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The following US orchestras will not start the new season

1 Atlanta

The musicians have been locked out, stripped of salary and healthcare benefits.

2 Minnesota

The players are resisting a $40,000 pay cut

3 St Paul Chamber Orchestra

A 67% cut is being demanded (UPDATE: ST Paul will open this weekend, then likely shut)

4 Indianapolis

The musicians are being put on part-time.

5 San Antonio

The players are owed $225,000 and the company is $850,000 in debt (UPDATE: the players contest these figures and hope the season can start, seee letter below).

6 A N Other Orchestra

The slot will not stay vacant for long.

All of the above are casualties of long-running negotiations that are running so late they have jeopardised the season. I cannot remember a time when so many US orchestras were simultaneously in such difficulty. Whatever patchwork solutions are achieved in the month ahead, system changes are required across the sector in the long term. These are not isolated instances so much as symptoms of an underlying paralysis.


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  1. Indeed, they are not. And, that paralysis is the result of a variety of maladies; one of them the fundamental disconnect between those who run the ensembles and those that deliver the performance product. Sadly, musicians are less and less involved in the administration of ensembles across the country. This is partly our own fault, partly an education gap; the prior fault lying with organizations willing to abdicate responsibility for their fiscal health by hiring people devoid of any connection with the art itself.

    If we are to fix this, we must now enter a new era of realistic financial goals, understanding of true market forces, and cooperative responsibility for the success of the ensemble shared by those charged with its artistic quality. Should more musicians be running orchestras? Yes. And, they must be musicians with administrative, fundraising, and marketing savvy. The days of orchestra administrative personnel having no connection to music are fast ending. Thankfully.

    • I’m so glad to hear you express this point. I totally agree. The audience does indeed notice when quality is not delivered because the people running the place don’t know their business. Art is too transparent and vulnerable for the effects of bad business practices to go unnoticed. Those of us who care about art and understand it’s enormous value to society and humanity at large must take the reins to deliver our art forms to the public. It would be interesting to research the success of orchestras, opera companies, and even music conservatories which have been run by musicians compared with those run by non-musicians. I would have to guess that we would see evidence to support that musicians run healthier organizations.

      • Seppo Saari says:

        Good points.
        If one has a background both in music (e.g. diplome/Sibelius Academy) and administration (BBA), it sounds rather good on paper. However, in real life, those who recruit people for orchestra do not seem to prefer this combination either. This is especially true in Finland.
        The greatest pain in Finland seems to be affluent public funding on one hand, and rather amateurish administration on the other hand. Input and output are unbalanced, save a few exceptions. New, especially young audience has disappeared.
        Hope the best for US orchestras

    • Rick Black says:

      Could not agree more, but would add that when you care about the arts you need to get on those boards you care about and get involved supporting your cause and voicing your voice as a representative of your community.

      • But, there has been a push over the past 15 year from government funding sources to “professionalize” arts organization management. Smaller organizations were told they would lose funding if they don’t have salaried administrative staff. So even a small organization finds it difficult to be “run by a musician.”

  2. How very sad to see this happening to our orchestral colleagues in the USA. London should count itself very fortunate to have self-governing orchestras who have for decades managed to avoid the kind of industrial warfare that appears to feature so much on the other side of the Atlantic. Despite hard times and the collapse of the recording industry, all of the London orchestras appear to be in pretty robust health. Even though there are indications that one London orchestra may be breaking ranks, long may London’s sensible lead continue.

    Perhaps this would be a good time for the players in the American orchestras on this list to reform their ensembles as a musicians cooperative, in exactly the same way that the Philharmonia did when it was unilaterally disbanded by Walter Legge? A name change was necessary then – ‘New Philharmonia’ – and I suppose for legal reasons a similar cosmetic exercise may be needed in the USA. The Philharmonia players were of course given considerable support by the conductors of the time; Klemperer, Giulini and Boult. Do our American colleagues enjoy the same support from their conductors? Sounds like the time for all musicians – players and conductors – to stick together.

    • Gary Stucka says:

      Yes, things are difficult for some US orchestras right now. However, before we move to possibly accept the London models—-and I think we’re a ways off from that—–I have been hearing for at least the last decade about the terrible age-ism in the London musical community; ie: one’s career is FINISHED by age 40. This is totally unacceptable on these shores.

      Gary Stucka
      Cellist, Chicago Symphony Orchestra

  3. Mike getzin says:

    As is obvious in the orchestra crises here, the should disband and regroup as a unit and reform using the Berlin philharmonic model, and contact them to do it. That seems to be the only answer, and if they did, it would take courage and sacrifice but without a performance product, mgt is dead in the water. Berlin is doing well because of the musicians controlling their destiny along with solid savvy support from their city and sponsors. That is sorely needed here.

    • Blanka Bednarz says:

      Not to forget, the German society’s attitude towards high art and the vast support of the German government for high art (thought even there problems appear these days). Orchestras in each country have to tackle different history, culture, attitudes of the general public, different funding principles, health care systems (a big factor), etc. One model does not fit all.

      • There are lots of Germans in Milwaukee; maybe most of the intelligent people of Wisconsin! Their orchestra is now lead by their former(?) Principal Trumpet player. Their budget was balanced!

  4. This comment may sound nieve, but I really think it comes down to programming and marketing. The ONLY reason I bought season tickets to my (very large) city’s symphony this time was because they are playing Luto’s Concerto for Orchestra on the LAST concert of the season. I thought, “well, I might as well check out a few more shows while I’m at it.” The programming is extremely boring. You want to get young people in the seats? Slap “world premiere” on the program. Open a young composers competition where the prize is a performance and a recording. Open rehearsals- and charge $5 or pay what you can. I know that sounds crazy, but small efforts add up.

    Our city’s opera is in the black. Symphonies, opera companies, and the like CAN survive.

    Then again, it may have been due to lack of public funds, which is another issue all together.

    • Elizabeth, why is your city’s name this big secret? Where are you from?

    • But while Lutoslawski might get you (and me!) to buy tickets, it’ll have the opposite effect on a lot of other potential concert-goers. It’s not a stretch to imagine someone saying, “Last concert of the season has a piece by some modernist Polish composer I’ve never heard of? Where’s my season-ending Beethoven 9? Heck, if it’s gotta be modern music, how about Carmina Burana.”

      If it’s going to be done (partially) through programming, it has to be creative programming, and varied programming. I’d probably skip buying tickets to see Beethoven 6 live, but pair it with the Schoenberg Chamber Symphony and the Brahms violin concerto and we’ll talk.

  5. What we need is a revolution of the system. We musicians and educators need to start brainstorming to save the future of quality music in America- good and bad ideas alike. Here are several: please comment and maybe we can have some positive discussion on this matter.

    1) Music Education in public schools needs to be reformed. Take models from the European Nations (Germany has a great music education program) and begin incorporating them into American schools. In my own public school education, music class was a joke. There was almost no homework, and students did not pay attention in class. Music should be treated just as seriously as any literature class – with listening, essays, concert going, tests, and even field trips.

    2) Orchestras must learn how to market to a broader and younger fan base. Unfortunately orchestra music is still seen as “snooty” and “hoity toity.” People come to these concerts and feel intimidated by the rich clothes, the high prices of tickets, and the old folk who glare at them when clapping between movements. The environment is unwelcoming. Perhaps have a “hoot and holler” type of night, where audiences can boo or applaud as they see fit (as they did in Europe when many of these pieces were first performed.)

    3) Get more interactive with orchestra audiences. Set up an exit interview – perhaps a poll on facebook or twitter: Which piece did you enjoy the most? Or… which of the following pieces would you like to hear next season?

    4) Get behind new, quality composers and generate hype for them.

    5) Composers must write in a way that is both artistic and comprehensible. Atonal nonsense and serialism drives most laypeople away, and once again the potentital new audience sees the orchestra as “unrelatable” or too hard to understand, and therefore quickly loses interest in it, and certainly won’t fund it.

    6) Give groupon deals.

    7) Offer special seats for certain guests or patrons that allow them to sit IN the orchestra.

    8) Make exciting and epic music videos and advertise them on tv or online

    9) Form chamber groups that take music into unusual places – bars, hospitals, homeless shelters, malls, businesses

    10) Have a “casual day” where orchestra members dress casually. Afterward, let musicians go into crowd and meet the audience.

    11) Allow a musician to stand up and say what a particular piece means to them, and what they appreciate about it.

    12) Do a brief interview of a musician on stage before the concert, to get the audience to know him or her better.

    • For an example of a thriving Classical Music ensemble take a look at Miami’s New World Symphony. Michael Tilson Thomas conducts and directs. They have not only maintained a concert series for years but they have expanded out towards the community with concerts outside , viewed “On The Wall”. They are mixing it up in terms of different types of concerts. They know how to do the outreach. In addition, they have built a new performance hall to accommodate their growing programs.
      They have growth at a time where there is general decline elsewhere in the USA

      Granted this is a training orchestra which serves to train music conservatory graduates in orchestral playing. It’s technically “pre professional” however, the players are very good, have lots of energy and the leadership is powerful.
      We miss our professional Florida Philharmonic which failed a couple times and met it’s final demise.
      We import the Cleveland Orchestra a couple weeks a year.
      For years, in the 1980s we had Performing Arts For Community and Education (PACE) in Miami which certainly put musicians to work. Many concerts in public places.
      But look at the model of NWS for examples of how to grow and maintain a symphony in today’s economy. Quite remarkable!

      • Yes, the New World Symphony is a cost-effective model because it is using students and not having to pay professional salaries, as the Florida Philharmonic required. Do you see how the two went together – the rise of NWS and the demise of a more expensive, experienced, professional group? Replacing professional ensembles with student groups is maybe not the best example of how to grow and maintain a symphony. With that as your model, there would be no professional groups and they would have to try to live on the student stipend they get in this group until the next group of students came.

      • I agree. I was AMAZED by NWS and their ability to reach a wide audience in many ways. The European style entrance by the ensemble… it’s exciting, like what I imagine introducing a team at a sporting event must be like. They lower the lights, and everyone files on stage and bows to greet the audience, it’s almost sexy. The concert dress is all black, which is more modern than “ye olde tuxedo,” and very striking on the wall casts. The programming is innovative, a good balance of the cannon rep with lots of new pieces, and the club nights. My first concert with them last winter gave me an entirely new perspective on how concerts should be done. They have worked to make it a hub for the city, and the concerts last winter when I filled in were both sold out, and they had 1500 people listening on the grounds outside, you could feel the energy of the group, and the ensemble really fed off of that in the performances, it was one of the most incredible experiences of my professional life thus far. I go back for children’s concerts at the end of the month, and I can’t wait to see what they do with those. Orchestras are not dead, the players are open to a lot of ideas, it’s the administrations that need to open up, be willing to take pay cuts on their end, and innovate!

      • Minor detail:
        MWS isn’t paid beyond a small stipend with a dorm room. I certainly hope that isn’t a model adopted elsewhere unless it is for training students.

      • Don’t forget, though, that NWS members are not paid a salary for their services, which is a huge cost avoided that no other orchestra who claims to be “professional” can pull off.

        • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

          NWS musicians receive housing, health insurance, and a stipend to cover other expenses. The NWS model is the result of the vision of Michael Tilson Thomas and a Board that has supported this vision for almost 25 years. Carnival Cruise Lines and their founder, Ted Arison, were the original funders but the support has become much more diversified now. The new Frank Gehry performance center will be a remarkable asset for many years to come.

          Their pioneering use of Internet2 (the ultra high-speed version using 100% fiber optic connections available to major educational institutions in the USA and around the world) and extensive use of new technologies date back to their earliest days (founded in 1988). NWS presents itself, first and foremost, as an educational institution whose mission is to form the next generation of performing artists for symphony orchestras world-wide. Every musician accepted MUST have completed a degree or diploma program at the tertiary level. The musical, physical, and psychological health of the musicians is an integral part of the program.

          But what really sets them apart from the typical major orchestra is the USA is the innovative programming, the enthusiasm, and the sense of service to the community locally, nationally, and internationally.

          • nice product -placement endorsing there.
            I’ve seen a few comments relating to groups like NWS, and this has to be said about them:

            The only reason there are students that energetic and that talented, not to mention willing to live on a pittance for a while, is because they all have high hopes of winning auditions for those professional orchestras that they may be – supposedly- replacing.

            Without this fact none of them would have put in the countless thousands of hours of practice needed to perform at their level.

          • Hi Robert,
            Because of the sheer number of replies I’ve had difficulty finding my way around on the WordPress format on my mobile cell, lost my post so I’ll just go direct. And hope this gets to you.
            Thank you for acknowledging the local pro musicians’ pain over the dwindling music employment in Miami during the time NWS was developing. NWS is a great model and became an exciting, ground breaking organization which greatly enhances our community. I’ve only heard them in the Arscht Center thus far.
            And for me, they fill my deep need to hear the classical orchestral repertoire live here in Miami where we haven’t had a professional Philharmonic for quite some time.

    • Some responses:

      1) US Music Education is such a problem and is getting worse. As a music educator of more than 36 years advocating for music ed is a constant fight. The problems in the US: 1) music ed is not a tested area, 2) not nearly enough money for education so the arts are the first to feel the pinch, 3) music programs are being cut left and right (in my middle school we only have band, chorus, and orchestra, albeit with 53% of the school population participating), 4) less field trips being allowed in the past few years due to increased emphasis on math. The biggest problems are in urban areas, however, many of which have little to no arts education in the schools. In my experience, it is often the arts that keep many children (especially teenagers) in school!

      2) Tim Smith of the Baltimore Sun (Maryland, USA) wrote a blog last year about 3 Baltimore area community orchestras: Columbia Symphony, Hopkins Symphony, and the Susquehanna Symphony of which I am founder and music director (35 years). He praised our interesting rep choices and hinted that all orchestras should program such interesting rep. If you take a look at our website you will see the orchestra in tie-dyed t-shirts on the occasion of our May concert at which we performed a symphony by Lee Johnson based on Grateful Dead tunes. This coming May we will perform a concert of music about the Civil War – most music on the program is less than 60 years old (some is quite recent).
      However, much as I love community music-making, I’m afraid that professional orchestras will continue to die away. We need the PROS!!

      4 and 5) Yes, all orchestras need to play living composers, and over time an audience will come to respect and trust a music director’s choice of new music.

      10) I chat up audience members prior to concerts, and orchestra members enjoy chatting with patrons at intermission and after concerts.

      11) I LOVE this idea – I plan to incorporate it!

      Sheldon Bair
      Music Director – Susquehanna Symphony (Maryland)
      Music Educator

    • What a great list of suggestions… we’ll try many of them in our GEMS-sponsored events.

    • Caroline Kinsey says:

      in response to Jeff. We at the Memphis Symphony do many of the things you have mentioned and I believe it has made a real difference. These are all great ideas and I am so proud of the MSO for sticking our neck out there and trying new and exciting things. It has been great fun, too. It’s more work but and I personally cannot always give as much as I would like but we are still working. I think we are lucky to have musicians who are willing to do more.
      I hope all the orchestras resolve the issues and we are all playing, makeing enough money to survive and doing the only thing we have ever wanted to do. Good Luck to everyone!

    • Good points from Jeff, but I disagree with the direction you suggest for music education reform

      I think every child should be required to choose an instrument and receive instruction and participate in an ensemble as part of the school curriculum.

      And it should be paid for by an arts tax on sports salaries and ticket sales. If people are happy with the sports industry making a huge profit, fine, but they should support the arts.

      • Eric Benjamin says:

        Years of experience as a conductor of youth ensembles in schools and community groups have taught me that performing in such groups does almost nothing to bring young people to attend concerts. They enjoy music very much as a tactile, kinetic, social experience, but buying a ticket, sitting in a seat and listening is still foreign to them.

        It MAY translate into a basic support of community and professional groups later, when they’re in business themselves and are called to buy advertising or make a tax-deductible donation, but attendance is still spotty. (I can’t even get the music faculty of local public schools to show up at concerts, and we have tried all kinds of gambits.)

        Ensemble performance is still worth doing as a component of education, but it misses the point when it comes to music as a listening experience. The educational emphasis on cultural awareness , aesthetics, history, etc, is so lacking in our schools – the entire culture would have to change.

        I like Jeff’s list and have been doing some of these things with my orchestras here in Ohio. (I take great exception to his judgmental use of “nonsense” in reference to atonal music , but I agree it’s a hard sell.) Any benefit, even to the individual in attendance, is desirable but it is whistling in a gale.

    • great ideas….our group is implementing some already…

    • I don’t think it is necessarily a reformation of music eduation that is needed. Some music education programs in schools are organized well and are quite decent programs. Numbers are the main issue. The number of students interested in music is degrading and doing so quickly. As a result of that, funding has become a major issue, especially in public school settings. I will I agree with you that our programs do need help. I am speaking from my experiences with the public school music programs. I go to a small high school where there are about 50 or so people in music programs. As for the programs, we do not have many. We have marching band, concert band, jazz ensemble, and chorus programs and then the basic beginner music classes. I am very thankful we at least have these programs. Many students are deprived of programs such as these at other schools. As for treating music like literature, I agree! We do listening assignments and essays, and numerous things in my one band class. The sad part is, no text book or any sort of teaching material. My teacher wrote his own teacching materials and made powerpoints for us. We do a bit of concert going. We go see an orchestra every spring and watch local perfomances. anyway, now i am just rambling. I agree with all of you’re points you make. I think you are on the right track to bettering music in America.

      • Cole Riley says:

        Ah, yes i agree with you whole-heartedly. I am a junior at my very very small high school., we only have a marching band, and there are less than 10 members, Although I have been a part of our music program since it’s humble and quiet beginning, (i was in the first marching band our school has had) and I too, see the Music classes faltering and downgrading.If people would take in to consideration the time and effort orchestras and bands alike put into their art, we would have much, much more support on our end of the totem pole.

    • Seppo Saari says:

      Perhaps European music educattion in public schools is not always a good model to be copied. After six years of experience as music educator at University of Turku (Finland) Teacher Traing College, development between 1993-2010 was a follows:
      Music education programme:
      1) was cut by 70%.
      2) was medicalized (it became a servant of “well-being” program)
      3) was turned into entertainment
      4) was virtualized (it became part of “virtual university”, with a heavy underlining of IT)
      Now the newly graduated young teachers for primary schools are musically paralyzed and unprepared to do this work with children. But this is not tested in PISA…

    • My two cents on Jeff’s ideas:

      1) Music Education in public schools needs to be RETAINED. Let’s make sure we can keep it in the schools at all before we talk about what reforms to make.

      2, 3, 7, 10, 11, and 12) These all get at the idea of breaking down (or at least softening) the apparent “great divide” between the stage and the audience. I’d support most of this — if you want people to come back, give them a reason to come back. (However, we shouldn’t forget that there are concertgoers who LIKE the formality of a concert. If my wife doesn’t get to put on a fancy dress, it doesn’t count as a night out. :-)

      4, 5) Support new (good) composers, absolutely. But don’t tell them that they can and cannot write. “Artistic and comprehensible” isn’t far away from the Socialist Realism we saw in the former USSR. There are plenty of good composers writing “atonal” music and doing it in an accessible way. (Rouse and Higdon are only the first two names that leap to mind)

      6) Groupon makes everything better. :-)

    • Deborah Goldman says:

      Wonderful ideas!!!! Thank you for your suggestions.

  6. A cultural tragedy is unfolding in the U.S. The symphony orchestra is an endangered species.

    • The symphony orchestra has been an endangered species in all but the biggest of markers (L.A./N.Y) for the past 40-50 years. I think it’s admirable that everyone is trying to keep orchestras relevant to culture in America but it’s been losing this battle for a long, long time.

      When just one video game (Call of Duty) can sell over 23 million copies (almost $1 billion) to a mostly younger generation and hundreds of thousands of hours are is an orchestra, any orchestra, going to compete?

  7. I have always been confused by arguments about “administrators who are disconnected from the art.” I am a professional musician and also a development director for a moderately well known ensemble. I don’t know who all these philistine administrators are. Many of the executive directors, development directors, and production staff members that I know have substantial musical backgrounds and deep love for the art.

    Musicians also complain about board members, who are non-musicians and often part of dreaded industries like finance. But this has always been the case. Boards have always been essentially run by business people and community leaders who keep focused on the bottom line. The bottom line these days is just a lot worse than it used to be. Nothing has fundamentally changed in the governance of the organizations; indeed, it is the LACK of change that has caused problems, the adherence to old models.

    I don’t mean to offend anyone, but many musicians flatter themselves that they could run the orchestra better than the administrators because they “love” the music more, as though this will increase ticket sales and fundraising and lower production costs. A lot of full-time musicians I know are oblivious to the hard realities of the business they work in, and moreover, they are openly disdainful toward the very idea of “management” (and especially fundraising).

    These musicians might also be the same people who insist that it’s beneath them to play Nutcracker every year or “Rodgers and Hammerstein at the Symphony” or whatever, despite the fact that these things pay the bills. This is portrayed as management’s fault somehow, as though we just need an orchestra member to be the marketing director instead of the “businessman with no connection to music” (who more often than not has a masters degree in cello performance).

    I don’t want to cultivate an us-vs-them attitude and I’m sorry if this sounds like “management blaming the musicians” (because remember, I am a working musician too). That is something we in this industry inflict on ourselves because in-fighting is easier than confronting existential problems.

    • Well said. If I must make a blanket statement, in my experience as a professional performer for many years, musicians often make poor administrators. This is not their fault. PEOPLE make bad administrators, by and large, and without training and experience, it’s not likely that someone who has devoted his or her life to studying an instrument will have good business savvy as well. To expect as a matter of course that orchestra members be both outstanding (or better) musicians AND outstanding businessmen/administrators/marketers is asking far too much. “Yes, Ms. Doe, your performance resume is impressive, and your audition was both passionate and without flaw, but where is your MBA?”

      There may well be structural problems in the administrations of many US orchestras, but they are definitely not caused by a lack of appreciation for the arts, or a lack of musicians representing their own interests.

    • This is an especially important point I think.

  8. A major paradigm shift has been made in the Waterloo-Cedar Falls (Iowa) Symphony. As the organization was contemplating a structural reorganization following the departure of the ED, it was decided that the conductor would also serve in the capacity of CEO. Of course this takes a special individual and probably some kind of oversight from the Board of Directors (I’m only guessing as I am simply their program annotator). Of course the musicians have great respect for their musical leader so one can only hope that the administrative side of things operates as smoothly.

  9. Maybe the bands/orchestras want attention?

  10. John Meggers says:

    Elections (as well as scaring the crap out of the *only* people who support symphony orchestras – “the successful”) have consequences, do they not?

  11. The diagnosis of an underlying paralysis is absolutely correct. Contrary to all the bad news surrounding the arts these days, I don’t believe the arts are doomed. The content of what we present in our concerts is of too good a quality to be irrelevant. But it is our job to make it relevant for audiences and we must adapt to our changing circumstances. That’s not all, we must do it quickly.

    I take the stance that through some creative restructuring and fresh perspective, we really could stop the bleeding and have growth in arts organizations.

    For my part, I’m trying to present as many solutions to these problems as possible. I just wonder how desperate the situation has to get before we change how we do things?

    Norman, thanks for your great articles. I always enjoy your no-nonsense approach to the state of affairs for the arts in the US. Right now, it’s not a pretty picture and we all need to take a close look at the picture you paint in order to plan our next moves for improvement.

  12. Thank you for this information. I am appalled and shocked, but not as surprised as I wish I were. As patrons, I think it is vital for us to support the arts in the broader scene including political influence as well as funding.

  13. Fran Goldman says:

    I hear this comment about orchestra management not having a connection to music or musicians all the time but in my experience most executive directors and orchestra administrative employees are or were musicians. In fact, few orchestras hire ED’s without some background in music and knowledge of repertoire, etc.

    The job of running an orchestra is very demanding, so despite the fact that many administrators have music backgrounds (I have a performance degrees and performed professionally for 20 years before getting into management) once you step full-time into management you simply do not have the time to maintain your playing skills. That doesn’t mean you have lost touch with music – just that you cannot maintain a professional playing level when your day job requires 80 hours per week. This may also be part of the reason why few musicians want careers as administrators – it requires a choice to be made.

    Our orchestra has financial challenges as well despite the fact that more than half of our staff members are musicians. Just because you are a musician does not mean you necessarily have the organizational, marketing, fundraising, communication skills to be effective. If we are looking for artistic guidance we have a music director, orchestra musicians on the board and committees, and we can always just talk to the musicians.

    You may want to look more at the orchestra boards as they are the volunteers who usually make the important financial decisions and often have much less training or musical background than orchestra managers or the hired administrative staff.

  14. The comments seem to indicate a belief that this is a management issue. I beg to differ. Classical music the the “pop” music of the past. Just as the market for folk music is limited (pop music from the 1800′s) the market for pure classical music is disappearing. Young people today are listening to hip-hop, rap and other modern music genres. They also listen to music considered to be from the past like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Beatles and Rolling Stones. Classical and folk are a bit “too far” in the past for their interest.
    The Symphony has to lear to adapt to the current market. It is very difficult to perform a pure classical schedule and attract the audience needed to fund such an endeavor. Most cities are not large enough to be able to support a large orchestra. Pops Orchestras are doing a bit better then the “classical” orchestras but they must continue to incorporate modern music into their repertoire to attract the young audience that make up the majority of music purchases (recordings and tickets).
    Universities are also graduating record numbers of symphony musicians at a time when symphony jobs are disappearing at a record rate. This provides much more supply than demand driving pay rates down. This means players will have to work for less to sustain an orchestra on dwindling funds or see the orchestras fold altogether.
    I know purists and working musicians don’t want to hear this sort of news but it is the hard truth reality. Today’s successful (symphonic) musicians are finding alternative and innovative ways to appeal to the market. “Classical” music just won’t pay the bills anymore.

    • JJ, I think that you are also very right. Dynamic skill sets are a necessity now. I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one who believes that.

    • “In person, no recordings until later in history. You wanted to see a performance? You had to go in person to see it, no other alternatives.”

      I had figured that out. I’m still curious about how many people it reached, compared with folk music. I suspect relatively few, outside the centres I mentioned, in which case the claim that it is the pop music of the past is a bit simplistic.

      • Iain,

        I think you would be surprised. Classical music spread throughout the United States in the 1800s. One example, is Jenny Lind, a Swedish opera star who was brought to tour the U.S. by PT Barnum of Barnum & Bailey from 1850-1852. She sold out everywhere she went, was paid $1,000 per night plus expenses for 150 concerts. Imagine that amount of money in relation to today’s value.

        Yes, this was a concert put on by famed promotor P.T. Barnum, who was known for grand promotions, but the results are astounding, even compared to today’s standards. It was putting an opera singer in a concert format which was different for the time period.

        30-40,000 people were waiting at the pier in NYC for her arrival. A sold out theater of almost 4,500 for the first show. Shirts, gloves, coats, handkerchiefs, hats, etc. were all sold with her image. Sounds like a modern day rock star.

        At the end of her tour, crowds were so wild that she was trapped in the concert hall. She stopped touring with PT Barnum because it was too crazy, but she went on to successfully tour the US and Canada before going to England.

        Just one example, but it shows that classical performers were treated a little differently than they are now.

        • Sorry, my comment turned up in the wrong place.

          Interesting. I believe Jenny Lind was mentioned in another discussion on crossover, although I’m not suggesting that she falls into that category.

      • Maybe the Met Museum should shut down in favor of MOMA? I mean, it’s such OLD art…

        Please. Lack of a sense of cultural history (and decent education) drives these comments.

        • I think this reply is far too simplistic. Orchestras will never die, but can every urban area sustain a professional orchestra that plays music that is primarily (if you’re lucky) 100 years old? It’s only if new music is exciting and culturally relevant (at least more so than it is now) that I see any hope for the professional orchestra. Where new pieces are actually events and the general audience has actually heard of the composers whose pieces are premiered. This requires radical rethinking on many involved with classical music’s part- from players to listeners to composer themselves. It’s also not meant at all as an “anti-avant-garde” rant. If orchestras were to make the latest Lachenmann cool and relevant and exciting to a larger modern audience, I say excellent.

          If we rely on the traditional “canon” exclusively, I think the US will get by with severely fewer major professional orchestras. They will be nice museums, but they won’t be part of a vibrant art form that makes much of any business sense beyond the largest and most dedicated major metropolitan areas.

        • Another way to put it might be: the Met is great, but it doesn’t employ a lot of artists.

          Obviously the analogy can only be applied so far, the two worlds are very different, I see problems with persuing this reasoning much farther on both sides of the argument.

          • The Met doesn’t employ a lot of artists?? What do you call all those great singers and (sometimes) conductors?

    • Michael Hurshell says:

      ‘Classical music is the the “pop” music of the past.’ – I think it is more complicated than that. While Jenny Lind is a great example of an attempt – and a very good one – to popularize opera singing etc., it is useful to remember that there has always been (for the last 400 years+, in the Western world) art music and dance music. That is the important distinction. And art music was never “pop.” People who have enjoyed sufficient music education, and can follow the “drama” of a movement in sonata form, will never be bored by a Beethoven symphony and will never need “cross over” to enjoy a concert. Education is the key, and I’m afraid playing in a marching band, while fine in itself, is no substitute. Once again it is interesting to follow what the priorities of any given society are; music, in the art music sense, seems to have sunk to an alarmingly low position in the U.S. While Germany (where I have lived for many years) has similar educational challenges, the fact that government supports the arts (price tag: higher taxes) places a different and ongoing emphasis on maintaining art music. So, in times of economic downturn, ensembles don’t face the challenges that many U.S. orchestras are dealing with, or not nearly on such a scale. At the same time, experiments like “an instrument for every child” are expanding in Germany – developed in one city as a measure against teen violence and the teen gang phenomenon – and the results are bringing more support for the program, now a state wide offer in Nordrhein-Westfalen. Concert audiences will grow significantly younger there, I believe, as this continues. So: what should orchestras in the States do, meanwhile? Broadening content is a tool that might backfire, if “classical” is gradually replaced by cross-over and other such attempts. I believe that teaching young people how to enjoy Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Schubert (fill in your favorites here), would be more helpful. Not easy, I know… but worthwhile.

  15. Dr. David Parker says:

    And they said that taking music out of the schools wasn’t going to have an effect on the world at large…


  16. David Ramos says:

    This is very sad news as I’ve heard the Symphonie Fantastique by the Minneapolis, Atlanta and Indianapolis orchestras. The point I try to make is that when visiting a city I often try to find an Orchestra or other classical music event to attend. This sort of thinking and feeling about music was a result of great teachers, friends and my oldest sister who played violin. Unfortunately, through I have seen my former high school go from multiple classical music classes to an almost abandonment of music programs. It now relies on support from programs like, Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation. The only true salvation for orchestras is to reach out and touch a new generation of musicians and fans. The way to accomplish this is through more funding. Donations are not enough, these Orchestras have to fight hard to fund their existence. I am reminded of the Detroit Institute of Arts and the tax levy that they fought to pass on three surrounding counties and generate an estimated $23 million annually. The increase in property taxes will generate revenue for the museum putting it in good financial standing. Some new benefits given to residents are free admittance.

    Orchestras should learn from this and make an effort to do something similar. Perhaps not free admittance, but something that would appeal to voters in their region.

    • Blanka Bednarz says:

      We are all in this together, those of us who studied music at some point in our lives, music teachers, teachers in general, parents. Where I work, most full-time music faculty make every effort to come to every single concert the school offers. That’s RARE! In so many institutions music faculty themselves do not go to concerts, or do very seldom. What a powerful message is sent to students when they do see their instructors in the audience? And–please, by no means does this refer to those struggling to put food on the table and to meet the most basic needs of existence–how many families could potentially forego an extra (8th?) pair of snickers or jeans, a few bags of chips and a worthless video game to save for an evening of higher art, as long as the sense of worth of the high art were indeed instilled in them (This would take parents’ effort, for sure). How about our politicians, and most visible figures of business, film, etc.? What a powerful message they would send, aided by the TV and other media, were images of them attending concerts to enter every household and create the sense that concert-going is a normal part of life, just as going to the cinema, or swimming, or reading books… Another thought, on cost–it’s amazing to compare ticket prices for most orchestra concerts vs. pop music concerts. Even the most expensive orchestra concerts pale by comparison. The cheap tickets–well, many a movie is more expensive. It’s all about priorities we demand of our political representatives, exemplify by own actions as musicians, spread in our communities, instill in our students and in their parents… This is US, the country that has attracted some of the best musicians in the world, a country where there are so many orchestras of high level, and probably more non-professional orchestras than in any other land. We do not do enough to promote these facts to our own citizens…. The issue of “overproduction” of musicians by schools is an interesting one. i could not agree more, on one hand. On the other, the fact that so many people want to study music signifies, if not proves, what an innate, visceral need it is for humans to have music in their lives. How do we deny the right to study music to those who want to?

  17. Mr. Lebrecht,

    My name is Craig Sorgi and I am the Chairman of the San Antonio Symphony Players Association Negotiating Committee.

    Perhaps you should have prefaced your post’s title with the words “A Prediction” because without them this post is both inaccurate and inflammatory and is already spreading confusion in the industry.

    In fact, we are not currently locked out or on strike and are working toward an agreement. Our season is scheduled to begin the first week of October. If and when we are locked out or go on strike I will be the first to know.

    Additionally, we are disputing the recently reported deficit projections as we believe them to be inaccurate and inflated as well.


    Craig Sorgi
    Chair, SASPA Negotiating Committee

  18. Jeffrey Paull says:

    I’d like to read a substantive article or three examining this terrible and complex issue. Can somebody guide me to something either on the net, or something I could get a hold of at a library. I thank you in advance for any help.

  19. This underlying paralysis extends into almost every sphere of life. Old outmoded actions based on obsolete thought forms that refuse to lay down and die. What is required is a revolution in the world of human consciousness. What has this to do with the situations here described?………..Everything.

    • Jeffrey Paull says:

      OK!” Let’s get started with that revolution in the world of human consciousness.” Before dinner, even! Ball’s in your court – what do we do first?

      BTW – you said, ” thought forms that refuse to lay down and die.” It should be LIE down and die, I believe.

  20. Classical music shaped so much of what we hear today. Those !, IV, V I progressions, including the Blues, Jazz which are American Music.
    (Yes there are roots from Africa , British Isles as well) We are Global, we are transient and have to maintain our rich and diverse Ethnic Music. I’m starting to think of Classical Music as a type of Temporal Ethnic Sound. (TM-VR)

    I see (hear) Classical as “The Oldies” and see the need to maintain this genre as it’s scope is vast. If we took down the paintings and works of art from the same Classical , Baroque, Impressionist etc eras..we’d have so much less to offer our people. Lack of exposure to this variety would be a shame.

    That the brain scan images (SPECT) prove that classical music makes us function better may be a fact not known to many. Daniel Levine has written books such as “The World in 6 Songs”, Oliver Sacks has a few important volumes as well. There is proof that we thrive with exposure to these instruments and music. If you want to help your child with homework play a little Mozart in the background. It may help organize the brain so as to make the processing go more smoothly. The music by Bach is so well organized.
    If we only offer compressed MP3s, lo fi headphones and no live music, all will be electronic. What we miss in terms of timbre or colors, will go undetected and it’s like taking a chunk of colors out of the rainbow.

    Baskin Robins with just one boring flavor? America with only what we are hearing on the radio these days? The formulaic rehashing of brashness? It’s like having a stick of jerky for a meal instead of a plentiful Thanksgiving repast..
    Fortunately some European countries continue to support Classical Music. It’ going to be a heft ticket price to have to go there to witness the grand scale in person. And there is just no other way to fully experience this music-
    Live and in Person.

  21. Mary Bullard says:

    I do not envy orchestral musicians and administrators across the country trying to negotiate salaries that not only financially acknowledge the musicians talents and dedication, but are also sustainable for the organization’s future. As an administrator with two graduate degrees (MA in Arts Admin and an MBA), I have to chime in (no pun intended) and say that I think part of the problem with the non profit arts organization model is the inability of organizations to hire strong administrative talent due to extremely low salaries compared to administrative professionals in other fields. What these organizations (and most non profits) need are more competent, innovative, and passionate employees willing to contribute new ideas and solutions to fix our broken system. But, what college or MBA graduate is going to take a job for $40,000, if they are lucky, when they can walk down the street and take XYZ corporate job for twice that? Not to mention the disparity in benefit packages likely to be offered. There aren’t many of us. I know that saying administrators need higher salaries in the midst of this heated conversation won’t win me many fans, but it is a huge part of the problem that no one is talking about.

    Mary Bullard
    Executive Director, Musica Sacra of New York

  22. Michael Bee says:

    Yes the country is in recession and yes ticket sales and funding are down, but managements are taking advantage of the situation far beyond what should be warrented for some good old fashion Regan union busting trying to roll back hard fought CBAs which have taken decades to achieve!

  23. Three words: Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. Like every other orchestra in the US, we have financial challenges, but since the musicians are heavily involved in the running of the organization (and three are on the board), the level of cooperation between “management” and the musicians is very high. It would be nice if every orchestra member everywhere would have such input and involvement. It truly makes a difference.

  24. Margaret Cornils Luke says:

    Honestly, let’s talk candidly about the difference the internet and the world wide web is having on our young culture. It is much different that our forefathers and mothers. The net not only gives the potential symphony goer an instant concert online without the cost (or greatly reduced cost) or effort but it also is becoming less desirable among young listeners who can’t seem to listen to anything for some time without the sound coming out of a sound system somewhere. Acoustical performance of any type is much less apt to pull in a crowd. I do believe our youth are interested in music of all forms and we as a nation must become responsible on some level to make this happen. Education through the schools and commonality that orchestral music will remain and will continue to please will be our saving grace. Perhaps if we lose all our electricity, the nation will have a greater appreciation of this art so crucial to the fulfillment of our existance here on our planet. The bottome line is does the average public care or even take notice?

    • Good point! Look at other examples in the world that are going by the wayside. Physical albums sales are suffering due to iTunes and single song purchases online. Newspapers are dying across the country to online versions. Same as magazine sales. TV shows are being shown online and without commercials. Even if people watch TV on their TV, it’s usually recorded to watch without commercials and at their own convenience. Paper books sales are declining due to e-book versions (Kindle, Fire, Nook, etc.). YouTube is making it far too easy to watch a concert (or just the parts they find interesting) and not have to pay for a ticket. When I was a student, I traveled hundreds of miles for concerts and clinics to watch my favorite drummers or musical groups. Now, “Google” the name or go to YouTube and hundreds of videos will pop up. No gas money or plane tickets, no admission fees. But then again, it’s not all about money, look at how much people spend on their phone, internet, and cable bills each month. They could attend several concerts for that amount of money, so it’s about priorities and choices, not about the money. It’s about convenience and time.

      Our society is a need it now, say it in under 160 characters, use and throw away group of people. Ask a 12 year old what the Dewey Decimal System is and watch the confused look on their face. Those card catalogs are sitting empty at every library. If it doesn’t involve a phone, computer, tablet, netbook, etc. then good luck. If we can’t say it within a Tweet or a text, then don’t bother. Phone calls? What are those anymore? I text way more than I call these days, why because it’s convenient and I can do it on my own timeframe. Most things are based on convenience and spending as little time to do something as possible or spending the time when we want to spend it. I don’t think most people are willing to spend the time to dress up, drive to the venue, watch a 2-hour concert, and drive home.

      • Kayleigh Cook says:

        Ok, I think you don’t give us youth enough credit. Many of us (now I may be biased because I’m a musician but) can totally appreciate a live concert. And many of us actually enjoy classical music. There’s absolutely no comparison to mp3 or youtube. I mean, I use youtube all the time; if I need to look up a piece of music, I look on youtube. However, we don’t have a ton of money and if you are not acquainted with an artist (or an orchestra), you’re not going to spend the money to go to a concert. Also, the shear amount of stuffy, old people at concerts (I often go with my grandma) makes you feel really awkward. What are orchestras doing to give us something fresh, then marketing it like a pop song. Except it’s way better, because it’s high art!!

        • Paul D. Sullivan, Arlington/Boston US says:

          Ms CooK

          “Also, the shear amount of stuffy, old people at concerts (I often go with my grandma) makes you feel really awkward.”

          Wow, such a denigrating and crude remark. I guess you put your grand mother in the same class so I suppose you feel “awkward” around her too .

          What do you think? That we all sprang from our mothers womb at the tender age of 60, replete with gray hair, bifocals, arthritis and a walker?

          I started attending concerts at the age of 23 at (stuffy,old) 61 I continue to do so today. I started my financial support (donation) of BSO/POPs when I was in my (stuffy, old) 40′s.

          I’ve always had the greatest respect for elders. I had the best parties at my house when I was in my late twenties with my mom and dad’s friends who were all in their late 60′s and 70′s, I never felt “awkward”, these guys knew how to party.

          Young people like you love putting down seniors, but where do you think much of the orchestras support comes from? I also attend many free concerts at NEC’s Jordan Hall. These young students play their hearts out to, sadly, a tiny audience consisting mostly of friends, parents, and (stuffy,old) people, many who can’t afford the BSO. After the concert these young people will meet attendees, thank them for coming, and chat a bit with stuffy old folks like myself and “totally” feel not “awkward” speaking to me. Just a genuine thanks for coming to see them play.

          To put it in terms you might understand: uh… like… you know… whatever dude…get over it.

          • Sorry, but he’s right.

            I imagine the majority of people on this board are over 45..probably closer to 50-60. Yes, you were 23, back then, when the culture was completely different than it is now.

            “Back in my day, Seniors were respected” is not going to cut it. It’s always been like this, and it will always will be.

  25. Israeli cellist says:

    Israel, my country, is a micro-cosmos of the large world. its also where things happen faster, probably because of the way things, and people are here in this part of the middle east… its too hot to wait ..

    Orchestras are dying here too, and as the small country we are, I made the calculations that every 20-30 miles, resides a chamber or symphony orchestras.
    salaries are scratching minimum wage from the bottom end at best, and will depreciate over the next 10 years to the point of a nothing, and only the Israel philharmonic keeps its head above water.
    but hey, listen… who needs us anymore? did any of the big orchestras see this coming 20 years ago and did something about it? no, because no one could see this coming as fast as it did. our human parameters changed. quality, though it never goes out of style, is not a parameter for success anymore. profit is. and orchestral music is wrongly compared to money making firms. heads up y’all: since the days of the Medici family, it never was a lucrative business.. perhaps only for a few, and for a short time only.
    who today can sit and listen to a 45 minute symphony anymore? who has the tension span? what relevance has it in our lives today? definately not for our kids… no matter how old. can you look around and see that every part of our audio/video needs reside now in our iphones?
    a concert hall is a jukebox for old hits from the last centuries…
    look at the musical bodies that are thriving and growing? Baroque ensembles and opera companies.
    why? it has lyrics. hmmm. it resembles TV. you can sit back and relax.
    we, humans, ran too fast to the edge of our cultural cliff. its our death-wish gene.. … now we just need to understand how to fall gently without crashing completely, so later, we can pick up the pieces and start again. tha’ts what humanity is good at. cycles.

    I wish I didnt think these dark thoughts, and say these things. I am not pessimisticat all usually. I am a cellist, with 3 degress from celebrates institutions, and perform these days more shows of popular music and children’s concerts than before and trying to be realistic and survive.

    Big orchestras will decrease in size, and perhaps only the major ones will survive. municipalities and bureaucrats are no longer proud to support classical music, they are simply still ashamed to drop the sponsorship, but its coming soon… music needs to go back to education. music schools need to stop mass admissions and start teaching the musicians that :playing a violin is not enough anymore. that will make the stages of the world full of musicians that audience really get excited about, and the next cycle of “classical” music will start .

  26. Last year, I read somewhere (possibly in the NY Times?) that the workers that move chairs and stands around on NY City stages get paid waaaaaaaay more than the musicians themselves. The violinist being interviewed said she didn’t care, but I’d be surprised if other musicians felt as she did. So, is it really possible for a stage hand to make over $200,000 in NYC?

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      Yes, it is possible. On the Carnegie Hall Corporation’s 2011 Form 990 (Federal tax return for non-profit corps) they list 5 employees with the title “stage hand” with compensation (salary only) between $272K and $345K for FY2010. The Executive and Artistic Director (one person) is paid just over $1 Million. This is publicly available information.

      Carnegie Hall is at the top of the presenting profession in the USA, and it’s not surprising to see these salaries given the skill and the time on the job by these highly competent professionals. There are a few orchestral musicians in NYC receiving compensation at similar levels. Is that fair, is that justice? Perhaps IATSE (the technical union for theaters) is doing a better job than other representatives of the work force in the arts.

      • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

        This was a reply to Skinny, above, concerning pay rates to stage hands in NYC.

      • I think you’re spot on, Dean Fitzpatrick. The stage hands seem to have a very strong union, and I think the AFM is about as weak as a dead fish in comparison. This is the most important issue here, in my opinion.

        • Absolutely. We need a ridiculously strong national union right now. While each orchestra/organization has its own local strengths and weaknesses, this is a national fight.

          • None of this “Musicians should be paid more” and “We need a stronger union” do nothing to solve the root issue. You MUST have people willing to pay for tickets to the shows. It doesn’t matter what you get paid if the money is not there to actually pay you.

            In many cities, companies can spend a million dollars on a sponsorship. If they put that money into a Symphony they get 50-60,000 impressions for their company a year. If they put it towards a sports team, they may get many millions of impressions. They are looking for a good marketing investment.

            We have to face reality. The audience today is many time more likely to spend their money on sports tickets and major touring acts than a “stuffy” orchestra. Pops Orchestras are having better success than classical and those orchestras that are doing popular theme nights like popular movie themes and the like are fairing better as well.

            If you haven’t done it yet, add up the salaries you believe should be paid to a symphonic musician. Figure a 55-60 piece orchestra and you will understand just how expensive it really is. My wife and I used to run a small orchestra in the 90s and quickly found out just how expensive it really is to even run a part-time orchestra. Without corporate sponsorship is it not even feasible. We adapted and make more money now touring a small 7 piece band that performs popular music in a unique way. We also don’t have the administrative costs or venue costs. Convention and event promoters can hire us for a fraction of what an orchestra costs and attract a larger audience.

            The future I see had a few top-notch symphony orchestras in major cities. Volunteer or smaller part-time orchestras will be scattered about. Symphonic musicians will have to be in the top 1% to get full time symphonic jobs. The rest will have to learn to adapt and find their niche or find work in other fields. Business savvy will be necessary if you want to succeed. Those that sit by the phone waiting for work to find them will starve.

            Not a happy future for many but it will provide an opportunity for those able to adapt and create a place for themselves.

      • What are the highly skilled tasks of stage hands that requrie paying them 345K/year?

        • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

          One of them is an electrician and there is usually a carpenter which are acquired skills. The high pay is also for long hours and a lot of it is overtime plus work on holidays, Sundays, etc. I’m just stating a fact and I have actually witnessed the work of the Carnegie crew first-hand. They are the best in the business. We can point to inequities in many professions.

          • It would be interesting to make international comparisons with comparable concert halls concerning these enormous salaries for stage hands (even electricians and carpenters.) I suspect we would find these high salaries only in America.

            I’m a professional musician closely involved with music theater. I’m very familiar with the workings behind stage from lighting, to set building, to stage management. This leaves me with extreme skepticism about the need to pay a stage hand of any sort 345k a year – well over twice the salary of most musicians in our very best orchestras.

            It is yet another example of the systemic problems we have with our system of funding and administering the arts – like arts administrators receiving salaries and bonuses of over a million dollars per year.

          • Blanka Bednarz says:

            Oh, not only in USA. I have a hand in running a non-profit organization in Central Europe. I devote much of my own hard-earned salary to support musicians who live from concert to concert. I am dismayed every time (and every time is is!) to find the pay of musicians turns out to be so much lower than to coat-check ladies’s, concert hall cleaners’, etc. Quite, quite disturbing (not that I have anything against these lovely people–proportions though!!!)
            Have you read “Who Killed Classical Music” and “It’s not all Song and Dance”?
            I am no longer surprised to hear friends who are musicians VOW that their kids are NOT going to go into music.

        • William -

          Robert Fitzpatrick has replied below as well, but I’d just point out that the four permanent lead technicians at Carnegie have work schedules that would astound a first year medical resident.

    • Are you kidding me? The head stage hand at Carnegie Hall makes over $500,000 per year.

  27. Totally agree that this isn’t unrelated to America’s cutting the arts from schools. The less people hear of actual orchestras, either live or recorded, as students, the less likely they’ll be to seek them out as musical consumers themselves.

    And not to begrudge professional musicians and orchestra directors their financial due, but as a music teacher myself I’m unable to afford most symphony performances, especially as there is now less of a market for my services as a music teacher, rendering me ridiculously underemployed – yet another casualty of relatively recent and current educational trends. Let’s face it – when getting food on the table becomes harder, the arts are often the first “luxury” to go, for teachers and for everyone who no longer has that money to spend on the arts.. :-(

  28. Matthew Schubring says:

    Subsidies for the arts in general in the U.S. are a pittance, especially when compared to all that’s spent on Offense–oops, my bad, I meant to say “Defense”. To keep these and other orchestras running smoothly would take a mere drop in the bucket from federal and state arts commissions. I hate the fact that symphony orchestras, art museums, and other “high-brow” cultural offerings have become the domain of the rich (and often, tasteless) people who fund them. In my mind it’s tantamount to kidnapping. There. I said it.

  29. Terri Jones says:

    If “universities are also graduating record numbers of symphony musicians ” then somebody must be doing something right with the young people of the world! My son is a French horn major, and his dream is to play for a major symphony orchestra. I know that he has a tough future ahead of him, but perhaps this new generation of symphonic players will be the ones to promote a more “modern” take on the community orchestra and thereby draw an audience of their peers. A few years ago, we took him to the Louisville Orchestra’s performance of “Video Games Live”. The place was PACKED with teenagers…they came to hear the music they listen to on a daily basis performed live by the orchestra. They loved it, but the veteran “classical” players on stage let it be known by the looks on their faces that they felt this was beneath their dignified training. Not saying that there has to be a steady diet of this, but my piano teacher had it right many years ago. I was a child of the 70′s and when I was taking piano lessons, I wanted to play the pop music of the day. My piano teacher was wise enough to give me some of the pieces I wanted to play and then she would offer me a classical piece that was similar in sound or was more challenging than the pop piece. She gradually won me over but not by being strict and denying my desires. She LED me to an appreciation of classical music, and I think that is still possible today. Perhaps these new university graduates that are so great in number can change the way we think of symphony orchestras.

  30. David Eaton says:

    As someone who has been in the orchestra world since 1977 (in New York) I’ve seen a number of smaller orchestras close up shop. Now it’s larger ensembles feeling the pain—Detroit, Philly, e.g. A significant factor in all this, a causal factor, is the dissolution of our cultural patrimony. Allan Bloom wrote about this in 1987. Camille Paglia, Dana Gioia, Kaye Hymowitz, Victor Davis Hanson, Roger Scruton, Edward Rothstein, Richard Taruskin (and his buddies Julian Johnson and Charles Rosen) and others have seen the trend and written about it. It’s been going on for decades.

    The humanities are no longer considered important in creating a more humane society in many academic circles. Multiculturalism, political correctness, post-structuralism and commercial bottom-line concerns have had the effect of negating that which had previously been viewed as important aspects of becoming better citizens (Mr. Gioia’s contention in his 2007 Stanford University Commencement Address—Google it). I don’t believe classical music was ever the “pop music of the past” as it is sometimes characterized. It has always been somewhat of a minority taste but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have great value (see Camille Paglia’s 2005 interview with Robert Birnbaum–Google it.) Is the trend away from our cultural patrimony irreversible? Not sure, but we sure do have some reclaiming to do, IMO. I’m game.

  31. It should be kept in mind that we are slowly (slowly) coming out of the Great Recession so I’m sure this didn’t help anything.

    It would be nice if we could get more people interested in classical music, but this takes time to achieve. I believe that if you can get a person truly interested in just about any music, they can learn to like “classical” music as well.

    Many young people today live in a musical desert. Yes they have tons of choice, one song here, one there, but I don’t think they are that passionate about the music of their generation. The love (addiction?) to music is just not being formed at the moment. This is primarily a visual generation with music as background.

    However, to end on an optimistic note, things will improve as the economy improves (I hope). Good luck to the musicians and their communities in the meantime.

  32. The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra is scheduled to play this weekend. The musicians’ contract does not expire till Sept. 30.

    The Minnesota Orchestra, whose contract expires on the same date, is scheduled to begin its season in October–later than usual because its hall is being renovated.

  33. It is indeed a sad thing to see orchestras in dire shape. The musical world is definitely feeling the hit, along with other sectors, and orchestras have long been the “large corporations” of that world. However, maybe we can also see this as an opportunity. There are many other avenues for musicians to explore outside the realm of large concert halls. What about chamber ensembles? What about pairing with composers, applying for grants to commission new works? Many musicians I know in Boston are able to piece together decent livings through freelancing, playing in various traditional and/or new music ensembles, raising money (through grants, fundraising, etc) for their own creative projects and collaborations, and teaching. Yes, orchestras play an important role in the preservation of great works, and their disappearance would be a tragedy, as would the disappearance of museums or great past works of literature. But we should also embrace the reality of a shift in paradigm, and equip ourselves to not only survive, but to thrive within this change of environment.

    Travis Alford
    Composer/ Performer
    PhD Candidate, Brandeis University
    Adjunct Faculty, Gordon College

  34. I was fortunate to grow up in a city with a world class orchestra and it was a part of my musical upbringing to have both a symphony and a pops orchestra that I could watch. As I was maturing as a young musician, I was able to attend concerts. One of the reasons was because of the outreach programs with elementary schools where they would do matinee concerts and local school districts would bus their kids for a field trip. Basic and simple, if you are exposed and are aware that the symphony exists, then you are more likely to attend.

    Music education (I was a high school band director for 5 years) needs to focus on quality education and develop students’ appreciate of the arts. So many school musicians are being trained to play a piece for competition and win. Face it, 99% of the high school music students are not going to go on to become professional musicians, what our society needs are people who appreciate the arts. Just like with sports, I played baseball as a kid growing up. There was no way I was going to become a professional, but I was taught to understand the game and I loved it. I watch baseball to this day because of the appreciation and understanding of the game that I learned any years ago. Transfer this to the music classroom, and teacher should be teaching students more about what they are playing and not just how to play the right notes. I’m not saying all schools are this way, but I’ve seen more of my fair share of competitive schools who focus on the wrong things.

    Secondly, there is the issue of classical no longer being popular music. Even in a recession, people still spend money on music. Music is one thing that nearly everyone identifies with in our society. It may be in the genre of rap, country, pop, or classical, but nearly everyone has a favorite and spends money on it. Looks at iTunes downloads and money spent on concerts in other genres. I don’t believe you can really use the recession as an argument when you look at the gross sales. According to Billboard, U2 made $231 million in just 34 shows.

    In the 1800s, classical music was pop music. In those times, new music was being written that related to the audience and people went to hear new compositions. Since that time, classical music has faded to become art music within our culture. It is no longer popular in the context of our society as a whole. Go to an orchestra concert and you’ll see the average age, and those are typically patrons of the arts. The people who watch musical theater, opera, etc. Orchestras need to be relevant. They don’t have to sell out, but there has to be some meeting in the middle. I’m not suggesting they program an orchestral arrangement of Justin Bieber or 50 Cent, but reach out, try to build a new generation of concert goers. Build more outreach programs and attract a younger audience. Maybe it will take a few times for them to get it, but students can understand an orchestra. When I was 7 I went to my first concert through my school’s field trip, and I watched the different instruments I was learning about in school. The following year, I was able to dig a little deeper. The next year the same. In high school I was understanding the ensemble and what they were playing. In college, I began to learn about how a piece related in context to music history, orchestration, etc. But it all started as a 7 year old kid going to his first concert. When it came time a few years after that concert to join the school band, I already knew I wanted to join.

    This is where the marketing and administration of professional orchestras has to change. It’s all well and good for the musicians to make $100,000+ in major orchestra, but that won’t matter if this continues. If you don’t build the next generation of audience members, then there will no longer be professional orchestras in this country. Or they will only exist in a few large cities. You can continue to build a wall with young people, or you can invite them and try to reach out to them. Those efforts will pay off, it did for me and for others like me.

    • “In the 1800s, classical music was pop music.”

      We hear this a lot. I’m not an expert but I suspect that it’s an exaggeration, or at least a misrepresentation of “pop” as we understand it. Within relatively small circles in places like Vienna and Paris, yes, but without the benefits of recordings and broadcasts, I find it hard to believe that the European general public looked forward to the latest Beethoven symphony in the way that people today consume pop. How was the music distributed and performed, and where? How many people did it actually reach? How was it funded?

      There would have been a distribution system for sheet music, mainly for piano, but I suspect little else. Somebody must have studied this – any recommendations?

      • I did study it, part of the music history curriculum. It’s not just an opinion, it’s based on fact.

        Grove Music: “The most significant feature of the emergent popular music industry of the late 18th and early 19th centuries was the extent of its focus on the commodity form of sheet music.”
        In addition to the influence of sheet music, another factor was the increasing availability during the late 18th and early 19th century of public popular music performances in dance halls, popular theatres and concert rooms.

        How was music distributed? Through sheet music.
        How was it performed? In person, no recordings until later in history. You wanted to see a performance? You had to go in person to see it, no other alternatives.
        How many people did it reach? No way to really say, but since it was the only way to hear music, then my guess is quite a few.
        How was it funded? Patrons of the arts. Rich families have funded the arts for hundreds of years, back to the times of wealthy Italian families with paintings and statues. It was a way for them to leave their mark on the world and to give something back.

        Popular music in the 1800s was classical music, be it in symphony orchestras or piano music. It wasn’t until the late 1800s and around 1900 that “Tin Pan Alley” produced sheet music with blues and later jazz. Performances for that were in vaudeville shows and saloons. Fast forward and big band becomes popular music, then early rock and roll…

        • the direct analogy of 19th century symphonic music with contemporary pop music is simplified, but Adam makes some very clever points in his response.

          Most important, i believe, is the plain fact that a group like U2 or a service provider like Apple knows nothing about this crisis we think “music” is in! People indeed love, need, and support music, but our beloved symphonic music is just not the market leader or anything close.

          We may decry the quality of music that represents the head of the market, but then I and others will argue that pop music today as produced in studios with hyper-detailed digital audio workstations is achieving the kind of texture, energy, and sonic -layering possibilities someone like Beethoven or Bach could see only in their dreams.

          Symphonic music was indeed the popular, and certainly the largest, convention of music-making in the 19th Century, but i’ll put forward the caveat that it tailored to a more intellectual approach to music-making even then.

          Before Beethoven, symphonic music (in a verly early stage of development) was indeed more like a popular music, especially as heard in opera houses, but after him, Haydn, and Mozart, it was also expected to say something high-minded and artistic. This is why someone like Brahms took so long to write his first symphony, premiered finally in 1873, but also why he became so successful. He simply had to wait until he had a symphony that paid homage to past masters while also adding his own innovations. He had to be a ‘genius’ even back then to get noticed and stay on!

          MY POINT IS THIS: a high-minded preservation of musical culture, which is what a symphony orchestra and opera company really is, just cannot be confined to the convention of the symphonic/operatic style. Artfully-minded, financially successful patrons do not have to listen to this music anymore to convince anyone that they’re ‘cultured’: they can do it by listening to the Beatles or to Paul Simon.

          The question is, how do we practictioners of art music respond to this reality? Stay tuned!

          • My mistake, Brahms 1 premiered in 1876

          • But if popular music in the 1800s was classical music, where did folk music fit in? I’d suggest that regional folk music styles were the equivalents of pop, outside the more rarefied circles in major cities.

            So far as “texture, energy, and sonic -layering” are concerned, this is obviously subjective but I’ve yet to hear electronically produced music which can match the richness of acoustic instruments in jazz, folk or classical. To me, there’s a sterility about it which doesn’t apply to acoustic instruments, played well.

            This is obviously a generalisation, and some instruments such as the organ may stand comparison. An organ is after all just a “box of whistles” but, even there, to me, the Allen organ has a hardness which is absent in a good acoustic instrument.

      • In the 1800s, classical music was bourgeois, and it still is–in terms of funding, anyway. It’s only recenty that a mass-audience has been exposed to it. But this is NOT the issue.

        • I’m not saying there isn’t a problem, clearly there is, but it is the issue if we think we can go back to some idyllic period that never existed.

          • Idyllic period that never existed? I grew up in the 50s and 60s, when Classical music and Classical musicians were known by a good percentage of the population. There were concerts on TV all the time. The Bell Telephone Hour featured great orchestras, soloists and conductors and was watched by many. Leonard Bernstein’s concerts with the NY Philharmonic were regularly broadcast on TV (not to mention the Young Peoples’ Concerts he hosted). Everyone knew who Bernstein and Toscanini were. The Philadelphia Orchestra and Leopold Stokowski were household names. TV variety shows featured famous violinists quite often (Itzakh Perlman was featured on the Ed Sullivan Show, for instance). New York City had three great Classical Music radio stations.Things WERE quite different back then.

      • You may find it hard to believe that Classical music was the pop music of the past, but it’s true. By the way, are you aware that there were 10,000 people at Beethoven’s funeral?

        • We can hardly reproduce classical music, in print, in recordings, or in arrangements for ensembles now- it’s as if the sheet music industry of the 17th century had been outlawed! Glad someone mentioned The Grateful Dead. Grateful Dead (spin-off band) concerts are always recorded, and patrons who liked what they heard can buy a freshly run off cd of the concert on the way out. But if I arrange a Ravel Piano concerto movement for my son to play with a little student Chamber orchestra ( I confess, i did), it’s illegal. If i want to practice a part from a piece less than 98 years away from its publishing date, copying it is illegal. If someone wants to use a little material from Appalachian Spring to advertise beer- illegal, without a long legal wrangle. The musicians’ union is responsible for recording laws, the US Congress for copyright laws. This is killing classical music, almost as much as the fact that patrons’ 401Ks are not predictable presently, what with crazy Ryan & Co. trying to destroy the US economy in order to get Obama out of office, and with Europe illogically trying to use austerity to climb out of a recession.
          Until recently, copyrights only lasted 48 years. Even that was stultifying enough-if this music is to be popular, it needs to be heard, on TV, radio, in movies, and online. If noise levels in our culture are as high as they are, we need amplified concerts (see Grateful Dead) and if older people can’t see as well as they used to, or if concert halls don’t have terrific acoustics, good lighting, or good sight lines (which many communities’ multi-use concert halls lack), then we need large video screens on the sides of the stage, showing the oboe, harp, horn solo, while it’s happening (see Grateful Dead)
          {I haven’t, actually}. This is not permitted in my local, at least. Time for some experiments? Or shall we just give up and die? Did anyone notice that the speeches at the conventions had audio/video enhancement? At least our audiences aren’t as large as those were, but they aren’t usually that small, either. If live concerts can become loud, excitingly lit, and easy to see, maybe audiences won’t act “stuffy.” Maybe they’ll be energized. If tickets are expensive, maybe some of those banks that are resisting regulation can subsidize tickets, in hopes that people won’t riot and burn them down. Classical music has good effects on public behavior-it’s a fact.

  35. I am a retired music educator and I believe the problem is that for decades we were concerned about turning out great performers but we have done a dismal job of creating listeners. Unless we fix music education in this country and make it an imprortant part of every American’s eduction this problem will only get worse.

    • Jeffrey Paull says:

      Good point about turning out good performers but not good listeners. Students pay lots of $$$$ to attend music school to become professionals. Any ideas on how to teach good listeners without them paying $$$$ ?

      • Yes – instrumental music in the schools. Many people who do attend concerts are those who took some violin, piano, trumpet, and played in the school band or orchestra. Musicians and ex-musicians are good listeners.

      • David Eaton says:

        Often the best listeners are the ones who have trained in the music tradition they love. Regrettably, all of those thousands of well trained, college educated performers and composers face a job market that has dissipated dramatically. This was a problem when I was at Tanglewood in 1988!. It hasn’t gotten better. DE

    • I could not agree with you more, Mike.

      Instrumental and choral programs are nice to have, but they are not the be all and end all.

      In my senior year my high school offered a course entitled: Humanities. Topics included music, art, literature and even philosophy. An English teacher taught the class but she was not the normal run of the mill high school teacher. This class was a revelation to me. How they ever got the administration to approve this class I’ll never know, because I went to high school in Georgia. This was in the 70s.

      The kids must be trained to listen patiently to the music from beginning to end and of course they must be helped to know what to listen for. I’m sure the temptation is great today just to click from one piece to another.

      I still have friends today I know who took this class with me and we all agree it was one of the best classes we ever took in high school…along with typing, of course.

      Oh well, I’m sure a class like this today would be seen as pure “fluff” and the philosophy would be considered quite dangerous. And of course, such a class could not be taught by an ordinary teacher.

  36. Delmar Williams says:

    According to a friend of mine in the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, they will begin their season and play the September shows starting on Friday September 7th. However, when October begins…that’s another story!

  37. So many comments referencing Europe’s lack of distress in this area and the suggestion we consider becoming more like them in music education or other ways make me consider more strongly this point: classical music as we have known it in America is becoming more and more irrelevant each year.

    I suggest one reason the European models are more successful still- classical music as we know it – the Symphony as we know it is based on European roots. Somehow we in American stayed “Europe’s musical colony” instead of really developing a true American Classical Music sound or teaching system. Look around today- Suzuki is still the biggest teaching method and it’s a Japanese approach using European folk music (and original teaching songs). You might bring up Charles Ives or Leonard Bernstein or possibly Gershwin and Copeland- but these are outliers, not the norm, and their ideas/music weren’t continued & developed. When Ravel and Dvorak both told Americans to dig into our rich musical heritage they were practically thrown out of the country or laughed at in the least.

    I believe one reason for this long trend of decline is that classical music as we know it is not growing in America (right now- I hope this changes) is because it is more and more out of touch with Americans. I hope to see more composers writing- but not only ‘modern’ music that still stems from obviously European roots- but possibly has a truly “American” sound and feel.

    And for music education- which may be the key (I agree) to saving the industry… the Mark O’Connor Method for teaching violin & strings is based on American music, and I’ve seen drastic changes in kids and families connection to music as it is instantly more relevant to them- which in turns opens the doors to Mozart in a new fresh way. I think the sheer numbers of people interested in this method in so short of time are an indication of the need for a fresh more home-grown approach (the technique building in this method is also VERY strong).

    I am not saying that there is no place for our fantastic cannon of European Symphonic & Chamber music- just that if we don’t have our own style and sound of music- it’s a big leap for the average person today to ‘care’ about those long dead composers with an antiquated and European sound. Even more modern music (marketed and chosen carefully most likely with pre-concert talks as well) can be a start to connecting with a modern audience.

    Hopefully it’s not too late.

  38. My perspective is from the following, limited angle: as a volunteer with a strong classical musical background and deep appreciation for live, high-caliber performance of classical music, who contributes generously year in and year out to my “home-town” orchestra, who knows and appreciates what the musicians do and who also works closely with management. My view is this: the central problem is not “bad management,” and grossly misguided are attempts to frame the current “stand-off” between highly trained, deserving musicians and “unschooled” management as a classic labor-management fight. The reality is that whatever musicians might think of management’s lack of appreciation for “what musicians do,” it’s several generations of our society–rich, poor and middle class–generally that have had appallingly little exposure to classical music and therefore, little appreciation for it. In my town, we are practically giving away tickets to attract audiences. (This is part of a larger, three-step approach–1. build audience through easy access to concerts; 2. solicit contributions from an expanded audience; 3. appeal for major giving from a growing core of the expanding audience. This approach is working, but not fast enough to close the current financial gap.) Yet–tens of thousands of people will pay dearly for tickets to one major league baseball game after another in my town’s billion dollar stadium funded largely by taxpayer funds and pay $10 for a hot dog at such games OR buy $100-a-head tickets to hear some aging rock star perform in the same billion dollar stadium–Great Recession/Little Recovery be damned. Meanwhile, local billionaires, foundations and large corporations allocate the lion’s share of their giving to charities serving the needy–very little for the arts, and not because said sources of funds aren’t heavily solicited by arts organizations. Rather than pretend that the current musicians vs. management stand-off is a replay of exploited coal miners vs. greedy, cigar-chomping management, ALL of us need to think creatively, join together and figure out how to expose more people to the depth and breadth of classical music; we need to adapt the presentation of classical music, without compromising its integrity, to a world that’s constantly “wired,” multi-tasking, “action”-oriented, sports obsessed, with short attention spans and sadly under-educated in the fine arts. If musicians blame the demise of the American symphony orchestra on a pattern of “incompetent and unenlightened management,” then the whole project is doomed. Despite the enormous investment of time, talent, sweat and money that goes into a musician’s achievement (not to mention the cost of a Cremonese fiddle or its tonal equivalent), the reality is that the market–i.e. society–simply does not currently value that achievement as all of us “in the know” think it should be valued. Together, musicians, “management” and the relatively few members of society who DO value music need to change the current reality.

    • Well said, and it’s my hope that my generation of musicians in their 20s and 30s realizes the problems we see now are really much more about the question of “what is classical music?” than a distracting feud between manager and player.

      Eric’s description of the symptoms of the problem is right on, however i will disagree with the diagnosis of under-exposure.
      People of European descent, and probably all peoples of the world to some degree or another, have sought sophistication in the craft of music for thousands of years. This has not changed at all, but the conventions of music making have changed greatly.
      People can, and certainly do, find something sophisticated and artful in the songwriting of Sir Paul McCartney and the mixing of Sasha just as much as they can find it in Beethoven and Brahms, while being much more direct and engaging in convention than the motivic development and formal expansion of Germanic symphonies

  39. It is important to remember the words of the great Frederick Douglas when he said, “POWER CONCEDES NOTHING WITHOUT DEMAND.” We’ve got to DEMAND in order to change.

    Last year: “The DSO is prepared to move forward with a newly assembled group of players that would include only those members of the current orchestra who agree to unilaterally presented terms … any restructured ensemble would be professional and open to young musicians as well as veterans.- DSO: CHANGE TUNE OR BE REPLACED – Detroit News, February 21, 2011″

    This year: “Corporations reduce costs by outsourcing work. We believe our management envisions reducing costs by making wages untenable for existing musicians, causing them to leave, and by importing people from elsewhere to perform as SPCO musicians on a per-service basis.” 08/25/2012 12:01:00 AM CDT


    These articles, blog posts, etc. are great in terms of spreading awareness, but we musicians have to remember that we are impotent without direct, collective action. Isn’t this issue one of the reasons why we have a musician’s union in the first place? So many great things were written about Detroit, Philly, Honolulu, etc. and still they (ultimately we) lost so much–way too much.

    Here’s my thought (RAY HAIR, LISTEN UP): It would send a powerful and vitally necessary message of unity, solidarity, and resistance to establish an AFM boycott, like Louisville’s, of any orchestra deemed unfair by it’s musicians. Right now this list would include Atlanta, Indy, St. Paul, Minnesota, Honolulu, Detroit, Louisville, Philly, etc. If these cuts all happened at once people would flip out and there might be some kind of group action on our part, don’t you think? Well, my friends, don’t be fooled. It will happen to everyone, and the only solution is to act soon and act TOGETHER.

    Great Music costs money. People pay for it every year. Those people are largely wealthy business people. They think they can get it for less. They’re wrong. They’re wrong if we ALL stand up to them. The boards of our orchestras are never going to care about, let alone recognize a real difference in the sound of the orchestra, and they’re not going to care if we notice it. They’re not going to care if their orchestra ceases to be a “destination orchestra,” and they aren’t going to care if they get scabs to replace the people who leave for greener pastures (although there aren’t many left to leave for). They want music for less. But they won’t get it if we all act together.

    (By the way, and apologies for bringing in politics, but have you heard Mitt Romney talk about Unions? Have you seen his outsourcing record? Anti-labor, anti-union is what the guy is all about. If you are a musician, you’re a FOOL to vote for him.)

    Please share any other ideas. We’re creative, thoughtful people. Let’s be creative and thoughtful about this.

  40. Seriously? Groupon deals? Orchestras are dying because audiences are dying. Young people have been marketed to for decades now as their own demographic, with their own music. There is no longer any prestige in the enjoyment of serious music – when was the last time you saw a popular film in which the hero or heroine enjoyed a concert or opera (rather than to be bored by it for humorous effect)?

    The rise of classical music in America came because of two phenomena: radio, and the belief that intellectual life was something to aspire to. Radio brought great composers, orchestras and singers into every house. Many of those who couldn’t understand the music nevertheless believed that it was worth cherishing. Now pop music is our art music, and pop artists’ work is discussed ad nauseum in the popular press. When young people believe that what they like best is also great art, they’re unlikely to pursue more challenging stuff.

    While it’s admirable for the musicians to have a say in the administration of the orchestras, that has nothing to do with waning ticket sales. Music is something piped in through earphones, obtained free, to be listened to on the go. That’s a dramatically different experience from going to a symphony concert. Dumbing down the concerts won’t solve the problem. Nor will classes in which a teacher plays records and tells kids how great Beethoven was. I do think that a culture in which kids learn to *play* classical music is one in which they grow up to appreciate it. That means we need instrumental music in the schools.

    • Every elementary student should be exposed to at least 4 hours of music per week. This should include listening and playing. If they were all taught solfege and harmony they would not be satisfied listening to one chord songs. If they were all taught Suzuki violin they would learn self esteem, team work, artistic sensibility and the value of endeavor. I do not know of any computer training in elementary school that would be as valuable to our society.

      • Mike, good point! A sad part is that students are legally required to have so many hours in physical education because our society has become too obese. But when it comes to the arts, when our society is being arts deprived and ignorant, they are cutting and not adding to the arts curriculum. Maybe because you can see obesity and ignorance is silent, but they are equally important to our society.

  41. Well NYC is ridiculously expensivo so no prob … What about this: Dutch orchestras allow many players a “50%” job … Maybe in USA it’s just the same? E.g. Orchestra lock-out = another way of creating a 50% job?

  42. If we can zoom out and look at the role of the symphony orchestra in the world of entertainment, one has to realize that American society is happily supporting billion dollar professional football franchises that use publicly financed facilities. The effect that this focus on $port versus art and education is the overwhelming issue. When we find a way to stop telling the public they “should” support the arts thus invoking a feeling of guilt and shift to an attitude of giving out of love for the arts as an expression of human creativity and culture we will no longer have these ugly issues.

  43. Thank you Ben, Robert, teenie, Andy Erin , Katya for weighing in on NWS. An Introduction:
    I”m in Miami. I used to be one of the FL Phil players when I arrived in MIami from NYC in 1981 to finish a music degree at UM. Prior to that I had the great fortune to play in a chamber “training” orchestra in 1974 in Switzerland, funded by an Italian Waste Mgt financier. Master classes, touring, rotating conductors. NWS reminds me of that model for post grad , pre professional.

    At age 19 I was in the RI Phil and later various ensembles in NYC after a year or so at Indiana U.

    But, an important point made in this thread is, the pro musicians in town were undercut by the incoming NWS. Our local AFM union was not supportive . I’d almost forgotten the grousing in the music community in Miami/Broward

    I went for training in Suzuki Method, plus I play Indian music and electric. I adjusted & rotated my music hats. I’ve had 25 years of private studio teaching, recording and performing& teaching as an eclectic violinist (ASTA calls us “Alternative”)
    I love going to hear my favorite pieces at NWS. The outreach is working. I hope the stipend and amenities are enough. What an opportunity!

    • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

      Yes, I know that the birth of NWS was difficult both locally and nationally in 1988. You describe the local situation and nationally it was considered a scab orchestra of desperate students trying to undercut the major orchestra model. The role of AFM in the current situation nationwide is worth exploring further. I think that the national view of NWS has become positive (the AAA farm club of the majors) and locally it has become a fact of life in spite of the hardships professional musicians are experiencing in the area. They had the good sense to represent themselves as an educational organization (and they are!). I was actually part of the NASM* reaccreditation process there in 2004. The website address says it all. Congratulations on finding your way through the musical maze. It sounds like you are making a real contribution the Miami-Dade area.

      *NASM = National Association of Schools of Music.

    • right on

  44. Tony Hofmeir says:

    As sad as it is to say I honestly believe the day of the Symphony orchestra is over. This is 2012 and yet we are still playing and listening to music that is over 300 years old. Now don’t get me wrong, there should always be room for the “classics”, but the times have moved on and the world is a drastically different place than it was 300 years ago and quite honestly, the Orchestras haven’t adapted. Time moves us ever along and aspects of the world are always in a constant state of change. We do not have technology from 300 years ago because they have newer and better products out there, people aren’t watching movies from 300 years ago, and as sad as it is to say, the music that should be played today should be from today! I think the solution would be for the orchestra to be phased out and for the modern wind ensemble to be put into action. Also, please can we start playing music from the past 30 years. Maybe it wouldnt be a massive ensemble but there is music out ther from Reich, Lang, Lansky, Bryant that is new and exciting, and just plain good! The problem is that people don’t want to hear the same stuff from a time they can’t even relate to. Instead let’s play music that describes the world as it is now. A lot has changed from then to now and these new composers should have their music recognized. God forbid if there was even an entire concert dedicated to chamber ensembles like a percussion ensemble. Some of the best music out there right now is written for percussion and nobody knows about it because they are ignorant to it. It’s not their fault, nobody has ever educated the masses on the wonderous glory of new music. Things have got to change. Oh, also, if you support the arts you should probably look at the Republicans awesome plan for the arts funding around the U.S. They look at that almost as highly as they look at education. All it is to them is a waste of money and a cut they can create to help our dept. haha yeah right.

    • David Eaton says:

      Just 30 or 40 years ago orchestras were playing music that was 260-270 years old and orchestras were thriving. So much new music since 1945 was “left-brain” music. It was touted as being progressive and intellectually stimulating but it failed to touch the heart and it possessed little in the way of ingratiating aesthetics. (Richard Taruskin opines that much of the progressive music of mid-century modernism was the progeny of “the liberatory vibe of the dialectic.”) John Cage wrote a great deal of percussion music (some of his best stuff, IMO) but it never displaced the best examples of 20th Century music.

  45. David Eaton says:

    How about El sistema in Venezuela as a model. Amazing kids, but big money in the background. Really big money!

  46. John Wehrle says:

    All arts non-profits must break the cycle of serving internal constituencies (donors and governors, staff, artists and artistic leaders) at the expense of or before serving the community in which they reside. Expense budgets must be scaled to short- and long-term fundraising potential in each community, with ticket and other earned revenue reclassed as a ‘bonus’ for the institution. Artistic plans must be viewed as a central part of a business plan, not as the only valid driver of the institution, and our concept of acceptable tasks for all institutional workers must be reviewed with the needs of the community (as opposed to the egos of internal forces) in mind. Finally, governing bodies must accept that money is not an output in a non-profit organization – service to community (city, art form, etc.) is the only output that matters – and that these organizations need to become again exemplars of America’s commitment to volunteers creating value to benefit their communities. In America, volunteers form, lead and support organizations that they believe will enrich and improve the community, with all staff hired to execute, and occasionally inform, the policy they create to assure that the organization is contributing value.

  47. Carole Grooms says:

    I am really surprised to see that no one has mentioned the Nashville Symphony here yet (unless I overlooked it..) The Nashville Symphony is an example of a symphony getting it right – and not just that, but thriving! I can’t imagine that there are not lessons to be learned for any symphony from the success here. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts – there is a real synergy of factors that are working together: a recently new concert hall that is becoming a “destination”, a charismatic and highly musical conductor (Giancarlo Guerrero;) a CEO (Alan Valentine) and administration that are “in touch” with the community; good marketing; good programming; fantastic musicians who are involved in the community – probably a dozen more factors that I can’t articulate well here. I believe that programming is part of marketing and marketing is part of programming- there’s not a hard line of definition between the two and that is a big part of the success happening here. The orchestra has a real commitment to new music and something new and interesting is programmed on every classical concert- commissions included. The orchestra is recording regularly and winning Grammy Awards for its efforts.

    An anecdote from a conversation I had with the conductor is an example – a concert a little over a year ago that included only favorite classics (Beethoven, Mozart – I can’t remember exactly, but recognizable-to-everyone works) was the poorest attended of the year. The one concert that didn’t include something out-of-the-box was the one that didn’t draw a crowd! There are talks with the conductor scheduled before the classical series concerts. The orchestra performs out in the surrounding areas during the summer. There are programs for students and the schools, both in symphony hall and coming out to the schools. The restaurant within the symphony hall is superb and dining before a concert is part of a total experience. The jazz and pops series are exciting and a great compliment to the classical concert series. Great soloists are brought in frequently. It is not unusual these days for a concert to sell out too! A full hall is common. Last spring, before the orchestra went to New York for their Carnegie Hall performance in May, they did a free open rehearsal to test-drive their performance of Ive’s Universe Symphony, on a Tuesday night. They filled every seat in the house for a dress rehearsal of a bizarre, unheard piece of music! In fact, they weren’t intending to open the upper levels for this night, but had to because they filled up the floor and balcony so quickly.

    I’ve seen a number of comments here that say that music education in the schools is THE answer to the problem of symphonies not thriving in the U.S. today. I’m a music educator – a middle school band director – I could expound for hours on this aspect of the discussion. So I agree with those statements at some level, but I don’t think it is anywhere near that simple. You could turn it around and say that having a thriving symphony is THE answer to better music education in the schools. It’s like the “which came first – chicken or the egg” question. It really is a complex interplay of win-win scenarios that that creates an upward spiral of support for music in a community. The Nashville area is an interesting place. “Music City” is just that -not “country” music city – the variety of people involved in music and types of music to be found here is amazing. There is so much overlap – you find symphony administrators playing in local rock bands, country music stars and locally-based pop musicians coming to the symphony’s classical concerts, and symphony musicians playing country music recording sessions. But it hasn’t always been such a perfect situation for our symphony. Our orchestra hit rock bottom back in the 80′s and almost folded, so the success here now isn’t an anomaly created just by our unique population and connections in the music industry – it’s not working now just because “it’s in Nashville.” It’s working now in great part because there are some great minds with fresh ideas running things.

    This weekend is the opening of the season – Mahler’s 8th – I get to go tomorrow and can’t wait!

  48. Adrian Horn says:

    Audiences are changing, lifestyles are changing, entertainment patterns are changing, and economics are changing. We can try to educate people to the importance of arts in a civilized society, but isn’t that a little like leading a horse to water? The bottom line is finances: you need more revenues and/or you need less expenses. Your sources of revenues are audiences, donations and grants. The focus should be on audiences, because in the final analysis, donations and grants are strongly related to audience reach. Quality of course is important, but that’s a whole separate issue. How do you generate audience revenues? Raise prices? This is a bad idea because attendance is price elastic. Sell-out to popular tastes? As distasteful as this is to some, it may have to be either that or reduce expenses and cater to a smaller, more sophisticated audience.

    Reduce expenses. The elephant in the room here is compensation. When one thinks of the idiot computer nerds listening to junk on their IPods making gazillions of bucks in Silicon Valley, it’s hard to justify paying peanuts to musicians who have dedicated countless hours on their instruments since third grade, but what’s the alternative? This is not nasty management running a sweat shop; this is hard, economic reality. If people don’t want to pay for the product you’re offering, the numbers have to add up. And it’s not only musicians that have to give something up. Stage hands, venues and staff have to downsize their expectations as well. Recently, I learned that a venue had sharply increased its rental and logistics fees. Well guess what? That venue is dark most of the time. The distasteful reality is that compensation for our services must to be related to what people are willing to pay for them. Everyone and every entity related to those services must be willing to give up a little – - maybe a lot.

    • I think you hit the nail on the head. For a rehearsal & show of a 60 piece orchestra costs around $25,000 not including the venue and staff required. Modern music might cost $2000-6000 plus venue and staff. It is much easier to turn a profit with far less trouble.

  49. Mike Aleshevich says:

    This is a different side of the story. I am a part time, semi-professional, musician who freelances in area ensembles, sometimes I get paid, others I don’t.. The problem today is, in order for orchestras to become profitable, their concerts and / or recordings have to be antiseptically clean or the audience will feel that they are not getting their money’s worth. Years ago, the St. Louis Symphony needed a fourth (utility) trumpet player to round out the trumpet section. The ad was placed in International Musician and the St Louis musicians local. More than 800 trumpet players sent in demo tapes, Out of all of those tapes, 10 were invited to audition, 5 advanced to the final round. After all that, the orchestra did not hire anybody. It used to be that when you went to any college, university, or music conservatory and studied your instrument with a teacher that played in an orchestra he/she would find you a job after graduation from school. Conductors, if they knew the teacher as a great player, would ask the teacher if he/she had any talented students that would like to play in his orchestra. There were no auditions, no audition lists, talented students were simply invited to join the orchestra. My point being, is that, the sound may not have been that clean, but guess what? Audiences used to listen and pay good money to attend concerts and buy recordings of the orchestra.

  50. Matthew Schubring says:

    How’s this for an idea? Tax the churches–ALL the churches–and those taxes will be specifically earmarked for Arts support.

  51. Craig Sorgi says:

    An Update from the San Antonio Symphony:

    Dear Mr. Lebrecht,

    I thought that you and your readers might like to know that the Musicians (Local 23, AFM) and Board of the San Antonio Symphony ratified a new Collective Bargaining Agreement on Monday evening, October 1st. It is a three year agreement with modest financial increases and growth in each year. The agreement was reached with 36 hours left to go before the scheduled start of the 2012-13 season (our 73rd season). No work stoppage, initiated by either side, was necessary to reach an agreement. Our first rehearsal of the season was scheduled for this morning and it took place as scheduled following a joint press event. Opening night is this Friday evening and my colleagues and I are looking forward to playing for our community. In the final year of this agreement, 2014-15 (our 75th anniversary season), we are scheduled to move into our brand new concert hall, the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. I suppose it is possible to come to mutually beneficial resolutions if both parties are willing to listen and solve their problems in an effective manner despite the inherently adversarial nature of labor contract negotiations. You may now officially remove the San Antonio Symphony from your 2012 orchestral death watch.
    Best wishes,
    Craig Sorgi
    Chair, San Antonio Symphony Players Assoc. Negotiating Committee

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