“…and it never occurred to me that musical tastes and offerings will change as demographics change…”

Keni Washington and his OMniverse Jazz Sinfonia
Keni Washington and his OMniverse Jazz Sinfonia at the Madame Walker Theater Indianapolis 1997

So today, as I mentioned last week is a cello sectional coaching day, but I was so distracted by thoughts about the current DSO situation that I found it hard to concentrate at the task at hand.   What I also had on my mind, in light of the recent piece I rediscovered and blogged about a few days ago, Changing US Demographics and Classical Music, and especially as Elysia and I have been having a discussion about such issues in a review of a Sacramento Philharmonic concert she went to this weekend which included a composition (“New Conception”) by Egyptian Composer, Nader Abassi, was the quote (in the title of this blog post).

It was a response to a possible solution for the DSO that I had made back in August at the Cello Chat forums.   I tend to envision an orchestral world that isn’t so dominated by European styled Orchestras sure–and I’m not at all shy about stating my desire to form my own World Music Orchestra that would be international in a way that Orthodox Orchestras will probably never be. Continue reading ““…and it never occurred to me that musical tastes and offerings will change as demographics change…””

“Wither the Audience for Classical Music?”

I was going to post something else, but had come across this piece, “Wither the Audience for Classical Music?,” by Douglas Dempster (while he was Dean of the Eastman School or Music) in the Harmony: Forum of the Symphony Orchestra Institute yesterday.  I had posted some snippets in the cello chat thread I started (that I mentioned in a previous post), but have also had a discussion exploding after I posted a link to Michael Kaiser‘s (President of the Kennedy Center) piece, “The Orchestra Conundrum,” on my facebook page where I mentioned some of Dempster’s analysis. 

Rather than bog this down with my own poor prose, I’ll just quote some of the more interesting bits and let you peruse the links to discussions above if you want more of my thoughts on the issues. 

Also of note, and relevant to this issue.  The Detroit Symphony Orchestra has cancelled the rest of their season.

A careful review of this research suggests a less startling conclusion. It is true that younger generations of Americans, especially the baby boomers, are not attending classical music concerts with the frequency of older generations. However, every generation considered in this study increased very significantly its listening to classical music through radio and recorded media over the 10-year period between 1982 and 1992. Americans born between 1916 and 1945 listened to classical music on the radio with greater frequency than younger generations. But growth in radio-listening habits was the very greatest in the baby-boom generation. Continue reading ““Wither the Audience for Classical Music?””

“Donors are feeling fatigued by orchestras…”

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.
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[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.
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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. Continue reading ““Donors are feeling fatigued by orchestras…””