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Curtains for another US orchestra

August 12, 2017 by norman lebrecht

30 comments.


The board of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic, based in Scranton, has cancelled the 2017-18 season.

The Philharmonic ended the 2016-2017 season with a $235,000 deficit and cannot find the $1.1 million it costs to stage another.


Comments (30)

  1. Derek Williams says:

    They have Trump for entertainment now.

    1. Steve P says:

      Didn’t realize Trump could play an instrument as well as MAGA.

      1. NYMike says:

        Actually Steve P, he can’t do either one. See you in the bomb shelter……

        1. Steve P says:

          I’ll probably just hide under my desk like grade school.

    2. symphony musician says:

      It seems to me that on a classical music blog news of the demise of an orchestra would normally be considered sad and worrying to the blog’s readership, whether one is a music-lover, a musician, or both. I can’t understand why the first commenter would post something irrelevant and self-serving without acknowledging the sadness, or do even we who take an interest in classical music no longer feel concern about its future?

      1. alvaro says:

        seriously? Sad? Why so? I pop the champagne every time an orchestra goes under because the market cant support the volume they have right now.

        Whets the case for having an organization when people and rich patrons arent willing tk support it? If you are not sorry for the lack of a permanent Japanese Gagaku ensemble in Scranton, why should you care there’s o orchestra anymore?

        The only outcome of having so many orchestras is that in their quest for survival they dont care to take a dump on top of the very artform they are supposed to preserve.

        You are a “symphony musician”? Be honest, how many times have you had to dress up as darth vader or princess Leia to “attract the new generation”. Does that circus make artistic sense to you? Its the prostitution, I repeat, prostitution of art with the excuse of “outreach”. Theres absolutely no difference between an orchestra musician in a chewbacca costume and one of the workers of the red light district of amsterdam. Both fulfill the same mission: to do whatever needs to be done in order to survive.

        We dont need 300 orchestras in this country because the demand for serious classical music perhaps allows for 30-40. The rest should, and eventually will, disappear, regadrless of the galas and efforts. Its economics 101 in action. Its an unsustainable position that leads to desperate measures.

        Thats why every time an orchestra goes under, its a reason to celebrate: One step closer to serious music and no “outreach nonsense”.

  2. Richard Zencker says:

    This is unfortunate. There were some memorable concerts led by Hugh Wolff there in the 80s.

    1. BobNYC says:

      …although there were others of us who realized he was not ready for prime time. And what went on off stage was far from commendable. Just my humble opinion as a musician who had the displeasure of working with him – unlike the relationship the orchestra had with his predecessor Thomas Mihalik and succssor Hugh Keelan.

  3. Augustine says:

    The Green Bay, Wisconsin Symphony Orchestra folded after a 100 year run the same year that the state spent millions on an addition to the Packer stadium.

    Welcome to the USA.

      1. Augustine says:

        “The 2003 renovation of the stadium cost $411 million, of which $241 million, or 59 percent, was paid by taxpayers.”

        http://watchdog.org/68010/green-bays-no-1-in-taxpayers-paying-for-sports-stadiums/

        1. Scotty says:

          Ah, too bad, but not surprising. I lived in Wisconsin for a couple of decades and I learned that the highest form of art is the Packers.

  4. Scotty says:

    Perhaps the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company could be approached for sponsorship.

  5. Khushroo Suntook says:

    very sad. Is the interest in classsical music dwinding
    My Symphony Orchestra of India the fist prossional orchestra established in India also has to work hard to fet through each seasobn.
    Can we share the methods of fund raising you employ
    To help our mutual pro blem

    1. MARC FELDMAN says:

      Love to know more about your Symphony Orchestra of India. How can I contact you? Marc Feldman Director of the Orchestre Symphonique de Bretagne. m

  6. herrera says:

    “She explained that even a sold-out concert provides only 35 percent of the production costs.

    In another attempt to help the budget, the board of directors asked the musicians to consider a 30 percent pay cut which, according to the prepared statement, would have made their salaries “comparable to similar-sized orchestras such as Binghamton, Allentown, Reading and Symphoria.”

    … the orchestra declined the board’s request, Sanderson said”

    My talents are worth x. I can’t get an audience that is willing to pay more than 35% of my worth. And I’d rather be unemployed than get paid 70% of my worth, (already twice what my audience is willing to pay). I expect some generous soul out there in Eastern Pennsylvania to recognize my worth and write a check to validate my worth.

    OK… that’s *one* strategy for staying employed.

    1. Derek Williams says:

      Elsewhere in commerce, providers charge their base costs plus a percentage or fee. I am amazed that members of the public easily fork out £30 for drinks at the pub and £40 for a meal yet begrudge this to musicians who have worked decades to achieve the mastery necessary to stage a concert. Even when students are offered cheap prices or free tickets, they’d often rather get drunk.

      Time to stop devaluing and apologising for our art and charge what it’s really worth. Rolls Royce never have trouble selling a product of high quality and don’t apologise for their product. Neither should we.

      1. Anon says:

        (a) assuming your comparison is correct, Rolls Royce have customers who want their product at prices which are sufficient to cover costs – not so for this and most orchestras.

        And (b) not a good comparison, since RR do have trouble selling their product(s). RR and other similar manufacturers are under pressure to develop more efficient and lower-cost engines, and are radically changing the way they charge (the future in that industry is unlikely to see a large fixed cost per engine bought in the traditional way). RR and co. adapt their product offering to what their consumers want – very, very different to unapologetically ploughing on with the same old thing.

        As for consumers, at that level they (we) are happy to pay for the value we perceive we receive, which need not equate to the value of work or effort which goes in to creating that product. There’s nothing surprising about this.

        1. Derek Williams says:

          The alternative to charging what it costs plus percentage / fee for profit is to go out of business altogether, as per case in point. Surely it’s worth a try, instead of throwing down the handbag and waltzing out of existence?

      2. Larry says:

        the whole “concept” of the nonprofit performing arts model is that we endeavor to make music available to all. If we charged what it really costs to put on a concert, only the very very rich would come.

        1. Maria says:

          And Beethoven’s Fifth every night!

        2. Derek Williams says:

          Those who attend pop and rock concerts always seem to be able to find the money to attend vast outdoor shows where they can barely see the performers, they’re so far away, and where they’re exposed to the elements.

          There was a time when impresarios could also go grow wealthy staging opera and symphony. Giving a professionally staged concert away for less than its true value undermines the perception of its true value. If tickets are being sold below the cost of staging a concert, then the amount of the subsidy should at least be shown on the ticket, so concertgoers know who paid for their ticket.

          Those who CAN afford to pay the true cost of their ticket aren’t being asked to pay it. Scholarships could be offered for those too poor to attend professionally staged performances. Meanwhile, there are plenty of amateur orchestras of decent quality offering concerts for a lower ticket price.

          The other issue facing marketing of classical music is the emperor’s clothes equivalence given to other genres such as rap.

    2. Ross says:

      No. The orchestra is mostly made up of out-of-towners who go to Scranton to perform. At a certain point it’s not worth it for them to come from cities that are 2 or more hours away, and maybe spend a night or two.
      The musicians don’t actually live in Scranton.

      1. BobNYC says:

        Correct! This is the result of the suburban Scranton socialites who ran the orchestra for a couple of decades with the philosophy that “if it’s local, it can’t be any good.” The orchestra is run by NYC union, and hence won’t compromise on salary, even though the conductor, general manager and staff have gone without any salary at all for several months.

        1. NYMike says:

          Another troll criticizing the big bad NY union?? 1. Local 802 NYC does not negotiate the NEP Phil contract. 2. The American Federation of Musicians (AFM)’s headquarters, while in NYC, does not negotiate the orchestra’s contract either. Although both NY and Philly freelancers play in the orchestra, its contract is negotiated by the Scranton Local.

          1. BobNYC says:

            Not my understanding. The NEPA Philharmonic was originally comprised of musicians from both Scranton and Wilkes-Barre (hence, NEPA). Over the years, control has ceded to 802 musicians with the contract by both Scranton 120 and Wilkes-Barre 140, “officially”. The locals may sign off, but decisions, including personnel is ceded to 802. That’s why there are only about 6 local players.

  7. Cubs Fan says:

    Blame my generation, the Baby Boomers. We have squandered the great cultural legacy our parents generation put together. They looked on an orchestra as a point of civic pride. After freeing the world from the horrors of Hitler and Japan, they built what they thought was going to be a better society. Then comes my generation and the 60s and it was foreseeable that when we took leadership, society was f*u ked. And here we are. Lousy music gets all the attention and money. Symphonies….who Cares? Thanks, baby boomers.

    1. Derek Williams says:

      Sad, true, but eminently reversible.

  8. TGH says:

    The US is not Germany – we do not have their tradition for opera and classical music – or other European countries where classical music is part of their weekly socialising and entertainment activities, and there is, at this time, no demand for so many orchestras.

    The problem is that we have far too many conservatories, music departments, and music schools… Why training so many musicians that will not have a job because there is not enough demand?

  9. samtellig says:

    Downsize! Offer chamber music instead.

    Too many shopping malls. Too many department stores. Too many symphony orchestras. That’s America today. Too many damned universities, too, and not enough trade schools.

    Dvorak’s father would be right today. Son, become a butcher.


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