But now I’ve seen something presented in public that matches things I’ve heard privately. It’s a blog post that Tony Woodcock wrote last week. Tony used to run the Minnesota Orchestra, and now runs the New England Conservatory. So his credentials — and his inside knowledge of the classical music field — are impeccable. He starts with the horrors happening in Detroit, and goes on from there to talk about a much larger issue — which is (in his view) that classical music, as an enterprise, needs to change drastically.
He’s doing something about that, with the new Entrepreneurial Musicianship program he so fiercely launched at NEC. But that’s a story for another post. For now, look at some excerpts from what he’s just written:
I have been talking recently with some major donors and leaders prominent in the orchestral world…Donors are feeling fatigued by orchestras – the constant demands, the needs, the on-going and unresolved problems. They are questioning the role of “orchestra monoliths” whose consumption of a community’s philanthropic wealth is disproportionate to the value they produce.***
[S]ociety has changed….Societal changes present huge challenges to our conservatively held views of what constitutes an orchestra. We can blame society and national leaders and the media but that’s not going to get us very far. We are where we are and everything is moving forward with or without us.***
We are forever talking about the issue of relevance. Clearly, the performing arts’ relevance has declined as measured by the sheer drop in attendance figures as well as the arts’ ever more superficial penetration in the community. But I want to change the term from relevance to legitimacy which presents a much bigger issue. I use “legitimacy” here almost in the political sense of an organization deriving the moral right to exist from the approbation of the people.
Please read what he wrote. It’s important.