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Can sports and the arts work together?

The Sensible Flutist: Can sports and the arts work together?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Can sports and the arts work together?

One of my favorite sports to watch is football, so naturally I was pretty psyched to attend a football school. Because of this affinity, I was excited to see Arizona Cardinals' player Larry Fitzgerald conduct the Phoenix Symphony on September 20. USA Today published this story.

In the baseball world, The Major League Baseball Players Association has issued a statement supporting the currently locked out musicians of the Atlanta Symphony. This statement and Mr. Fitzgerald's appearance highlight the similarities between professionals in sports and the orchestral world. Given the popularity of professional sports, the arts world would be smart to cultivate these connections.

It isn't uncommon to hear lots of disparaging remarks from both sides. As a private teacher, I know how difficult and frustrating it is to work around demanding sports schedules. To be honest, marching band can wreak as much havoc.
I tweeted the YouTube link immediately on twitter and I was surprised to note that this video has only picked up 310 views as of this writing. Why so few?

In the Phoenix Symphony clip, someone in attendance was wearing a Cardinals jersey. I loved it, and that is what inspired me to write this post. Perhaps it was a faithful concert goer who happens to be a Cards fan. Maybe not.

In my ideal world, I'd like to think that Mr. Fitzgerald got some people to show up that wouldn't have otherwise. I hope that the regular concert goers made these new audience members feel welcome.

I'd also like to note that no one else has really mentioned Fitzgerald's appearance or did I get any sort of response to my own tweet. I found out about this event because the announcers mentioned it (with video) during Sunday's Cardinals game.

Regardless of your preferences, one aspect of cultivating your audience is respecting what they want. The examples I've mentioned in this post relate directly to Gary Sandow's recent post of respecting the culture outside classical music, and the culture gap that exists. My take on this is don't minimize people because they enjoy football, pop music, or anything else you might deem "below" classical music.

I am thankful for those professional sports players that are helping bridge the gap to their fans, and helping those people access a world that can sometimes seem frightfully intimidating to outsiders.

Can sports and classical music coincide? What are your thoughts?

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At September 24, 2012 at 2:55 PM , Anonymous Bret said...

Sports and music are a daily issue in the small Southern university where I teach. Football is a religion here, and school music departments at all levels sometimes feel as though they are treated as an auxiliary to the football team: their job is to provide a marching band for the football games, and any other musical pursuits are "extra."

University music departments are expensive: they need specialized faculty members on every (or at least nearly every) instrument, and those faculty members generate credit hours one private lesson at a time, instead of in full lecture halls. Equipment and facilities needs are very high. And our students (mostly music education majors here) won't be in a position to make large donations after they have graduated. Sometimes there can be a sense that we are funded only because we are "the band," not because we are moving students toward important and useful careers in music.

Virtually no high school in the state has an orchestra program, and only one of the several universities. Available funds are diverted to the marching bands.

I think many music educators here are conflicted--we appreciate the sports connection that "justifies" our existence and keeps music (well, band) funded when budgets are tight, but we would really like to feel appreciated for what our concert ensembles and student soloists are achieving, and for our work in academic areas of music.

At September 24, 2012 at 5:13 PM , Blogger Olya said...

I am not a sports fan (grew up in a different culture, I suppose) but i don't see why not. If people come to concerts to see their favorite football/baseball/hokey star conduct an orchestra and are inspired and motivated to come again - great! Even if they only come to that one concert, that is good, too. Like it or not, sports is a big part of this culture, and if you think about it, music and sports do have a lot in common (dedication, hard work, hours of practice, ability to recognize patterns, performing under pressure, intellectual involvement and on and on) so many athletes can be gifted musicians and the other way around. Why not connect the two beyond just the marching band? Whether or not one can accomplish much in both is another matter entirely, but if people like that do exist - the better, we should learn form them and be inspired to work harder on accomplishing our own goals.

At September 25, 2012 at 4:34 PM , Blogger The Sensible Flutist said...

I understand your frustration and points completely, Bret. In discussions on twitter, I think it boils down to attitudes on both sides. I never felt like a welcomed part of the team when it came to marching band...we were there giving as much support as the cheerleaders, but a negative perception still existed.

The bottom line is money, and sports are certainly valued more. I'd love to figure out how to create a cultural shift so that classical music/art music could benefit.

At September 25, 2012 at 4:36 PM , Blogger The Sensible Flutist said...

Thanks for commenting, Olya! It all boils down to attitude and value perception. Both sides have to give. I, for one, don't want to alienate anyone by giving the impression that I think classical music is greater than anything else that people value as entertainment.

I think it's an interesting topic of discussion, so I'm grateful you chipped in!

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