As musicians, we are all keenly aware of the need for communities to support their local orchestras. We know that an orchestra’s value to its community reaches far beyond the concerts it presents. The loss of any orchestra is a terrible blow to a community’s cultural and educational foundations. That is why it is especially troubling to hear that any community or orchestra leader is seriously considering replacing an orchestra with visits by imported orchestras as a means of “preserving” the cultural asset.
Sadly, there have been all too many times that visits by outlying orchestras have been viewed as a remedy to the financial needs of a troubled orchestra. Recently we have witnessed the closure of the Florida Philharmonic. There is much suspicion that while efforts were ostensibly being made to save the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra, responsible parties were at the same time planning for The Cleveland Orchestra to open the soon-to-be-completed hall that was to be the venue of the Florida Philharmonic and for annual residencies of imported orchestras to serve as replacements for the FPO. This raises many serious questions. While none of us may be able to prevent an orchestra from folding or to force a community to appreciate and support its local orchestra, we are not powerless. We can be vocal about community failures to support local orchestras and about the many community needs that go unmet even with visits from other orchestras.
We must do all we can to raise the level of consciousness of as many people as possible regarding the value of having and maintaining local orchestras. This is not just for communities that face the loss of their orchestras. What one community does, every other community watches. The ICSOM Governing Board therefore urges that orchestras, as they prepare their touring and residency schedules, be proactive in looking for ways to call attention to community needs and failures. We must look at our travels as opportunities to raise awareness of the real need to support local orchestras and of the many benefits that support brings.
We ask you to consider how best you and your orchestra might accomplish this goal. Certainly, it would be valuable to speak with musicians from orchestras in the cities you will be visiting well in advance of your travel dates. If they are facing particular troubles, please make every effort to support them in every way possible. A visit by a prestigious orchestra is a public relations gold mine if used properly.
We believe this message is and should be consonant with the views of music directors and managers. Voice your concern to your music director and managers that your orchestra not be used as a replacement for another metropolitan orchestra. Please try to enlist help from all sources, including music directors and managers, in this endeavor. Please also be aware, however, that even without such support, there is much to be done and much you can do. We believe that the more vocal we are about these issues, the more we will see managements join with us in voicing concern.
If your orchestra does travel into an area where an orchestra has been killed or is currently facing troubles, we ask that you look for ways to bring the local issues into the forefront when speaking to the press, audiences, and other groups by urging them to support their local orchestras. Without such commentary by visiting orchestras, it may become all to easy for people to believe that they have found a cheap alternative to supporting their own musicians—the ones who are there day in, day out. Those are the musicians who live and spend their money in the community, perform with other local groups, teach, mentor, and pay taxes. We are those musicians.