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What do Shostakovich and Teenagers Have in Common?


Today's guest blog is from one of our favorite guest bloggers. He asks (and answers) the toughest question anyone in classical music has ever faced: How do you get a teenager interested in classical music? The answer: Shostakovich. 

Why am I asking what teenagers and Shostakovich have in common? Because it seems like every nerdy young string player I know (myself included) seems to go through a serious obsession with Shostakovich. There’s something so attractive about his sarcastic, rebellious overtones, and what teen doesn’t love to be sarcastic? Not to mention the many raw emotions conveyed in his music. Maybe this attraction to Shostakovich and his music is merely a teenage phase, or maybe it’s a burgeoning discovery of a serious love of his music. We’re going to try to break it down and find out.

First, it seems obvious that the thing most American teens and Shostakovich have in common is a love of loud rockin’ music. Today’s teens might be listening to Pharrell or Kanye, or putting Radiohead or Fuel on their favorite Spotify playlist. Although he was not one of their contemporaries, Shostakovich adored his rock rhythms and energetic melodies. His rock music tendencies can be witnessed in his cello concerto, the 2nd movement of String Quartet #8, the last movement of his 5th symphony, and (my personal favorite) the 2nd movement of his 10th symphony. But honestly, these tendencies can be found everywhere in his music. You might assume the most popular rockstar of the '60s and '70s was Jimi Hendrix, or maybe the Beatles… Nope! For me, Shostakovich will remain the ultimate rockstar! His music sounds like classical music and heavy metal had a baby. It can even shock older folks, the way that actual heavy metal can.

Watch the Winning Performances from SHAR's 2013 Quartet Competition


Each year, SHAR holds a string quartet competition for high school students. We get applicants from all over the state of Michigan; typically, these applicants represent up to a dozen high schools and youth orchestras. We divide the quartets into two divisions, depending on the size of their school or orchestra program. It's such a joy each year to hear these talented students play, and this year was no exception. You can watch the winning quartets play below:

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