Another US newspaper drops classical coverage

The Miami Herald is no longer worth reading.

It used to employ Lawrence A. Johnson as music critic. When his job was eliminated in 2008, the paper continued to carry paid reports from his South Florida Classical Review.

Now the Herald has told him it has neither the space nor the cash for classical and opera reports.

Larry says: ‘I knew this day would come. That’s why I started South Florida Classical Review in the first place. Our Florida advertisers have been fantastic and supportive. As long as that continues, SFCR will continue to cover the local music beat with the same quality and comprehensiveness we always have.’

Why buy a newspaper that doesn’t write about the things that interest you?

pic: Florida orchestra

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  • Since I have now lived in the Miami for more than three years, I am qualified to comment. Unlike any other major metropolis, Miami really does not have a significant local music scene. Why? First of all, a majority of the population is Spanish-speaking AND comes from elsewhere (Cuba, but also Venezuela, Colombia, Dominican Republic, and more). These people do not have the habit of attending classical music events. Secondly, another large part of the population is seasonal – they arrive for the winter and leave in the spring. They might support music in their city of origin (Montreal, Quebec City) but they certainly don’t support classical music here. Third, Miami/Dade only has two major universities (and one community college). FIU does not have a signficant visiting artist series (something many universities do), and so the sort of chamber music etc. that one might have access to at Duke or UNC Chapel Hill doesn’t exist (I can’t speak with authority on U of Miami). We DO have plenty of well-supported art museums, but that’s a different slice of the demographic.

    • Tom you are off your mark here. As a frequent concertgoer, amateur musicians, and someone who has lived in Miami for the past 25 years, you make an alarming number of false statements. First of all, there is a very significant and vibrant local music scene here. New World Symphony, Miami Symphony, Florida Grand Opera, Miami City Ballet (features a live orchestra), Nu Deco Ensemble, Seraphic Fire, Chopin Foundation and international competition, Dranoff Foundation, Miami International Piano Festival (presenting concerts almost the entire season) are all local groups with terrific followings in Miami. Now there is a world class summer music festival, the Miami Music Festival that presents full length opera, symphonic, and chamber music concerts in the summer. Speaking of chamber music, here you simply are WRONG. At your own place of employment, FIU, the world class Amernet String Quartet is Ensemble-in-Residence and performs a number of concerts each season on the main campus and in Miami Beach at two of FIU’s outposts, the Miami Beach Urban Studios and the Jewish Museum of Miami. I am an enthusiastic supporter of this group and some of the finest chamber concerts I have ever heard have been with the Amernet and distinguished guest artists that FIU has invited to perform with them right on FIU’s campus. This past October they performed an unforgettable string sextet concert with Roberto and a Andres Diaz on campus. Did you know about this? It’s true that FIU doesn’t have a dedicated visiting artist series but it doesn’t need one since they regularly present exciting chamber music concerts and also just down the street in Coral Gables the Friends of Chamber Music of Miami boasts some of the most esteemed chamber groups in the world. Tonight I am planning to hear the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio and in February I have in my calendar to hear the Ehnes Quartet and the Borodin Quartet with guest pianist Joseph Kalichstein. The New World Symphony has a chamber music series with concerts a couple times a month. And the University of Miami also has a string quartet in residence, the Bergonzi String Quartet, and features regular collaborative concerts with its artist faculty on campus. In fact, 3-4 and sometimes 5 nights a week I have classical music events blocked off in my calendar. So get your facts straight before you spout off nonsense in a public forum. Miami is growing by leaps and bounds and there is a consistent steam of first class music offerings for its residents to savor.

  • Glad to see Larry maintains his writing via his website. Tom–there are still many opportunities to take in the many art forms in SoFl. Check out the New World Symphony, South Florida Symphony, opera, ballet, and Conservatory performances.

  • Notwithstanding Mr. Moore’s comments on the cultural scene in Miami, it always saddens me when I see classical coverage vanishing from the media. We have had no serious coverage in traditional media in my part of the country (greater Denver region), and groups have struggled to find innovative ways of reaching audiences that fall outside these traditional channels.

  • And Cleveland Orchestra does a residency, does it not?

    However, I take exception to the premise of the headline and in fact the story. I might support an argument for boycotting a paper in protest after the closure of a favourite line of coverage (except that in the field of classical music it would be statistically insignificant, even in times of reduced circulation).

    I seriously doubt, however, that the Miami Herald is “no longer worth reading.” Miami is a huge, diverse and vibrant community, politically significant nationally as well as locally, loaded with crime, drugs and racial strife, loaded also, as noted, with gorgeous galleries, architecture, a fashion profile, etc. It is a commercial hub and yet thrives on a large tourism scene. And let’s not even start on sport…I would think that those blessed with a wider vision than the narrow, tunnel-visioned approach to classical music that seems to be preached here would find plenty of interest in Miami and in its largest newspaper.

    And there is also a music beyond classical, and Miami is an absolute cornucopia of all sorts of music. Particularly Latin. Miami is the capital of Latin America: for insights into that alone the paper would be worth reading.

  • Allow me to comment as I am a composer/conductor and a native Miamian who has recently moved back. While there is some excellent musical activity here it is very insular….”friends of XYZ”. But more importantly, the new music scene is almost non-existent, especially with the recent demise of the SoBe Institute of the Arts. Sure, resident performing ensembles and organizations do program new music, but institutions dedicated to new work exclusively are difficult to find. It is my experience that musically active communities all have a plethora of new music offerings. Miami falls way behind such cities as NYC, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco among others.

  • I stand by my observations. I wrote music criticism in North Carolina for six years for CVNC. The fact that neither UM or FIU has outside artist series speaks volumes.

    • Speaks volumes of what? Both schools present guest artists regularly. FIU had a monthlong festival in October and UM has Festival Miami coming up. Plenty of guest artists. You have no point here and writing music criticism in North Carolina is impressive to you maybe!

  • As SR noted above, there is a substantial classical music scene across South Florida and in Miami, especially this time of year.

    Tonight Friends of Chamber Music of Miami is presenting the Kalichstein Laredo Robinson Trio, and next Tuesday Osmo Vanska and the Minnesota Orchestra perform at the Arsht Center in Miami while the Prague Philharmonic is at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach. The rest of January has performances by the Cleveland Orchestra under Franz Welser-Most, the New World Symphony led by Michael Tilson Thomas and Roberto Abbado (with Christian Tetzlaff and Jean-Yves Thibaudet as soloists), the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra with Vadim Gluzman, Seraphic Fire, the Miami Symphony, Dranoff 2 Piano and Nu Deco Ensemble, Amernet Quartet, and Madama Butterfly at Palm Beach Opera and Eugene Onegin at Florida Grand Opera. All these and other classical events are listed in the daily calendar at South Florida Classical Review (http://southfloridaclassicalreview.com).

    So, if you’re not finding any classical events in Miami, you can’t be looking very hard.

    • Larry, glad you weigh in here. Friends, Larry is one of our finest writers, and for us, as performing artists, we are extremely grateful to have his attendance at performances. He not only alerts the public to upcoming performances, but also shares his professional opinions to help sustain and grow new audiences. (For those who can recall an earlier time when James Roos wrote for the Miami Herald, and was very detailed and knowledgeable, rest assured, you’re in good hands with Larry).

    • If the reviews were as insightful as this one* then it’s a good thing they dropped him.

      *As in much of Prokofiev’s output there’s a certain surface glitz and empty brilliance in the Fourth Concerto with a lack of a deeper core. It’s a testament to Ponti’s artistry that he managed to make a compelling case for this problematic work.

  • I must comment on this as well, I am a professional classical musician, conductor, and university music professor and have been in Miami for 20 years. What Miami lacks is a professional quality ensemble. The now defunct Florida Philharmonic under James Judd was supposed to make its home in the Adrian Arsht Center, but was allowed to go bankrupt. The Cleveland Orchestra basically “phones in” their concerts in as they are here to enjoy the beach in February. The Miami Symphony Florida Grand Opera … are not of the high standards that a city of this size in the North East would normally enjoy. FIU has had problems in the past supporting its music programs and the University of Miami has Jazz dominated music programs. New World is a training academy. I agree with Tom, the Hispanic population is the dominate population here and they do not support “Western European” Classical music. Further, the school district is woefully inadequate in providing quality music programs in the schools. Miami has, for the most part, a transient population that does not or will not support a vibrant classical music scene. I know a number of classical musicians here who struggle bouncing from one job to another.

  • The Miami Herald’s decision to stop paying for reports on classical music and opera tells us more about the dire financial conditions facing print newspapers here in the States, and less about the classical music and opera scene in Miami.

    If the Miami Herald changes its collectively mind, and restores Lawrence A. Johnson’s reviews to their rightful place within its pages, would that cause more newspapers to be sold? Unfortunately, the answer is most likely “no” in this day and in this age.

  • While Miami does not have the premier music scene characteristic of many major metropolitan areas, there is impressive activity in both the classical and jazz areas. There is an excellent source of listings of activity to be found at Organiste:
    http://www.organiste.net/join-us

    As for the Herald, yes, it is not what it used to be. That is a problem with all print sources. Yet it is the only source of investigative news reporting that we have. They do a good job of keeping track of the wild gyrations of our local and state governance entities.

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