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Why we think this app from the Melbourne Symphony hits a high note


The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra has released an iPhone app aimed at classical music’s most under-served demographic: kids.

MSO Learn is a young person’s guide to the orchestra, launched to coincide with the orchestra’s first-ever Education Week. The app includes profiles of each of the instrument sections and Q&A’s with some of its members, including the concertmaster, Wilma Smith, and associate conductor Benjamin Northey. There’s also a rollicking performance of Percy Grainger’s folk ditty, Shepherd’s Hey.

While the app makes for a solid educational tool, we also find it to be effective publicity for the often under-appreciated arts.

As the recent woes of symphony orchestras around the world remind us, orchestras, fundamentally, are business organisations: they need to market themselves in order to survive. They can get funding from governments and private donors, but ultimately they rely on you and me for patronage. What good is a symphony without an audience? And as those audiences grow ever older, who will replace them?

While classical music has usually remained outside the realm of the general public, Australia’s longest tenured orchestra has found ways to keep up appearances, even going the crossover route with some big names in the pop industry, including this gentleman back in the day. (Rock us, Amadeus!)

The MSO Learn app, however, doesn’t try to sell out classical music to the mainstream. Instead, it breaks down the essential parts of the music itself to make it fun and accessible to a young and wired generation.

Developed by Outware mobile, MSO Learn offers a slick audiovisual experience that seems to fit the digital publicity model quite well. Says Bronwyn Lobb, the MSO’s Manager of Education and Community Outreach: “In a digital world, it is important for orchestras to continue to develop ways to integrate live performance, education and communication technology.”

As for the app’s real appeal, Lobb sums it up best: “It takes the Orchestra off the stage and into the hands of individuals, and has the potential to connect the MSO with new audiences throughout the world.”

We think that’s a pretty high note worth hitting.

Learn more or download the MSO Learn app here.