US orchestra faces New Year shutdown

US orchestra faces New Year shutdown


norman lebrecht

December 17, 2015

Musicians in the Hartford Symphony, who are fighting for a living wage, have been told to back down or the orch will shut permanently next month.

Stephen Collins, director of artistic operations andadministration, said:

hartford symphony

‘By late January at the latest, we need to have stability in our financial position or we’ll going to have to make very difficult decisions. It is conceivable that we could be forced to close our doors at the end of January.’

They sure know how to celebrate Christmas in Connecticut.



  • Alvaro says:

    Hartford….ahhhh a city that has had musical tradition for millenia.

    Who came from there, was it Beethoven, or was it Mozart? Who the hell cares if Hartford has an orchestra or not? I bet if you do a Poll in the city, the citizens would be much more worried about having more bars or clubs than about this. If the town cant sustain it, close it up and make a tech incubator in the building.

    At least the existance of the incubator will bring forth tangible innovation and results to the community….

    • NYMike says:

      Musicians are once again being told to take severe cuts on top of concessions already made in the past. The full story here:

    • Jody says:

      Charles Ives came from Hartford.

      • CA says:

        Incorrect: he was born in Danbury, CT. Went to Yale (New Haven). Might have lived or worked in Hartford but he was definitely not born there.

        • Gaffney Feskoe says:

          Ives lived in West Redding CT. and worked at an insurance agency in New York City commuting there by train daily. Ives was not associated with Hartford.

    • Ppellay says:

      I’ve been waiting all year to see what the most risible sentiment expressed on this site was going to be. With just two weeks to go, I can confidently say: Readers, we have a winner!

      Incidentally, regarding “Who came from there, was it Beethoven, or was it Mozart?”, will a nephew of Gustav Mahler do in lieu of the above-mentioned gentlemen?

      • harold braun says:

        PPELLAY….judging from his comments, I am afraid the name of Gustav Mahler doesn’t ring a bell with Alvaro…

        • Alvaro Mendizabal says:

          Clearly listening to the same warhorses again and again doesnt help you judge anything. Mahler is not bad. Now what about the brazilian composer of several symphonies, Guerra-peixe. What do you think of his early production. Or what about Marlos Nobre. You must be very well versed in them as well I can imagine – if not, your ignorance is hereby demonstrated.

    • Joseph says:

      Alvaro sounds like the Donald Trump of the arts. What he says makes sense … in a sick sort of way. And, like Trump, I’m sure his comments, would appeal to the lowest common denominator.

  • Tim says:

    Forget about it. It doesn’t matter how much money is coming in. It’s about the music! I’m sure someone will come along and just hand you money. It worked for Minneapolis.

  • Itsjt says:

    Wow! Alvaro making a push for the jack ass of the year award right near the deadline… Bravo.
    Hartford is not a culturally thriving city. But, having an orchestra and an arts scene there goes a long way toward making a city worth living in.
    Merry kwanza.

  • Scott Fields says:

    Going by Alvaro’s reasoning, all American classical orchestras should fold. A shame to lose Chicago’s; I really liked them.

  • Kevin Scott says:

    Totally ridiculous. Alvaro is obviously either a disgruntled musician or someone who hasn’t a clue about the situations involving corporate elitism trying to run an artistic organization. The only thing that is happening is that it is ruining a symphony orchestra. Let’s hope something can be worked out.

  • Alvaro says:

    Great to have to many fans here, but be real people: Organizations go under because of faulty management, or because their product is OBSOLETE.

    How many people are out there manufacturing Floppy Discs? Its obsolete, nobody wants then! There are other products/services that fulfill that need much better, depending on the market.

    My point is simple: classical music is a fantastic thing, but the arrogance to believe that EVERY town, and EVERY city need to have an orchestra is – ironically – destroying this artform. Its only logical to think that many towns and cities will be composed by people who have no interest in this artform (nor should they – for example, how many of you are big fans of Gagaku (A.K.A, japanese opera) – and they will run into trouble. However, the obstinate attempt to preserve the institution will call administrators to adapt the offering, do ANYTHING -literally – to bring people in the hall and buy tickets. Based on this desperation, we have Cirque de la Symphonie, Igudesman & Joo, and other aberrations that have absolutely nothing to do with the artform these institutions are supposed to preserve.

    Does LAO present convertion ratios between people that bought a “The Texas Tenors at the symphony ticket” and are now big fans of the Bruckner Symphonies? Theres no such people, and the few exceptions would prove the rule.

    As a fan of classical music, Id rather thave less orchestras that actually play something more interesting than the 20 warhorses that these “regionals” play, than to have what we have now: LAO promoting a Rapper with orchestra as a viable path to the future. And I say fan, because I am pretty sure that the majority of the people who comment here are working in the industry and therefore have a BIG conflict of interest when deciding what to preserve: their job vs Beethoven? Well, beethoven is cool, but you kind of like your job better, so lets present 2Cellos next season. SORRY LUDWIG!

    I bet if beethoven had been alive and attendig that conference, he would’ve very much enjoyed this vomiting spectacle and perhaps even gotten his Gangsta out and busted a few Rhymes…

    Dont you?

  • harold braun says:

    Alvaro for sure got the price for the most moronic comment ever on this blog….

    • Alvaro says:

      So, you like the idea of a rapper at the orchestra and call this travesty ‘Classical Music’ then?

      Halla, ma’ nizzle!

  • Nick says:

    Let me for one stand up for Alvaro. I may not agree with all that he says but much of it makes so much sense – yet those who run our orchestras and performing arts institutions fail either to see or accept it. In rapidly changing times when audiences are ageing and declining, we simply cannot continue to adhere to all the old ideas when it comes to programming, presentation and general appeal. Like it or not, those charged with the direction and management of performing companies have no alternative but to change their basic strategies.

    Alvarao cites Gagaku. Let me give another example. Many will know the extraordinary Kodo Drummers from Sado Island in Japan. This company is hugely popular in Japan and around the world. About three years ago it appointed Tamasaburo, Japan’s foremost kabuki actor, as its new Artistic Director. Tamasaburo realised that Kodo had a choice. It could either continue repeating the same sort of performances and continue to attract an audience that in Japan is ageing and not being replenished, or it could adapt. He chose the latter course, even working on a project with a young breakdance group. As a result Kodo is starting to attract a larger group of followers, many of them young and new to Kodo performances.

    A symphony orchestra is clearly less adaptable to such changes. And the music it performs must always be paramount. Any changes which take place need to be very carefully thought through so as not to alienate the vital core group of older attenders. But if new audiences or new donors with loads of cash are not found within communities, then the performing organisation will go the way of the dinosaurs. Throw in appalling Board decisions and sheer bad management – disastrous in quite a few cases – and extinction comes pretty fast.

    Having read and contributed to this blog for a couple of years, I know there are those who are very anti change out of concern that this will affect the listening experience. The argument seems to run – why change a formula that has been proven to work for centuries? Yet audiences in many places continue to age and decline. Many have thrown the blame back to local education policies that give no weight to even a basic appreciation music and the arts, as if this will immediately solve the lack of bums of seats problem. It won’t! Alvaro mentions “arrogance”. It’s an apt word. There is an arrogance in the way many of those who lead arts organisations continue to dig their heads in the sand without an ounce of creative spark to bring the art form they manage to a wider public.

    Myspace was such a great idea it became the largest social networking company in the world – so successful that Rupert Murdoch coughed up $580 million for the company. Then along came a similar outfit named Facebook. Where is Myspace now? Virtually extinct. Orchestras must adapt to survive.

    • Alvaro says:

      Interesting to see there are still people willing to engage into discourse, with arguments, and not just react like sheep after decades of indoctrination about what classical music should be, or how best to “bring kids to the symphonies”.

      The arrogance I refer to is the underlying assumption that somehow, the size of this industry is where its supposed to be, and that it SHOULD be sustainable. The arrogance is to think that Hartford SHOULD be able to support an orchestra, that every city SHOULD have an opera house, and that not doing so somehow denigrates these populace into second-rate towns (a phrase oft used by Lebrecht in this blog).

      Nobody here even conceives the possibility that Classical Music is a niche that for some decades grew much larger than what is realistically sustainable in the long run. Maybe we don’t need an orchestra in Mankato, for gods sake! Maybe 2 orchestras in Minneapolis is too redundant.

      But one says those words and people here react like 5 year olds when they tell realize Santa is fake. They get mad. IT CANT BE!

      Well, numbers, data and attendance numbers beg to differ. To be honest, its understandable: the education system has created a vicious cycle in which a large number of people who studied music performance or education WILL have to work in administration because it is a much more secure job – a solid paycheck from the orchestra/concert series, opera, every month.

      Therefore we have the paradox of music: do we save the symphony orchestra (the institution) or do we save the music they perform. One is tangible (there are less bums on seats, there’s less donor money, there’s less # of concerts per season, the average salary of musicians is declining, etc) the other one is abstract (Is STAR WARS classical music? why not? POPS is classical music? Why not an arrangement of Rap + orchestra? Why not electronica + orchestra , could that be classical music?).

      Since tangible things can be accounted for, well – ahead we go with the BS that – to be quite honest – 90% of the orchestras in the world present. NINETY PERCENT.

      Its 10 warhorses per season, a growing number of ever cheaper, ever nastier, ever ridiculous pops efforts, the same ‘blockbuster soloists’ for the donor galas. Its recycled..its the same strategy, year in/year out, only a little bit more decadent every year with yet another outreach plan, another cheap attempt to lure kids or parents in the symphony.

      This week, a large, veeery large % of the orchestras of the country (and the world) played concerts wearing star wars outfits. Conductors, musicians, staff members – as if a cheap circus of desperation.

      All for sake of the institution! of the building! or the AFM chapter! not for sake of the artform? who cares about Beethoven? Give me a custome of Chewbacca and lets sell some tickets!

  • Scott Fields says:

    In fact, last week I attended a Gagaku concert here in Cologne and enjoyed in greatly. And I regret Alvaro’s campaign to eliminate the Chicago Symphony. I will miss them.

    • Alvaro says:

      I want to eliminate them? Where do you get this from? If it was for me, let them live long and forever. THE CITIZENS of chicago who dont go to the concerts and dont donate are the ones who want to eliminate the orchestra. Its actually a quite nice exercise of democracy: if you dont like or dont feel compelled to enjoy an artform, guess what, you DON’T PARTICIPATE.

      Now, how do you make them participate? All the ‘outreach’ campaigns are not working, people still enjoy pop much, MUCH more. People prefer Broadway to the opera. What do you do – FORCE them to get in the theater at gunpoint?

      No – people have spoken. They DONT LIKE YOUR ARTFORM in many cities, nor should they. Deal with it.

      Obviously New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and a handful other places will have enough diversity to maintain orchestras at a high level (as they do). But many other country loving towns and cities in the US will pass on Mozart the same way they pass on Gagaku or Andean Panflute bands. If you dont complain about their ‘lack of culture’ for all of these artforms, then dont complain about any of them. Period.

    • Alvaro says:

      oh! And since you enjoyed it so much, I can imagine that is enough reason to have a Japanese music being offered in the Hochschule Fuer Musik Koeln as a major right? In fact, the city of Koeln should get PUBLIC MONEY to build and create a gagaku opera house, in the style of Japan, because its culture, right?

      One thing is to enjoy a performance from time to time (something that citizens of many localities could do when orchestras tour around, real orchestras that is), and another one to pretend to create a profession out of thin air without any warrant. 1 gagaku performance every 2 years of course its fine….why should Beethoven be any different? Because it is ‘European’ ? Because ‘European Culture’ is more important than Japanese culture?

      You have no arguments.

      • Scott Fields says:

        It was from your original comment that I took the concept that only cities from which esteemed European symphonic composers originated deserve symphony orchestras. You couldn’t have been referencing population, since Bonn, Beethoven’s birthplace, is smaller than Hardford. That logic leaves American orchestras, including Chicago (my birthplace), out in th cold. A shame. I like them so much.

  • Alvaro says:

    Last reflection: Yesterday was Beethoven’s birthday, and WHO REMBERED ?? GOOGLE! yes – GOOGLE.

    Meanwhile – 99% of orchestras were desperately renting Star Wars customes to set up basically a circus camp in concert halls all over the country, trying to somehow capitalize in the frenzy of the premiere of Star Wars: because they “need kids in the concert hall”.

    Yesterday – GOOGLE did more for classical music than all the orchestral institutions of the US.

    Rare world we live in….

  • Yev says:

    Actually, orchestras like this do far more for community education than their renowned neighbors (NYPhil, BSO, etc…). Here, conductors or orchestra musicians often give pre-concert talks, free outdoor concerts pull in new audiences (not sure if Hartford has those, but I remember New Haven Symphony Orchestra having them), and the far more even blend of Pops and Classical helps to eliminate the perception of inaccessibility and snobbism.

    I don’t know if the Google Doodle pulled new people into classical music, but when Howard Shore came to Hartford to conduct his Lord of the Rings symphony, I’m sure that helped expose a new demographic to the awesomeness of live orchestral music, even if it was… well, you know. 😉