Poster The Minneapolis Pops at Lake Harriet
Too expensive? This Minneapolis Pops concert was completely free.
Luke Taylor/APM

Top ten myths about classical music

10. "Classical music live performances are too expensive to attend."

How does $27 sound for Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera? True, you can also purchase a seat for this same performance for $460—but considering that tickets for an upcoming Billy Joel concert in New York range from $109 to $5,043 a seat, $27 for a glorious evening of Puccini sounds like a bargain! And that's the Met; many live performances by less-illustrious but still-superb ensembles are completely free.

9. "Classical concerts are so stuffy!"

There was a time, decades ago, when attending a classical concert was a most solemn affair. Gentlemen arrived in suits and ties, and the ladies in dresses. Thankfully, all that has changed. In 2015, audience members in casual to formal attire—and everything in between—are welcomed in venues ranging from magnificent concert halls to local drinking establishments. I can't help but think Beethoven would approve...even if my grandmother would not!

8. "Classical music is only good for going to sleep at night."

One of my favorites. I must regretfully report that while some classical music, such as Bach's Sheep May Safely Graze, may in fact be relaxing, transmitting relaxation is often the remotest thing from a composer's mind. To test the veracity of this, try falling asleep to the first movement of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 21, "Waldstein."

YourClassical offers curated streams of classical music to suit your mood—whether you are in fact ready to relax (or even to fall asleep) or whether it's time to get up and at 'em.

7. "The violists of an orchestra are less-thans."

As a violist, I find this personally offensive and obviously a myth!

6. "Classical music is dying."

The financing of professional classical music performance as we have known it has become unsustainable in some parts of our country. This must be addressed. Classical music itself is not dying nor will it, as long as performers and listeners find it compelling and moving.

5. "Since Handel wrote Messiah, he must have been a really nice man."

Judging by accounts from his lifetime, to say that Handel could be a rather difficult human being seems an understatement.

4. "Conductors are omniscient and indicate when everyone should play."

As a conductor who has also played in many symphony orchestras, I know this to be patently false. Professional orchestral players know very well when to come in...but reassuring nods from the podium are nevertheless welcome.

3. "You must be half dead yourself to be moved by music written hundreds of years ago."

If you saw a piece of jewelry that you wanted to own and wear—assuming you could afford it—would it really matter if it had been fashioned in 2015? 1825? 50 B.C.E.?

2. "Concertmasters believe themselves to be superior to all other members of the orchestra."

There may actually be some truth to this one, but one encounters many superb yet humble concertmasters. Peter Winograd, concertmaster of the Discovery Orchestra and first violinist of the American String Quartet, is a prime example.

1. "Classical music can only be understood and appreciated by an elite cognoscenti."

The most pernicious myth of all regarding classical music. If you make a conscious decision to listen—that is, give your undivided attention to classical music, as opposed to just hearing it as background sonic wallpaper to other thoughts and activities—you will begin to encounter some incredibly moving details. Everyone can become a virtuoso listener!

George Marriner Maull is artistic director of the Discovery Orchestra.

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