Are US orchestras too big to fail?

Are US orchestras too big to fail?


norman lebrecht

November 17, 2016

An Op-ed on this theme in USA Today is getting some mileage. It’s by a lawyer, Jonathan Kaledin, a former player in the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra.

Core argument:

What does it say about us that our federal government spent $245 billion bailing out financial institutions that were “too big to fail,” but it will not consider meaningful support for our magnificent but financially distressed symphony orchestra institutions? Our next president has a huge opportunity to help write the story of America’s orchestras and the arts in general, in a way that has not happened since the Kennedy administration…

Wishful thinking?

More here.




  • MWnyc says:

    “What does it say about us that our federal government spent $245 billion bailing out financial institutions that were “too big to fail,” but it will not consider meaningful support for our magnificent but financially distressed symphony orchestra institutions?”

    That the global financial system on which we all depend won’t panic and collapse if orchestras go broke and shut down.

    Nothing more.

  • Ross says:

    Look at the salaries of those European orchestras he refers to, and compare them to their American counterparts.
    American orchestra salaries have never been higher. They are competing with each in that department.

  • V.Lind says:

    He is hanging his hope on Trump? I know nothing of his musical tastes, but we all know about his raison d’être: making profit. The only art I have so far seen him associated with is the art of the deal. Still, he may well be a classical man (why does this seem so unlikely?) but as President, and one who from hints dropped by all sorts close to him and to his predecessors, hasn’t a clue what the job entails. you can be absolutely certain that the arts will be WELL down his to-do list.

    Not a man whose tastes look refined, at first blush — he considers Katie Hopkins a “distinguished” journalist and esteems the advice of Nigel Farage and the KKK.

    I’m afraid the orchestras are on their own.

    • Marc says:

      Some interesting information here on Trump’s views on the arts:

      Sampled excerpts from an examination worth examining:

      First, this, from the Donald:

      “I had the great fortune to receive a comprehensive liberal arts education from an Ivy League institution. (Fordham University and the Wharton School) What is most important is that we examine how one-size-fits-all approaches imposed by the federal government have corrupted the availability and efficacy of liberal arts education. Critical thinking skills, the ability to read, write and do basic math are still the keys to economic success. A holistic education that includes literature and the arts is just as critical to creating good citizens.”

      And then, there’s this:

      At a New Hampshire Rotary Club talk in February, he answered few questions but did remark on his aesthetic goals for his proposed border wall with Mexico. To paraphrase Trump, he said “And I am going to have to add some designs to the wall because someday they might name it after me and I want it to look real nice.”

      Muralists, rejoice!

    • Anon says:

      I do wish people would stop wth this Trump / KKK nonsense. He has repeatedly condemned the KKK (and Duke) for decades, and continued to do so during his election campaign. There are many criticisms you could make of Trump, but this isn’t one of them.

      As for the orchestras, why would anyone think this should be a priority for POTUS?
      US orchestras by-and-large are on their own, and seem to be getting along OK, with salaries at the top end in excess of European bands; I’m not sure what effect the PElectOTUS views on arts are likely to have here.

  • Marg says:

    Perhaps he’ll influenced by his hero, Putin in this regard.

  • herrera says:

    Make American Orchestras Great Again.

  • Sue says:

    Generally speaking, when an economy is flourishing it can afford to be generous with the arts. After all, classical music itself (and its concomitant arts) needs significant infrastructure to exist and thrive. Declining orchestras are the canary in the coal mine of a declining economy, IMO. Germany pays its musicians well – particularly the BPO – and they, of course, are the economic leaders of Europe. Ask yourselves what you think the state of Greek orchestras currently is.

    I can’t imagine Trump saying something negative about American orchestras. He, like Putin, would want to bathe in the reflected glory of great artistic organizations – just as the Gonzagas and others did centuries before him. In short, he doesn’t HAVE to be an aesthete for it all to work.