The market for classical music in the U.S. is in deep trouble.
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In Louisville, a Courier-Journal reader commented:
“Either community support exists or it doesn’t. In this case, clearly the community support for an orchestra of this size doesn’t exist and the LO should reorganize into a sustainable entity.”
As bloggers continued opting for a shutdown, one reader asked, “Tell me dear sir, what is the color of your neck?”
France and Germany have largely avoided U.S. problems, supporting their leading orchestras mainly through government subsidies. In Italy, however, opera companies and orchestras are both suffering. In Britain, subsidies are under pressure by cutbacks in government spending but an innovative economic model helps them survive.
London, arguably the music capital of the world, “is doing pretty well,” says leading British music critic and writer Jessica Duchen, partly by “paying their players one heck of a lot less than the Americans do — possibly a quarter as much.” The most successful orchestras — the London Symphony, London Philharmonic and Philharmonia — do not give full-time salaries. Players are paid on a freelance basis.
Ms. Bargreen laments the disappearance of the music critic from many U.S. newspapers. “What was lost was not only the continued vigilance and critical attention to this field,” she told me, “but also the ability of classical performers to get their story out in a way that got more considered attention than the millions of tiny voices shouting into cyberspace.”
The survival of orchestras has hit players’ private finances in other ways, too. Demand for private lessons, which normally supplement their incomes, is dropping off as schools cut back music education and the entertainment industry floods the young with other options. One classically trained music teacher in Britain told me he has been forced to learn, and teach, the electric guitar to keep his job. Youngsters are not opting for his music appreciation courses.
Music lessons in British schools are expected to be chopped further as the government seeks to privatize this side of education. “It’s as if, rather than just pruning the tree at sensible points of the branches, they want to pull it up by the roots,” says Ms. Duchen.
And finally, the once-ubiquitous CD, which started losing market share about ten years ago, continues to fall in all categories. “The demand that everything on the Internet be free has meant that the vast majority of music downloads are illegal, thus depriving performers and composers of their deserved income,” says composer-critic Bargreen.
Only in Asia is the classical music industry in ascendancy. China has built modern concert halls across the country and implemented an aggressive music-education program in schools. An estimated 20 million young Chinese have been hand-picked to study classical piano. U.S. conservatories such as Juilliard and Curtis are training the best of them.
Many of these young players are technically brilliant but critics are waiting for signs of deeper interpretations. Chinese-born Lang Lang, known by critics as Bang Bang, may be the first of many to grow into this role, and in the process to help pick up the slack in the Western classical tradition.
Mr. Johnson served nine years on the board of the London International Piano Competition.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?