Sunday, June 04, 2006

While American Symphony Orchestra League Attendees Gawk At Walt Disney Concert Hall; The South Dakota Symphony Programs Pulitizer Prize Works

LOS ANGELES "Classical music, an art form rooted in history and tradition, suddenly can't change fast enough. U.S. symphony orchestras, beset by declining attendance and dwindling subscriptions, are looking at new facilities, new marketing strategies and new technologies in a bid to revive their fortunes. Those efforts were the primary focus of the 1,200 or so music and arts officials who came here this week for the classical-music world's annual industry event.

As the theme of the American Symphony Orchestra League conference -- "New Visions for New Times" -- makes clear, orchestras are grappling with how to balance their commitment to traditional roots against a rapidly changing world of mass entertainment. For the orchestra administrators, consultants and musicians at this week's meeting, the question is an urgent one: Symphony attendance in the U.S. dropped 13% in the 2003-2004 season compared with 1999-2000, according to league statistics.

Attendees packed a workshop on pricing strategy, where new research was unveiled that showed concert attendance fell at almost all the orchestras who were in the highest range of ticket-price increases....

Conference attendees packed a Wednesday-night concert conducted by the Los Angeles Philharmonic's energetic, 47-year-old Esa-Pekka Salonen, a music director known for his willingness to program contemporary classical music. On Wednesday, that included a piece he composed for Disney Hall's 2003 inaugural designed to showcase the space's potential. The programming of "new music," a contentious issue in the classical world, has been a hot topic at this week's conference. Some see it as an essential responsibility for an organization devoted to classical music, as well as an opportunity to bring in coveted younger patrons. That view was taken by theater director Peter Sellars, the conference's keynote speaker. "We fell in love with an artificial life-support system that wouldn't let anything die, and we starved our kids," he said, likening orchestras resistant to new music to a store whose shelves were almost exclusively stuffed with 50-year old items. "It's got to be new every night."

But others worry that the music has a negative public reputation and can alienate crowds who find it either challenging or insubstantial. On Friday, awards were given out for "adventurous programming" to such orchestras as the South Dakota Symphony, which under its new music director, Delta David Gier, has performed a series of works by Pulitzer Prize-winning composers of the last decade."

Jacob Hale Russell "Orchestras Ponder Their Future: Classical Music's Leaders Hope New Venues, Strategies Will Revive Attendance" Wall Street Journal On-line June 4, 2006.

Facade of Oakland, California's Paramount Theater; home of the proudly American Oakland-East Bay Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Michael Morgan.

Photo credit: Bennett Hall © 2005 via California Images: California's Premiere Content Site. With thanks.

Please see their beautiful set of contemporary and digitally preserved archival images of Oakland, California. Northern/Oakland.html


Blogger Chandler Branch said...

Thank you for including this article on your blog. I find fascinating the struggles, challenges and opportunities of modern day orchestras—particularly in regard to programming and marketing.

Great to see Delta David Gier recognized again for his fine work with the and its Pulitzer series. He’s a treasure to the symphonic world.

Chandler Branch, Exe. Dir.
Soli Deo Gloria

7:10 AM  
Blogger Garth Trinkl said...

Thank you for your comment, Mr Branch.

I will look forward to reading more about your organization's involvement in the world premiere of Christopher Rouse's "Requiem," that is scored for chorus, orchestra, children’s chorus and baritone soloist. The piece is being unveiled by the Los Angeles Master Chorale at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in L.A., on March 25, 2007.

Rouse is a superb composer, in my view.

7:21 AM  

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