I think that amateur musicians are probably the people most likely to support the arts. Somebody who plays in their local community band is probably more likely to vote in favor of music/drama/etc in their town/schools, go to see concerts, etc. I haven't seen studies done on it, but it seems logical to me. Why would somebody who is never exposed to orchestral or band music want to go see a live performance?
Thus, it seems to me that getting the general public more involved with making music is really going to be vital to band and orchestra music surviving and thriving in the future. If even just 10% of Americans played in a community orchestra once per week, do you think our orchestras would be in as much trouble as they are? As it is, I would estimate that only maybe 2-3% of working adults make music of any kind on a regular basis, and an even smaller percentage are part of a band, orchestra or choir. I could be wrong about this; I'm pretty much just guessing here based upon personal observation.
I think the time has probably never been better for a resurgence of amateur music, really. People are stressed out, depressed, hate their lives, and actually as a whole we're listening to more music than ever before in human history... People NEED to MAKE music. They need creative outlets - they just don't realize it. How do we make them see how important and good for you it is to not only listen to music, but participate in its creation?
Put up signs and offer some number of free lessons to adult beginners/comebackers, to try and encourage them to play?
Start small, no-pressure ensembles with non-musician friends?
I want to see music be a big part of average joe American's life - I want them to have the same hunger for it that I have. I think everyone actually already has it deep down but they just don't quite know what it is... Look at how people can't go 20 minutes without listening to music these days.
As much as I would like to believe it can happen, changing the lifestyles of older people who haven't touched an instrument in 20 years is probably not realistic. Probably the best thing is to make sure we grab the younger kids who are playing instruments in their school bands/orchestras. How do we instill that "hunger" in them? And I use the term "hunger" because I think it extends beyond just making music fun. Music can't compete in terms of the "fun factor". A kid can have a lot of fun in band class but stop playing once he gets to college because video games are more fun, or he'd rather watch Jersey Shore.
I think the "hunger" is the need to express things. How do we instill this need into kids as early as possible (a lot of kids only play for 2 or 3 years...)? Focus on getting students to understand, appreciate, feel and express the emotion of the music as much as possible, I guess? Ask them how they're feeling, and find a piece to play that fits their mood? Maybe try to have conversations with them through music via simple improvisation?
I dunno. Thoughts?