Are Orchestras in Crisis?


Symphony orchestra performance attendance has always been a mixed bag, but what’s the best way to draw in new listeners? Some argue orchestras should perform more popular music at concerts in hopes of drawing people who might not necessarily exclusively listen to classical, and in East Central Illinois, pops concerts are better attended than strictly classical shows. But some devoted listeners only want to hear classical pieces by composers like Beethoven or Brahms and frown upon the idea of their orchestras performing more popular arrangements.

This hour on Focus, host Jim Meadows talks with Stephen Alltop, the Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra's new music director; Jeremy Swerling, maestro for the Danville Sympohny Orchestra and Kevin Kelly, music director for the Prairie Ensemble and the Eastern Illinois Youth Orchestra. We'll talk with them about how they make decisions about what to perform at concerts, trying to balance the concerns of dedicated listeners while trying to increase attendance and introduce new listeners to the genre.

Are you a classical music aficionado? When you go see a symphony, do you want to hear a mix of popular music and classical? Why do you think classical music's audience has shrunk? How would you try and grow it? We'd love to hear from you this hour on Focus!