HPHS effort sparks youth interest in classical music
Updated: November 2, 2011 4:23AM
When Highland Park High School students Jonas Tarm and Bryce Robertson noticed there weren’t many of their peers around them at Ravinia Festival’s classical music concerts, the pair began working with the local concert venue to spark a youth-fueled revival of the classical genre.
Over the winter, the local music enthusiasts helped form the Ravinia Student Advisory Board to come up with a plan. Earlier this summer, the Classical Youth Initiative was launched, providing Chicago-area high school students free entry to any classical show at Ravinia.
To sweeten the pot, Ravinia agreed to offer a $1,000 music program grant to the high school that sends the most students to see the Chicago Symphony Orchestra or other classical concerts this year.
About halfway through the summer, New Trier High School is leading the attendance contest among 36 schools. HPHS currently sits in second-place, with students from Libertyville, Stevenson and Hersey high schools rounding out the top five.
“We started (the Youth Initiative) in Highland Park, we’ve been promoting it aggressively here, and lots of Highland Park kids have participated, yet New Trier is still winning,” proving the effort has already been a success, Robertson said.
Tarm agreed, adding that the most significant barrier to classical music popularity remains its exposure.
“There are negative stereotypes about it so some people reject it without giving it a chance,” said Tarm, a Highland Park High School violinist and composer who plans to major in music in college. “Then there are people that just don’t know a lot about it. From what I’ve experienced, when (teens) are exposed to it, they get hooked and listen to it all the time.
“I know classical music can be popular again because I see people my age go crazy for some of these artists,” he continued. “But it’s just because they’ve been exposed to it.”
Tarm also maintains that persistent misconceptions continue to stifle classical music’s comeback.
“People always think it is one certain type of music, but it’s actually the most diverse genre out there,” he said. “You can always find something in there to like.”
Tarm and Robertson shared their classical favorites, including Yo-Yo Ma, Tchaikovsky, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
“When you turn on the radio, there are so many channels now that are devoted to rock and pop and the Top 40, that by the time you sort out all those genres of music, classical music is lost,” Robertson said. “People just jump at the rock and pop.”
To further bolster teen attendance, Ravinia Festival and the Student Advisory Board have planned a special teen night pre-concert event from 3 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. Sunday (July 31). Before the Chicago Symphony Orchestra performs its all-Tchaikovsky program, including the “1812 Overture” featuring live cannons, high school students will be provided free food, drinks and games in an exclusive teen party area.
Students at the “Cannon Ball 2011” event and performance also can push their school over the top in the attendance competition, as double points will be rewarded toward the $1,000 music program grant. To RSVP for the free Sunday night event, visit www.ravinia.org and click on “Cannon Ball.”
Lawn tickets for all classical concerts will be available to teens for free at the Ravinia Box Office through the rest of the summer. All students must present a valid school ID; the offer also applies to children under 15.