Will classical music ever be aired again in Miami?

Will classical music ever be aired again in Miami?


norman lebrecht

July 23, 2015

South Florida lost three classical stations last week when the Minnesota owner sold them to Christian operators. Miami critic Lawrence A. Johnson is incensed. So are many Slipped Disc readers.

Larry assesses the options for a non-Christian resurrection here.


south florida


  • NYMike says:

    Just what the US needs – more christian radio crap!

    • Paul D says:

      It seems to me that there is a bigger audience for Christian radio in south Florida than there is for classical music, just as there is for pop music. There is not enough demand for the music, or not enough listeners are willing to pitch in and support the stations finanically. That’s the issue to address. You need to have listeners if you want, and should, survive.

  • william osborne says:

    This comes as no surprise. Miami has a metro population of 5.5 million, and is extremely wealthy, but does not even have a professional symphony orchestra. Every developed country in the world except the USA has comprehensive systems of public funding for the arts, and state radio networks (like the BBC.) In the USA, by contrast, the marketplace is virtually the sole arbiter of all human endeavor. The so-called fine arts exist largely outside the marketplace, and thus have a more limited position in our society than all other developed countries.

    Our political spectrum is so narrow, that we are given no choice but to accept this situation. This also affects our arts reporting. Mainstream arts journalists will bemoan the loss of the arts in the USA, but do not address the fundamental political and economic causes for the low status of the arts in our country (no public funding for the arts or state radio networks,) and how this is completely unique to the USA. Larry Johnson’s report is an example. He writes only from within the perspectives of America’s completely isolated form of privately funding the arts. The blinkered perspectives in the USA are so pervasive and one-sided that they literally have a totalitarian character.

    • Weston says:

      Your last sentence, “The blinkered perspectives in the USA are so pervasive and one-sided that they literally have a totalitarian character.” is entirely true. Things in the U.S. have a “totalitarian” character because you are living in one of the most totalitarian states that civilization has ever known. Any interest in the common good, in what might be of human and intellectual value to the collective good of the society, is totally absent from the mindset of the oligarchy that governs over there. The fact that soul nourishing music is replaced by religious radio, is ironic, as this will certainly further the standardized, robot-like view of the world and make the masses in the American dystopia easier to control. Classical music leads to free thinking and individual emotional attitudes, as one U.S. school teacher once told me, to my utter stupefaction.

      • Dave T says:

        This is possibly the most ridiculous post on this blog that I have ever read. Your use of the term “over there” suggests that you are not actually in the US and probably– no, obviously– have little understanding of the country.

        • John T says:

          Just because a person may not live in a country, doesn’t mean that their opinions are invalid! Americans need to wake up and realize that others can often see and understand more about what is going on in their own country than they can themselves. Its called objectivity and having an open mind.

    • Elaine Rinaldi says:

      Dear Mr. Osborne,
      Thank you for your very interesting comment. I would like to make one clarification- Miami does, in fact, have a professional orchestra. I founded Orchestra Miami (www.orchestramiami.org) in 2006 to help fill the void created by the bankruptcy of the former Florida Philharmonic Orchestra. Orchestra Miami exists to create community and educate through music, and our musicians are the most seasoned professionals residing in South Florida (many of whom were former FL Phil members). I can tell you from personal experience, there are thousands of people who love, want and support classical music in South Florida. The loss of Classical South Florida is a HUGE blow to the local arts organizations, who gained valuable exposure not just from purchasing advertising on the station, but by the many “extras” which were included, such as special features, website exposure, social media, etc. It’s really tragic for all of us in the local arts scene.

      • william osborne says:

        One could also mention the Miami Symphony Orchestra which does 8 programs per year. Best of luck with your work to build a genuinely resident professional orchestra in Miami. I hope the efforts to fill the gap left by the Florida Philharmonic will be successful.

        • Sabrina says:

          The Miami Symphony owes many players up to several thousands of dollars from services back to 2012-2013 season. Players who are owed money have moved away from it, and their spots are filled by inexperienced students. There is currently a payment plan, but it is about $100 every couple months. At that rate, some players will not be compensated for work they did three years ago for about a decade. This is not to mention the dysfunction that exists in organization and the charlatan of a conductor they have.

  • V.Lind says:

    Mr. Osborne is so very, very correct. It’s the same blinkered attitude that prevents universal health care for Americans too.

    Why is “the market” the only concern people have in adjudging anything? I remember when Nike’s business practices, including alleged child labour for peanuts in sweatshops in Asia, were under scrutiny asking an American group of sports fans at an event how they could in conscience wear the brand and cheer on the celebrity athletes who endorsed the product. They patiently explained to me that Nike paid “market rates” and sold their products for “what the market would bear,” and that the very highly paid celebrity endorsers were also getting “market rates.” Morality was a non-issue. Conscience was a non-issue. People trying to better the lives of those who slaved to make $300 shoes were sneered at.

    There is no hope for a country that prides itself on its “Christianity” only insofar as it affects the bottom line. Ask yourself how a radio chain can afford to operate when a classical music group cannot. Their donations are rolling in, from the right-wing types who decline to pay a penny extra in tax lest it go toward supporting someone not just like them. They call it “freedom.”

    My eye. And it has sod-all to do with Christianity.

    • Mark Henriksen says:

      Your sanctimonious whining aside, tell me about the little piece of utopia that you call home? Actually, skip it. I doubt your integrity accept when it comes to self righteousness.

  • John says:

    So if I own a radio station that is hemorrhaging money by the day, I should ignore the bottom line and keep losing money as some kind of public service to the tiny demographic I’m serving? Don’t get me wrong, but commercial radio is a business and the climate for classical music has been brutal. And classical stations have dropped like flies in most markets. Don’t get me wrong. As a lifelong classical music lover, I’m as grieved as anyone when a classical station dies. But what would you suggest as a solution. I’ve heard plenty of wailing and lamenting in this string, but no answers. Mr Osborne comes the closest with an answer that isn’t likely to happen, (public funding for the arts and state radio networks. We do have PBS and the like, but classical isn’t easy to find there, either). So if public supported channels are drying up (isn’t that what we’re hearing about support for the arts in Europe, Norman?), what is the solution? Or is what is happening just a reflection of our culture and our cultural tastes, bad or good (I’d vote for bad.)? I know I don’t have any answers.

  • Jerry Gennaro says:

    Mr. Osborne correctly notes Miami’s large population, its relative prosperity, and its current lack of support for classical music, but then projects this failure upon the entire United States. I would suggest we compare Miami to other U.S. Metropolitan areas and ask why the current situation in Miami has evolved to this point. The Buffalo metro area has a thriving FM classical music station (WNED-FM) and symphony orchestra (www.bpo.org) with a per capita income comparable to that of Miami ($38.5K vs. $38.6K) but with a much smaller population (1.1 million vs. 5.9 million). Why is that? The answer could be in their respective demographics, but that discussion is now an extremely dangerous pursuit due to a pervasive climate of political correctness.

    • william osborne says:

      Some aspects of this problem relate directly to Miami. Others to the USA as a whole. The country, for example, only has 3 cities in the top 100 for opera performances per year. In recent years the orchestras in San Diego, Miami, Kansas City, Albuquerque, Syracuse, Tulsa, San Antonio, New Orleans, Denver, San Jose, Colorado Springs, Honolulu, and Philadelphia declared bankruptcy. Many more are in continual financial trouble.

      The implication that the Hispanic population of Miami might be the problem is unfounded. Consider the orchestra explosion in Venezuela which is setting a standard for the whole world. The problems is not ethnic, of course, but in funding and educational systems.

    • Mark Henriksen says:

      Pittsburgh also has a similar household income and a world class orchestra.

      There are omissions of relevant information that should be included here.

      Miami is the home to the New World Symphony Orchestra which performs weekly and operates and sounds like a professional orchestra.

      The population of Miami is actually around 420,000 not 5.5 million. 5.5 million is
      for South Florida, a region 110 miles long. That’s about the same as the distance
      from LA to San Diego. A huge region within which their are several regional orchestras:
      including the South Florida Symphony and the Palm Beach Symphony.

      • william osborne says:

        The population of Miami/Dade county is 2,662,874. The New World Symphony is an orchestra for training young musicians. It has no permanent positions and is in no way the equivalent of a professional orchestra. Pittsburgh ranks 247th in the world for opera performances per year – far behind countless European cities with only a fraction of the population and wealth.

  • Sabrina says:

    Miami resident here: New World Symphony performs at least 50 performances a season at a high level over 32 a week season. While it is a training orchestra, it is on par with a professional orchestra in terms of capability, as the players are at their in til shape and taken from the best conservatories. Yes, the positions are not permanent and the players rotate and don’t usually establish roots in Miami. The Cleveland Orchestra has a residency over a four-week period. The South Florida Symphony is not a legitimate orchestra. It is a poorly-funded and poorly-attended orchestra made of tourists who fly in and play a few concerts under a poorly-trained conductor around the area, and the musicians have a history of paying their own travel and waiting YEARS to be compensated. the Palm Beach Symphony is a de facto social club made up of a sundry freelance musicians and many students, the roster changes, the conductor is a charlatan, and only five over-programmed, frequently demoralizing concerts are produced each season. All of these elements compliment Miami’a transience. Miami has a lot to offer, some good and some bad, but I cannot be fairly compared to Pittsburgh or So Cal. Apples, oranges, and bananas.
    Nonetheless, I too lament the loss of our classical station. Miami needs to do more to support it’s own, weed out the dregs, and establish a sense of tradition in the arts.