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Can The Symphony Orchestra Survive In The 21 st Century ?

   This is a big question , and there are no easy answers to it .   The present era has been a rocky one for too many of  America's  numerous symphony orchestras , and  problems have been increasing for quite a few in Europe and elsewhere .   An appalling number of orchestras have either folded or come dangerously close to folding , and many everywhere are struggling to meet the costs of staying alive . 
   Virtually any orchestra anywhere is at potential risk of  going under and even some of the greatest in the world such as the world-famous Philadelphia orchestra , have  been experiencing serious financial difficulties .  
    The costs of running a quality orchestra are considerable ;  in order to attract the best  players, an orchestra must offer competitive salary ;
there are the costs of  salary for the music director , the musicians, and the administrative staff , which are considerable .  There is always the problem of selling enough tickets , and sold out halls are not something which happens every day , for a variety of reasons .  Even if an orchestra could  sell out every concert, this would not cover the considerable expenses of running it .
    Unlike European countries , where orchestras and opera companies have been heavily subsidized by the government for so long ,  there is 
pitifully  little government help for classical music organizations , and  businesses and philanthropists do not offer nearly enough help .
And recently, because of economic problems, more and more European governments have been forced to make cuts in support for  orchestras
and opera companies, causing a number to go under or exist in diminished circumstances , with lower pay for the musicians .
    The situation in Europe is still nowhere near as dire as in America, though .
 The audience for classical music has been growing older and older, and fewer young people seem to be interested in attending orchestral 
concerts in America .  The abandonment of school programs introducing young people to classical music is to blame for this largely,
although there are isolated exceptions .   
    The National Endowment For The  Arts could do much to remedy this unfortunate situation, but its government budget is pitifully small , 
and its job is to support the arts in general, not only classical music .  Our government COULD greatly increase its budget without  causing
any financial distress to the nation as a whole,  but unfortunately , too many conservative politicians in congress  are too dense and  
philistine to realize this and more than a few would like to see the NEA  abolished altogether .  They believe that the NEA  puts an unfair tax burden on citizens and  does nothing but subsidize "obscene " art in museums, which is idiotic .
    More than a few music critics and other classical music pundits have been questioning the relevance of the symphony orchestra in the 21st century .  According to them,  it is a "dinosaur " and  a  "museum ".  They claim that people in the present era cannot see the symphony
orchestra as something meaningful or important to them ;  it is a dated , hopelessly irrelevant  relic of the past which is nothing but a 
vehicle for rehashing  music by "Dead, White , European Males , "  but this is a half truth .
   True, much of  what orchestras play IS music by "Dead White , European Males , "  but what could be wrong with this ?  The music of  such
great composers as Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky , Dvorak and others is still played for a good reason - it's  magnificent music which has stood the test of time and  which still thrills audiences today as much as it did in the past .  
    But orchestras DO play more music by living or recently deceased composers than most people realize , and some of the composers are LIVING White European males ,  and even  Americans, Asians,  Latin Americans as well as women , believe it or not .  
    The repertoire of the symphony orchestra  today is more diverse than ever before ;  a vast accumulation of repertoire  going back well
over 200 years exists ranging from  the 18th century to the present day , unlike the time of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven, when the orchestra as we know it was a relatively new thing .
    If  more people, not only teenagers and young adults could only realize how enjoyable attending concerts can be, as well as listening
to CDs and  streaming  classical music on the internet etc , they would WANT to make  orchestral concerts a part of their life .  
   The only problem is  GETTING more people to realize this .  Music you enjoy can never be "irrelevant " !   The symphony orchestra can and will survive .  

Posted: Oct 12 2015, 09:59 PM by the horn | with no comments
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