Lakewood neighbor Mark Landson is taking on the classical music industry.
All of it, from the way it’s structured to the way it’s presented to the way it’s consumed. If he had it his way he would change the whole experience — except for the way classical music gets street cred for being an extremely technical and dynamic form of music. He’d keep that part.
He founded Open Classical as an open mic for classical musicians, rotating around various coffee shops, restaurants and wine bars. Although the concept has evolved since it was first launched, the overall goal is to “dress down classical music without dumbing it down,” and he has clung to that vision above all else.
Landson is a violinist, violist and composer. He did everything right by studying at Eastman School of Music and going on to join several orchestras and chamber ensembles, touring across the United States and Europe.
If anyone is allowed to be an elitist about classical music, it’s probably him, but that’s exactly what he doesn’t like about the industry — that it comes off as inaccessible and unapproachable.
“I had a longing for a different kind of classical thing, that just wasn’t what I was seeing happening,” he explains.
“I really wanted to bring it back to what I consider to be the most important part of classical music, which is the journey of emotions that is created through motivic-based compositions.”
He wanted to find a way for classical musicians to be realistic about how most people listen to music, especially young people. He began composing and formed a slightly more eclectic group called Neo Camerata in 2005, which performs at concert halls and rock clubs and everything in between.
Then in 2011 he started Open Classical in Dallas. The signature event is the classical open mic, where “professional and amateur musicians can play anything relating to classical music.”
Since its inception, Open Classical has expanded its vision to offer a slew of other fun yet professional, classical-themed events around the metroplex, most of which are the byproduct of collaborations with other Dallas organizations.
Ultimately Landson wants to challenge the structure of the classical music industry, which is top-down rather than bottom-up, unlike other music genres, he explains. Within the classical music industry a few people at the top decide who gets “in.” If the entire music industry worked that way, it would be operating like “American Idol” all the time, Landson points out. Instead most rock or pop bands start small and build an audience on their own and then a company takes them in.
“In classical music that doesn’t happen,” Landson says — but he would like it to, or at least he would like to create a new avenue for classical musicians because without a hierarchy shift, he believes there will be no creative evolution within the genre. “The structure doesn’t allow it,” he says.
To that end, Landson and Neo Camerata recently toured with the band Say Anything through 30 cities to promote Open Classical and its goal to create a national network of regional touring routes for classical musicians.
If he’s successful, Open Classical will become an umbrella organization to help promote classical musicians and groups on a larger scale.
“We want to both make classical music a part of normal, everyday culture and provide new opportunities for new classical musicians, and a way for people to experience classical music in new and different ways,” he concludes.
No big deal.
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