« Previous | Culture Monster Home | Next »

Where will tomorrow's audiences come from?

January 2, 2010 |  9:00 am


Orchestras and choirs used to reach out to children with concerts that were basically junior versions of the adult experience. A grandfatherly conductor would address a sea of little faces and then turn away to lead his ensemble in a variety of classics. The experience was meant to be edifying and educational. For many in the audience, however, it proved to be pretty boring.

Times have changed.

 In Los Angeles and other areas with active music outreach communities, groups large and small are trying to engage the young with programs that are lively, hands-on and more down-to-earth.

Eli Villanueva (pictured) and his colleagues are helping students put on "The Marriage of Figueroa," a whimsical blend of Mozart and California history, as part of an L.A. Opera program designed to teach the basics of opera and performance in a language children understand.

Companies like the Pacific Symphony in Orange County are sending artists into the schools and the community in hopes of forming prolonged, more personal connections with children, teachers and parents. The Los Angeles Master Chorale tries to bring out kids' inner voices -- literally -- with a songwriting workshop.

 "We've realized kids learn in different ways," says Jessica Balboni, director of the Orchestra Leadership Academy of the League of American Orchestras. They're not just "musical learners," she explains. They also respond visually, emotionally and physically. "You want to learn music, you make music. You make dance. You make art."

Click here to read more about L.A.'s musical outreach in my Sunday Arts & Books story.

-- Karen Wada

Photo: Eli Villanueva with students at  Rockdale Elementary School in Eagle Rock. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (4)

Kids want art they can relate to. Contemporary art isn't doing it.

It’s a self-destructive attitude; make smart art for an elite minority and wonder why the rest of the world feels disenfranchised by our cultural leaders. Impenetrable Contemporary art gives politicians the justification to cut art funding from school and the people are indifferent or support sports, something they can feel part of. Perhaps that is the core problem, the distain for the great unwashed is working. The people know they are not wanted, good job Culture Monster.

William, are you still angry about the shower comment? I thought you'd forgiven me. (It's "disdain" not "distain"--but I'm pretty sure that's your clever play on the word "stain.")

We're life-long learners. It shouldn't stop when we leave school. Adults, like children, all learn in different ways. Culture Monster offers a forum for anyone, regardless of their educational background, to participate and become engaged in conversation about the arts. Sometimes the debate can get heated (steaming up mirrors and such), but we end up learning something new, hopefully developing a certain amount of respect for each other, and it may even change our perspective on some complex cultural issues. So, yes, I'll agree with the second half of your final sentence, William: good job, Culture Monster.

Cate I'm not sure what correcting my spelling has to do with the topic? Perhaps a legitimate criticism would to point out that I got a little off topic with my own agenda would be more to the point?

Legitimate criticism? William, again you must have mistaken me for a legitimate critic. I'm a copy editor with no formal art school training.

You said that kids want art they can relate to. Everyone wants art they can relate to. As a card-carrying member of the great unwashed multitude (outside the ivory towers), how did I begin to see some meaning and value in some contemporary art, where before I saw little to none? Maybe I learned something new through imitation--by reading art reviews and pretending to be a critic myself. My point (through an admittedly obtuse angle) was to show that anyone can learn (or be taught) to think like an academic and to see deeper meaning and value beyond what is on the surface.


Recommended on Facebook

In Case You Missed It...


Explore the arts: See our interactive venue graphics


Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.