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By Jennifer Montbach

Conventional wisdom says classical music is a dying art form.  Orchestras and opera companies across the country are folding or presenting abbreviated seasons. Classical records make up just 3% of US record sales, and only 23% of audiences for classical music is under 35, according to the NEA – in the ’80s that number was closer to 40%.

Of course no one reading this blog believes that our beloved music is a dying art form, but how do we explain the reality facing many classical music organizations? As oboist and artistic director of Radius Ensemble, I never feel more alive than when performing or listening to classical music.  And I bet the same is true for you.  Where’s the disconnect?

It’s been my hunch since attending grad school in the 90s, and during a short stint in development and marketing at the Boston Symphony, that the problems facing classical music have nothing to do with classical music.  In 1999, I founded Radius Ensemble to see what would happen when the classical music – from programming right on through to the concert experience – was reinvigorated for a new generation of listeners: my generation.

Of course this strategy is being embraced by ensembles and conservatories around the country, but in 1999 it was still relatively novel.  What I’m most proud of, and what I think Radius does especially well, is break down the proverbial “fourth wall” and connect with the audience.  Why do we love People Magazine, why are we so intrigued by the new Amazon series “Mozart in the Jungle,” why do we follow Hilary Hahn’s violin case on Facebook?  Because we don’t listen to music in a vacuum, and we certainly don’t make choices about how to spend our hard-earned entertainment dollars that way.  We want to know our artists, as performers and as people.

Join us on March 7 for ECHOES at Pickman Hall at Longy in Cambridge. Use promo code MUSICOVATION55 for 20% off tickets.  http://radiusensemble.org/

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Winner of a 2013 CMA/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, Radius Ensemble’s thoughtfully curated programs balance old and new, with repertoire ranging from beloved masterworks to riveting new music – brilliantly performed by the best musicians in Boston.  Radius’s go-for-broke performances are interspersed with commentary that entertains and enlightens, and followed by a free reception where musicians, composers, and listeners truly connect.

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Jennifer Montbach is the founding artistic and executive director of the award-winning Radius Ensemble, in residence at the Longy School of Music of Bard College since 2011.  Also the group’s oboist, she was educated at Harvard College and New England Conservatory.

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