Bridging the Gap Between Classical Music and Popular Music

Missy Mazzoli is an American composer who was born in 1980. She has quickly gained recognition for her compositions from the New York Timesand Time Out New York. She founded the groupVictoirewhich is a chamber group consisting of a clarinet, violin, two keyboards, and double bass. Using her unique compositional style, Mazzoli is able to compose music for Victoire that combines classical music traditions with modern pop music elements to deliver a dynamic, engaging musical experience. 

The combination of classical music and popular music has been gaining traction in recent years through the development of groups similar to Victoire. The growing popularity of these ensembles can be seen as a way to bridge the gap between people who attend classical music concerts and those who attend pop music concerts. Declining attendance to classical concerts can be attributed to a number of factors such as: quality of music education in certain areas, someone’s age, parents’ interest of classical music, and several other social factors. In a study by Alan Andreasen and Russell Belk, they questioned participants to mention their potential for attending an orchestral concert or theatre performance. The results found that attendance did had some interesting correlations with education, financial well-being, and the age of participants. They observed that the education level of the participant and the participant’s parents had a positive correlation to attending these performances. In the financial category, only participants who made over $25,000 a year had a positive correlation to attending. Age was an area that had a negative correlation over time. The study found the likelihood of attending increased with younger adults, parents with no children, or older parents with children who have moved out. To combat these issues, several groups have been trying to make classical music more accessible to a wider audience. 

By including characteristics of popular music in her compositions, Mazzoli is able to create music for Victoirethat is accessible to a wider audience. Some factors that can make the music more accessible are: predictable musical structure in form, harmonies, and melody and using instrumentation and sounds that are commonly used in popular music electronic drum kits, keyboards, guitars; and a focus on the voice. By including these elements, Mazzoli creates music that is more relatable to listeners who do not have a musical background. This, in turn, allows the music to be widely received and consumed by a large audience. This “formula” is not specific to Victoire. Other groups, such as the cello rock band Break of Reality, fuse these qualities to bring unique musical experiences to audiences. It is this combination of styles that exposes more listeners to classical music and allows the audience to develop some type of connection to classical music.As this emerging genre grows, it will allow composers, musicians, and consumers to develop new connections with classical music and popular music. It opens the door for more ensembles to present classical music in accessible ways that may not otherwise by achieved without the mixture of styles.

Trice Mayhall


Andreasen, Alan R., and Russell W. Belk. “Predictors of Attendance at the Performing Arts.” Journal of Consumer Research 7, no. 2 (1980): 112-20.

Booth, Gregory D., and Terry Lee Kuhn. “Economic and Transmission Factors as Essential Elements in the Definition of Folk, Art, and Pop Music.” The Musical Quarterly 74, no. 3 (1990): 411-38.

Kellaris, James J., and Robert J. Kent. “An Exploratory Investigation of Responses Elicited by Music Varying in Tempo, Tonality, and Texture.” Journal of Consumer Psychology 2, no. 4 (1993): 381-401.

Roose, Henk. “Many-Voiced or Unisono? An Inquiry into Motives for Attendance and Aesthetic Dispositions of the Audience Attending Classical Concerts.” Acta Sociologica 51, no. 3 (2008): 237-53.

Roose, Henk, and Alexander Vander Stichele. “Living Room vs. Concert Hall: Patterns of Music Consumption in Flanders.” Social Forces 89, no. 1 (2010): 185-207.

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