My passion is to help others in the community, young, old, and everyone in between, find relevance and joy in learning, performing or listening to classical music.

Monday, May 2, 2011

A bouquet of online inspiration for classical music minds

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
In case you haven't already figured this out, I am determined to be optimistic and even excited about what's going on in the classical music scene these days.  And to continue my mini blog post series on the topic, I want to share a list of places to go on the web that feed my positive attitude on a regular basis.  Please note that on most of these websites you can find links to videos and recordings which will further inspire anyone.  And as with the list of inspirational twitterers and videos that I've posted, my list is not comprehensive - it's just the tip of the iceberg.  If any readers have anything to add to the list, please do feel free to add them via the comment section at the end of the post.  The more the merrier!

The first links are to sites that have to do with professional musicians being involved with the community in a direct way.  In other words, they are musicians that work alongside amateurs and young musicians.  I feel passionately about the need for this type of work to expand to an almost epidemic scale.

  • Pittsburgh Symphony Community Side-by-Side event - an event held annually in which community members and orchestra members rehearse and perform side-by-side.
  • Citizen Musician Initiative - an initiative led by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, their director Riccardo Muti, and cellist Yo-Yo Ma that aims to "acknowledge and celebrate acts of citizen musicianship, increase awareness of the existence and value of this work and encourage more connections between musicians and communities."
  • Community Musicworks - a program started by the Providence String Quartet whose aim is to "create a cohesive urban community through music education and performance that transforms the lives of children, families, and musicians."  This project was brought to my attention thanks to an NPR story about quartet member Sebastian Ruth, who was a 2010 MacArthur grant recipient.  
  • El Sistema USA - Venezuela's now famous program of teaching music to the country's poorest youth, the LA Phil's Gustavo Dudamel being one of its students, has now worked its way into the USA via the New England Conservatory of Music.
  • Da Capo Institute - Making Musical Communities - a fine example of a community music organization that makes music education an integral part of their community.  I especially find their "Da Capo Way" page, which explains the philosophies behind their organization, noteworthy.  

The next set of links are to sites and blogs of individual musicians, artists, and organizations.

  • James Westover, symphonic photochoreography - I find the work of this photographer absolutely breathtaking and the combination of visual elements with musical performance has always inspired me.  I also think that in this day and age, giving an audience multiple ways to connect with a piece of music can be helpful and incredibly powerful.  
  • Wayne McEvilly, pianist - one of the most inspirational people I follow on twitter.  A wonderful pianist that has a passion for providing classical music to children through libraries and schools.  He believes in the transformative power of music and does what he can to ensure that all have access to it.  
  • Emerge Already: Jade Simmons, pianist - another pianist that is actively thinking outside-the-box when it comes to how we present ourselves in performance situations.  She has many videos, including a wonderful Tedx talk, that help musicians take the initiative to create their own, personalized, relevant career.  
  • James Rhodes, pianist - a pianist that is approaching his career from a different angle.  He seems to be doing it the way he wants to do it, without worrying about tradition and expectations from others.  It's very inspiring and encouraging to see him just being himself and being successful at it.  
  • Anderson and Roe, piano duo - this website is refreshingly fun, lighthearted, and entertaining.  These talented, young pianists welcome interaction with their viewers and have some wonderful ideas about presenting classical music in a way that will not scare away those that might not be as familiar with it.  I particularly love their "Listening Manifesto."
  • Marion Harrington, clarinet - a clarinetist from Spain that has returned to the music world after years of working in the business world.  She and I share so many similar philosophies about music-making, especially in regards to the need to shed the crippling robe of perfectionism when it comes down to performing and recording.  Her blog is an education since she not only is a creative musician but also because of her background in business.  She has another new blog, Zero 2 Maestro, where she and others post articles to encourage others to pursue their dreams as she is currently doing.  
  • All Piano, blog of Catherine Shefksi, pianist - as she says on her blog, Catherine is a pianist and teacher who is all about "keeping piano lessons relevant for the new generation" and I believe she is doing a great job doing that.  She has written a book about this topic called, Go Play, that is downloadable for free and that I recommend for anyone that works with young musicians.  I think the type of thinking she engages in on a regular basis is crucial if we want to sustain the younger generations' interest in pursuing music.  
  • PROJECTTrio - an unlikely combination of instruments, double bass, cello, and flute, this trio, I discovered them after stumbling over a video of a performance of Peter and the Wolf that they have performed.  The flutist is well-known for his beatboxing flute antics and lend a wonderful addition to their performances.  They do a lot of outreach into schools so their work has given me many ideas in regard to performing for little ones.
  • Classical Revolution - this link is not to the organization's main website but is a good place to go to get the gist of what this group is all about.  Their facebook page simply states that the group provides "chamber music for the people."  The revolution is taking the country, and possibly the world, by storm and is taking classical music into unique spaces and situations, all in the spirit of community.  Click here for a video that talks about what they do - it's a bit hard to hear but worth it. 
  • Classical House Concerts - this is something I'm just getting into but house concerts seem to be getting more and more popular as performers seem to want an alternative to the traditional large, impersonal venues.  I list this particular site as an example of what house concerts are all about and as a way to for musicians to get started down this avenue should they be interested.  
  • Sympho - an ensemble led by Paul Haas, who is constantly trying new, creative things to inspire both audiences and the performers themselves.  I am constantly checking in with them to see what they have come up with.  
  • Sandow on the future of classical music - blog for Greg Sandow as he's writing his book about the future of classical music.  Although I don't always agree with everything there, he brings up a lot of interesting points as do the readers that frequently comment on his posts.  He has also been including reports of new things that many musicians and organizations are trying.  
  • Audience Development Specialists - blog for Audience Development Specialist, Shoshana Fanizza.  Based in Colorado, I regularly have wonderful discussions with Shoshana that never fail to get me thinking and that constantly inspire me.  Many of those same topics are addressed on this blog.  On April 28, we held a twitter interview/discussion about the role of the individual musician in building audiences within the community.  Click here for a transcript if you're interested.  
  • Killing Classical Music - "dedicated to rescuing the world's best music from a slow, certain death at the hands of tired traditions and oppressively ordinary thought."  This site is run by composer, writer, and musical entrepeneur,  Grant Charles Caput, and is full of thought-provoking posts.
  • Take a Friend to the Orchestra program - an annual event during the month of April on the Adaptistration blog (a very wonderful blog, by the way!)  Professionals from across the classical music industry write about experiences of taking friends that don't normally attend classical music concerts to orchestra performances.  There is a lot to learn from these writings in addition to them being just plain fun, inspirational, and thought-provoking to read.  
Although I wish I could go on and on, I think I will stop there...for now.  But stick around.  You never know when I might come up with something else!  And don't forget, if you have something to share that's relevant to the cause, please do share.  

Oh, and one last little question...

Are you inspired yet?

Other posts in this series on inspiration in the classical music world:
Keeping eyes, ears, and minds wide open
More than meets the ears - visual and aural treats to inspire


  1. Another I would have hoped you might mention was DaCapoVa. Our system is related closely the life experiences, passion application model of many of your references..

    Info can be found at We may be small, but our impact is mighty... ;-) and we are growing a little every day.

    Lots of great stories on our blog too.. at

    Thanks for the list.

  2. Oh my goodness, Jeff. I knew this would happen, that I would unintentionally leave someone off the list. But thank you for adding that in. I'm going to throw you into the body of the post, if you don't mind.

    Thanks and please accept my apologies for that oversight.

    Keep doing what you do so well!


  3. apologies not necessary.. Thanks for the add though.. I took your request to share to heart... Like I said it was a great list.. Thank you!

  4. Thank you Erica! I'm honored to be in such great company!

  5. Contribution by @alanayu on twitter:

    The Discovery Orchestra - an orchestra based in New Jersey that teaches listening skills "to help people emotionally connect to classical music." They do this through intimate gatherings, live performances, and electronic media programs

    Thank you, @alanayu!