|David Cole and Elizabeth Klinger in "Find Me Beside You"|
These are seen as perilous times for the American symphony orchestra, even though some of the biggest seem to be bobbing along nicely in Los Angeles (Dudamel!), New York and San Francisco, just to name a few. But other, mostly smaller orchestras are struggling, and one of the biggest, the Philadelphia Orchestra is in crisis mode.
A recent story in the Philadelphia Inquirer quoted the Philadelphia Orchestra's president, Allison Vulgamore at some length: "I'm not going to predict the plan at this point. We simply can't go on doing the same thing and expecting a different result. We've got a great musical heritage and ensemble, but we have to pay for it. And we also have to be able to experiment with it." I liked the sound of "experiment," but other elements of the story worried me.
What's the composition of the 27-member steering committee, for example, and why allow outside consultants to run it. Worse was Vulgamore's use of "we" in the story, because I think she was talking about the staff, the orchestra and the board -- not the community of classical music lovers in Philadelphia. They're the first ones the orchestra should consult about about possible experiments and "profound change."
My tipster to this story was Joe Horowitz, who writes a blog for ArtsJournal called "The Unanswered Question." Horowitz thinks the symphony needs some reinvention himself.
"It has long seemed to me that orchestras need to re-envision themselves as educational institutions. This would mean re-envisioning the content and purpose of subscription concerts: more thematic programs, more cross-disciplinary content embracing dance, film, theater, and the visual arts. One result would be a means of escape from the rigid confines of classical music. Another would be new links to museums, to high schools, colleges, and universities. An expanded mandate; an enlarged mission."