Colorado Symphony (cue drumroll) is back in the black
…the Hawai‘i Symphony Orchestra will make its long-awaited debut March 4, marking the return of a professional orchestra to the state more than two years after the Honolulu Symphony played its final note.
…another milestone in Alabama Symphony’s rise.
Buffalo Philharmonic shows surplus under economic challenges
St. Louis Symphony ticket sales, gifts, endowment grow in 2011
Arts giving grew 5.7% to $13.3 billion in 2010
How Classical Music Is Changing Young Lives
Grammy win for Nashville Symphony … signal(s) Nashville’s “golden age of classical music”
Jobless rate at 3-year low
I am sensing a turn-around for the image of classical music and the arts.
Still, there are so many battles left to fight. Just this month, a member of the Virginia legislature targeted symphony musicians in a mean-spirited and short-sighted attempt to overturn case law and deny a specific group of workers their rights, even though the arts benefit the financial health of the commonwealth of Virginia, and even though Virginia supports the arts at a much lower per capita rate than its surrounding states. The musicians of Louisville still await fair treatment, and the recent publication of a tedious book by Robert Flanagan has reinforced negative stereotypes against our field.
But there is much to feel optimistic about as well, though musicians can be a cynical lot. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, sometimes when opportunity knocks we complain about the noise.
Since 2006, ICSOM has sought to learn the lessons of the past by unifying our membership and promoting a positive message to the field, the press, and our communities. More than any other segment of the union, ICSOM members have stood by each other in times of need, donating over $830,000 to our colleagues. Musicians sent money to fellow artists they had never even met, simply because ICSOM is a united network of friends. I believe that the members of ICSOM have stood together in the moment of our greatest collective crisis because we knew we had only ourselves to depend on. Sometimes unity is easiest to achieve when things are hardest.
But with the emergence of some good news, our online newslist Orchestra-L has once again reignited with negativity over a past event, the demise of the Florida Philharmonic. People remain angry, as they should be. But anger must be harvested and invested, or else the past itself will become our fate.
I admit to feeling disheartened when I fear that ICSOM’s strategy has not been fully understood by those who write on this subject. Since I became chair in 2006, following the FPO’s bankruptcy in 2004, there has not been a single day that has passed without my thinking of the musicians of the Florida Philharmonic, and without my asking how we can prevent another situation like what occurred. But there are no easy answers, and many of the postings on this subject offer no solutions and merely suggest that you should be angry, and then tell you who you should blame.
That will not lead us anywhere.
No one can change the past, but we all can change the future. Indeed we are changing the future.
As Neil Young said, change comes slow in the country. But look at this current issue of Senza Sordino alone—the support given to Honolulu through ICSOM’s Call to Action has helped to bring back an orchestra. The support given to Syracuse is assisting them in producing their own concerts and keeping hope alive in central New York. Thousands of musicians responded to assist in polling over the proposed destructive legislation in Virginia. These things, and so much more, we have done together, in unity, and friendship.
Your Governing Board has even bigger plans as we approach the fiftieth year of ICSOM. We intend to use the anniversary as an institutional marketing opportunity, the type we would hope that more of our orchestras’ managements might seek. (After all, the Syracuse Symphony board used its 50th anniversary to go out of business, which frankly, seems like a poor marketing decision to us.)
Let us never forget the past, but let us not nurture the negative environment that could risk the progress made. There is no insurmountable division in ICSOM in 2012. Fifty years after our founding we are stronger than ever, and we are likely stronger because of the lessons learned through events of the early part of the last decade.
Orchestra-L is like any other place on the Internet. Sometimes it is easy to say things that you wouldn’t say in person. There is a difference between discussion and division, and between debate and discord. It’s like the way we all behave in our cars, yelling at the red light for not turning green fast enough, as if we are somehow invisible inside our vehicle. But we are not invisible of course. We can be seen and heard—and by everyone.
Much of the negative dialogue directed from musicians against musicians has been over the words of Bruce Coppock and Bruce Clinton. Let’s not allow those two agenda-ridden men to cast asunder the unity we have built. At the risk of being less than humble, I’d frankly prefer we spread the message of a different Bruce.
Let the message that is seen and heard be one of support and positive debate. Let us celebrate the recent positive news, while working harder than ever to improve the places that still need our help. Let us gather together in Chicago for the 50th anniversary to honor the founders of this organization with a message of unity and hope. In 2006 we articulated a Message of Hope in Nashville, a hope that ICSOM could elevate its profile as an advocacy organization and a positive beacon for the arts. We are achieving that goal and fulfilling that hope. We must not turn back the clock.
The prevailing view appears to be that orchestras have suffered in the recession, but we don’t see it that way. The story to be told is how remarkable it is that so many have done well, and that in this time of economic distress such progress is being made. Together, we have all played our part, but this symphony is far from over.