The Internet: A Boon to Classical Music

That the Internet can come as a boon to classical music education may come as a surprise. Yet there are plenty of good resources out there that support this assertion. For instance, in March 2008, the music critic for the New Yorker noted here that the “web may be killing the pop CD, but it’s helping classical music.”

How is this possible? “Between 1980 and 2000,” author Alex Ross asserts, “classical music more or less disappeared from American network television, magazines, and other mainstream media.” Yet the vast esoteric realm of the Internet meant that a 27-year-old man might ponder Ligeti’s Requiem, while asserting that this was music in which youth have no interest.

From the Multiplex to the Music Hall

Anyone who has spent time around a passionate and smart kid (whether a high schooler, middle school student, or elementary school student) will not be surprised at the way seeing Pirates of the Caribbean will blossom into an interest in Johnny Depp, to Sweeney Todd, to the works of Stephen Sondheim, to Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes. (The mind boggles at where an interest in Miley Cyrus and other Disney Channel staples would lead.) Easy access on the Internet makes this kind of inquiry possible. And “the anonymity of Internet browsing has made classical music more accessible to non-fanatics; first-time listeners can read reviews, compare audio samples, and decide on, for example, a Beethoven recording by Wilhelm Furtwängler, all without risking the humiliation of mispronouncing the conductor’s name under the sour gaze of a record clerk.”

The curious and intelligent child can also pursue an interest in performance, joining the community of pianists, violinists, critics, composers, conductors, accompanists online as they muse over the triumphs and challenges on their weblogs. The author of the New Yorker article lists hundreds of music blogs here.

Other educational opportunities Ross notes include the San Francisco Symphony’s “series of behind-the-music radio and television broadcasts. To accompany the TV shows, which delve into canonical works such as Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony and Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring,” Michael Tilson Thomas and the orchestra have set up high-tech pages where listeners can follow the score bar by bar, stop to listen to the conductor’s explanations of the particulars, and see musicians demonstrate how Stravinsky reinvented their instruments.”

Express Yourself
Your favorite musical prodigy can express him or herself online too. Why not post a video to YouTube? It may not collect the viral attention earned by Tay Zonday’s “Chocolate Rain,” but relatives in far-off cities will be pleased. Careful—very careful—perusal of YouTube also reveals instructional and educational videos on a variety of composers, performers, and instruments. If YouTube is too gamey, podcasts of musicians’ work can be posted on sites such as Podbean. More mature family members can venture onto MySpace, of course.

TechSoup offers a mini-guide to online virtual worlds, some of which have a performance component that can be intriguing to young musicians. The TechSoup site, which is geared to nonprofit organizations, offers a lot of great how tos on free and simple web content, which might be just the thing to get your young musician motivated.

Educate Yourself

The Naxos classical music label has an extensive site that answers the very basic questions: What is classical music? How do you learn to enjoy listening to it? What are strategies for attending live performances? How do you choose recordings you will enjoy? Naxos offers a treasure trove which bears exploration by experienced participants as well as students alike. That it is a gateway to access the label’s extensive collection of recordings should not be a deterrent to enjoying this site.

And, as always, check out our links for great classical music education websites. Of course, your youngster probably knows much more about this than you do!