The day the music died
America is often praised and hated for its pop culture. Regardless of such opinions, it cannot be denied that culturally, America’s reach extends to the farthest regions of the world. American clothes, food, hip-hop, rap, rock and movies are all enjoyed by the world. However, while America is involved with the present, it seems to lack the time or patience to appreciate and embrace the fine arts.
Many think of classical music as the kind of music their grandparents listen to, and typically, you’ll find that the elderly make up quite a bit of the audience at Lincoln Center. Contrary to the stereotypes, there are plenty of young musicians interested in classical music. Unfortunately, due to several factors, the hype—and the opportunities—must often be found outside school walls.
With both private schools and public schools offering limited arts programs, it is hard for someone to get into or continue their musical or artistic endeavors at an advanced level. There is a great need for musical education in both public and private institutions. Such education would create greater awareness, thus opening up a venue for students to possibly pursue. Private institutions, such as the New York Philharmonic, recognize this problem and have implemented various outreach programs to reach children who would not be exposed to classical music. Efforts like these, though noble, are insufficient, and the public school system of the U.S. must drastically increase its musical education programs.
If not incorporated into arts education at an early age, classical music may die out. Then again, there have been people in every generation who have bemoaned the death of classical music. Perhaps, as Charles Rosen, a distinguished American pianist and musical writer, once said in response to fears that classical music was dying, “The death of classical music is perhaps its oldest continuing tradition.” I am not so hopeful. Perhaps today is “the day the music died,” as said by Don McLean in “American Pie.” His sentiment can be seen in the empty concert halls and opera houses, the dismantled orchestras and the starving musicians.
I think that America, which sets so many precedents for the world culturally, economically and socially, would be making a huge mistake if it did not use its influence to encourage the fine arts. Being a trendsetter of culture, it is scary to think that the legacies and works of masterful composers and musicians are at America’s mercy.
As Geoffrey Wheatcroft once stated, “In many ways, our civilization has reached a point of sophistication and abundance far surpassing anything ever known before.” But can anyone look around honestly and say that Western musical culture is as healthy and vigorous as it was 200 years ago, when Mozart was lately dead, Haydn was in his last years as a composer, Beethoven was in his earliest and Schubert was a baby? Has music anywhere to go, or is it the end of an old song?