Introducing the Young Musicians of Minnesota

For many centuries, authors have written about the imminent death of orchestral music. The topic takes on a special urgency during economic downturns, labor disputes, and times of societal upheaval. The cause of death varies. Nonetheless, a refrain emerges: young people are apathetic about the loss.

A stock picture of young people. As the young people say nowadays, Y U NO LIKE ORCHESTRAL MUSIC?????

Young people, shown here in their natural state of not caring about orchestral music

The conventional wisdom goes something like this… We attended schools that didn’t offer the musical education our parents received. Most of us listen to a lot of music on a variety of devices rather than listening to it live. We text and Tweet, and therefore don’t have the attention span to devote to Mahler. We can’t remember a time when we could watch performances of orchestral music on the major networks. (Actually, most of us have difficulty imagining a time when the major networks were relevant…) We don’t have the money or the stability to commit to the subscription packages that make up the reliable core of an orchestra’s ticket revenue. We’re not always interested in traditional forms of delivery of orchestral music. We don’t go to as many concerts as we could or probably should.

All those points have a certain validity.

And yet…

As the Minnesota Orchestra lockout enters its ninth month, it becomes increasingly hard to reconcile conventional wisdom – that young people don’t care about orchestral music – with the reality I’m seeing on the ground. At lockout concerts, the young people are the ones who are screaming the loudest. The young people are the ones with the biggest homemade signs. The young people are the ones who are having to say agonizing good-byes to their treasured teachers.

And now with the formation of a brand new organization, we’re set to become the most creatively vocal demographic of all.

Introducing the Young Musicians of Minnesota:

In case you’re wondering, I had absolutely nothing to do with hatching the idea (although I obviously endorse the movement wholeheartedly!). High school students Emily Green and Grant Luhmann contacted me via Facebook a few weeks ago, discussing some of their (brilliant) plans. We’ve had some great online conversations. I have to admit, I had a few moments of feeling old. (I’m turning 24 next month, and they’re 16 and 18…) I felt inspired and excited and comforted in a way I haven’t been since the lockout began. Now they’re getting their group ready for prime time.

According to YMM’s website:

Therefore, we have made it our mission to do everything in our power to help the Musicians make music again while receiving fair compensation for their invaluable services.  Our efforts include writing letters to the Board, Management, elected officials and Musicians, creating video projects, forming a youth orchestra, writing the press, organizing in support of the Musicians, and utilizing the social media to make our presence known. 

Yeah, you read correctly: a youth orchestra.

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Stephen Colbert expresses my excitement in dance form.

And on Friday June seventh they’ll be releasing a video that you can help make go viral. Hopefully this creative awareness-raising will encourage local leaders and elected officials to apply pressure to particularly stubborn stakeholders. Unfortunately, I’m not so sure YMM will sway Minnesota board or management. As the young musicians wisely note on their website, “We have established that the likelihood of letters written to the MOA being read is low…” (Wouldn’t this be a lovely time for the board to prove them wrong?)

Anyway. I urge everyone to go and follow the Young Musicians of Minnesota on Facebook. Support them in whatever way possible. Even if you don’t have a Facebook account, keep tabs on their page. I’ll probably be covering major developments at YMM, as well, so stay tuned for that.

I’m planning on eventually having an online video conversation with Grant and/or Emily about the YMM project. (Isn’t the Internet awesome?) I’d like to talk about what motivates them, what their biggest concerns about the effects of the lockout are, and what role they envision young people playing in the Minnesota Orchestra’s future. What questions or comments do you have for Minnesota’s young musicians? If it works out, I’d love to include your question in our video…

A small portion of YMM!

MOA, what might be the cost – financial and otherwise – of ignoring these citizens…not to mention all their friends, families, colleagues, and supporters? How can you Build for the Future without acknowledging your actual future?

4 Comments

Filed under Labor Disputes, Minnesota Orchestra

4 responses to “Introducing the Young Musicians of Minnesota

  1. JKM

    As a long time spectator at the MO concerts, who shares a long-time (since 1949) guarantor, we have sat in the sixth row since 1964, and there have always been a good supply of young audience in the not quite top price seats. We were twenty-nine ourselves when we began attending concerts. Of course we are no longer young, but when we last attended regular season concerts, we were pleased to chat with twenty somethings, or even younger, participants from the local colleges. Given the amount of youth training and enthusiasm–think of MPR’s varsity competition–we have always been astonished at the Board leadership’s claim that classical music does not appeal to a younger generation. How would they know? They do not attend concerts themselves.

    • Sarah

      “How would they know? They do not attend concerts themselves”
      Um, pretty hard to disagree with that! Although I’m sure they would try to.

  2. Emily, great commentary (as usual) on this truly phenomenal group of young musicians. I’ve been involved with them a bit and can attest to their passion for classical music, their anguish about the loss of their mentors. and their deep love for our fine Minnesota Orchestra. As you and they say, it is likely that the MOA isn’t listening to them, especially since they haven’t really listened to anyone (not even the DeCosses or Judy Dayton). No “stakeholders” seem important enough to Mr. Henson et. al. But if MOA management disregards YMM, clearly they do it at their own peril. Like just about everything else the MOA has done over the last few years, it WILL come back to haunt them.

  3. Sarah

    Now THIS is a new “new model” I can get behind!!

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