I wanted to post a quick note linking to Tony Woodcock’s blog post about the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and fundraising woes, Motown Blues. Some quotes are particularly relevant to the whole issue of Orchestras’ legitimacy:
I have been talking recently with some major donors and leaders prominent in the orchestral world…Donors are feeling fatigued by orchestras – the constant demands, the needs, the on-going and unresolved problems. They are questioning the role of “orchestra monoliths” whose consumption of a community’s philanthropic wealth is disproportionate to the value they produce. They are questioning musicians’ passivity within the symphonic organization and the community when, in fact, it is musician leadership and initiative that will be needed to make real change happen. They are asking these questions with a degree of serious concern that should make everyone think creatively about relationships, structure, and community for the future. Why? Because these are the investors rethinking their priorities.***[S]ociety has changed….Societal changes present huge challenges to our conservatively held views of what constitutes an orchestra. We can blame society and national leaders and the media but that’s not going to get us very far. We are where we are and everything is moving forward with or without us.***
We are forever talking about the issue of relevance. Clearly, the performing arts’ relevance has declined as measured by the sheer drop in attendance figures as well as the arts’ ever more superficial penetration in the community. But I want to change the term from relevance to legitimacy which presents a much bigger issue. I use “legitimacy” here almost in the political sense of an organization deriving the moral right to exist from the approbation of the people. So when we consider “legitimacy for the performing arts,” we must ask ourselves the question: Is playing excellently enough? For too long, we have believed the maxim: “Play well… they will come.” Doesn’t happen–anymore. I have been to so many great concerts performed to empty halls. Legitimacy must be authentic. It is bestowed, not taken. It must be re-examined every single year and not taken for granted. It must address key issues such as why do the majority of people feel increasingly excluded from the arts, and also why do the arts matter?
What may turn out to be a lively discussion about this blog is starting at the Cello Chat forum.
To counterbalance the negative message, Tony had posted a blog earlier about the success of the Memphis Symphony’s recent initiatives–well worth a read:
More information about Tony Woodcock maybe found here:
Thanks to Greg Sandow for pointing out Tony’s blog.
I’ll get back to responses to things after my show tonight. Cheers!