Our city has a great municipal band, and my family usually attends the annual patriotic concert, as we did last night. Kids, parents, and grandparents bring their lawn chairs and blankets in anticipation of some rousing renditions of Souza and the like. The concert in the park starts at 8:00, and some of the youngest attenders wear pajamas.
Unfortunately, every year the band director, a talented professor who teaches at a college out of state, sees fit to fill the first half of the concert with pieces few of us have heard, some of them pretty subdued. As darkness falls, the mood is usually quiet and reflective, rather than patriotic. By the time the intermission comes, few patriotic pieces have actually been played at the patriotic concert, and people start filing out, especially those with kids.
Then, when the crowd is greatly thinned out, the band director decides to relent and give us the kind of music we came to hear in the first place: Stars and Stripes Forever, the 1812 Overture, and Washington Post, for example. Unfortunately, many of the children are long gone and don’t get to enjoy it. This happens every year.
It finally dawned on me last night why this guy decides to start with unknown music rather than provide what we have come to hear. In the private sector, you learn to give people what they want, or you go out of business. In academia, unconstrained by the market, you give people what you want. Students don’t have a choice. Our band director is primarily an educator. He is giving us what he wants.