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Fewer People are Listening to Jazz and Classical Music, and Education Hasn’t Helped.

Jazz seems to be on a decline. Here in Madison, I have seen most of the (already few) clubs that hosted live jazz either change their format or close their doors. In this article by Kurt Ellenberger, we learn that not only are audiences less likely than ever to attend live jazz or classical performances; but our suspicion that they only need to be taught an appreciation through structured academic programs is wrong.

Ellenberger refers to this as “The Education Fallacy.” Data collected clearly shows a negative correspondence between jazz education and concert attendance. If we cannot instill an appreciation for live jazz and classical music in the schools, we leave young adults to discover this music amidst a pop culture environment that discourages the development of active listening skills — a frightening consideration.

There is a glint of hope, revealed in the comments, where readers suggest the problem lies not in the audience’s lack of interest in these styles of music, but in a waning capacity to enjoy live shows. In our living rooms, we are free to concentrate on the subtleties of music with little distraction, at virtually no cost beyond the initial acquisition of the recording. Perhaps audiences are as sophisticated as ever, enough at least to seek listening experiences that are untainted by the peripheral hassle of attending clubs and concert halls. The artist’s new challenge is to deliver something in person that cannot be replicated in a digital file.

This is part of a mission I am undertaking. I am in the process of assembling a group that is based on the premise that no music is good enough to bring people into clubs, but a musical performance can be. I have mentioned it in passing, and I’ll continue to keep you updated.

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