Historic Conference to Address Classical Music Culture and the MTV/Hip Hop Generation
Convenes in Washington, DC
AP Daybook Event-Covered by WTTG Fox 5-Voice of America
WASHINGTON, March 1, 2006 A historic conference which addressed key issues plaguing the
classical music community in regard to interest by the MTV/ Hip Hop Generation, convened this week
in Washington, DC at the Martin Luther King Memorial Library.
The Plight of American Music Initiative Conference, sponsored by the American Youth Symphony
(AYS) included a diversified discussion panel which included Gregory Charles Royal, Artistic Director
of AYS who is also a hip hop producer and former soloist with the Grammy Award winning Duke
Ellington Orchestra; Travis Bowerman, Director of Programming for the Washington Performing Arts
Society (WPAS); Ashley Gauthier, a media attorney with US News & World Report; Malcolm Inniss a
rapper and former DJ with Radio One; and Ava Spece, Executive Director of the DC Youth Orchestra
Program (DCYOP). Susan Veres, Executive Director of AYS was the facilitator.
The primary issue concerning the panel was how to attract the young generation to traditional
American music genre to ensure its future survival.
The panel first identified what it viewed as barriers between themselves and the younger generation.
Royal pointed out that the young generation, because of technological advancements such as
samplers, and process of rapping, has distorted the traditional parameters of what constitutes music
and musical performance. “Kids of today do not differentiate between an instrumentalist and a
sample programmer or the process of making musical tones and a rapping. This has a direct effect
on how they value instrumental music”. (Royal and AYS have two press releases and a report that
address the ill effects of the electronic music culture, and rap being classified as music rather than
poetry, on classical music attendance at www.hardboplife.com)
Ashley Gauthier asserted that writing and publishing royalties in a profit driven commercial music
industry inherently stifle any incentive for commercial writers and producers to take musical and
cultural risks with regard to incorporating classical repertoire in commercial music.
Travis Bowerman stated that while much emphasis is placed on the classical community to reach out
to the MTV/Hip Hop Generation, that the effort needs to go both ways. He cited, for example,
difficulties as a presenter in being able to stage some Hip Hop artists at the WPAS because of a
general lack of professionalism with regard to production and presentation, e.g., providing riders or
professional stage presentation. Bowerman also stated that his organization is open to presenting
the arts in alternative environments such as clubs. Most notably, Bowerman pointed out that the
efforts of many organizations in the artistic community might be more effective if they were
coordinated to capitalize on their collective strength in combating a massive issue.
Malcolm Inniss held the view that the classical culture needs to make the music relevant to the young
generation in light of the fact that the young generation’s musical orientation is absent classical
Ava Spece who nurtures 600 young instrumentalists at the DCYOP , stressed that education and
exposure of the young and their parents are key to entice the young generation, citing that it’s not
what they listen to but rather what they don’t listen to.
As a result of its initiative, the AYS, which also conducts a discussion forum of students and teachers
in hundreds of schools throughout the nation, has come up with immediate development plans that
involve direct interaction between the producers of classical and young popular culture.
1) The development of an American Idol type program called America's Hot Musician that will begin
production in Spring 2006 for young instrumentalists.
2) A PSA that involves Hip Hop artists taking music lessons or showing off their musical talents that
may be unknown to the general public
2) Pairing youth orchestras with MTV/ Hip Hop artists to do joint concerts or MC’d concerts by MTV/
Hip Hop artists
Says AYS Executive Director Susan Veres, “even though some purists may thumb their noses at
these efforts, we view these efforts necessary as a bridge for the future”.