The Magic of Music
The story "Unsuccessful Overtures" by Judith Dobrzynski has caused quite a bit of discussion in the field, and I'd like to share with you the letter I sent last week to the Wall Street Journal.
"To the Editor:
As President and CEO of the American Symphony Orchestra League, I must express my concern over the recent "Unsuccessful Orchestras" story in last weekend's "Leisure & Arts," which fails to capture the very positive messages and conclusions that were also a part of the report, and the important lessons learned by the 15 participating orchestras and the foundation, lessons that will be of immense help to all orchestras.
The world we live in is changing drastically, and orchestras, like other nonprofit arts organizations (not to mention professional sports and the movie industry) are facing a sea change in the way the general public consumes art, culture, and entertainment. It is important to note that one of the principal conclusions stated in the report was: "Despite predictions of the death of classical music and its audience, there is healthy support for the art form."
Bravo to the Knight Foundation for giving 15 American orchestras the financial backing to experiment with new models and ways of doing business and the freedom to take risks, and for encouraging discussions that have led to some great change in the orchestra field.
Minimalist Jukebox concerts offered at midnight in Los Angeles; the brand new multi media television and web series Keeping Score in San Francisco; new concert formats for presenting traditional music in greater context in Chicago, St. Louis, Houston, Spokane and others; distribution of recordings over iTunes from concerts in New York, Los Angeles, and Milwaukee; podcasting in Utah and Virginia. These are just a handful of the many innovative ways orchestras are finding new audiences in our changed world. And, by the way, some of those varied offerings are finding success in transferring new audiences to traditional concerts as well.
Also encouraging is that in an informal survey of the League's membership this fall, 72% of orchestras report increased or steady attendance over this time last year, and the orchestras with increases outnumber the ones with steady attendance by a 2-1 margin.
President & CEO
American Symphony Orchestra League"
It has been said that those who succeed must first have many failures. It is wonderful that the Knight Foundation has helped orchestras to have important discussions, and to experiment. What we must all do is have the patience to allow experimentation, to recognize that genuine experimentation actually anticipates failures and partial successes, and that those are the ways one learns and improves. None of us have had the opportunity to see all the light bulbs that Edison tried which did not work.
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