• Democratize the Canon

  • Democratize the Canon
    Music performance is no longer just a spectator sport.
  • The world’s classical stages are evolving into immersive spaces, and the usual arm’s length between artist and audience is steadily decreasing. A Mannes School of Music alum opens up the classical repertoire for the contemporary age, daring music enthusiasts to reach out and touch — or even collaborate with — the virtuosos they’ve so long revered. This crucial, inevitable shift may finally allow the entire world to engage with our cherished repertoire — and inscribe their names into it.   

    Democratize the Canon inset

    At The New School, where canonical arts are seen as the world’s inheritance, we know that it is important not only to dust off the classics, but also to reimagine them for posterity.

    Sebastian Lambertz, a Mannes School of Music alum, is a clarinetist and business maverick. His objective is ambitious: introduce the thrill of classical music to newly invigorated, engaged audiences. Lambertz felt that the traditional nuts and bolts of his classical performances were becoming stale: large and remote performance spaces; a privileged and sedate spectator audience; and a consequent lack of engagement between him and them. He found it unfortunate that “access to music is supposed to be universal,” but instead became reserved for a limited audience.   

    Sebastian’s desire to transform the context of classical works led to his winning the Alsop Entrepreneurship Award, an annual music prize offered to innovative Mannes students. He then created a traveling production for grade schools of Little Ant Got Hurt, a Peter and the Wolf–esque piece composed by Gregory Mertl, performed in grade schools by Sebastian and narrated by a native speaker of the country where it is performed.

    Fully immersed in the bustling atmosphere of the classroom, Sebastian now works as a modern-day Pied Piper, ushering young minds into the world of classical music, a realm he wants to democratize.

    Sebastian’s students learn the building blocks of music interpretation through the tale of the little ant and, through imaginative illustrations, become his collaborators in depicting the ant’s journey. This interdisciplinary exercise culminates in a performance and slideshow based on the children’s drawings that is viewed by parents and faculty, galvanizing the children’s community to not only embrace classical music but also participate in it. Sebastian’s formula of presenting classical music minus the usual pomp and circumstance has proven influential across the globe, engaging students in New York, Germany, the Netherlands, and Taiwan.

    With his next project, Clarinet and DJ, Sebastian will use guerrilla tactics to explode popular perceptions of classical instruments. He plans to play electronic dance music in club spaces, bringing his mesmerizing clarinet tones together with a DJ’s glitchy effects. In this way, he hopes to interrogate fixed notions of live, classical, and electronic music.

    The New School, with its dedication to preserving and reimagining classic art forms, is a force of democracy, entrepreneurship, and the future. Be a Force of New.

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