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If Atlanta fails, bang goes the southeast USA

September 10, 2014 by norman lebrecht

50 comments.


We’ve received these sobering thoughts from a young player who was about to audition for the ASO. He has allowed us to publish his name.

I’m a twenty-eight years old second generation double bassist, playing in the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra for a season; my father has been playing in the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra as a bassist for I think about 40 years now.

I wanted to write to you to about an aspect of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra situation that I feel is being left out of the general social media foray. Most of the ‘social media’ arguments on the side of the Atlanta Symphony Musicians have been focused on how the current lockout will affect the musicians and arts culture in Atlanta. I’m not writing about what’s already been said…<

andrew goodlett

Simply put the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra is THE orchestral ensemble for the entire southeastern United States. Very recently I was hoping to audition for the ASO’s principal double bass opening. While looking at the map to get to Atlanta while this situation was in its fermentation stage I thought to myself, ‘Holy shit, if Atlanta goes down the shitter that’s basically it for world class ochestral music in the entire southeast.’

As I’m sure you’re aware, the quality of an orchestra compared to its peers can be drawn from a multitude of different sources. One can take into account annual operating budget, the prestige of soloists and guest conductors brought in (which is directly related to budget size), size of various sections in the orchestra, size of the audience, etc. This statement obviously doesn’t work across the board but generally, the higher the budget of an ensemble the more the players are paid, the higher the talent an orchestra can recruit, ergo the higher the artistic quality of the ensemble. The previous statement is zero percent rocket science.

Up until this current point in history, the ASO has been to me the best ensemble in a lot of the aforementioned ‘orchestral quality rubrics’ in their part of the country (I only use the phrase ‘a lot of the aforementioned’ because I don’t have the exact comparative numbers in front of me). One would have to go to Dallas in the west, Cincinnati/Indianapolis/Nashville in the north, and who knows where in the east after one crosses the Atlantic Ocean to hear the same level of artistry. I could be wrong, but what I haven’t heard from the pro-art support of the ASO is how the Atlanta Symphony situation could potentially not just artistically devastate Georgia, but an incredibly huge geographic area of the United States.

I’m not trying to ruffle any feathers with other orchestras in the southeastern United States, or disparage those ensembles. But simply put I don’t know of another professional orchestra in that massive part of the country with the prestige and money behind it that the ASO has enjoyed in the past.

I understand the issues involved in trying to make people that are interested in classical music care about classical music. It’s also my passionate view that one hundred percent of humans, if not other animals, are capable of appreciating emotionally as well as intellectually benefiting from our art. It must be made clear that the loss of the Atlanta Symphony in it’s current form will not just rob the city of Atlanta, but the entre portion of America under which the ASO did or should have had influence.

I completely stand by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra musicians when they say they are an incredibly important part of the arts in their city. But I think America needs to understand they are their flagship arts organization not just for the city of Atlanta or state Georgia, but an entire region of the country.

Sincerely,

Andrew Goodlett


Comments (50)

  1. David Pickett says:

    I take Andrew’s point, though there are also orchestras in Florida. But how many music lovers would ever actually travel from the catchment area he identifies in order to hear the ASO? Many people in the USA, and not just in the south east, are not within reasonable reach of a major orchestra, and support instead their local college/university/community ensemble. Although not in the top ranks, these orchestras often give polished and spirited performances which are fully appreciated and enjoyed by their audiences.

    1. E says:

      I would dearly love (once this is all over) to see Atlanta take this into account and start reaching out. Small, regional tours would be fantastic for them. Bring the music to the people–don’t expect people who, for the most part, have no idea what a symphony orchestra is about, to come to the music.

      I grew up in Alabama, and I regret that I never got the chance to see Atlanta while I was there. But I’ve heard their recordings, I’ve worked with Robert Spano, and I know several of their musicians, so I know what a high level of quality they have there. Yes, there are orchestras in Florida. (Although which ones, besides New World, are major enough to compare to Atlanta I’m not sure.) There are also really fine orchestras in Alabama (Alabama Symphony in Birmingham) and South Carolina (Charleston). But do they compare? Do they have the operating budgets, the length of season, the personnel numbers, the recording history? Absolutely not. Alabama is closer than Charleston (which is now operating on a tiered contract system), but Alabama’s principal trumpet audition (currently on their website) advertises a salary of less than $50k. It’s just not in the same league–quite literally.

      If Atlanta fails, we can’t expect those other orchestras to pick up their slack. They just don’t have the resources. In fact, I would expect Atlanta’s failure to actually take the rest down with them. When administrations see the major orchestral player in the region fail, they’ll take it as proof that the “old model” really CAN’T work anymore, especially not in the South, and I bet we’ll see more of these shenanigans from orchestras less well equipped to rebound.

    2. MWnyc says:

      Honestly, I don’t know that the Atlanta Symphony’s troubles really will affect the Southeastern U.S. that much – because I don’t know that the Atlanta Symphony itself really affects the Southeast that much, except possibly as a flagship for others to point to.

      The Atlanta Symphony does not tour that region often – touring is expensive – and local public radio stations, when they haven’t backed away from classical music altogether, tend either to feature local ensembles or take nationally syndicated broadcasts from the likes of the Chicago Symphony. So most people beyond greater Atlanta really don’t hear much of the ASO unless they seek out its recordings.

      The biggest effect that a collapse of the Atlanta Symphony would have regionally is probably that it would give some grandees in smaller Southeastern cities cover to say, “See, they can’t even keep an orchestra going in Atlanta. Let’s quit throwing money away trying it here. If we have to, we can bring in a touring orchestra a couple times a year.”

      That would be terrible, of course, if it happened.

      But I rather doubt that greater Atlanta would go without a professional symphony orchestra for long. If the Atlanta Symphony did collapse because management just couldn’t bring in enough money to cover contracted expenses, I’m sure another professional orchestra would form within a year or two (as happened in, for instance, Savannah). The new orchestra would almost certainly be smaller and would play at a less impressive level than the formidable ASO, because it would engage less expensive players and (especially) conductors. But it would be there.

      1. MWnyc says:

        The other, often-forgotten factor about the influence, or lack of it, that the Atlanta Symphony has on the rest of the Southeast is sheer distance.

        Here are some driving distances and times within the South and most within the Southeast:

        Atlanta to Birmingham – 147 mi / 237 km / 2.5 hours
        Atlanta to Charlotte – 244 mi / 393 km / 4 hours
        Atlanta to Savannah – 249 mi / 401 km / 4 hours, all within Georgia
        Atlanta to Nashville – 250 mi / 402 km / 4 hours
        Atlanta to Charleston – 321 mi / 517 km / 5 hours
        Atlanta to Jacksonville – 346 mi / 557 km / 5.5 hours
        Atlanta to Louisville – 421 mi / 678 km / 6.75 hours
        Atlanta to Orlando – 439 mi / 707 km / 6.75 hours
        Atlanta to New Orleans – 468 mi / 753 km / 7.25 hours
        Atlanta to Miami – 663 mi / 1,067 km / 10.25 hours

        for comparison:

        Atlanta to Cincinnati – 457 mi / 735 km / 7.5 hours
        Atlanta to St. Louis – 554 mi / 892 km / 8.75 hours
        Atlanta to Washington, DC – 640 mi / 1,030 km / 10.5 hours
        Atlanta to Chicago – 716 mi / 1,152 km / 11.5 hours
        Atlanta to Dallas – 785 mi / 1,263 km / 12 hours
        Atlanta to Houston – 792 mi / 1,275 km / 12.25 hours
        Atlanta to New York City – 881 mi / 1,418 km / 14.5 hours

        Yes, Atlanta is almost as close to Cincinnati as to Orlando and closer to Cincy than to New Orleans. Atlanta is nearer to St. Louis and Washington DC than to Miami, closer to Chicago than to Dallas and Houston, let alone NYC.

        With distances this large, and with each of these cities having its own media market, the influence of any one city’s orchestra on the others’ will be limited, unless the orchestra in question has a genuinely national media presence.

  2. Mike Schachter says:

    It is hard to avoid the conclusion that orchestral music worldwide is threatened. Worst in the US but there was the recent announcement about the Danish chamber orchestra, and the financial troubles of the Concertgebouw. Worrying but maybe not surprising.

    1. Greg Milliren says:

      Most classical music institutions face similar challenges in today’s world, some succeed in facing them, others struggle. But its a stretch to say that “orchestral music worldwide is threatened.” You have only pointed out the bad news. There is a lot of good news out there too, such as:

      • The Chicago Symphony received the two largest gifts in its history, totaling $32 million.
      • The Indianapolis Symphony saw a 19% surge in ticket sales with an increase of 30% in
      subscription sales.
      • The Cleveland Orchestra announced a balanced budget, growing audiences, increased
      endowment, and a record number of student attendees.
      • The Lyric Opera of Chicago, which has operated in the black for 26 of the past 27 seasons, saw significant increases in revenue and fundraising, and an increase of 8% in
      ticket sales.
      • In Syracuse, where Symphoria works heroically to establish a great and permanent orchestral presence in the wake of the unnecessary Syracuse Symphony bankruptcy, the new orchestra is now receiving grants, including funding for its educational mission.
      • The San Antonio Symphony celebrated its 75th anniversary as it prepares to move into its new home, the Tobin Center.
      • The Florida Orchestra saw an increase in attendance of 30%.
      • The Houston Symphony’s gala raised over $2.5 million in one evening for education programs on the heels of consecutive years of record breaking fundraising.
      • The New York City Ballet’s Spring Gala Celebrated Fifty Years at Lincoln Center and raised over $3 Million.
      • The Milwaukee Symphony reached a goal of $5 million dollars from new donors.
      • The Cincinnati Symphony’s endowment has grown by 43% and the number of gifts has increased by 94%, leading to a double-digit increase in attendance.
      • The Grand Rapids Symphony launched a $40 million endowment
      drive with a $20 million gift.
      • The Detroit Symphony’s holiday concerts set a new box office record just one year after seeing a 43% increase in donations.
      • The Buffalo Philharmonic saw an 11.9% surge in contributions, endowment growth of 7.7%, and an increase in ticket sales with records set for subscriptions.

      The trials and tribulations of some large institutions is not necessarily indicative of the health of an entire artform. Interest in classical music must be protected, but it remains highly resilient.

      1. Alex says:

        In my opinion the only relevant information here when it comes to protecting classical music for the future is the age of the audience. There isn’t a magical switch that’s flipped when someone turns 65 that makes them suddenly appreciate classical music–the people in our audiences have been listening for years, or even grew up with orchestras, in most cases. We have more and more competition from popular music that is increasingly complex and varied, and with electronic music there are composers who are able to do away with the divide between performer and composer entirely. Why should young people spend a large percent of their paycheck and several hours of their weekend listening to us when they have so many other options that are easier, fresher, and more varied than what we are presenting? Brahms and Beethoven will always be relevant just like Shakespeare and miller, but if any other art form only presented the classics, without variation, they would be floundering within a decade. We have to begin presenting modern music that is something besides either uninviting experimental music that is written more for composers and musicologists or “best of the Beatles.” Recently a member of the math rock band Battles wrote a piece that was premiered at Carnegie hall. Recently I saw an ad for a concert that featured the music of Bartok, Ligeti, and Sufjan Stevens. This is the direction I would like to see our outreach efforts take. Of course I am far from knowledgable about much of what is going on financially in these orchestras and I am not a composer or promoter, but these are my thoughts.

        1. Harold Lewis says:

          @Alex

          Arthur or Henry?

          1. chad says:

            Very well stated.

        2. SVM says:

          I dissent from Alex’s view that older people cannot come to classical music late in life. Although I myself am young, I have met many older people in audiences who have no expertise in classical music, but have come to appreciate it at a later stage in life, for various reasons (for example, classical music as a balm to personal/family tragedy, having more money in middle-age to attend concerts, &c.). Listening to classical music demands a certain concentration and patience that is, regrettably, absent from many younger people. However, as a serious pursuit in itself, listening to classical music can be hugely locupletative.

          In fact, I contend that there is no ‘magical switch’ that sets our tastes in stone at age 21.

          Having said that, Alex makes a valid point that there is too much concentration on the ‘classics’, and more music by living composers, including ‘intellectual’ music, would be a good thing.

          1. Alex says:

            That is a good point, but I think the world that young people are growing up in today is very different from the one our older audiences grew up in, in ways that will make them less likely to seek us out as they age: everything is faster now. Jonathan Franzen lamented the state of the serious novel in his essay collection How To Be Alone, and at one point he compared its relevance to that of classical music. This comparison makes sense to me because serious reading also requires an investment of time and mental energy on the part of the consumer, and often neither the music or the novel make any attempt to make the consumer comfortable or make the content easily relatable, due to an ideal of excellence or “elitism”, depending on who you ask. Franzen blames much of the fall of the novel on “the banal ascendency of television” and “the incompatibility of the slow work of reading and the hyperkinesis of modern life.” I believe classical music has similar challenges, in addition to in many cases no longer speaking the language of the culture–unlike the novel. Everyone loves to say that great art is “timeless”, and to some extent it is, but no one can pretend that a person today listening to a Brahms symphony– which is quoting from Beethoven, drinking songs, and Slavic tunes alike–gets the same experience as a person living in the 19th century, who would have recognized these quotes and would relate to them through relevant experiences in his life. Franzen wrote this essay several decades ago, and the changes in American/world culture have only deepened since then, especially with the rise of the internet. To come back to your original point though, of a person’s increased money and free time later in life leading them to classical music, I think that this is possible, but increasingly less so in a world full of people raised on bite-sized, effortlessly consumed culture. The way to combat this is not to make classical music easier or shorter, but as I stated above by making it more varied and increasing it’s relevancy to the culture of Today. Something that confuses and frustrates me to no end is the self imposed limits of many compositions being premiered today, using the same sounds and instruments that have been used for hundreds of years, albeit in new configurations. In the past, when classical music was just called “music”, if a new instrument was invented, composers wrote for it. When the pianoforte was invented, Bach wrote for it. When the glockenspiel was invented, Tchaikovsky wrote for it. Why have we not seen any compositions for electric guitar? Why have there not been experiments with adding effects to instruments or even entire orchestras, to create new sounds? As I said earlier, a member of a popular math rock band has written music for Carnegie hall–non classical music is borrowing from us more and more, becoming smarter and more original all the time, and is thriving. Why can we not borrow from them?
            As I stated before though, I am not a musicologist or a composer, so there may be problems with my argument that I am unaware of, but these are my thoughts.

  3. Katherine Rostand says:

    Our Alabama Symphony Orchestra is wonderful! We are in the Southeast. Not sure why we are not being mentioned as a success story.

    1. Amy says:

      I’m sure it is wonderful and deeply appreciated by its supporters.
      And it operates on an annual budget of about 7 million, compared to Atlanta’s approximately 42 million. Alabama and Jacksonville and Louisville orchestras serve their populations well, but don’t have the same kind of resources that larger orchestras do. That’s part of why what happens in Atlanta is of grave concern.

  4. Tim Smith says:

    David: That is, quite honestly, a valid point and true in many respects. But it is also short-sighted. What happens is a trickle-down effect: the Artists that an institution such as the ASO draws now go elsewhere – outside of the Southeast USA. The impact these Artists have through educational outreach, regional travel, teaching, creating chamber groups, coaching youth organizations, supporting other cultural institutions, etc. now leaves the region. The students who once came to study with these Artists now go elsewhere – and not in the Southeastern USA. These students do not study, grow, and now makeup the local college/university/community ensembles you speak of, for they were never drawn to the area to begin with. The people who make up these community, or regional orchestras, are also the people who substitute with the ASO, take lessons from ASO Artists, attend ASO concerts to hone their own craft, and then send their students to do likewise. This is how culture is nurtured and passed from generation to generation. Essentially, you’re cutting off the head and expecting the body to live.

    As a musician, it is utterly terrifying to see the lack of support and stewardship from the leadership of the Atlanta Symphony. THE MUSICIANS ARE YOUR PRODUCT. How many times has this mantra been stated, in one form or another? We’ve seen it in Minnesota, the MET, Detroit…the list goes on. Orchestral music is not dead, or dying. Orchestras like LAPhil, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Dallas, Chicago….are thriving and reinventing themselves and how they impact their communities. Audiences want to be enchanted by music produced by orchestras, and learn something in the process. How you reach them is the issue, and a subject for another article. The art form is not dying, the old way of running it is.

    1. norman lebrecht says:

      Very good point.

  5. Herrera says:

    There is Cleveland Orchestra Miami: Cleveland’s annual residence in Miami from Novembre through March. Just saying. The Southeast of the US is not a cultural wasteland. Cleveland could even do a residency in Atlanta.

    1. Arts Lover says:

      So have them cannibalize another orchestras? Wasn’t the Florida Philharmonic enough? Colorado is another example of this with the hometown band, the Colorado Symphony is being cannibalized by those that come to Vail. NOT the solution!

      1. MWnyc says:

        Is the Colorado Symphony, certainly a fall-through-spring ensemble if not 52-weeks-a-year, really seeing its attendance cannibalized by a summer festival in Vail?

        1. Westerner says:

          I think the poster was referring to out of town orchestras coming into another region and taking potential donors away from the local economy

          1. MWnyc says:

            Ah. Understood.

            Even so, is there really so much overlap between donor pools for Denver and for Vail? I’d expect that many – most? – of the donors for the summer festival in Vail are seasonal residents who mostly live out-of-state. Is that not the case?

    2. MWnyc says:

      Bearing in mind, of course, that the Cleveland Orchestra’s Miami residency is three to four weeks during the November-through-March period, not the entire five months.

      It is true, though, that during the November-through-March season there are several major orchestras from elsewhere – sometimes half a dozen or more through the course of those five months – touring around Florida.

      And when, for those months, at least, an audience member can hear the likes of the Royal Philharmonic, the Russian National Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, and the Cleveland Orchestra, it may not make sense to her to support a local orchestra that probably won’t be as good (because it won’t be as wealthy).

      I have heard indirectly from people who work at one of Florida’s major arts centers (not in Miami) that once the snowbirds go back north in the spring, audience interest plummets. Either year-round Florida residents just don’t care about the performing arts in sizable numbers, or they simply prefer to go to the beach or boating or whatever during the long summers.

  6. Herrera says:

    Let me supplement my previous point about Cleveland Orchestra Miami. The future of classical music is and should be local residencies done by traveling major regional orchestras.

    The Big Five (plus LAPhil and SFO) can cover the entire US, including Mexico and Canada.

    Everyone comes out a winner.

    1. LF says:

      There’s a lot of problems with that scenario. For one thing, it puts a tremendous amount of strain on the musicians – imagine trying to raise a family when one or both parents is on the road the majority of the time. It also limits the amount of exposure to the orchestra in any given community. The Cleveland Orchestra is only in Miami maybe three or four weeks out of the year – that can hardly be compared to having a full-time year-round group. This curtails the amount of engagement the orchestra can have with any given community – if they’re traveling all the time, how can they build their audience through activities like teaching and other forms of community outreach?

    2. Amy says:

      Cover…the…entire…US….including Mexico and Canada…
      Wow. Just wow.

      1. Doug says:

        I agree Amy, That was obviously a statement from someone who has never toured a major orchestra nor can conceive of the logistics involved.

        The CO residency in Miami is hard enough on the players. Imagine a residency in Tuktoyaktuk.

        1. Mikey says:

          I think the issue might be more along the lines of including Canada and Mexico in “the entire US”.

          By the way, every major city in Canada has a first rate orchestra. And even most of the smaller cities have their own orchestras. Montreal alone has two major symphony orchestras and a half-dozen “regional” symphony orchestras all within a half hour to an hour’s drive from the city.

          1. MWnyc says:

            And while we get what Herrera meant to say, I find that kind of sloppy way or wording things usually indicates a more general sloppiness of thought.

            For instance, not only is touring hard on the performers, it is quite expensive for orchestras to do – and no, they don’t earn enough at the box office to cover the costs, even if they play to sold-out houses.

            Not to mention that the governments of Canada and Mexico might hesitate to give American orchestras employment visas if the tours led to putting Canadian and Mexican orchestras out of work.

  7. Amy says:

    Herrera, I don’t think that was the implication.
    “Destination” orchestras occupy a different role, with trickle-down effects such as those listed by Tim Smith in his comment above. These effects are longer reaching than people often realize.

  8. Tom Moore says:

    The North Carolina Symphony Orchestra may only have a budget of 11million per year,
    but it plays in a first class hall, and over six years of listening in NC I heard many innovative programs featuring world-class soloists, and world-class playing from the orchestra. It is an excellent ensemble with a very fine director, Grant Llewellyn, whose contract has been extended through 2018.

    1. Amy says:

      Again, the dignity, worth and appreciated cultural service of smaller orchestras is not in question. Really.
      It is perfectly sound to be concerned over what happens to Atlanta, for all the above suggested reasons.

      1. Tom Moore says:

        If the dignity of groups like the NCS is not in question, then the headline should be changed. If Atlanta should fail, then NCS will have to step up to the plate. If Atlanta fails, the SE will NOT be left without an orchestra.

        1. Amy says:

          Tom, should Atlanta fail, that would not exactly flood North Carolina or any smaller orchestra with the equivalent of Atlanta’s money, talent, vision. “Stepping up to the plate” is a nice phrase, and I can tell you value the NCS greatly, but it is not the same thing, any more than a large city is the equivalent of a small one.

        2. MWnyc says:

          What would “stepping up to the plate” even mean?

          The Atlanta Symphony does not spend a lot of time touring North Carolina, and if the ASO were to shut down, the North Carolina Symphony would most likely not spend more time touring Georgia.

          As I indicated in my other posts, the Southeastern United States is a big place, and I don’t know that the collapse of one orchestra, even the Atlanta Symphony, would have much effect on other orchestras in cities three or four or five hours’ drive away. (Except, perhaps, as a talking point for rich people in other cities who are tired of donating money anyway and are looking for an excuse to stop.)

          The employment market for U.S. orchestral players may be a national one, but, outside the half-dozen or so largest metro areas, each city’s professional orchestra really operates within its own musical and economic ecosystem.

  9. Matt says:

    Great article.
    But I still find it alarming that ASO has lost money for 12 years in a row.
    A lot of orchestras that are getting stronger and stronger (like San Francisco Symphony) have music directors with fantastic vision and plans for the future that does not involve compromising musical integrity. A lot of orchestras that have money (like Houston Symphony) have booming businesses around them that are more than willing to donate.
    What does ASO lack? Why are they having financial problems???

    1. Jonban says:

      Your comment seems a little bit misguided.
      No city in the USA can compare to the economic success of San Francisco over the past 20 years. And it could even be argued that Houston, the 4th largest city in the USA (after NY, LA, Chicago), should have an orchestra that is comparable to the others.
      It always shocks me how much credit the music director of an orchestra is given for an orchestra’s success. Perhaps in the same way a president is either given credit or blamed for the good/bad times of the constituents. The reality is that they exist in a certain time in their city, and that is most responsible for the success of their orchestra; it has very little to do with artistic vision.

      1. Matt says:

        Jonban, Yes, I grew up in SF so I know that place very well. I was thinking that in SF, most people I am acquainted with (non musicians) at least know of MTT and are curious about him. He sort of has this ‘star power’ that can draws people to the SFS. Of course, as you pointed out, probably the main reason that the SFS is doing so well is that there’s a lot of money around there – reminded me that they were also on strike not too long ago! Also, thanks for your input, I guess maybe the music director has a lot less power and influence than I previously thought.

        This is all going down because obviously ASO is losing money and they can’t continue like this. In your opinion, is the management at fault then? What exactly are they doing that is causing this problem?

        1. Matt says:

          Management is definitely at fault, now that I understand this whole situation better. Hopefully, we can all find ways to prevent this in the future.

    2. Amy says:

      Matt, what’s your source for “twelve years in a row”? What’s the trend? What’s the purpose of the endowment? How much was embezzled from the WAC? Why is Romanstein receiving Any bonuses during these times…?

      1. Matt says:

        Hi Amy, thanks for pointing me in the right direction in my research.
        After looking at the financials, my god, they are worse than I thought.
        In the 2013-2014 season, ASO ran of deficit… of over 2 Million!

        Romanstein had $335,344 in base compensation. $45,000 bonus and incentive compensation. $26,403 in untaxable benefits. His total compensation was $406,747. Other people on the board are paid healthily as well. His pay and bonuses are actually around what I would expect, but is an overpay – considering that this guy is incompetant.

        After glancing over WAC financials (from only a few years ago), 15% of the expenses are on managerial/general while the rest is almost completely on charitable – fine. I did read about an embezzler that took 1.5 million, but for that to happen.. there’s almost certainly more going on underneath.

        It’s hard – these guys raise the money musicians need so they will have a say in the decisions that are made, BUT at the same time, they don’t have great artistic vision and aren’t even competent in the business side of things.

        May I suggest something: Force all music majors to take basic business, economic, and accounting courses. Make sure future “Romansteins” really understand art and business.

        1. Amy says:

          Well. An ideal, if not too practical solution: “forcing” music majors to study accounting.
          Remember, violinists don’t audition to run the books, they audition to Play Music.
          Far from being deficient in business comprehension, this is a group of people shouldering personal loans just to be employed in their industry. They Understand Numbers. They Notice Trends And Remember Changes.
          Where the Hensons and Romansteins come from, it’s not the same place, however many thick musicology tomes they publish. Their type aspires to be a pin-striped suit-wearing power player, a driver of Sustainability And Corporate Relevance…and union-busting. (I’m thinking each man was teased by an orchestra player as a child, and never forgot it.)

          Yes, for that embezzlement to happen “there’s almost certainly more going on underneath.” Absolutely. And you can bet that the musicians have a greater interest in the solvency of their organization than perhaps anyone else. The lockout is immoral. Play-and-talk should be implemented immediately. Mediation should begin this afternoon.

          1. Alex says:

            Amy, I completely agree. I recently graduated with a music performance degree, and I feel terribly underprepared for many of the demands of “adult” life, such as facing the hurdles currently facing orchestras around the country. I can play the hell out of the first page of Don Juan, but I can’t balance a checkbook to save my life. Much would be solved by your suggestion.

          2. MWnyc says:

            Alex, if it makes you feel any better, you don’t really need to know how to balance a checkbook anymore. (Unless, that is, your bank doesn’t have a website.) You can get a username and password to access your bank accounts online and keep track of the money coming and going as often as necessary. And software does all the arithmetic for you.

  10. george says:

    Please look here Florida community orchestra,I play violin for free,music is my love and hobby. Come to see us sometimes.

    http://www.panamacitypops.org/index.html

  11. MWnyc says:

    Something we all need to keep in mind:

    classical music =/= orchestral music

    the future of classical music =/= the future of symphony orchestras

    the relevance of classical music =/= the relevance of orchestras and their music

    (I wonder if I shouldn’t have put the word relevance within scare quotes – and maybe classical as well.)

    You see the audiences at alt-classical spaces like NYC’s Roulette and Le Poisson Rouge; the excited people that turn out for vocal groups like Roomful of Teeth (NYC) and The Crossing (Philadelphia); the crowds that turn up at Trinity Wall Street’s Bach at One lunchtime concerts (until they moved to a larger venue, you had to show up 30 minutes ahead of time just to be sure of getting a seat); the throngs that sell out Carnegie Hall or BAM (or the Barbican or Southbank Centre) for a major Steve Reich or Arvo Pärt program; the full houses for all the stops on Anonymous 4’s and the Tallis Scholars’ U.S. tours; etc. —

    — and it’s hard to conclude that classical music has a relevance problem.

    Symphony orchestras have a programming dilemma and a pricing problem. (For instance, the lines for the Philadelphia Orchestra’s $10 Community Rush seats can get pretty long, especially on Saturdays.)

    What classical music as a whole has is a branding problem.

    Meaning, for instance, that I think many fans of Steve Reich or Arvo Pärt or Bang on a Can or even Anonymous 4 don’t think (or don’t like to think) of that music as “classical”, even though concerts of it are reviewed by classical music critics and recordings of it are – sorry, were – sold in the classical departments of record stores.

  12. newyorker says:

    I used to drive from Tallahassee, FL, to Atlanta to hear the orchestra. It was a 4+ hr drive.

  13. Sarah says:

    This Cleveland Miami residency is not without controversy – there were some unsavory details regarding the connection between the late Florida Philharmonic Orchestra’s CEO and Cleveland, and the fact that the residency started not long after the FPH folded. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida_Philharmonic_Orchestra

  14. Alex says:

    Arthur. Henry is also wonderful of course, but I was referring to other types of performance art/the theater.

  15. Marcus says:

    Great discussion; especially worthwhile comments by MWNYC and MATT. I can only add that there is an artistic dimension that hasn’t been fully explored or articulated yet. When Shaw came to Atlanta years ago, he made himself part of the artistic, social, and philanthropic scene rather quickly. He even married a local woman, and was in any event often present at significant community events. Mr. Spano has not exactly thrown himself into that part of the job. His predecessor the volatile Yoel Levi probably was more visible.

    Also, it must be admitted that one must choose rather carefully these days to experience a thrilling night at the ASO. Mr. Runnicles almost always delivers, but he’s not around enough. The guest conductors and soloists are a mixed bag, and the hall treats everyone the same — badly.

    While I agree that Romanstein has not distinguished himself either as a fundraiser or bridge-builder — pointing with pride to a new $5M in major contributions seems like small potatoes in a city this size — the bottom line is the artistic product. Truth In Advertising would lead to the ASO mgmt’s adopting slogans like: “Robert Spano — Gets The Job Done” or (regarding Mr. Spano’s much-touted “Atlanta School” of composers) “Hear A New Work Tonight — It Probably Won’t Offend You” or “Woodruff Arts Center — Okay For Now.” In other words, meh.

    They will never solve those issues simply by balancing the budget.

  16. Alex says:

    That is a good point, but I think the world that young people are growing up in today is very different from the one our older audiences grew up in, in ways that will make them less likely to seek us out as they age: everything is faster now. Jonathan Franzen lamented the state of the serious novel in his essay collection How To Be Alone, and at one point he compared its relevance to that of classical music. This comparison makes sense to me because serious reading also requires an investment of time and mental energy on the part of the consumer, and often neither the music or the novel make any attempt to make the consumer comfortable or make the content easily relatable, due to an ideal of excellence or “elitism”, depending on who you ask. Franzen blames much of the fall of the novel on “the banal ascendency of television” and “the incompatibility of the slow work of reading and the hyperkinesis of modern life.” I believe classical music has similar challenges, in addition to in many cases no longer speaking the language of the culture–unlike the novel. Everyone loves to say that great art is “timeless”, and to some extent it is, but no one can pretend that a person today listening to a Brahms symphony– which is quoting from Beethoven, drinking songs, and Slavic tunes alike–gets the same experience as a person living in the 19th century, who would have recognized these quotes and would relate to them through relevant experiences in his life. Franzen wrote this essay several decades ago, and the changes in American/world culture have only deepened since then, especially with the rise of the internet. To come back to your original point though, of a person’s increased money and free time later in life leading them to classical music, I think that this is possible, but increasingly less so in a world full of people raised on bite-sized, effortlessly consumed culture. The way to combat this is not to make classical music easier or shorter, but as I stated above by making it more varied and increasing it’s relevancy to the culture of Today. Something that confuses and frustrates me to no end is the self imposed limits of many compositions being premiered today, using the same sounds and instruments that have been used for hundreds of years, albeit in new configurations. In the past, when classical music was just called “music”, if a new instrument was invented, composers wrote for it. When the pianoforte was invented, Bach wrote for it. When the glockenspiel was invented, Tchaikovsky wrote for it. Why have we not seen any compositions for electric guitar? Why have there not been experiments with adding effects to instruments or even entire orchestras, to create new sounds? As I said earlier, a member of a popular math rock band has written music for Carnegie hall–non classical music is borrowing from us more and more, becoming smarter and more original all the time, and is thriving. Why can we not borrow from them?
    As I stated before though, I am not a musicologist or a composer, so there may be problems with my argument that I am unaware of, but these are my thoughts.

    1. Amy says:

      “These are my thoughts.”

      Holy cow, they sure are. 🙂


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