is a founder member of UK-based a cappella vocal quartet Mouthful.