New music in Toronto

Or, rather, no new music in Toronto. I'm talking about the amazing news yesterday about the Toronto Symphony -- they're going to banish new music from their regular season, at least for this year, and stick it off by itself in a few concerts next spring. I imagine many people will be outraged. If you're a serious classical music person,  you're supposed to support new music, and demand that orchestras play it whether their audience likes it or not. But I'd like to take another view. Maybe the Toronto Symphony's management is right. If … [Read more...]

The tipping point

In the past two days, I've talked to two arts professionals who each told me the same troubling thing -- that subscription sales have been dropping strongly, not just in music, but in the other performing arts. (And, within the music world, not just for orchestras, but for opera companies as well. As one of these two people said, the conventional wisdom is that orchestras are in trouble while opera companies are doing fine, but the reality is otherwise.) I haven't tried to check what these two people told me, but they're both in a position to … [Read more...]

How musicians used to make a living

Here's something I found in Crescendo 75, a really marvelous book published by the Indianapolis Symphony, to celebrate their 75th anniversary: The issues surrounding a less-than-52-week season [which became an issue for orchestras in the mid-1960s] caused the public to take a look at what these highly-trained professionals had been doing to put bread on the table during the periods of time they were not being paid to perform. An article in The Indianapolis Star of August 23, 1964, shed some light on the typical exploits of those who were … [Read more...]


I'm back from vacation, much refreshed, back to work, but a little frightened of the schedule I, like many New York professionals, take too much for granted -- constant pressure, too much to do, a whirlwind of deadlines, opportunities, and work-for-hire, which all become more than a little demoralizing. Maybe that's related to what I want to talk about today. When we imagine the future of classical music, we think a lot about externals -- a larger, younger, more excited audience, less formal concerts, more new music played, a sense that … [Read more...]