… but the San Jose Symphony (RIP) won’t be silenced. Not if other orchestras are dying, anyway. The Lehigh Valley Chamber Orchestra folded, and there is an article in response to what he says is an orchestra member’s blaming the board. (It does say she was also on the board, but my guess would be that she was a musician-member of the board. This is required in some contracts.) The response is written by a board member, so he’s going to disagree with the orchestra member who faults the board. (Can’t we all get along? I kind of doubt it.)

Ending his writing, he says:

If classical music organizations are to survive, they need to come to grips with how to engage younger, larger audiences; implement more efficient business operations by reducing expenses and raising more money; partner with similar arts groups; increase their educational outreach programs; and present more relevant concerts that engage the wider public in classical music.

(Actually, the musician also suggests getting new audiences, so she isn’t entirely BoardBashing™, or doesn’t seem to be to me. She says “new” not “young”, though.)

But here we go again! It seems to be the same old, same old, doesn’t it? We need a younger audience. We need to “present more relevant concerts”. Sigh.

Will someone tell me what a “relevant concert” is? Let’s see. In this day and age, maybe we are supposed to hand out free video games or (sorry to be so crass) condoms? Or maybe we have to invite pop stars to write symphonies because they are so much more relevant than a classical composer? I dunno. “Relevant” is a word that churches and orchestras toss around all the time, but I sure am tired of it.

As to a “younger audience” … well … I am guessing I’m in the minority here, but here’s what I think: Younger people often don’t have the time (they are in school, they are bar hopping, they are young marrieds and they have young children, or they are just too busy with their jobs) to go to classical concerts, and they are also less inclined to be interested in giving money to anyone yet. That takes time. And age. And while we might lose our older audience as they do eventually die (sorry to bring that up), younger people … drum roll please … eventually become older people. Really. It happens. Many then find they have the time, money and desire to hear and support classical music. It’s kind of like lollipops & mushrooms I guess. Children love a good lollipop. That sticky, sweet thing is great fun, but kids usually wrinkle their noses at mushrooms. I just figure you have to give ’em time and most will come around to the mushrooms and dump the sticky, non-fulfilling sugar.

Not to say we don’t get anyone younger at our concerts these days, because I do see them. (I wish I’d see my oboe students at concerts, but that’s rare. I find this puzzling, especially for the music major students who never listen to anyone but themselves.) I saw a good number of what looked to be college age audience members at Lucia. Heck, I even saw children, although I did wonder if that opera was the best thing for them; maybe they left before the final act?

But, ramble ramble, the San Jose Symphony was mentioned in the article because of a book that was written about our demise and some believe it contains all the answers. I would love to see a musician write a book about the demise. I think we could enlighten readers a bit about some things.

Then again, some things are better left unsaid and unwritten, yes? And nothing that is said or written will bring back the orchestra that was my “main gig” for 27 years.

Okay … so ramble over and out. And I might be all wrong. It can happen.


  1. I’m just wondering… why do orchestras close down, why don’t they downsize? I mean, going to a smallish chamber group has to be better then nothing, right? Personally, I believe modern orchestras should gladly accept amateur status, and allow other pursuits to pay their livings. This has been the case for most other types of musicians, and it allows for a freedom of direction. That is, until intergalactic communism catches up, and the arts are truly funded.

  2. Oh my! I’m not gonna bite on this one, Peter. Just too much to deal with, and if someone doesn’t see the value in a professional orchestra I can’t really explain it.

    (Downsizing the San Jose Symphony would have put me out of a job, though, so that, of course, wouldn’t have helped me a bit.)

    I understand there are some who believe we should all get “real jobs”. I’m just not of that ilk.

  3. If orchestral players have to go off and get, ‘proper’ jobs, when are they expected to practice their instruments, or travel to concerts etc?
    Amateur musicians are one thing but we would never get further arts funding unless professionals are paving the way. The quality just wouldn’t be there…..
    What about soloists?
    No company will employ someone that has to take 4 or 5 hours off a day for practice and a couple of weeks each month for tours….
    Not to mention the inability to do any job that may damage a nail!

  4. It was not I who used either the term “real” or “proper”. The worst financial disaster that ever befell musicians was the advent of synchronized sound and film. Between 1928 and 1930 (besides the depression), tens of thousands of musicians lost their jobs in movie houses. There are many of the great arts and skills of the past, that are not maintained at a professional, full time level (and just how full-time and professional were the musicians of the past centuries? What was Mozart’s famous horn player’s name, wasn’t he a restauranteur?). The facts of the world change, and whatever one’s opinion of the changes, it serves little purpose to bemoan the change and dream of a reverse change. I see it all the time in film music, where composers only subject of discussion is the, now, many decade long practice, the “horror” of “temp” tracks (where music is cut in for demonstration purpose, before the composer has written a score) and “mock ups” (where synthesized versions of the composers music are put together for the directors/producers approval, before the recording session). This rumbling is just so boring, I want to exclaim “do you think it is going to change back?” Somewhere in the next decades, there will probably be a great deal less call for professional orchestral musicians. One can moan and wail about that, but that neither helps or changes anything. One must look at the facts as they lay, and find a way forward. If you are of the mind that you would not play as an amateur, you probably should not be playing anyway. Those who need to play, no matter what, will.

  5. Well, I just can’t argue with you, Peter, nor do I know that I would if I could. But according to you I guess I should pack it all up!

    I’m curious what you do as a profession. It might help me understand you a bit better.

  6. “But according to you I guess I should pack it all up!”

    I am sorry, I must be insane, or maybe you can point to where I even imply that, or even where I might have written anything to “…doesn’t see the value in a professional orchestra I can’t really explain it”? I suspect you are arguing with someone else and confusing it with me.

    “Well, I just can’t argue with you, Peter, nor do I know that I would if I could.”

    Please Patty, I am not the brightest bulb on the planet, might you explain that sentence… what it means? Why can’t you argue with me, and/or why wouldn’t you, isn’t that what a blog is about?

    “I’m curious what you do as a profession.”

    I am vested in the pension plan of the AFM (American Federation of Musicians, so yes, I have been a professional musician. I have several RIAA certified gold and platinum albums on my wall, for records I have performed on as a musician, so yes, I have been a professional musician. But I have worked primarily as a commercial composer and music editor. At this very moment, I am taking a sabbatical from work, studying full time for a Ph. D. in music, and am teaching a class at UCLA Extension. So with that answered (for whatever reason), can we get back to the real question?

    What might an orchestral instrumentalist do in the face of a shrinking market? I am not advocating the shrinking market, but funny, they just don’t listen to me. So how might music be played (so it can be enjoyed by its audiences) and how might those, such as yourself, who love playing, get to do so in a world as it is, not how one might like it to be? I am not saying there will be no professional orchestras, but probably many fewer. You know more then anyone how many oboists are being created by all the conservatories and university departments, right now, is it realistic to imagine they will all find work? Does that mean they should quit playing?

  7. My blog is about something much other than arguing. I’m an extremely non-confrontational individual. I don’t argue. I’d rather hide in a cave! My blog is basically for oboists who want to see what I’m up to, students who want to know how this biz works for someone in “B” groups, a way to vent when I think I’m going crazy, a way for concert-goers to see how some of us think, and anything else that hits me over the head that I want to yak about. It just isn’t about arguing.

    What do I do in a shrinking market? Pretty much what I write about; I teach, I perform. I don’t usually produce performers – my universities aren’t the sort that attract those who are planning on playing professionally – but I think I produce individuals who love music, will attend concerts, and may play in community groups when they are in other, better income producing jobs. I hope I enrich their lives, and I think I do make them laugh because I’m pretty darn goofy.

    Anyway, thanks for dropping by. Take care.