Not enough concerts

Dear #classicalmusic fan

I don’t think there are enough concerts in the world.

I don’t think the classical music industry is setup to share live classical music with the world (the industry exists to make money).

And I certainly don’t think every single concert should consist of a full symphony orchestra and choir. Indeed, chamber music concerts can often be much more fun simply because of their intimacy with the audience!

Let’s begin listening more than just hearing, and watching more than just looking or seeing.

And, most importantly, let’s expand who we share live music with, and how often.

Whether you are a performer or audience member, you are a Fan: You appreciate there is more to music than just the music itself. You understand it is a momentary experience and a method for humans to communicate and process emotions in ways that words are simply unable to.

You recognize the only way to approach classical music is, in fact, to…

Go to a concert.


If you would like to experience one of my own concerts, specifically, check out when I have some public appearances. As the weather cools down for folk in the Northern Hemisphere, perhaps a quick trip to Florida isn’t out of the question! I’d love to see you.

Here are some upcoming concerts I’m involved with:


4 distractions that spoil your concert experience

Dear #classicalmusic fan,

Another way we can renovate the classical music world is by helping others enhance their live music experience.

Encourage someone else to participate and engage with the music.

How? By listening and watching.

Like listening vs. hearing, there are differences between watching and looking.

Kittens master the art of watching vs. looking pretty early on.

When you look at something, you see it.

It may not register in your mind what it is or what it is doing, but you see it. Your instincts generally let you know whether you should run or engage. However, watching something, like listening, goes deeper.

Watching starts with seeing and looking and then incorporates observation and eventually meaning. Watch one player sharing their music. Look at their facial expressions (or lack thereof), look at their movements. Look at their fingers, hands, arms moving. You’ll have a great time! But that’s just looking. And you’ll probably start thinking about a meeting you had earlier in the day, or the aftertaste of the soup you had at dinner.

Looking is not helpful for engaging in the music.

Instead, as you look at that one player for a few moments, consider the whys and hows:

  • Why are they pulling that face?
  • Why do they sway like that?
  • Is it for show, or are they adding some sort of weight to the sound?
  • Or are they simply dancing because they’re enjoying themselves?!
  • How does moving their fingers in that way influence the music?

All this stuff is watching, and becomes part of your live music experience. You could close your eyes and dream of far off lands and journeys if you wish, but sometimes it’s nice to come back and watch how folk are sharing music with you.

Things to avoid looking at, and definitely not watch, include but are not limited to Noosance behavior:

  • people (performers and audiences) picking their nose,
  • yawning,
  • head-bopping (falling asleep but trying to keep their head up. You see it most often on trains and buses),
  • the conductor’s flapping tails or bouncing hair,

and so on.

These are distractions and do not support the communication of emotions. In fact, they take you away from the music and utterly spoil your concert experience.

But we live in a Society that reacts.

Images are given to us, and auditory experiences take too much effort. Therefore, we tend look at what’s moving the most rather than listen to the actual music.

Be different and listen more than you look.


Listening and watching are just part of what you can do to make the most of live classical music concerts.

There are basically five steps you can take to make sure you thoroughly enjoy the live music experience.

And I help you find and develop all five action steps in my training “How to Make the Most of Classical Music Concerts.”

Get your copy here:


What’s true about program notes?

Dear #classicalmusic fan,

There was a time when people only had access to information about classical music when they attended a concert and read the program notes.

In most of the world such programs are an extra expense for audiences, but in the USA they give you programs for free!

Such a practice comes at a price, though, and free programs tend to be full of the ads that paid to get the program printed and the program notes written.

You might be lucky, though, and find a really awesome essay about the music. Unfortunately, things went a little too far when performers started seeking only credentialed academics to write the program notes. They became in-depth analyses of both history and theory which, to a handful of classical music geeks like me, became a viable source of information. But even I got tired of program notes and just wanted the story behind the music:

The why, what, where, when, maybe a little how.

Another problem with program notes also applies to online sources of information: they actually cannot be relied on.

Just because someone writes an essay about a piece of music, and may even offer some references, does not mean it is accurate. In many cases, we will never know what is accurate especially if the composer didn’t write their own program notes. Even then, though, many academics twist their words and generate some quite remarkable fantasies!

There are also times when composers were not actually allowed to write anything but a specific story.

I’m thinking of Shostakovitch who wrote a remarkable amount of repertoire for the USSR. He kept his own private music very private until much later in life for fear of losing his head. As a result, much of his public writing conforms to dictatorial pandering rather than true meaning. We must ask ourselves “what could be true and what isn’t?” of even many composers’ reflections on their own music.

Suffice it to say that, like with most things these days, get your little snippets of information from here and there, online and in program notes, but take it all with a pinch of salt.

You are gathering just a handful of perspectives, some of which may corroborate and some which may not.

The important thing is: experience the music and let it talk to your inner self, your emotions.

Yes, use your imagination to tell yourself a story; yes, use the information you have about the composition to understand how it was put together, and yes, use the history of the piece and the composer and the world at the time to influence the emotions you believe were intended.


music is alive.

Program notes, Wikipedia and every other source on the planet exist as support material. In fact, you will never be able to read or write enough words about music.

The truth is, words will never replace the actual live experience, and they will never be able to reveal the true truth about music.

They can’t.

That’s actually why music is.


Something else that’s unreliable yet we absorb without question, is others’ response to live music.

For example, these days there seem to be more and more standing ovations at almost every concert, regardless of the quality of the performance or whether or not the music actually touched our hearts.

It’s a bit of a recent pandemic, and one I’m not fully understanding (although appreciate it when it happens!)

So this is a topic I’d like to explore with you on the next episode of my new podcast, From The Podium. If you’d like to chime with your own thoughts the podcast is being recorded live this Saturday morning at 8am Eastern… and you can call in to share your thoughts on the Podium Chat.

Sign up now to get notified about it and I’ll tell you how to listen live, wherever you are in the world:


How is a society’s quality of life actually reflected?

Dear #classicalmusic fan,

The advancement of technology in our world has been so rapid we still haven’t figured out how to incorporate it into living.

Not really.

For example, technology generally makes everything available to us instantly and in short snippets.

Combined with an entire generation telling the Western World we can have whatever we want whenever we want it, Society at large has created a monstrous environment in which people just want Cheap and Fast.

In other words, being Good (at something, i.e. Quality) doesn’t matter anymore.

In fact, such thinking has become so prevalent that a Common-Sensei such as Simon Sinek can make a fortune contradicting the Cheap/ Fast approach to life, even though it’s a VERY recent phenomenon! Check out his interview with Tom Bilyeu about Millennials. It’s all over Youtube.

What Cheap & Fast leads to is that most people in the First World now look at a classical music concert ticket and think “that’s too expensive.” There is no regard for anything else of value that ticket represents AND, in my experience, it matters not how much the ticket is: I’ve heard that exact phrase uttered at a $15 ticket for a full choir and orchestra concert.

How disappointingly remarkable.

However, the good news is that a lot of people actually DO value what live classical music gives us impatient, harried, medicated, genetically-modified food ingesting modern ‘advanced’ humans. Most of them crave Quality over both Cheap and Fast.

Good for them, I cheer!

A society’s quality of life can generally be reflected by its communication through high quality Arts.

Good quality music shared by a handful of expert performers is an incredible experience – no, it won’t be perfect (thankfully) – but the experience will blow any thoughts of expense and boredom out of the water.


Without fail.

There is a huge difference between the cost of live classical music, and the value it brings to each individual’s life.

Make sure you are on the right side of being a human being, and appreciate that the value of Quality far outweighs its cost.


We can learn about good quality from the past, incorporate it into our present, and then create something of value for the future.

For example, let’s take a look at a violin concerto.

Brahms wrote a good one.

Find out what’s good about it in my short (fast) and free (cheap) Rate N Slate episode:


Brahms: Violin Concerto

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

How to turn a concert into an event

Dear #classicalmusic fan,

Attending a concert means you are going to see one performance of some music shared by some performers.

A concert can have multiple performances: the same performers share the same music at different times and/ or places, but it is still one concert.

One of the habits I like to do is to turn every concert into an event, and if I am not performing and the performers themselves are not creating an event, I will turn the concert into my own event anyway (That is the Odyssey part of my training “How the Make the Most of Classical Music Concerts”).

How do you turn a concert into an event?

Lots of ways.

The simplest is to engage in conversation with someone else – your spouse or friend, but better yet someone else at the concert you don’t know. After the concert, talk about what you felt, your experiences, what you noticed, and listen to what they have to say. Every once in a while such discussions may end up in a local drinking establishment to keep the conversation going!

I’m speaking from experience, of course.

Other ways to turn a concert into an event is to take a bunch of people from church, school, work, or your neighborhood. Make the suggestion, find out how many commit by getting their money, and you order all the tickets. You could even hire a bus, or book a local restaurant for your party. How about a museum trip, visit to an art gallery, or even arrange a meet and greet with some of the performers?

Many venues also offer a backstage tour.

You may be pleasantly surprised just how much enhanced your experience of the music is when you turn a concert into an event.

Here’s another example of turning something into an event:

Most people think of a podcast as someone talking for an hour, and possibly interviewing someone else. But that is not the definition of a podcast. Merriam-Webster defines it as “a program (as of music or talk) made available in digital format for automatic download over the Internet.” They even state that it can include music!

So, I decided to take a music-focused program, include the interview, and turn it into an event by adding some fun little featurettes, music requests, jingles, and lots of laughing along the way (…assuming enough coffee has been consumed).

In addition, I decided to record my podcast live so that listeners have a chance to participate themselves.

Yes, YOU can call in to the show (from the USA or Skype) and join in the chat!

It really has become quite an eventful program.

And I am so looking forward to sharing it with you.

My new podcast launches with pilot episode 001 tomorrow, Saturday Nov 4 at 8am Eastern.

Listen on the website, via Facebook Live, or on local radio if you are in Tampa Bay.

Details here:

From The Podium Live goes live on Saturday November 4 2017

If you can’t listen live that’s OK: if you sign up to get notified I’ll send you the link to download the audio file at a time convenient for you (hence why it’s a podcast). And then you’ll just have to schedule your alarm clock so you can listen live next week, call in, and join in the fun!

And that’s how a normally yawn-worthy podcast can be turned into an event!

Can you do the same for the concerts you attend?


Take the stress out of watching

Dear #classicalmusic fan,

On the surface, there are things at concerts to watch.

Usually it’s the performers, but I also like keeping an eye on the folk around me to see how they are interacting with the music.

Or not.

To me, that’s a big clue of whether or not someone is experiencing the actual music itself, or they are there physically but not particularly engaged with the music.

When the mind is racing and someone is thinking about the day’s concerns, or the history of the piece, the soloist’s biography, the fifth chair violinist’s orange bow, I can almost guarantee you they are not “in” the musical moment. Only when someone allows their feelings to be affected by the music are they experiencing the actual music.

Otherwise, the performers are just providing a background soundtrack to a silent movie in your mind.

That’s also the difference between listening and hearing.

When you’re listening, you are actively focusing on what you hear, and your mind and body react to it simultaneously. If your mind is focused on other things, you can hear the music but you are not listening to it.

Be careful when you find yourself watching more than listening… you are not letting the music “speak” to you and you are not getting the most out of the concert.

Take the stress out of watching, by listening.


One of the biggest distractions that directly affect our ability to listen, is when music is amplified. Apart from organized sound deliberately created using electronic means, music was never intended to be shared via speakers, no matter how much they ‘support’ the live experience and keep everything ‘balanced’ for you.

Let’s talk about that.

It’s the Topic of the Day in my new podcast’s first episode.

Listen in this Saturday morning online, via Facebook Live, or if you are in the Tampa Bay area, any one of five FM or AM radio bandwidths.

And then call in and let’s talk about amplifying music.

Visit for details.