An Annotated Bibliographic Timeline of “Orchestra Crisis”

“Campaign to Raise $1 million for Philadelphia Orchestra.” Photograph by staff photographer. For Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, 1919.
“Campaign to Raise $1 million for Philadelphia Orchestra.” Photograph by staff photographer. For Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, 1919.

I posted some preliminary remarks about this timeline here.

Aldrich, Richard (1903) “‘Permanent Orchestra’ Season A Bad One” New York Times, May 3, pg. 21

“The permanent orchestra season has, as usual, been financially a bad one all over the country.  With the end of April comes the end of the seasons of orchestras of this kind, that have in recent years grown up in the chief American cities ourside of New York: and also come the bills for those who pay the piper.  In these columns have already appeared reports of some of these bills; for there is always a deficit, which public-spirited guarantors are called upon to pay year after year.  A permanent orchestra, it seems to be pretty well established by American experience, is not at present a paying institution, and is not likely immediately to become so.”

N.A. (1904) “Public Asked to Support Orchestra” St Louis Post – Dispatch, pg. 3

Few people know how heavy the individual contributions have been.  I have no figures at hand, but I think that more than $150,000 has been contributed during 35 years to pay the shortages in annual income.  In this regard, however, St. Louis’ experience is not different from that of other cities where symphony orchestras have been created: if ordinary prices are charged for the seats a heavy deficit must result and must be paid by some one surely during the early years of the orchestra’s existence, and, perhaps, continuously.

N.A. (1908) “Concerning Concerts” The Independent … Devoted to the Consideration of Politics, Social and Economic Tendencies, History, Literature, and the Arts, April 30, pg. 963

N.A. (1910) “Orchestral Association Should Be Maintained” Detroit Free Press, April 3, pg. D4

N.A. (1910) “Yes, Orchestras Do Cost Money: But Smaller and Less Wealthy than Detroit Maintain Them” Detroit Free Press, June 5, pg. 6

Aldritch, Richard.  (1923) “An Orchestral Crisis” New York Times, May 6, pg. X3

Rich men will pay the deficit in Chicago, as elsewhere — they always do.  That seems to be one of the things rich men are for, and enough of them seem to be aware of their duty and destiny to keep things going in the orchestral world.  The only trouble in some places indeed, as in New York, is to restrain the rich men from rushing ahead and founding new orchestras when somebody asks for them, whether they are needed by the public or not.  The public and its needs, indeed, seem to be the last consideration.

For everywhere the mounting costs of orchestral performances are becoming a matter of concern.

Downes, Olin.  (1924) “A New Way to Sustain an Orchestra” New York Times, April 6, pg. X6

N.A. (1924) “Symphony Backers to Assemble Here: Orchestra Chiefs of 13 Cities Will Attempt to Solve Problem of Huge Deficits” New York Times, January 27, S8

N.A. (1924) “Orchestra Pools May End Deficits: Backers of Symphony Organizations Discuss Big Business Methods, Including Mergers” New York Times, February 3, pg. 20

N.A. (1924) “Music: 13 Deficits” Time Magazine, February 4,

Downes, Olin (1926) “The High Cost of Our Orchestras — Rights of Public and Players to Good Music” New York Times, May 2, 1926, pg. X6

Can such conditions–conditions which invariably necessitate funds that cannot be gained from concerts to balance the budget at the end of the year–ever be changed? Will the day ever come when the public is as eager for orchestra music as it is for opera or theatre or moving picture, and willing to pay proportionately for its symphonic entertainment? Or must the deficits always be met by private generosity of by a business management that finds a means of bringing in funds, not earned by the concerts themselves, to defray the annual deficits?

N.A. (1929) “FROM FOREIGN PARTS; Colosseum a Musical Forum–Sale of Berlin’s Komische Oper–Concert Standards” New York Times, August 18, pg. X7

N.A. (1932) “COMMUNITY SUPPORT OF MUSIC” New York Times, July 3, 1932, pg. X4

Hettinger, Herman. Grant, Margaret (1940)  America’s Symphony Orchestras – And How They Are Supported.  WW Norton, pg. 21

In spite of their vitality, growth in numbers, and the volume of their attendance, all symphony orchestras are facing serious financial problems and their future rests on an unstable basis. Receipts from tickets have never been enough to balance the costs.

Wallenstein, Alfred (1950) “PLAN FOR SELF-HELP: A Conductor Gives His Idea of How Orchestras Might Solve Problems” New York Times, December 10, pg. X11 (thanks to Alex Ross for pointing this one out <<>>)

The economic crisis confronting the American symphony orchestra is becoming increasingly acute.  It is an accepted fact that it has always been impossible to maintain a symphony orchestra at a profit.  But it must also be acknowledged that no orchestra can continue to survive indefinitely in the face of inexorably rising deficits and constantly mounting taxes.

N.A. (1951) “U.S. Orchestras in Trouble: Heavy Deficits” The Manchester Guardian, August 30, pg. 3

Cyrus, Durgin (1951) “Are We in a Historical Musical Crisis?  Ansermet Says Yes” Daily Boston Globe, December 16, pg. A11

Beckley, Paul V. (1952) “Blair Predicts Orchestras Will Need U.S. Help: Philharmonic Society Head Fears Subsidies May Be Only Means to Continue” New York Herald Tribune, October 15, pg. 30

N.A. (1954) “Conductor Tells Plight of Symphony Orchestras” The Hartford Courant, October 11, pg. 16

N.A. (1954) “National’s Conductor Warns Orchestra’s Plight is Serious” The Sun, October 11, pg. 1

N.A. (1957) “Orchestra Problems” The Sun, December 11, pg. 22

Ericson, Raymond (1965) “What to Do About Too Many Orchestras” New York Times, June 27, pg. X13

Shepard, Richard. F. (1966) “Performing Arts Found To Require Rise in Gifts: Tripled Contributions Needed by 1975, According to Study for 20th Century Fund—‘Cultural Boom Discounted'” New York Times, November 21, pg.

Ericson, Raymond (1968) “Orchestral Exits and Entrances: Orchestral Entrance” New York Times, November 10, pg. D17

The conductor {Anshel Brusilow] also found a “lack of interest” in general, “Classical music is diminishing all over the country.”

N.A. (1969) “American Orchestras: The Sound of Trouble” Time Magazine, June 13, Vol. 93 Issue 24, pg. 73

As a group, the symphony orchestras of the U.S. are unsurpassed in quality by those of any other nation in the world. Yet today they are in trouble —loud, unavoidable, cymbal-crashing financial trouble.

Schonberg, Harold (1969) “Out of A Crisis, A Solution?” New York Times, August 31, pg. D11

Solomon, Izler (1969) “Orchestras Dead? You’re Exaggerating: Are Orchestras Dead?” New York Times, September 14, pg. D19

Taubman, Howard (1970) “Orchestras in U.S. Are Periled By Increasing Fiscal Troubles: Orchestras Periled by Fiscal Woes” New York Times, March 10, pg. 1

At least eight of America’s 28 major symphony orchestras are in serious financial trouble, and many of the others will be before the end of next year.

At least a dozen of about 60 other orchestras are in danger, and many more of these ensembles will be in difficulties in 1971.

The crisis of the orchestras, which in number and quality have represented a remarkable cultural phenomenon in the United States, is exemplified by the National Symphony in Washington.

(1970) “25 Orchestras Doomed to Die” United Press International <<>>

Hart, Philip (1973) Orpheus in the New World: The Symphony Orchestra as an American Institution. W.W.Norton: New York. pp. xvii, xviii

Both in specifics and in its largest implications, my book deals with an institution now subjected to pervasive, rapid, and crucial change. Not only do devastating financial problems face most of our orchestras, but their basic rationale and future viability have been widely questioned. At the same time that economic pressures have brought the orchestras to the government for substantial funding, the traditional policy direction and artistic objectives of our orchestras have been challenged from a variety of sources. Under these circumstances, many within and without the symphony world have asked not only whether the orchestras of American can survive but whether, despite their inherently limited appeal, they should survive, given that their increasing demands for private and public money and community support compete with the pressures of other modern urban social needs. No matter how deeply one may be committed to the symphony orchestra, he must maintain a salutary perspective by realizing that this enterprise involves a very small, and possibly static, proportion of the national population.

On many pages of this book I have resisted the impulse to belabor the crisis condition of our orchestras or the shortcomings of the institution.

Rockwell, John (1987) “Many Orchestras in Financial Straits” New York Times, January 19, pg. C11

More of America’s symphony orchestras are in trouble than at any time since the Depression — afflicted with strikes and lockouts, struggling to raise money and in some cases cancelling seasons and even declaring bankruptcy.

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