A few weeks ago Anna and I were chatting with a friend about the nature of kids, pop culture, and the role of classical music in youth society. Our friend was surprised to hear that many of our students come to enjoy classical music more than the pop music of the day. I explained that classical music has more to offer in terms of artistic nuance, complexity, and emotional range. Anna and I both play, enjoy, and teach musical styles outside of the classical genre, but we always insist that our students study classical.
At first some of our students might even feel forced to learn classical music. But somewhere along the line their investment in classical music combined with the music's inherent artistic value causes them to identify more with classical than with pop-culture tunes. This fascinating phenomenon could be dubbed the “Stockholm Syndrome” of classical music, considering it has some parallels to a famous bank robbery in Sweden over 40 years ago.
In 1973 a bank in Stockholm, Sweden was robbed, with several employees being held hostage in the bank’s vault. As the standoff progressed, the hostages actually became emotionally attached to their captors, refusing help from the police and even defending their captors. This irrational sympathy was dubbed the “Stockholm Syndrome.”
This week one of my students, a high-school freshman, awkwardly interrupted the flow of our conversation to let me know she had come under the spell of the Stockholm Syndrome. “It’s weird,” she said. “I used to really like pop music and hate classical, and now I don’t like pop music any more. I was listening to the radio this week and I realized that all I want to listen to now is classical.” She came to me a few years ago, a harsh critic of classical music. I explained to her that she is now choosing, “fine steak dinner over mac & cheese.”
I believe that of all styles, classical music will bring you the most joy, satisfaction, reward, and high character. Yes, I'll teach you some Taylor Swift (if you really want me to). But if you would like a full cup of musical satisfaction, let me serve you up some Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms.
How do you view classical and pop music in today's society? Please share. Dissenting opinions are always welcome too!
Adam Bendorf and his wife, Anna, are private piano teachers in Santa Clarita, CA. In addition to playing classical music, they show videos of '90's boy bands to their young and impressionable daughters. These videos are met mostly with giggles and snickers.