Another U.S. orchestra has shut down, meaning we've lost FOUR this season: Honolulu, New Mexico, Syracuse, and now Bellevue (WA). As well, Louisville and Philadelphia have filed for bankruptcy protection. Lebrecht gives the story here.
As regular readers of this site know, our position is that the basic problem remains relatively uncomplicated to understand: the potential American listeners that orchestras need to reach simply are not interested in what they are offering. It could be different specific things: programming, modes of presentation, ticket prices, competition, etc., but it seems that many American orchestras somehow think that if they can just preserve what audience they have through the recession or whatever, things will spring back to normal eventually. This does not acknowledge that the larger culture has changed and is changing in fundamental ways to which artists must adapt if their work is to resonate with listeners.
In this writer's view, these changes are the new normal and there is no going back: a cultural shift that has been occurring over the past 2-3 decades has finally reached maturity. The U.S. is a culturally omnivorous culture that greatly desires diverse, participatory creative experiences that resonate with the world in which we currently live. U.S. orchestras must figure out ways to make themselves authentically American musical ensembles rather than continuing primarily to perpetuate late-19th century European models of what is acceptable or correct in the realm of concert music performance presentation and programming, or I fear we will continue to read news of orchestras folding and liquidating, at increased rates.
What's most frustrating to me is that solving these problems, figuring out how as musicians to connect to our larger culture in meaningful ways, is a dazzling creative problem that could provide years of interesting work to those willing to dive in. Why is there so much passionate, entrenched resistance to genuine creative exploration? Why must American orchestras only function in the ways they have for over a century? Why are so many highly-skilled, amazing musicians so dogmatic about what musical art ought to be?
Music is a creative art. I thought this meant that we are supposed to make it up as we go....