Classical music, properly termed as ‘Western Art Music’, brings to mind middle-aged, middle-class, white people. It’s a realm where myself, and many others from different races, classes and age groups do not feel comfortable in. Despite the endless bids, schemes and diversity programmes, to increase the demographic of people who listen to classical music, there is a lingering rigidness that comes across as unwelcoming.
Growing up, soul, R&B and hip-hop were my bread and butter, but at ten years old I plunged into the world of classical music with a flute in hand.
Immersing myself into this unfamiliar world of music was more clunky and uncomfortable than I imagined. My lack of knowledge was something I noticed instantly. I spent most of my time awkwardly shaking my head, because unfortunately, I did not know the name of Mozart’s famous opera (The Magic Flute), and I hadn’t heard ‘Shenandoah’ growing up because my African parents were not really into folk songs. Educating myself with this genre of music was like being part of an exclusive club that no one invited you to, but once you got in, you were expected to know everything about it.
Years later, I’m still trying to find the connection between the music I listen to and the music I play. At the moment, I still find classical music very inaccessible but someday hopefully, it will be played outside of the context that I’m used to hearing it in. This is not to say it has never been done before, artists such as; Aphex Twin, Kevin Olusola and Christian Scott Atunde to events such as ‘Deviation Strings’ and ‘BBC 1Xtra Grime Symphony’, have touched on incorporating classical music into pop and contemporary music. With this I believe people who do step out of the classical box are game-changers. By exposing disengaged audiences to the relevance of classical instruments and music, it helps win fans over and more importantly expand the demographic by playing on their turf.