The Ear: Review of Composer Competition

Last night I attended the first performance of The Ear, a new concept in New York City to attract new audiences to classical music.

It was excellent, and I highly recommend it. Their next show is Friday, 16 Nov 2018.

Musicians on a stage in NYC

Musicians assemble on stage between short performances.

In the words of its creator, The Ear is:

like ‘The Voice’ for composers, but way rowdier. Nuttier. Irreverent. Cheering in the middle of the music. Heckling the emcee. Drinking. Voting for the pieces you want to hear again.

Review of The Ear in New York City

I attended The Ear’s first show last night on 20 September 2018.

It was hosted at the Dimenna Center for Classical Music, a beautiful modern tall-ceiling’d spot at 450 W 37th St near 9th Avenue in Manhattan.

Nick Gray and Lauren Jelencovich

Me and my friend Lauren Jelencovich, sitting down for the performance

My Friend Lauren Jelencovich

I attended this event with my friend Lauren, who is famous enough to have her own Wikipedia page.

Lauren tours the world singing as a soprano with Yanni. I learned something neat about her last night: she was the first woman to ever sing on a main stage in Saudi Arabia.

Special Thanks: Hampus Svard

Thanks to my friend Hampus, who I met through Áine, for inviting me.

Group of very attractive diverse friends, three women and three men

Áine, far left, and Hampus Svard, center, plus me on the right. Also other friends. We all met during intermission.

The Concert: Opening Comedian

At 8:00pm after a 7:30p start time for The Ear, we were treated to a comedy set by Sally Ann Hall.

She was funny and really warmed the room up. Also risqué.

The event organizer took a big risk in starting the show with a comedian who wasn’t afraid to make politically incorrect jokes.

It paid off well. An opening like this can polarize an audience. And it can say, “This is who this event is NOT for.”

Introduction by Alf Bishai

Alf Bishai

Alf Bishai speaking at The Ear about classical music being awesome

Alf started The Ear because he wants to go to a concert hall to hear new classical music. He wants to hear music live and be able to jump to his feat and yell out, “Play it again!! Encore!!”

  • The Ear is like The Voice for classical composers.
  • They’ll present 10 composers.
  • The audience votes for each by answering 1 simple question: Do you want to hear it again?
  • He wants to do something different and unexpected with The Ear.
  • Frustrated that nobody knows about current classical music composers. Hardly anyone in the audience could name a living classical music composer’s name.

Alf Bishai spoke about how most popular movies are scored with classical music, and we love those movies. But if you ask someone if they like classical music, they probably say No.

Analog Voting Devices: Vote For Your Favorite

Audience members were each given a small bag of marbles, like this:

Ping bag with glass marbles inside

10 marbles are inside. One of them has an “X” mark on it.

After each micro performance, a collection tube would be passed around.

We could place a marble into that tube to cast our vote.

Person holding a red pole in an audience

Staff from The Ear use the analog computer voting devices

Two smart women voting for a favorite selection

My friend Audrey and her friend, casting their vote. I didn’t ask Audrey’s permission to use this photo. Audrey, if you hate this picture, I’m sorry. I did it for journalism.

This was an excellent analog way to engage the audience. If they had used an app or something web-based, I think the audience would have “tuned out” and gotten distracted with our notifications.

The Performances: Great Music

Most of the songs we heard were nice. They were mostly a LOT better than I thought they would be.

One or two were losers. I did not vote for the losers, obviously.

Shattered Glass: Musicians

Most of the musicians performing were from an orchestra group called Shattered Glass. I liked that one of them said, “We think conductors are stupid.”

In 2012 a group of friends in New York City came together to form a conductorless string ensemble that was truly collaborative and self-operated…. In the spirit of collaboration, Shattered Glass members regularly rotate the role of principal player and participate in a democratic system for creating and selecting programs.

People dressed in black playing violins and stuff

Performers from Shattered Glass on stage at The Ear

People playing instruments

Just look at those trumpet toys. This was from one song that used these instruments only.

The Judges

There were three judges who made funny and sometimes very insightful commentary after each of the ten performances.

These were more like commentators than judges, because they did not cast any votes.

Three people sitting at a table, backs to us

View behind the judges, with Sally Ann Hall in the middle.

The Professor, on the right, was particularly funny in his commentary. The audience laughed a lot. It was a great bit.

Other Things

Lauren Jelencovich and a friend at a concert

My friend Lauren with her friend Andrew Janss, a cello player in Shattered Glass

Two people playing music, one on guitar and one singing

Pop Music vs Chopin, these were the popular music reps. I liked this segment. Great singer, too.


This was a great show.

I fall asleep a lot at classical music concerts. At The Ear, I never once felt tired. I wanted more.

The Ear’s next show is Friday, 16 Nov 2018. I am definitely going.

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2018-09-21T14:58:23-04:00 September 21st, 2018|General|