The Future of Classical Music

Led by Michael Beckerman, Paul Boghossian, and Kit Fine, this project consists of a working group of scholars, musicians, and arts administration professionals meeting to study the future of classical music, a future that these days is routinely said to be at risk.

The general aim of the project is to study key aspects in the direction and development of classical music as it enters the 21st Century. Among the specific questions we hope to study are the following:

  1. Is there a looming crisis for the future vitality of the institutions that cater to the art form we call ‘classical music’?
  2. If so, is this crisis uniform across those institutions, or is it distributed in some specific ways?  For example:
    1. Does it vary geographically?  Country to country?  Region to region?
    2. Does it vary by type of institution?
    3. Small versus large?
    4. Opera versus symphonic?
    5. Large symphony orchestras versus smaller ensembles?
  3. Where there is a crisis, what is its nature?
    1. Is it primarily financial, with the threat of deficits being the main cause of concern?  If not, then what?  If so, is this largely because of:
      1. Declining revenue from box office?
      2. Declining revenue from other sources, for example recordings?
      3. Growing operational costs?
      4. Declining public sector support?
      5.  Declining private sector support?
      6. All of the above?
  4. If these are some of the characteristics of the looming crisis, what are their root causes?
    1. Declining interest from audiences?
    2. Ageing audiences, along with a failure to replenish from below?
    3. The content of programming?
      1. If so, is that because there is too much old stuff?
      2. Too much new stuff?
    4. Does it have to do with technological developments (e.g. the internet) and impact on artist revenue?
    5. Does it have to do with unsustainable labor contracts?
    6. All of the above?
  5. Assuming we can get a handle on what’s going on, can something be done about it, and if so what, and by whom?
  6. Assuming we can get a handle on what’s going on, should something be done about it, or should we let matters take their ‘natural’ course?
  7. Assuming we are on some sort of downward spiral, and nothing is done to prevent it from worsening, what will the classical music landscape look like in twenty years’ time?

Steering Committee

  • Paul Boghossian, Chair (NYU)
  • Michael Beckerman (NYU)
  • Deborah Borda (President of the LA Philharmonic)
  • Kit Fine (NYU)
  • Ara Guzelimian (Provost and Dean of The Juilliard School)
  • Matthew VanBesien (President of the New York Philharmonic)

Project Members

  • Laurent Bayle (Director General of the Cité de la Musique and President of the Philharmonie of Paris)
  • Michael Beckerman (NYU)
  • Paul Boghossian, Chair (NYU)
  • Deborah Borda (President of the LA Philharmonic)
  • Ian Bostridge (Tenor)
  • Claire Chase (Flautist, Director, ICE)
  • Unsuk Chin (Composer)
  • Andreas Ditter (Graduate Student, NYU)
  • Kit Fine (NYU)
  • Kirill Gerstein (Pianist)
  • Jeremy Geffen (Director of Artistic Planning at Carnegie Hall)
  • Ara Guzelimian (Provost and Dean of The Juilliard School)
  • Ellen T. Harris (Professor Emeritus of Musicology at MIT and incoming President of the American Musicological Society)
  • Hoda Al Khamis-Kanoo (Founder, Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation)
  • Jenny Judge (Graduate Student, NYU)
  • Anthony McGill (Principal Clarinet, NY Philharmonic)
  • Alexander Neef (General Director of the Canadian Opera Company)
  • Alex Ross (Music Critic, The New Yorker)
  • Esa-Pekka Salonen (Composer and Conductor)
  • Peter Sellars (Theater Director)
  • Richard Sennett (University Professor, NYU)
  • Tom Service (Writer and Broadcaster, BBC)
  • Toby Spence (Tenor)
  • Matthew VanBesien (President of the New York Philharmonic)
  • Julia Wolfe (Associate Professor of Music Composition, NYU)
  • Zachary Woolfe (Classical Music editor, NYT)