The performer was Ranaan Meyer, of Time for Three fame, accompanied by his mother Norma, an outstanding pianist. The performance by the duo was wonderful and gave the audience a new perspective on the capabilities of the double bass. The event was a scheduled concert, part of the Music At Bunker Hill concert series, which is run by my wife Martha and son William Frampton. The concert was held in the intimate setting of the Bunker Hill Presbyterian Church in Washington Township, New Jersey. The concert series is in it’s fourth season and brings world-class musicians to our modest community.
Thirty-three year old Ranaan is a product of the Washington Township Schools, so this was a nice homecoming for him and a very enthusiastic audience was in attendance. I’ve know him since he was in high school and an active member of our music program. During his time in school, Ranaan was a member of many honor groups including, the All South Jersey Orchestra, the New Jersey All State Orchestra, the MENC Eastern Division Orchestra and the MENC National Orchestra.
Ranaan’s bass playing was great and included premieres of a number of his own works. He is so agile on the bass and plays music representing many genres. Ranaan is a master of programing and really knows how to keep the audience engaged and thoroughly entertained. This is no small feat when you consider that it was a double bass concert we are talking about, not violin or jazz saxophone.
Today as I reflected on the concert, it became more apparent that the concept of engaging our audiences through effective programming is absolutely critical, whether we are talking about a professional level performance or a school concert setting. Contemporary society, and especially our young people are programmed through their various entertainment media to have a short attention span and are easily distracted. It is very difficult for people to sit through sophisticated programs and maintain a high level of engagement. Now I’m not saying that we shouldn’t train them to enjoy sophisticated music, but we need to attract them into our music programs, and keep them there, so that we have the opportunity to expose them to more sophisticated music of all types. We need to engage the parents as supportive audience members, and perhaps the way to accomplish that goal is to take a look at how we program our concerts and make sure we include varied and entertaining repertoire. That we look at our programming from an entertainment viewpoint and construct emotional highs and lows that keep the audience asking for more. After all, don’t we keep highlighting the power of music to create emotion and the importance of music as an opportunity for expression? I will take this a step further and say that many of our professional classical performing ensembles need to seriously think about this as well. We all have heard the sad stories of performing groups around the country going out of business due to lack of support. This will undoubtedly continue if they are not able to find ways to relate to, engage and retain contemporary audiences.
Ranaan has learned to do this so well. His concert had a great variety of music, he related to the audience, and the program had a wonderful ebb and flow that kept the audience entertained and engaged. All of this done on a solo instrument that under normal circumstances would not have great appeal to the masses. Ranaan is providing us a great model to follow, and his success is proving that it works.