Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Power of a Mother, Music, and a Dime

Reading about the state of classical music today is mostly pretty grim stuff. So, it is always happy reading when someone, somewhere, is doing something positive, either using classical music, or is fostering it. Read on.

This takes place in Jakarta where mother and housewife, Yayuk Rahardjo, has used music, classical in particular, as a means by which hundreds of young people can express themselves and do something constructive rather than take drugs, skip school or engage in other acts of delinquency.

She believes music as an art form can empower people, especially youths, who might be at a loss about their direction in life. Yayuk's endeavor comes from a firm belief that if nurtured from an early stage, music could provide people with an ethical foundation. Philosophers through the centuries have maintained the same belief; behavioral scientists, too.

Over the past eight years, an organization she helped found and now chairs, Indonesian Youth Music (YMI), which is a member of Jeunesses Musicales Internationale (JMI) in Canada, Germany, Netherlands, et al, (check out their website!) has recruited hundreds of talented young people from cities like Yogyakarta, Medan, Surabaya and Jakarta to form the National Youth Music Orchestra, an institution that provides them with scores of master classes by respected musicians, and has brought them to the spotlight by staging concerts in some of the city's venerated cultural centers. The orchestra has performed works by Beethoven, Bach, Schubert Mozart and others.

And this paragraph is especially noteworthy: For other less gifted young people, YMI has given them an opportunity to engage in activities relating to music in which they can explore the less glitzy side of performance art, such as artist management, sound system management and promoting hard-to-sell classical concerts. Scores of programs are designed to educate young people outside the organization about the merits of classical music, in a kind of lecture concert.

To nurture a love of music from an early age, Yayuk has also organized dance and music therapy for children between two and four years old -- an endeavor she considers a success as some of her students have become consummate musicians.

Almost every weekend, her office in Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta, teems with young people who immerse themselves in music and other related activities. These young people also had big hand in organizing the 60th international congress of (JMI), the mother organization of YMI, between Aug. 15 and Aug. 19.

Indonesia is the third country in Asia and Pacific to hold the meet after Japan and South Korea. The programs were organized despite their being almost nothing in YMI's coffers. As a member of Belgium-based JMI, which bars its affiliates from engaging in commercial activities to finance their activities, YMI has had to rely on itself to keep its programs running.

Ever since its establishment, YMI has depended solely on sponsorship to support its programs. Such a budget constraint has prompted YMI to rely on word of mouth recommendation as its means of advertisement, even when it stages a major classical concert.

A wonderful story and achievement, and an inspiration to those who would like to DO something, as well as to those who don’t because “there’s no money”.

(This is an edited and recreated version of an article by M. Taufiqurrahman appearing in the Jakarta Post, Sanur, Bali) Aug. 18

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Then there is this head shaker:

Will The Internet Save Classical Music? "In the virtual absence of classical radio in America, the Internet can provide what radio does for other musical genres, namely a “free” means of hearing new and unfamiliar music, which if you like, you’ll go out and buy. But with the element of radio removed from the market structure, there are almost no places to randomly hear Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony or Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring” while driving home from school or work. The Net provides direct access. With the stuffiness removed from the classical experience, people can hear just how glorious Stravinsky really is." Kansas City Star 08/21/05

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It’s as plain as the nose on your face. The financial problems of orchestras and the decline of classical audiences equals the incline of classical music as a business and its ever-increasing unimaginative, incompetent, MBAs and their salaries.

"It used to be orchestras had very small staffs and gave many fewer concerts," said Joseph Horowitz, the author of the recent book "Classical Music in America: A History of Its Rise and Fall." "This is the nub of the issue. It's a surfeit of product that's causing many of the dysfunctions." That, he says, and the lack of charismatic music directors, amid an overabundance of marketing directors. (Most orchestras did not even have marketing departments until the 1970's. Today, a staff of a dozen is typical.)

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