Maybe the subject line should be, "Amoral music" ...
Karl Miller wrote:
> I also wonder what it would be like trying be the orchestra marketing
> person who has to write the advance for the next performance of a standard
> rep Concerto. They hype the outrageously overpriced soloist...and no, I
> do not think Yo Yo Ma is worth $40,000 per performance.
I also wonder what it must be like trying to be a symphony musician
living this. That figure, for one night's performing, is more than the
yearly salary of many symphony musicians. I do not know how it is in
other parts of the country, but here in Shreveport, Louisiana, we have
what I think is a pretty fine symphony, considering. However, the
"rank-and-file" performers are paid a disgracefully meager wage. Most
have to have several jobs to make ends meet, and most teach at several
middle schools and high schools --- traveling daily between them, not
fulltime at any one school, so they often lack health insurance and other
benefits. There are, at present, a luckier "core" of 24 players (down
from 30) who are paid a whopping $12K per year for their symphony playing.
The rest are paid "per service". This amounts to $30-60 for each of
four or five "services" for each of the 8 or 9 monthly symphonies, and
the occasional extra pops condert or whatever. I am told that you can,
if you play all that the symphony offers, haul in a hefty $3600 per year.
I checked the numbers above --- no typos.
Of course the performers are "free" to work with other symphonies in the
surrounding area. There aint many. And it would take a lot of hustle
to make a livelihood that way as a fulltime musician. Can you practice?
Will you get to play anything but th usual fare in such an environment?
Some have had to move away to find better pay. Many cannot. Things are
going to get worse, I hear, and more will leave.
(I hated to even mention the name of my city --- I have held back making
critical observations on this list because the symphony needs all the
help it can get and I do not wish to make things worse or complain about
what cannot be made better. But I don't really think it can get much
The big bucks go to at least some of the executives on the board, and
of course to the conductor. If I understand it correctly, our conductor
is also the conductor for at least one another orchestra in another
state, so I suspect he's doing just fine, thank you. But the I guess
he too has to hustle to make his (loftier) ends meet. In any case,
symphony musicians get paid an order of magnitude less.
The political situation between the musicians and the board is presently
a big, cacophonous mess. I'm not trying to be a reporter, so I cannot
state the absolute facts (which would surely be disputed by someone).
I suspect this goes on in many cities in the USA.
I fantasize that the musicians break free of the business model they are
trapped in, that they could manage themselves somehow without the need
of boards and fatcats and overpriced conductors. A pipe dream, I am
sure. I talked to a nonprofit exec who assures me they do need deep
tentacles into the wealthier parts of the society. Fat lot of good it
does them now.
I know that a few of the musicans conduct smaller orchestras, and of
course others could learn to do that. My favorite conductor of this
symphony in recent years was actually the concertmaster. He was interim
conductor for a year or so while they looked for a big name to take over.
How must THAT feel? He still fills in as conductor from time to time
while the "real" conductor is off on some gig or soiree with another
orchestra. I wish the musicians could all quit and make a go of it on
Meanwhile, the board and/or conductor (aka, "Musical Director" -- does
this mean two salaries?) have had their own fantasies. The most recent
is that more customers will be found by alternating the classical music
offerings with more pops and "Broadway Nights". Our concert season is
only 8 or 9 months to begin with, one concert per month, which is not
much. So now it has been halved, at least for me, as I am not interested
in the pops fare.
The next big idea was that people need a theme to be coaxed into coming
out for a concert. So they recently had a night of concert music related
to "dance": Rach's "Symphonic Dances", Weber's "Invitation to the Dance",
and Piazzolla's "Tangazo". That was fine with me, although the idea of
a theme actually puts me off. But not enough to even consider staying
... until I found out that the rest of the brainstorm was that people
also need something to watch while the music plays. And so, part of
the program was that a local dance troupe would perform on the stage,
accompanied by the classical music.
Live music videos! This will turn the people on!
Don't ask me how it went, because do not know.
Hey, I am not against art music or avant-garde attempts, but this
struck me as so insulting and silly that I went into a snit and vowed
not to go. The the music is no longer sufficient and needs to be in the
background, supported by kids dancing? Even at a symphony performance?
Give me a break. Just shoot me. Just shoot the symphony.
I complained to our (lone) music professor at my university. She correctly
pointed out that the symphony is struggling and trying desparately to
find ways to fill the seats. I know, I know. But this? She also noted
that she had not seen my name on the donors list.
Right! I buy the cheapest tickets, too, up in the nosebleed section.
But were I to plop down larger chunks of money, just where would this
money go? Another raffle of a Mercedes? (I understand from one of my
spies that they do not break even on this gimmick, but someone else
disputes that.) To the musicians? (I doubt it.) Will it go, I asked,
to provide tickets to people who would like to go but cannot afford it,
or to students to get a taste of live classical music? (The Shreveport
Opera does this and I have supported it.)
Sorry, I seem to be spiraling off-topic... Karl continued:
> I did some figuring... with our hall seating about 2,300 people, you would
> have to have the ticket prices average out to $100 each...to break even. I
> could buy a bunch of CDs for $100.
Okay, so maybe I'm not all that much off-topic. Yes, that is where my
classical bucks go, too: to CD's and other digital forms of music. (Steve
Schwarz is costing me a fortune. Thank goodness he reviews many albums
on Naxos, to which I subscribe.)
> None of this makes any sense, either artistically or from the business
> perspective. For me, it is insane.
It is. And I add it makes no moral sense, either.
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