The Lost Contribution

Back in the day before it was easy to create micro-sites like this, I used to publish a print edition of all the TAFTO essays. That ended after a few years but one element from that endeavor never made it to the TAFTO archive at Adaptistration’s main page, the forward written by composer Marcus Maroney. And this was a very sad thing since Marcus’ forward was a beautiful addition to the larger TAFTO effort. Fortunately, this micro-site provides an opportunity to reintroduce Marcus’ wonderful closing line, which I feel embodies everything TAFTO is about. ~ Drew McManus

Composer Marcus Karl Maroney

If proof is needed that there is a large community of classical music lovers thriving in today’s world, the Take a Friend to Orchestra (TAFTO) project would be it.  Drew McManus, who did an amazing job organizing a program that grew more and more far-reaching as it progressed, gives me partial credit for spurring the idea.  In February 2005, I posted a rant on my blog:

To all regular concertgoers: the next time you got a concert of music you love, bring three others unfamiliar with the music and perhaps even with concertgoing.  Dress nicely, but not uncomfortably.  Have a pre-concert glass of wine at your apartment and tell your friends what they’re about to hear.  Have a post-concert event planned.  Everyone can turn their cell phones off because they’re with the people they’re going to be with all evening.

You’re going to an event, it should feel special.  This isn’t a screening of Dreamwork’s latest at the local Cinemark, it’s the friggin’ New York Philharmonic!  You’re going to hear a group of some of the greatest musicians on the planet create an amazing work of art and everyone involved has put years of work into the production.  This is going to be created in real time, and you won’t’ be able to Netflix the DVD version later to catch the subtleties that you missed while munching your popcorn or opening your cough drop wrapper.  Is a modicum of reverence really too much to ask?  It’s our job, as seasoned concertgoers, to prepare them for the proper duration of uninterrupted music.
Let’s face it—there simply isn’t going to be a whole lot of new audience members that just “wander in” to the concert hall, become embarrassed, get laughed at and leave when they clap after the first movement they hear.  The new audience is going to come from current concertgoers inviting their friends and coworkers.  It’s our job to make the new audience realize just how special the even that’s about to take place truly is.  It’s going to take work—but it’s worth it.

Drew had the wonderful idea to turn this into an official event for the month of May, 2005.  He managed to get many discounted tickets from various orchestras to facilitate this and solicited as many bloggers as possible to act as guides.  The TAFTO project was born and quickly became an impressively multifaceted and inspirational chronicle.  Bloggers and their readers from around the globe took the uninitiated with them to musical events and memorialized them in journal entries that Drew posted on his own blog.  Many readers undoubtedly followed the project as it progressed, and now we have a complete document—surely the first of its kind—tracing several personalities and their experiences sharing the concertgoing experience with the “outside world.”

Rereading the contributions as a whole—from Henry Fogel’s story about an unsuspecting sexagenarian being magnetized by Mahler to Lisa Hirsch’s wonderful suggestions for cultivating the next generation of concertgoers—it’s impossible not to be awed by how much passion is out there for classical music and how contagious that passion is.  The contributors cover an impressively wide demographic spectrum, from internationally-renowned music critics to professional playwrights to composers.  This staggering variety is comforting—we who enjoy this music need not feel marginalized in today’s society.  We’re not just for music geeks.  The appeal is there for every person.

TAFTO ups the ante for us.  The effectiveness of this proactive approach to broadening the audience for classical music has been proven.  There is no longer a convincing excuse for shrinking audiences.  The experiences memorialized in this volume should serve as models for tens of thousands of concertgoers in the coming months and years.  If one of my colleagues doubts the effectiveness of actively bringing new audience members to the concert hall, I won’t hesitate to set this volume in front of them and watch their minds change.

TAFTO contributor Helen Radice wrote: “Genuine education brings awareness, passion and demand.”  We are the educators and bear the responsibility of making concert music an integral part of today’s world.  All of us know the power of music, and what can be more fulfilling than sharing that power with someone close to us?

The future of concertgoing is in the hands of the concertgoers.  The more hands there are, the steadier that future will become.