Have you ever attended a classical concert that featured one "token" contemporary piece? I've certainly attended many. It seems to be the standard programming for most orchestras, especially.
With this type of programming, it sets up the audience to feel disconnected and confused.
Most of the audience will find it unfamiliar and walk away thinking "that was really weird"
"Why did they ruin a concert with that piece?"
"I prefer the regular classical music"
How could we expect a different reaction? Most people don't make an immediate jump from loving Mozart to digging Penderecki.
I want to suggest a more educational approach: Strategic programming. Treat the audience like learners and students. Gradually contemporary musical ideas, piece by piece in a way that helps them make connections. Help them understand the idioms and ideas. It's just like learning a language, you break it down piece by piece and then build from there.
Have you had a similar experience as an audience member? Tell us your story in the comments! I'm still thinking through this myself, so I'd love to hear from you all!
P.S. I'd Iove for you to join my ensemble's virtual concert next week! Details and tickets available here❤️