The decision last month by The Longy School of Music to end the music lessons for children and non-professional adults it has offered for more than 90 years has reignited laments about the “crisis” in classical music. Concert attendance is declining, according to the National Endowment for the Arts. Audiences are aging, orchestras are struggling, classical radio stations are abandoning the format. Frustrated parents and teachers ask where future audiences will come from for the professional musicians whom Longy is training now if a love of classical music isn’t nurtured in community programs like the very one the school is ditching. “It’s really self-defeating,” said Martin Burcharth, whose 12-year-old daughter takes piano lessons at Longy.
The Longy saga is ongoing, with hearings before the Cambridge City Council, a 1,500-name petition drive, and requests for a meeting with Leon Botstein, president of Bard College, which merged with Longy in 2011. At a minimum, the school ought to give its 900 amateur students and 54 abruptly terminated faculty a reprieve so the shaken community can reorganize, perhaps in other quarters. But some say the entire classical music infrastructure needs retooling — or even dismantling — if it is to have a future with a generation raised on Spotify and K-pop.