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Mother Jones takes on the US orchestra crisis

The sparky, non-profit news magazine (sometimes called ‘lefty, pinko’) takes the temperature of a changing orchestral environment, with a little help from Slipped Disc.

Read Maggie Severns’ piece, Are City Orchestras A Dying Breed? here.


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  1. The article by Ms. Severn says nothing that has not been said before with more insight .

    • Oh, really? Well, who else in the US this month, this year, this past year, has reported the crisis in any depth? From the comfort of your armchair, it may be easy to dismiss a hard-worked piece of journalism. But think what this article means to frozen-out musicians and audiences in several orchestras. Thank you for reminding us of the pointlessness of publication and the superior option of letting indolence, brutality and incompetence prevail.

      • Certainly not the “mainstream” corporate media – I’m looking at you, StarTribune, PioneerPress, Minnesota Public Radio . . .

        • Sarah, you’re not seriously suggesting that the Star Tribune and the Pioneer Press haven’t been covering the MinnOrch and SPCO lockouts, are you?

          To take but one important example, it’s only thanks to Graydon Royce of the Star Tribune that we know about the MinnOrch management misleading (if not outright lying) to Minnesota state authorities about their finances in 2010 and 2011.

      • Nuvakwahu says:


      • ken scott says:

        Nice one, Norman.

      • Come ,come ! Mr. Lebrecht you know darn well the
        Maggie Severns article was nothing but a rehash
        of the same old same old sad story of orchestras going under, not one insightful thought to be found.
        A “who else ” has written an article in depth during the past year does not excuse this poorly written
        sold called study .If you feel this article is hard worked journalism we are indeed in more trouble
        than one can imagine.You are correct in noting how easy it is to dismiss an ineptly written article that
        tries to pass itself of as a study of this orchestra crisis.I have read your books and found much of great
        interest and insight so cannot understand your last sentence except as a swipe-I did not anywhere
        remind one on the pointlessness of publication only observed that Ms. Severn said nothing
        new ,however she dressed it up .Hoping you will allow my response , thank you.

  2. Clyde McConnell says:

    Can someone explain what Ms. Severns means when she refers to Dudamel as “enigmatic”?

  3. ‘A Dying Breed’ is too melodramatic but US Orchestras do need to change and accept financial reality. One problem that effects the programming of exciting seasons is their adherence to the season subscription system. While it offers some predictability of box-office receipts it also limits flexibility in programming. It is clear that many orchestras of the higher level do not need 4 full rehearsals to prepare routine repertoire that is then repeated 3 or 4 times in 1 week. This makes programming cycles of composers works or themed cycles a long drawn out affair, sometimes 2 seasons to complete a Beethoven cycle. Conductors need to trust the musicians more and take fewer rehearsals and offer more variety in say a 2 or 3 week period. Financially musicians need to accept the reality that contracts and commitments made in the prosperous years might need to change. I know the issues are complex and different in every community but an energized board and public is more likely to be supportive than one where routine and cliche prevail.

    • Terry Carlson says:

      Here in Minnesota, the ticket-buying public is energized, I can assure you! Take a look at the reception Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra received from 2,500 concert-goers at Friday night’s Grammy Celebration Concert in Minneapolis:

      The orchestra board, on the other hand, seems determined to dismantle and destroy everything that Osmo has built up. Drew McManus reports: “insider scuttlebutt says the orchestra’s leadership told Vänskä in no uncertain terms that if he spoke out again about the work stoppage, it may rise to the level of just cause dismissal and cancelation of his work agreement.”

      The board and management is the problem here. They need to go.

      • Marko Velikonja says:

        Osmo might as well keep speaking; he can afford to lose this gig, unfortunate as it would be for the organization. I’m a little disappointed he has been as restrained as he has been, actually. Maybe it would be more effective if he were to state publicly that he’ll resign if they don’t work something out by a certain time, because he will not preside over the destruction of a great institution, et. al..

  4. Calling Mother Jones a “lefty, pinko” magazine is derogatory and silly. Once upon a time, particularly in the 60′s, there were quite a large number of decent left-wing newspapers and journals-a entire alternative press to the predictable lock-step canned propaganda of the “mainstream media”: think of “Ramparts”, “IF Stone’s Weekly”, and so on, Would you call all these “lefty, pinko”?
    Today, all I call think of are Mother Jones and The Nation. These “pinkos” are saving what little democracy we have left.

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