What is the Best Way to Support Orchestral Music?

The Beat on the Street

Volume CIII, No. 9September, 2003

This month, Allegro asked members the following question:

With symphony orchestras struggling across the country, what do you think is the best way to support orchestral music?

Orchestras should aggressively propose concerts with popular artists who already have a large audience. A surprising recent example was popular reggae artist Beres Hammond, who sold out the Madison Square Garden Theatre and Newark Symphony Hall with a special program of his hits with orchestral accompaniment. A friend of mine arranged and conducted this. The musicians were 802 players found by a contractor, but it could have just as easily been the Met Chamber Orchestra had the proper people known about it and suggested participation. The Latin singer Marc Anthony is another artist whose music might be enhanced by orchestral accompaniment, who has the resources to hire one, and who might enjoy the experience. Orchestras need to see themselves as acts to be marketed, just as pop acts do.

–Andy Bassford

How about letting orchestral music fend for itself? If it doesn’t generate money on its own, it should wither and die like an impotent limb. Don’t you realize that your “Great Masters” wrote that music to make money? I’m thinking about my rent!

–RJ Rabin

The best way to support orchestral music (or any other quality music) is to bring it into the schools. Workshops, concerts, and one-on-one lessons all spark students interest and encourage them to want more. MPTF, school funds or corporate funding can all help cover costs.

Most kids love good music if they are exposed to it. As musicians, we need to get some business savvy and follow the lead of the record labels who can sell anything, whether high caliber or trashy, simply by saturating the market with P.R.

We need to get past being just performers and go out and sell it if we want to survive.

–Louise Baranger

I recently played in the Vermont Mozart Festival, where we performed outdoors. I was so impressed by the interest and support of the community. People of every age attended. I believe we must take music out of the intimidating concert hall and bring it to the community to acquaint people with the wonders of live, classical music.

–Barbara Vaccaro

The best way to support orchestral music is to buy tickets to orchestral concerts and make charitable contributions to local orchestras.

–Carl Maultsby

There is a strong correlation between learning to play an instrument in school and developing a lifelong appreciation for classical music. But with the large-scale disappearance of school music programs beginning in the 1970’s, we’ve now reached the point where the majority of the population never played an instrument. With no other significant early exposure to classical music, what would inspire them to come to a concert? There is probably nothing more valuable we can do than promote music in the schools, whether instrumental programs or participatory events in the classroom. Not only will it benefit the future of live music; it will do even more for the kids themselves.

–Pat Hackbarth

Somebody needs to make friends with the big guys at the record companies and ask them why they are so unsupportive of the orchestral format. I mean, if Metallica can afford to hire a full orchestra for an album, why not other groups as well? Sequencers are great canvases for ideas, but in real life recordings, we need to get back to the live guys and gals.

–John Thomas Oaks

While it may be too much a long term commitment, I believe that young people must be exposed from an early age. After all, if the current generation doesn’t even have a sense of who the Beatles were in some cases, what’s the chance of recognizing a Beethoven symphony? School systems, performance opportunities provided by NYSSMA and other similar organizations, and music in the home must be nurtured and supported. If the music isn’t heard it will go away.

–Bob Hartz

Orchestras should play more works of living composers, especially works of composers writing in modern styles (pop, jazz, rap, gospel, etc.) This makes it more interesting to young listeners, who are tomorrow’s audience.

–Jens Wendelboe

The solution to this problem is in the aggressive education of the young. Currently, the governmental de-prioritization of the arts in our educative process – along with brainless electronic video diversions – have seduced young people away from the true live arts experience. Understandably, as they reach adulthood, these individuals do not see the importance of supporting this vibrant experience.

The de-emphasis of the arts brought on the Dark Ages once, and it could happen again.

–Erich Graf

The writer is president of Local 104 (Salt Lake City) and is principal flutist in the Utah Symphony.

Allocate a percentage of state lotteries to provide financial support for live music of all forms, as well as centers for the performing arts, museums and galleries.

–Ernest G. Wilson

Do market research using audience surveys. Find out what your audience enjoys and provide it. Get local businesses to provide a bonus, like free parking or a meal discount to give your audience another reason to subscribe. Expand your audience base by collaborating with other organizations to provide concerts to their constituencies.

–Enid Brodsky

Musicians need to be involved in their communities, raising consciousness about the value of their orchestra, and working with symphony boards to educate and encourage them to support the musicians who make up their orchestras. Keep those cards and letters going out!

–Jay Shulman

Support for orchestral music in the future needs to be audience-driven, and this means reaching out to a broader audience culturally. This summer I had the first performance of a piece I created with salsa artist Jimmy Bosch. The piece – “Los Sazones” – was inspired by Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” and was premiered by the Chicago Symphony – with Bosch’s salsa band – at Ravinia. The house was rocking that night and I think we successfully created new fans for both salsa and orchestral music. Perhaps we should cater less to the blue-hairs and play some more exciting and innovative music for la gente!

–Jeff Lederer