Beautiful recent article in the Times about the rise of amateur piano competitions, a kind of alt American Idol. (Classical music is the new underground, don’t you know.) Who cares? Well, the leisure pursuits of a population will also determine its entertainment preferences. Why else do we have such a network of sports teams? From generations of stick ball.
If amateur competitions are gaining popularity, it could mean that there is an increase in the number and quality of drawing room pianists who play just for love. This might be a good thing – amateur musicians are the ones who also subscribe to concert series and buy piano lessons for their kids. It could also mean, as the author Douglas McLennan points out, that there is simply less room for professional pianists in the world, with shrinking concert series and, I might add, decreased ability to concentrate on something as abstract and intimate as someone wordlessly playing piano.
But maybe it’s a good thing. With so many headlines declaring the retreat of classical music, maybe would-be professionals will end up back in the drawing room, and more non-musicians will experience what it feels like to play the important role of a listener, and classical music will expand its cult following, eventually outpacing competitions like American Idol in popularity.
Optimism folks, let’s give it a whirl!