Deborah Borda: President Trump is closing down the arts

The president of the Los Angeles Philharmonic has made a rare political intervention, publishing an op-ed in the LA Times on Trump’s closed-border policies.

Here’s what she writes:

 

 

The arts breed compassion, and as Americans, we are at our best when we are compassionate. It is among our founding principles, an ideal inscribed onto the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor…”

As the chief executive of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, it is the rare occasion that moves me to comment on the actions of our federal government. However, in less than two weeks, our new president has attempted to limit public discourse, diminish cultural exchange and bully our neighbors. The executive order that temporarily — for now at least — bars entry into the U.S. of individuals from seven Muslim-majority nations is a terrible thing for America’s creative community, in whose work we find our common humanity. I must step forward.

My perspective is that of a lifelong musician and orchestra administrator. Having toured with American musicians abroad and invited their foreign peers to our stages for more than 40 years, I have experienced the universality of music firsthand. Music transcends borders; it gives voice to artists and communicates with audiences regardless of their nationality, ethnicity or religion.

In Southern California, we have no desire to repeat history’s mistakes: the shame of Japanese internment camps and of having turned our backs on many fleeing Europe during World War II. In fact, our own Los Angeles musical community was shaped by the émigrés and exiles who escaped the threat of oppressive regimes in Germany, Austria and Russia: Arnold Schoenberg, Igor Stravinsky, Erich Korngold, Miklós Rózsa, Franz Waxman, Ernst Toch, Max Steiner, Jascha Heifetz, Gregor Piatigorsky, Fritzi Massary and Sergei Rachmaninoff among others.

Together, these musicians and composers advanced American music, contributed to our film industry and taught the next generation of musical creators. Like many “foreign” artists who preceded and followed them, their contributions to American culture, from the Tin Pan Alley songbook to film scoring, have been so profound and lasting that we have come to think of those ideas as wholly indigenous, forgetting the far-flung origins of their creators. The president’s executive order betrays our immigrant roots.

Already, artists have had their work and their lives upended by the administration’s actions. Kinan Azmeh, acclaimed Syrian clarinetist and member of Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, is uncertain as to whether he will be able to return to his Brooklyn home of 16 years when he concludes a concert tour in Beirut this week. Los Angeles-based concert promoter Shari Rezai, who specializes in contemporary Persian music and brings artists from Iran to the United States, has canceled six shows. Performers including London-based Kazakh violinist Aisha Orazbayeva and Berlin-based electronic musician Robert Henke have opted out of U.S. appearances in a show of solidarity with those trapped by the order.

Music animates our society, increases our capacity for empathy and nurtures the public discourse that is central to a healthy democracy. At a time when the world needs more, not less, mutual understanding, we must resist the president’s anti-intellectualism and disregard for the power of the arts.

I urge the administration to rescind the executive order and reestablish an open exchange between artists and audiences worldwide. National security concerns can be addressed while we continue to welcome people from beyond our borders.

Deborah Borda is president and CEO of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Assn. and a visiting leader at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership.

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      • Disney Hall and full houses were handed to her on a plate. (For its first season, she increased the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s lowest seat price by 220%, from $11 to $35.)

        But over time? She has overseen a drop in subscriptions since the hall opened, and her solution has been to whine openly about a changing society.

        She is constantly promoting herself. She is brilliant at that, gets caught up in her own delusions. She once even claimed credit for making Disney happen.

        • Disney opened in 2003. Borda joined LAPO around 1999, so it’s likely that in the four years she was there prior to its opening she had something to do with its completion, the LAPO’s transition there, and its robust sales. Disney was a great novelty when it opened, as most new halls are (same with baseball stadiums, etc.), so some dropoff is not surprising.

          • She began in 2000 — 13 years after the Disney Hall project was launched and by which time the metal girders were in place. Construction had been much delayed and Borda had NOTHING to do with its realization. You are right of course that the hall generated its own excitement, as new halls do. She rode all that to her own benefit.

          • That is complete nonsense. The project was stalled when she took over. Without her involvement it would still be metal girders.

          • Norman, they didn’t talk to her until fall 1999, by which time the building was fully into the air and anything but stalled. The efficiency and speed of the project in its final 30 months was, in fact, impressive, after several painful and long lulls and design problems throughout the early and mid 1990s.

            This is all very public and easily verifiable information.

          • I know. Let me give one example. When Ms Borda became president, there was no space for administration in the building as her predecessor deemed it unnecessary. One side of the site had to be completely redesigned. Had that not happened, the orchestra would have been divorced from its engine room. The chaos was everywhere.

          • Furthermore, if there was any kind of “stall” in the year 2000, and I don’t believe there was, it would have been *miniscule* compared to what had gone before. Talk to Gehry. He has the history. So does the LA Times, aplenty.

            For Deborah Borda to use such a detail to claim she is or was the reason the hall got finished is opportunism and a gross distortion of the facts.

          • You are referring, Norman, to something the average person might view as a separate building (it isn’t), and if DB had some input in that, fine.

            But she should never merchandise what would have been a small aspect of a vast, lengthy, excruciatingly difficult project, involving countless people who did FAR MORE than she ever did, to take credit for the whole.

          • You, olassus, have never presented the evidence of the “claim” that according to you DB has made. If she declared that she deserved full credit for the totality of the WDCH’s creation and construction, then she would of course be very wrong, but I do not believe that a person of her sophistication would ever make such a silly statement anywhere. If however she claimed that she played a leading role in the way the hall was completed — including its office space and the timing of the whole thing — as well as the way in which it was opened so successfully — again the timing and organizing of opening events plus the entire opening season — then she is absolutely correct because she does deserve that kind of credit.
            Yes, the ticket prices were increased substantially, but since the houses were mostly full for the first few seasons anyway, those increases were fully justified: they helped the organization financially and were therefore the right managerial thing to do. Over the last ten years or so, subscriptions declined in all major US orchestras, which is indeed due to our “changing society” and new ways of buying tickets — so if her “whining” about it brings more donated money into the organization’s budget (which apparently it does), then this proves once again that she is an outstanding fundraiser.

          • As to the claim, Norman, who knows her and is on top of the news, echoes it above. Sorry I can’t immediately provide “evidence” of it, but I don’t think anyone is disputing that she made it, and perhaps more than once.

            Los Angeles — the county, the city, the people, and yes, the businesses — built Disney Hall, not Misss Borda of late 1999.

            As to the pricing, the fullness of the house does not justify the increases. Nor does helping the organization financially. These assertions misunderstand the intended model of the non-profit.

            The effect of increases is now home to roost, in broken subscription bases everywhere, and we need to rethink all of this nationally. If a board that raises $100 million yearly wants to hand $1 million of it to its executive director, nobody can argue. But what kind of organizational culture is that? One designed to serve the community?

          • First: Norman does not “echo it above”. Let us not go into “alternative facts” here. There is not a single word in his comments on this thread about DB’s supposed “claim”.
            Second: financial considerations are absolutely essential for any artistic non-profit if it wants to survive. Increased endowment and strong budget allow the organization to continue serving the community and to produce cultural product of high quality. Less money means less for the community and an inferior product. That is just the way it works, whether we like it or not.

          • Repeating Norman above, just for you, M2N2K: “The project was stalled when she took over. Without her involvement it would still be metal girders.”

          • That is Norman’s statement, not Deborah’s, so talk to him about it if you are interested. He may not be too far from the truth, by the way.

          • Yes, that is NL’s statement, not Borda’s. It echoes the outrageous and false claim Borda made about having a role in making Disney Hall happen. If you want to say Borda never made such a claim, go ahead. Otherwise, your purpose in commenting is unclear.

          • As you may know, it is impossible to prove a negative statement. Therefore the burden of proof is on you. But once again, DB did play an important leading role in the way the hall was finished and opened.

          • I can imagine she played a part in the 2003 opening, having served as executive director for three years at that point.

          • In that case, you should be able to make the next step and use your imagination just one more time to realize that DB also played an important leading role in completing the building successfully and on schedule, which was not so simple to do, considering all of the serious obstacles along the way during her first three and a half years at the helm of the organization, starting when construction was just beginning, and overcoming many difficulties during that period, including the huge budget that kept increasing, as well as conflicts between the architect and some of the main major funders that threatened to derail the project at its most sensitive stages. Using her superb managerial skills, she was able to navigate that entire highly complicated process to its successful conclusion.

  • None of the great artists and composers she mentioned were Muslim, they were all from European nations during/post-War. Western music in general is completely forbidden (it’s in fact punishable by law) in Muslim-majority countries, it’s not like they’re contributors to the Western arts.

    If her point is that those most vulnerable shouldn’t be denied help based on their religion, I can understand it and support it. But claiming that restricting travel from these 7 nations impacts severely the arts across the USA, sorry, it really doesn’t. The USA isn’t a tourist/business destination for most of these people; the majority can’t afford it and even a simple tourist VISA is extremely hard to get.

    • “Western music in general is completely forbidden (it’s in fact punishable by law) in Muslim-majority countries”

      I don’t know how someone can post something like this with a straight face. Several Muslim-majority countries have Western classical music orchestras or opera houses. And generally if you travel the Muslim world from Morocco to Indonesia, you find Western music blaring everywhere, from every taxi or café. Of course, this is virtually always pop music, usually Western harmonies and beats mixed with local instruments in a fashion that I find schlocky, but the locals seem to like it, and it has reduced the indigenous musical styles like Andalusian music or maqam to a niche just like classical music in the West. (There’s also a rich hip hop scene in Muslim-majority countries of West Africa.) Sure, there are backwaters where people feel a strong opposition to Western music, but one often has to go out of one’s way to find them.

      With regard to the countries named in this ban specifically and your polemic post here on SlippedDisc, I look back to the time I spent in Aleppo just before the war. In evenings on Al-Jabiri Square, teenagers would get together and strum guitars and sing Bob Marley or Dire Straits. These people didn’t lose their love of tunes when war pushed them to flee, and it’s no surprise that the refugees in Europe spend a lot of time playing music off their phones, it’s one of the few joys they have left.

      • Here is a quote from the Q’ran:

        وَٱسْتَفْزِزْ مَنِ ٱسْتَطَعْتَ مِنْهُم بِصَوْتِكَ وَأَجْلِبْ عَلَيْهِم بِخَيْلِكَ وَرَجِلِكَ وَشَارِكْهُمْ فِى ٱلْأَمْوَٰلِ وَٱلْأَوْلَٰدِ وَعِدْهُمْ ۚ وَمَا يَعِدُهُمُ ٱلشَّيْطَٰنُ إِلَّا غُرُورًا

        Some scholars have inferred the prohibition of all types of music from this verse, terming it to be an act from Shaytan (Satan).

      • Also relevant, and fortunately for you in English:

        Hazrat Grand Ayatollah Makarim Shirazi:
        “Any melodies or songs which befit libidinous pleasure and corruption are haram, and anything other than that is halal. This is distinguished by referring to the public common culture.”

        Hazrat Grand Ayatollah Safi Gulpaygani:
        “That which the common culture recognizes as music is haram, and listening, composing, teaching, learning, and selling musical instruments is also haram.”

        Hazrat Grand Ayatollah Sistani:
        “If music does not befit frivolous gatherings, then it is not haram. Therefore, listening to songs and mutrib music which befits frivolous gatherings is haram.”

        That comes from the higher powers in Iran, a country that was in the ban.
        It’s alright that you want to defend it based on your experiences in the Middle East, but not everyone has the luxury of living life as a tourist. Those who live it face a very different reality.

      • Kuala Lumpur has the Malaysian Philharmonic, much written-about on this site. Jakarta has at least a semi-professional orchestra. Cairo has an opera house and some amount of musical performance. Istanbul has some level of musical activity. Astana and Almaty both have opera houses and concert halls. Even Iran does, though with some difficulties from the mullahs, I imagine. And if I’m not mistaken, at least a few of the member’s of Daniel Barenboim’s West-East Divan Orchestra are Muslims; at least that’s the premise of the group. So classical/orchestral music is not unknown in the Muslim world.

      • It’s not their music which is the issue, it’s the Prophet’s Truckers. And the deathly silence about all this from the muslim majority. Meanwhile, Christians are supposed to disavow their religion because of child-abuse. Hypocrisy 101.

    • “None of the great artists and composers she mentioned were Muslim, they were all from European nations during/post-War.”

      Oh, you mean in the part where she was talking about emigrés from Europe during/post WWII?

      • ^ Ditto what Jaypee said. Also she doesn’t seem to have much interest in music, but seems to have found a blog where she can indulge in her above-mentioned passions regardless of the topic at hand.

        • Name-callling is the speciality of the left: ‘deplorables’, now ‘prostitute’. See them violently shutting down Milo Yiannopoulos. Hilarious that you call people the very things you are yourself! These are called “projections” and are my only insult.

          Pointing out the stone-cold hypocrisy of the Left over protests – nothing about muslims and mutilation – sees the usual vile, offensive retaliation that is always reserved as a characteristic of others. Yes, “projections” from the regressive Left. I’d say “demented left”, but I don’t want to be a name-caller as you obviously are.

          It is related to music because all or most of its acolytes are engaged in group-think. And, boy, do they hate an opposing opinion!!!

          • So-called prostitute if you prefer. I was merely commenting on the inappropriateness of the pseudonym you hide behind.

  • And enough with carping comments from the self-righteous Enriched Right. Trump’s ban, in principle, does all that Borda contends, and more. It’s an invention of the paranoid Right mind.

    • Yes, Tom, because there is no evidence that refugees from these nations pose any threat whatsoever. Maybe you should just invite them all to your house for tea.

      • You are correct, as dumb luck would have it. There is no evidence that any of the people caught up in the Trump net (not just refugees, but software engineers, doctors, nurses, college students, etc.) pose any threat to Americans. In the last 40 years (and probably longer, but the CATO researcher only went back that far), no American has died in a terrorist attack committed by someone from those seven countries. Nearly every terrorist act committed in the US in recent history has been committed by someone born in the US. And if you include – as you should – incidents like Oklahoma City, Columbine, Sandy Hook, Charleston, Virginia Tech, and too many others to count – the vast majority were committed by white, American-born, and probably Christian, men. Also probably people with no interest in classical music.

        The list of things that pose a greater risk to the safety of Americans is too long to include here, but start with medical errors, hospital infections, continue with guns fired by other US citizens, and keep on going.

        As for having them over to tea, that’s a lot of people, but what a silly and juvenile argument, for reasons I shouldn’t need to explain.

        • Macrov, nice post. Wouldn’t mind a cup of tea with you and whomever you chose. However,
          it seems this Republican administration will not be amenable to actual reasoned facts, any more than our No-Tea-Party friend.
          I’m in hopes that some large corporations with worldwide need of their
          people flowing back and forth will withhold their money flow from the Republican administration and some reasonableness on this subject will obtain.

      • You are correct, as dumb luck would have it. There is no evidence that any of the people caught up in the Trump net (not just refugees, but software engineers, doctors, nurses, college students, etc.) pose any threat to Americans. In the last 40 years (and probably longer, but the CATO researcher only went back that far), no American has died in a terrorist attack committed by someone from those seven countries. Nearly every terrorist act committed in the US in recent history has been committed by someone born in the US. And if you include – as you should – incidents like Oklahoma City, Columbine, Sandy Hook, Charleston, Virginia Tech, and too many others to count – the vast majority were committed by white, American-born, and probably Christian, men. Also probably people with no interest in classical music.

        The list of things that pose a greater risk to the safety of Americans is too long to include here, but start with medical errors, hospital infections, continue with guns fired by other US citizens, and keep on going. The list of people from these countries who have saved American lives is much longer (not even speculation; initially those excluded included Iraqi and Afghan translators for the US military).

        As for having them over to tea, that’s a lot of people, but what a silly and juvenile argument, for reasons I shouldn’t need to explain.

    • Have I missed a spate of Venezuelan terrorism against the US?

      Stop babbling. There are a lot of unlovely governments in the world. (And the one setting this ban is likely to number among them when it starts to function as a government and not just a series of tweets and executive orders).

  • I’m guessing that if our #45 has read this, he is re-thinking his idea of changing the rules for nonprofit groups so that the nonprofit groups can comment on politics.

      • Whatever she is worth, it is not easy to see the connection between Rachmaninov, Schoenberg, Stravinsky and other greats on one hand and a bunch of nobodies a good part of who are criminals, and the rest simply have neither culture nor any desire to acquire it and assimilate with the culture they enter, on the other.
        Unbelievable politically correct bullshit. Left crap drivel. And that is from LAPhil. Manager?!? Should have been fired immediately after the first two seasons of total lack of subscription growth. Spoiled brats. Not worth 10% of what she is paid.

        • She’s the best orchestra manager in the business, and the LA Phil under 15 years of her leadership is, if not the best orchestra in the country, probably the most significant one. So the LAPO board can decide if she’s worth what she’s paid (and I suspect the $2 million figure includes pension payouts, etc., not straight salary).

          As for the “nobodies, a good part of who (whom?) are probably criminals…,” I think we can let that collapse of its own weight.

          • L.A.Philharmonic is a fine orchestra, but one might want to recognize Cleveland and Chicago as being ahead of the LA in status.

          • I don’t think rapes, beatings and killings in Berlin, Köln, Paris, Brussels, London and elsewhere will so easily “collapse under their own weight”. People are not safe in their own countries anymore, not safe in their own communities anymore, being assaulted, raped and killed
            And folks like you – the Left sissies/snowflakes – do not give a damn! You are interested only in political correctness. And talking is all you can and willing to do!
            Just recall how President Reagan handled protesters at Berkeley in the 60-s!! ANd this is exactly what President Trump should do!! Otherwise we will have no universities in America, no education and no culture.

  • Would love to know how Dudamel feels about his boss getting political about the US when he doesn’t have the guts to do the same about Venezuela.

    • Only he knows how he feels about it, but my guess is that he probably understands that the consequences of making a stand like that would probably be very different in his native country compared to the US. Such comparisons are unfair because the two situations are extremely unequal.

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