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Arrogant snobs deny others their art

Christopher Bantick in his rant on these pages on Tuesday about the lack of appreciation of high culture by Gen Y has done absolutely nothing to stem the flow of patrons from the State Theatre to the Tote. But then what would I know, right? I am nothing more than an unrefined, Nirvana-loving Gen Y (albeit from the older end of the spectrum), destined to ''cock-up'' (that's right, I like British rock too) all the good work being done at Melbourne Grammar.

That is, an unrefined, Nirvana-loving Gen Y with a bachelor in music from the University of Melbourne who majored in classical composition, regularly writes serious music played by people employed by the institutions Bantick is lamenting the end of, and otherwise really enjoys going to see his colleagues play music, be it rock, jazz, classical or (heaven forbid!) pop.

Of course, Bantick does have a point. It would be a real loss if any of the major fine art institutions, or their respective training grounds, were lost to apathy. The recent situation with the Queensland Youth Orchestra is a case in point. I also agree that an education isn't complete without a proper wander through the great works of the past 400 years.

But Bantick's approach just reeked of the type of arrogance that keeps people out of the theatre and, in my opinion, those views do far more damage than good.

Of course we want Melbourne to be a community of rich culture, but evidently populations embrace new artists that move them emotionally and people shouldn't feel guilty for liking the art they like. I have a great friend who loves Mahler, I don't, we both love Rachmaninoff, we argue about it, it's OK!

If we're going to jettison something from the cultural discussion let's get rid of the idea that cultural expression should be seen as stratified. For anyone who cares about the future of the Western canon that sort of thinking is useless. It says, ''If you like Beyonce, don't come to the Symphony Orchestra, you won't like it.''

So the question is, how do you get people into the theatre? By introducing them to the works, enjoy exploring the world of art with them and don't criticise them as cretins for not immediately adopting your preferences. For Bantick and his friends, I'd also recommend a daily dose of both Mozart and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - the latter after lunch, of course.

Hugh Crosthwaite is a composer and lawyer.