When face-palmage occurred

Dear #classicalmusic fan,

Apparently someone face-palmed themselves the other day whilst reading one of my letters.

Then they told me it was because my letter was absolutely intriguing and funny and engaging and drew some serious thinking from them, until I related the topic being explored to the way we approach classical music.

That’s when face-palmage occurred.



“You always have to bring up classical music!” they said.

I don’t understand that response.

As you know, my focus is bringing good music to life and my mission is to help you inspire the world.

So why would I not bring up classical music and relate everything I share with you to it?

  • If you go to a burger joint, you expect to be fed.
  • If you go to the dentist, you expect your mouth to be inspected.
  • If you register for online school, you expect to be taught something.
  • If you read my letters, you should expect them to be about classical music!

Otherwise, it’s like registering for a webinar from Cambridge University about industrializing microbiomics and expecting the oil in your car to get changed while you watch…

It doesn’t make any sense.

So, please do go ahead and enjoy these conversation-starters, and rather than be surprised that classical music gets mentioned, you could choose to actually look forward to seeing how I relate the topic to classical music!

Like this:

You may actually experience a few face-palming moments when you watch my videos “What’s the Matter with Classical Music?

Actually, many of the questions people have about classical music today are quite profound, deep and interesting, but some are just plain and simply lacking in any common sense. But I still answer them with integrity, thoughtfulness, and no matter how scary or controversial. (You may notice these are qualities very closely related to my values listed at the link above!) (But then again, you may not.)

Regardless, knowing what’s on the mind of other fans of classical music these days and exploring one possible expert response (my response), should be an essential part of your life journey.

Especially if you are a fan of classical music.

Which you must be, if you’re reading my letters!

Get your copy of my videos here:


A reliable source of arguments

Dear #classicalmusic fan,

One of the most reliable sources of one-sided arguments in my household (meaning, I’m arguing with the air around me rather than my dear wife) is my daily dose of TED Talks.

I watch one every weekday morning while eating breakfast.

(You might actually feel grateful I write my daily letters to you before I watch a TED Talk, otherwise it’s possible you’d catch a glimpse of real-life Armchair Wrath!)

What are TED Talks?

Free videos of the world’s most prolific thinkers (or, at least those with the political clout to get a spot at 18-minutes of fame) sharing what they have discovered about life, the universe and everything. Many of them talk about issues directly and indirectly relevant to renovating classical music.

For example, Sir Ken Robinson’s talk.

If you are not aware, Sir Ken Robinson is an educator whose Ted Talk from 2004 is still the most frequently watched video. He talks about how the Education Establishment dehumanizes us by educating creativity out of us. Think about that as you attend a live classical music concert.

Then there are talks about music itself, the arts, education, creativity, leadership, sociology, psychology, technology, and so on. All these topics affect how we relate to classical music, so watching them will somehow enhance your experience and help renovate classical music concerts for you.

Indeed, they could be a great source of conversation topics, too.

TED Talks also parade a handful of prodigious children mechanically sharing their skills, as well as many other remarkable performances. A piano teacher even shares an inspiring story about his blind student Derek Paravicini and how music gave his autism focus… defo watch that one!

Most TED Talks give answers to questions many people have.

Some of them have even been a catalyst for my own answers to your live classical music questions.

Watch the five-episode video series “What’s the Matter with Classical Music?” to get answers to the most pressing questions fans of classical music have today:




Be the butterfly

Dear #classicalmusic fan,

My recent letter Continuing the Conversation seemed to inspire a different kind of action, and prompted a lot of readers to let me know what they thought about it.

And the most common feedback was not quite what I was expecting.

It seems plenty more conversations about classical music took place, but what surprised me a little was the encouragement I received about these here daily lessons:

You like them.

Well, that’s good!

My efforts to encourage you to share your passion for classical music are not in vain!

Seriously, the encouragement I received through emails and conversations was wonderful, and inspired me to keep going. But there was one thing that bothered me a little bit…

Readers of my letters acknowledge that they have a passion for classical music.

They acknowledge that, at times, it gets pushed aside in favor of other life priorities.

They acknowledge that they wish there was more of it – both traditional and [tasteful] new.

But only a handful of our fandom seem to acknowledge that it is our own responsibility to share it with others – that we should not just be consumers, but sharers, too.

It seems we are a little nervous about talking to non-fans of classical music (I know I was for many years). We’re frightened that we don’t know what to say to them, or how they might respond. We are passionate about the details we do know and find it easier to talk to others who already understand us and our language (nothing wrong with that – it’s why it’s called a ‘comfort zone’). We pre-determine that a non-fan is not interested in our passion.

And those are problems.

But they are all smoke-screens that are actually very easily dissipated.

Think on this:

By keeping the conversation only deep and detailed with other fans of classical music, we simply cater to each other and end up performing for each other. And that one day when you can’t participate in a concert because of a prior commitment, there is no-one else to take your seat. Concert halls and stages become emptier. Cries of “classical music is dying” resurge.

Maintaining a balance of conversations with fans and practitioners like yourself alongside conversations with non-fans is what brings classical music to life. That day you cannot participate in some local live music adventure? It’s okay because someone you spoke to [read: encouraged to sign up for my daily letters!] has their interest in classical music reinvigorated and now they are intrigued, if not refocused on one of the most fundamental forms of emotional communication. And they may participate in your stead.

Well done you!

So, thanks go to all our fellow fans of classical music who let me know how much these daily lesson letters mean to them, and bravo to those that jumped in with both feet and continued the conversation (be sure to repeat the exercise today).

Be brave.

Classical music is not a disease people shy away from.

Most people don’t know much about it, and like us and phantasmagoria or long-range spinors (perhaps!), it’s only a fear of embarrassment that keeps us from engaging in a conversation. Those openly generic and inviting conversations, even just a mention of a topic like… classical music… can cause the butterfly’s wings to flap sufficiently to boost a storm of passionate interest and follow-up. Maybe even a new participant (audience member or performer).

All because you continued the conversation.

(There is no accounting for Chaos Theory except just one truth: do nothing, and something else will take over.)

If you need something more than just today’s topic, or perhaps the folk you talk to already have questions about classical music, then a great place to start would be the questions I answered from my survey this year.

I created five videos called “What’s the Matter with Classical Music?” that include thought-provoking questions and answers you can use to bring good music to life, too.

Get your copy today:



Continuing the conversation…

Dear #classicalmusic fan,

During a recent rehearsal break, Kim came up to me and mentioned how much she liked and appreciated my new daily letters.

It’s nice to get at least a little connection to classical music every day, she implied.

I expressed my gladness that they are helpful, and made a suggestion:

Why not hit reply and let me know?

Especially when a particular letter hits a chord!

Her response was quite fascinating.

Now, I realize that many readers have no problem sending me replies containing thoughts, responses, related materials, and even just random thoughts, and I really appreciate them – I do read every reply you send even if it’s not straight away, and unfortunately I don’t get to reply to them all. But occasionally some of them become topics for these letters!

But I had assumed that readers (and there are hundreds, still. I thought by moving to a daily schedule I’d see a whole bunch of readers unsubscribe, but since writing to you every weekday, only five readers have unsubscribed. That’s quite fascinating, too!) …I assumed that readers who did not reply were not particularly interested, not impacted, just skimmed each letter, or for some other reason found my letters uninspiring.

Ah! A dagger to my heart!

(Only kidding).

But my conversation with Kim highlighted something:

As a society, we tend to consume. We are consumers, after all. That is Capitalism’s foundation: someone presents something for others to consume.

But that’s not what I’m about, I’m afraid.

Capitalism? Oh heck yes. Love its intention (as with all social structures, humans get in the way and mess things up, but generally many social theories could work quite well if we all actually understood and followed them without creating exceptions. Like that’ll ever happen.)

What I’m about is bringing good music to life.

There are two aspects to this:

  1. Taking some music and making it come alive with a passionate performance. That means helping performers and audiences engage in the music itself, give meaning to the notes on the page, and use what we have to convey an unspoken emotion to others.
  2. Taking some music and bringing it into everyday life. That means making music a part of people’s lives through all sorts of means, but mostly conversation.

And that second part is what these letters do.


They start a conversation.

Right now, think of someone you will meet in person today. You may live or work with them, or it may be a regular supermarket cashier or the person who delivers your mail. Then think of today’s letter headline: continuing the conversation.


When you meet that person today, use this letter’s topic to continue a conversation about classical music.

Something like:

“You know, I had a letter from a friend today and it reminded me how much I enjoy classical music, but then I realized that not many people talk about it anymore.”

Then ask a question to continue the conversation. Something like:

  • Do you know much about it?
  • Did you ever play an instrument or sing in school?
  • Have you ever been to a classical music concert?

And so on.

It doesn’t matter if they just say “No.” Perhaps it’s best to get on with your day. But maybe not… a smile and a suggestion that they might try it out for themselves might be enough to get them thinking.

Or, you may end up having a really deep and heartening talk about music in schools, how their kid used to practice 10 hours a day, or that they love Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto.

You’ll never know unless you continue today’s conversation…

So, hit reply to this letter and tell me who you are going to talk to today about classical music: A friend, relative, colleague, neighbor, stranger, someone you’ve said hello to but little else.

Then send me another email after you’ve spoken to them and let me know how the conversation went. They may agree with you, not agree with you, be fascinated, or not care in the slightest. And that’s OK. You brought live classical music into their life.

(And if they eventually attend one of my concerts, you know it’ll be good music we’re bringing to life!)

But guess what…

You can do that every time I send a letter to you.

Five days a week.

They are ALL designed to be conversation starters – topics to talk about.

Share your passion for live classical music:

  1. Reply to my letter and tell me what thoughts came to mind,
  2. Continue the conversation with someone else during the day,
  3. Let me know what they said.

When I suggested that Kim hit reply to today’s letter, her fascinating response was along the lines of “Huh. I hadn’t thought of doing that.” Which tells me you might need some encouragement to continue the conversation, too.

If you need something more than just the topic of the day, or perhaps the folk you talk to already have questions about classical music, then a great place to start would be the questions I answered from my survey this year.

I created five videos called “What’s the Matter with Classical Music?” that include thought-provoking questions and answers you can use to bring good music to life, too.

Get your copy today:



7 of the best places to sit in a concert hall

Dear #classicalmusic fan,

Many concert-goers often wonder where the best place to sit is.

Have you ever thought about that?

Obviously, it’s where the tickets are most expensive, right?


Actually, it depends what you hope to get out of it. I recommend trying all sorts of seats in concert venues to see what you get from each area, but here is a basic run-down:

  • To see the conductor’s face (if there is a conductor) and how they interact with the other musicians: behind the ensemble.
  • To see what the performers see: sit on the left or right of the stage, behind the performers.
  • To get the best sound: probably about two-thirds of the way back, not underneath a balcony. If there are tiers of seating, try and sit in the front center of a tier about one-third of the way up.
  • To see all the players simultaneously: up high, but not the highest.
  • To get the vibe and not worry about seeing anything or the best sound: up really high, the highest point (it’s where all the electricity gathers).
  • To see the expression on the performers’ faces: right up front (You might get sprayed when the performers start sweating. And they will).
  • To be the first to the bar or parking lot: at the back on an aisle, under the balcony.
  • To share your music with others: on stage. (Yes, that means you’re one of the performers!)

(Okay – so that’s 8 places to sit, but that last one was a little tease…!)

Where is probably the worst place to sit?

About one-third of the way back (which is probably where the most expensive seats are). From there, you can’t see any details, you can’t see the whole group, you can’t see what the performers see, the soundwaves bounce right over your head, you can’t get out very quickly or easily, and you’ll be immersed in completely the wrong vibe: that of the luxurious wannabes who want to be seen more than experience a spectacular performance. It’s also the area you’ll come across the most Noosances.*

Apart from knowing where to sit, what other questions do you have about classical music these days?

Actually, they may not be all that different from what others are thinking, too.

Earlier in 2017 I asked about 15,000 fans and followers what their biggest questions are, and answered them in a series of five videos – over an hour exploring the pros and cons of live classical music including the primary reason why so many people are confused about what classical music is, and who is responsible for that confusion.

Sign up today to get access to this series of videos right away:



*A Noosance was defined in a previous article as “annoying audience members” – those who shush others in the middle of the music, unwrap candy and sweets, race out to the parking lot as the last note is still ringing in the air (probably clapping as they go!), etc.

Zipoli: Elevazione

Stephen's Classical Rate N Slate

Hear what British American Conductor Composer Stephen P Brown has to say about classical music, and why you should find a local performance to attend. You might agree with his rating and slating!

Download mp3 or buy CD:

Listen to more Rates N Slates

What dress shall I wear tonight?

Dear #classicalmusic fan,

Don’t worry – I won’t be wearing a ballgown to any classical music concerts anytime soon.

Perhaps it would have been better to say ‘attire’ but… Yawn.

It is fun to dress up and go on a date. Even when it’s a classical music concert. Is it necessary? Nope. Is it expected? Depends who you’re talking to. The thing is, anyone can wear whatever they want when they attend a live classical music concert, just like they can when they attend a restaurant to eat something somebody else cooked.

Some venues, including nightclubs and hotels, often do have a dress code. Most do not. I don’t think I’ve ever been a concert hall that declares it has a dress code, or what their expectations of attire are. Yes, I have been in and attended many events with a specific theme that suggest a dress code, such as a Viennese ball, or a Mad Men Gala. But never have I seen a dress code on the poster or ticket of an orchestra’s presentation of Dvořák’s Symphony No.8 in G major, Op. 88.

The problem comes when we care about other people’s expectations…

At least, what we perceive their expectations to be.

If you want to dress up to go to a concert, then go right ahead and dress up. I love wearing colorful sports coats to concerts, sometimes with a tie and sometimes not. But I don’t expect anyone else to. I love wearing all black when I’m on stage, including the tie, but I don’t expect anyone else to (unless it’s the attire we all agreed to wear).

Go ahead and wear shorts and flip flops to see the Berlin Philharmonic!

As long as you don’t expect anyone else to.

And what if somebody says something about your “inappropriate” attire?

First, thank them for complimenting you (i.e. catch them off guard), then say how much you appreciate them recognizing the guts it took to wear what you find comfortable among a sea of suits and expectations, and finally share with them that you finally no longer have a need to sparkle in public because you are comfortable with yourself and content with your place in society. (Then walk away, quickly).

Is there any inappropriate attire at all, then? Yes.

What you should find inappropriate is when you interfere with other audience members’ ability to enjoy the concert. For example, an Ascot hat. Really? Take it off, dear. All you are doing is blocking fifteen people’s view of the audience, and attracting attention every time you move anything other than your eyeballs. It’s just rude. Perhaps the only other inappropriate attire for a live classical music concert might be wearing just your underwear. Or a bikini, but there are times even that is acceptable! (I’ve presented concerts on beaches, so…)

Wear what you want, expect to be the only one wearing it, expect others to sneer at you (that’s their problem, though), and don’t give a damn what anyone else is wearing – they dressed exactly how they wanted to, just like you did. THAT’S equality.

I’m not entirely sure how to transition from talking about dresses to helping you enjoy my compositions.

This is the last letter of my “composition week” so I should have prepared a real big bang of an ending, right?

Well, that didn’t happen.

Instead, here is a plain, simple link to some truly beautiful music (along with some uglier cousins, too):