On Thursday, Yo-Yo Ma came to Dartmouth.
This was a Big Deal.
As the DSO conductor put it in rehearsal that evening, Yo-Yo Ma is quite possibly the face of classical music, the name that almost anyone anywhere – musician or nonmusician – would recognize.
And that is why his concert was sold out more than an hour before tickets were even released.
This is the Year of the Arts here in Hanover, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Hopkins Center for the Arts, and the Hop is going all out. Take even a quick glance at the Performances page and be amazed by the sheer number and prestige of visiting artists this year. Students should be thrilled at the opportunities presented by our Arts Center – but merely bringing big name performers to our small campus is not enough.
According to an interview with the Hop’s publicity coordinator, “the Hop’s typical practice is to reserve around 25 percent of tickets for College students and sell the remaining seats to Hop members and the public.” 25 percent of a 900-seat auditorium means that approximately 5 percent – a mere 5 percent! – of the student body has access to tickets to any given performance.
And the Hop calls itself a center to “provide the core educational environment for the study, creation, and presentation of the arts“? How can it provide an educational environment for its students when so few are allowed to attend concerts, when it does not promote student involvement and participation in the arts to the extent of its capabilities?
I am a senior music major. I, like many of my fellow music majors, was unable to hear Yo-Yo Ma perform. The DSO conductor, again, summarized it rather eloquently at our rehearsal that night: “The number one classical musician in the world is performing 100 yards away. And you – you all who study classical music – are unable to hear that performance.”
Now, I would be remiss if I did not praise the Hop for giving the members of the DSO a chance to talk with and hear Yo-Yo Ma in his rehearsal prior to the concert. It is true, talking with him about the state of arts and culture education in the US and about his musical goals and passion was an incredible opportunity. But it is absolutely not true that we were unable to attend the concert because of rehearsal.
We were unable to attend the concert because it was sold out.
In his conversation with us, Mr. Ma told us about his favorite concert venues – college campuses, he said, and not just because he was sitting on the edge of the stage in Spaulding Auditorium. College campuses, because students who love music, who are vibrant in their excitement and passion for the arts, bring that excitement to the performance. Students help make it a two-way exchange of musical ideas, and Mr. Ma said he feeds off of that enthusiasm.
I wonder what he would say as he sat on stage and looked out into the packed audience – and saw only a handful of students.
“We owe it to Dartmouth students to provide them with access to some of the greatest artists of our time.” Yes, you do. The Hop and its administrators are failing in that responsibility, and we as a student body will hold them to higher standards.