For too long, classical music has been regarded as the domain of instrumentalists, composers, academic musicologists and, typically, anyone over 40 years old. But while the majority of today’s youth would rather listen to Britney Spears’ greatest hits or watch My Chemical Romance on MTV, the view that young people are completely uninterested in classical music is not only erroneous – it’s simply not grounded in historical reality.
Mozart, widely regarded as one of the greatest classical composers of all time, wrote his first symphony at age eight and was dead by the age of 35. Schubert also died when he was 31, while Chopin famously didn’t live past the age of 39. Moreover, the phenomenon of the castrato in classical music in the 1700s shows that young people have not only been interested in classical music throughout the years – they’ve practically been canonised as part of a classical music tradition that, although lost, is not forgotten.
Today’s orchestras, choirs and opera houses are packed with young singers and musicians, many of whom are still in their twenties. Moreover, almost all modern, successful classical musicians will have undergone training from a very young age. Charlotte Church may have made headlines when she released her debut album “Voice of an Angel” in 1998 aged just thirteen, but while her phenomenal mainstream luck wasn’t typical, the fact that she was such a young musician in the classical industry was.
In the twenty-first century, the likes of Katherine Jenkins and “male soprano” Michael Maniaci, 28 and 29 years of age respectively, are making headlines the world over for their innovative approach to classical music and their stunning vocal range. Edward Gardner, the new Music Director of Glyndebourne on Tour (one of the UK’s premier operatic fixtures), is also only 28, proving that there’s certainly no dearth of young people performing classical music, although there may be fewer youths than OAPs listening to it.
But as classical music institutions and performing arts organisations try their best to reduce their median audience age, classical music is not only becoming more accessible to young people – it’s also becoming more affordable. Scottish Opera, for instance, offer special ticket deals for people under 26, while many music-specialist booksellers are making classical music books and guides that will help younger classical listeners learn more about the craft. So while many may lament the loss or decline of youth interest in classical music in today’s world, they need only look towards the country’s concert halls to view where the future lies.