We reported last week the demise of the Napa Valley Symphony after 79 years.
Since then, word has reached us from the other side of the country that the New York area can expect two new orchestras. One, previously reported, is Gary Schneider’s Orchestra for a New Century which debuts April 4.
The other is being formed by conductor Joseph Jones with, he tells Slipped Disc, the following purpose:
My intent in building this organization is not to provide myself a podium (though it will do that) but to create REAL jobs for musicians (starting salary of $30,000 for a 26 week season), educational opportunities for children, especially in culturally under-served and under privileged neighborhoods (we are planning 30 education concerts in 2012-2013 alone) and a thorough re-imagining of the symphony orchestra as a tool for social good (which is hardly a new concept, but seems to be forgotten or overlooked fairly often.)
I believe in keeping certain overhead as well controlled as possible: performances in affordable venues (not renting Carnegie Hall or Avery Fischer ‘just because we can’), regular engagement of younger, more affordable soloists (its nicer to pay $5000 or even $2500 to someone who needs the break, and its awfully tough to pay $40,000 a night week after week, even if the virtuoso in question is worth it) and keeping executive salaries reasonable (including, yes, that of the conductor–I don’t really need to make $500,000+ a year. I’m perfectly happy with $50,000 as long as I get to make music and build something meaningful.) I’ve already determined that $4m can go a VERY long way!
My question has been why it is that so few new orchestras are being established. There is a tremendous amount of talent out there: much of it is unemployed or underemployed, and even more of it is recently graduated. Are we not supposed to pursue music as a career? Should we all become ‘crossover artists’ or go into other fields?! Should we close the doors of Juilliard, Curtis, Eastman and Peabody, tell young children not to bother with classical music, turn our backs to Bach, Beethoven and Brahms (not to mention Vaughan Williams, Barber, Corigliano and Rouse?) No, no, no!
The answer, to my mind, lies in reminding people just how HUMAN this music is. It is not elitist; this is music for the ’99%,’ not the 1%. And, speaking practically, if London can carry 7 full time professional orchestras and Tokyo can support 8, shouldn’t New York City (and other major American cities) be able to support 4 or 5 (full time, 26-36+ week season, salaried) orchestra which also feature intensive education programs?