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If you follow classical music news like I do you would have seen some very troubling headlines.

Osmo Vänskä's departure shakes Minnesota Orchestra

If you are not familiar with the on going issues the Minnesota Orchestra has had with their Board of Directors you should definitely look it up to fully understand how it got to where they are now

New York City Opera Shuts Its Doors

CANCELLED: Carnegie Hall Live: Opening Night Gala With The Philadel...

Without An Angel Donor, The Detroit Symphony Orchestra Could Go Dark

keep in mind this orchestra is currently accepting scores for a new competition. 

Many blame changing audience taste, crazy new music, MTV culture, shorten attentions spans, snobbishness of symphony goes, and high ticket prices for the decline in audience sizes at the symphony. All legit reasons but their seems to be a bigger problem at hand, a problem from within many failing orchestras, opera companies, and professional performing ensembles. While each situation is different, an underline theme that I see throughout each of these performing groups is some kind of mismanagement. It appears that many orchestras have yet to keep up with the times and run their business as they did 100 years ago. So what can be done?

What do you think is the main issue for these failing performance ensembles? What do you think needs to be changed?

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The only ones with 'reins' over the whole thing are mother Nature and the Intelligent Design guy.

Here's a novel solution; every one  that can, should vote against BIG gov't. and stop paying

income taxes. Then they wouldn't have to slave so hard to make ends meet and have much more 'FREE'

time to pursue and produce more Arts and Humanities.

Adrian  if your opinion is worth zilch, then so is everyone elses. Speak up and be heard.....

Hey, anyone know what tune Nero was supposedly playing as Rome went down???

Adrian Allan said:

We have seen the economy bite, some of which was undoubtedly engineered by those in high places, profiting from the 2008 collapse.

Under these conditions, it becomes fashionable to extract more and more labour from workers, leaving less time for culture or personal and spirtitual development. Under these conditions too, classical music has sufffered a set back.

I would advocate a less intense, less consumerist and work obsessed mind set. But I have to accept that my opinions count for zilch.

Maybe the the Dies Irae?
roger stancill said:

Hey, anyone know what tune Nero was supposedly playing as Rome went down???

Actually, I believe it was Light My Fire.

hahahahahaha     was it ZERO Mostell who played the part of Nero in the film version ? If not, he

would have been the perfect one to cast.

michael diemer said:

Actually, I believe it was Light My Fire.

I would have to disagree with you here. Now its true, symphonies are not immune to the laws of economics, but I think we can call a death time for the orchestra or serious music. Its not like their was a period of time where their was a surplus of orchestra and opera jobs out their. It will, and always has been, tough for musicians to find work after college. Though I can say that 90% of the people I know that graduated with Music degrees are employed in their field in some way. One of them singing in a professional opera company now, and a two others forming their own performing ensembles, as well as many others who are now teaching. 

Like wise, not every orchestra is doing poorly. Austin Symphony and Lubbock Symphony (the two I see the most often) may not bring in the big bucks or the big talent, but they have been consistently OK and the Lubbock symphony has been steadily going up. The New York Philharmonic has always been doing very well these last few years, especially with it ground breaking performance in North Korea. As well, Chicago Symphony and LA Phil are all having banner years with Chicago really leading the pack in how a orchestra deals with the changing economic times.

So while many are failing, a few are actually growing, which again leads me to think its not an economic thing completely but a hidden issue not being addressed.  


And on that note, I see a lot of discussion of what I would call big picture issues (and this is not directed to you Fred directly but to everyone). Yes, changing everyones mindset from being to overly materialistic would help the orchestra survive, in fact it would help with more than just the orchestra. And if everyone started appreciating the arts more, the orchestras of the world could sell more tickets.  And maybe, and this is a strong maybe from me, maybe an economic change would help too. These are all valid solutions, but they are too macro in my opinion to do any immediate good. Even if all these things started happening, by the time their effects are felt it would be too late for many of the other struggling symphonies. Instead, what is needed is solutions that are more immediate. As Robert Hunter said, the business model for most orchestras are out of date and dont effectively work in todays world. And he is not the only one to say that. 


This article is on Forbes' website, a business magazine as many of you will know, not a fine arts journal or magazine. The author approaches this very issue we are all discussing not from a musicians or an artist point of view but from a businessman's vantage point. He offers four things that he believes would save any failing orchestra from bankruptcy. I personally dont agree with all four points but he makes some very valid and if implemented could have an effect on any orchestra's bottom line.  

What do you think of his solutions?

Saving American Symphonies in Four Movements

Fredrick zinos said:

Too much hand-wringing. Civilization has always been going down hill. That's its nature. And yet it is still here. Everything changes  which possibly we perceive as threatening or as a decline simply because it is unfamiliar.

Sure we probably have less culture, art, music, etc but we have much better communications science and technology which arguably has made the lives of more people "better" than if we had more orchestras and pneumonia was still a common cause of death.

People decry the death of the symphony orchestra and of so called "serious" music. But the fact is that just because we happen to love music does not mean it is immune to the laws of economics. Serious music has had its hour in the sun and now its over. Move on. Children in music school should learn to say "Welcome to Wal-Mart" because that is where their future is.

I am not saying  we live in "the best of all possible worlds" but, as far as I know, its the only one we've got and as far as I'm concerned, it isn't all that bad.


     To me this question is a no-brainer.  Success is about 100% dependent on the product symphonies are trying to sell.  The success of all entertainment can be based only on supply and demand.  How can any government or elitist organization force you to be entertained?  We must admit that some of the best Russian music and ballet was produced under the Soviet Union and before that under czarist control.   The form of government had little to do with the quality of the product.  I'm about to post more music and Rant III which will deal with this in more detail,  probably tomorrow.


Out-competed. Plus they have a product fewer and fewer people want over time.

How can we call it a whipped industry if we have tried nothing to change the business model or even tried marketing the symphony differently? It's like going to a cancer patient and, without even trying kemotheropy, announcing he/she is dead and buying a tomb stone. The running of Americas orchestras were never smooth. As the Forbes article points out, orchestras have had money issues long before most of y'all were children (including you Fred). Symphonies never pulled in large audiences despite how we like to romanticize the past. The only thing new they are facing is a aging donor pool, social media, and more entertainment options than ever before.
If symphonies can survive the Great Depression, WW1 and WW2, and multiple administrations and politicians calling the arts a "luxury item we can do without" I think they can survive this financial blip we are currently in. ( and yes this is a financial blip in context of the worlds financial history. It is merely over sold by 24 news networks to boost ratings. We are far from the sky falling on us).
However, we can't just stick our heads in the sand and call it over. Orchestras are around because people championed for them and we must do that again. No industry stays around because of luck or popularity. They stay around because of people backing them and marketing them to people even if they don't want it. The same must be done again for the symphony.

In the end, I believe Tyler is right. Classical music represents the best strivings of the human spirit. If it dies, we die, or at least that which is noblest and best in us. The greatest works of Western music, from Bach's magnificent masses to Beethoven's mammoth symphonies, and beyond (and, for Kristopher, before), inspire us like nothing else can. As long as we still have a soul, we won't let it die. So keep on striving, never give up, you may be the one to ignite the revival we so desperately need!

Yeah, and?

They are big changes but they were not unexpected. And choices doesnt mean the demise of the symphony, it just means they have to be more aggressive. 

If anything social media should be making it easier for Symphonies to compete with the other entertainment forms. The problem isnt completely choices, its that orchestras are not trying hard enough. 

Raymond Kemp said:

Tyler said "The only thing new they are facing is an aging donor pool, social media, and more entertainment options than ever before."

Wake up man, social media and mega choices in entertainment. are the biggest changes ever in the history of man. Never ever ever ever ever and let me say ever have we had access to such choice.


Sorry folks, I tried hard to keep away from this thread but I knew eventually something truly stupid would make me jump in.

I'll try some kemo? and see if that helps.

True, but haven't you been watching Ancient Aliens? (That TV show based on Von Danniken's ideas). Don't you know that the aliens have programmed our DNA, and they will return in due course to benevolently intervene before we blow everything to smithereens? Hopefully they like music...
Kristofer Emerig said:


No system can achieve better than the culture and character of the people within the system, and so the systems serve as a perpetual scapegoat for our behavior, which is that of homo erectus with cell phones, gps, and social network sites where we can eek and ook our private information into the zoo's mass data dossier. The primary distinction is in the slightly enlarged cerebral cortex, which inables us both to "sext", and to devise armageddon-scale weaponry. Man holds the unique distinction, by the way, of being the only great ape which displays the natural behavior of "twerking" in captivity.

We, as a society, must get over this often partisan led, nonsensical distraction over political systems, and in particular, the notion that any one of them will provide the elixir to our human condition. We seriously need to face the monkey in the mirror and collectively decide whether tribal victory is worth global annihilation. We are drowning in our own insanity, in case nobody's noticed.





Jesting aside, I can report that the Portland (Maine) Symphony is doing fine. They have about 7 concerts a year, which are well attended. We also have the Maine Chamber Ensemble and the Midcoast Symphony, as well as the Portland Quartet (whose founder sadly passed on recently), and numerous chamber concerts and festivals, in such picturesque settings as Blue Hill, Sebago Lake and many more. But Maine has always attracted an artsy crowd. Perhaps the future will be more like what we have here, with multiple smaller ensembles, with fewer concerts, but a healthy and stable part of the cultural scene.

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