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Every difficulty slurred over will be a ghost to disturb your repose later on. Frederic Chopin

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If something can't go on forever, then it won't go on forever. The orchestras are losing money for whatever reason - low attendance, high costs, poor management. So something has to give, and that's usually labor costs.

I don't go to the symphony - I could, but it costs too much and I don't get that much out of it.

In the last year I've been to 2 classical concerts. One by the Atlanta Baroque orchestra (an all Telemann concert - very boring really, because each piece was just like the previous one) and a recital by Angela Hewitt that I really enjoyed.

But I have always enjoyed making music more than listening to someone else make music...

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Mitt will kill off classical music with Big Bird too... laugh

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Originally Posted by Mark...
Mitt will kill off classical music with Big Bird too... laugh

If there was a "like" button, I would have clicked it. In this case, I'll have to settle for a "+1" laugh


Every day we are afforded a new chance. The problem with life is not that you run out of chances. In the end, what you run out of are days.
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Originally Posted by Mark...
Mitt will kill off classical music with Big Bird too... laugh


A grossly nonsensical statement - nothing or no one will "kill off" Classical music - but I didn't initiate this thread to serve as a jumping off point for political commentary, one way or the other - so, if that's all you've got then please cease and desist...thanks.

Trap


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Originally Posted by TrapperJohn
Originally Posted by Mark...
Mitt will kill off classical music with Big Bird too... laugh


A grossly nonsensical statement - nothing or no one will "kill off" Classical music - but I didn't initiate this thread to serve as a jumping off point for political commentary, one way or the other - so, if that's all you've got then please cease and desist...thanks.

Trap



That bears repeating.


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Interesting article, Trapper. I was intrigued mostly by the size of the gap between ticket sales and orchestra expenses (there is a LOT of subsidizing going on!), and what seemed to be pretty high salaries. Of course, the figures we're given in the article are for rather big-city orchestras. I'm guessing the orchestra members in my home town are paid considerably less. But I'm guessing it's going to be hard to generate a lot of public sympathy for the musicians' cause.

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I know that even here that our orchestra is suffering. I try to go once a year but really we can't afford much. I would hate to see them shut down because they have stopped running like a business! Sad that this is taking place.


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Originally Posted by TrapperJohn
but I didn't initiate this thread to serve as a jumping off point for political commentary

...but, like it or not, this is a highly political topic. Whether or not public money is used to subsidise the arts is something that tends to divide opinion along party political lines. Here in the UK, we have a similar, and very heated, debate around the licence fee that funds the BBC.

Also, the site linked to seems to be some kind of political blog site, so to direct people to a site like this to read a piece on a politically charged topic without the expectation that someone will try to turn the discussion into a party political slanging match is a little naïve.

I had a look at the piece and found it rather odd that classical music was referred to as 'longhair' music. I haven't encountered that turn of phrase before and it seemed to me rather odd, and also somewhat pejorative.

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Originally Posted by KeemaNan

...but, like it or not, this is a highly political topic. Whether or not public money is used to subsidise the arts is something that tends to divide opinion along party political lines.


True - but the article is not about the pros & cons of public funding of the arts - it's about the economics of orchestras and their musicians and the musician's union and their contract demands and how these have come to constitute an unworkable business model...

Originally Posted by KeemaNan

Also, the site linked to seems to be some kind of political blog site, so to direct people to a site like this to read a piece on a politically charged topic without the expectation that someone will try to turn the discussion into a party political slanging match is a little naïve.


While this site can be political (libertarian, actually) this particular article, which is not "politically charged" as written, is predominately an article about an economic issue, which most people reading it completely can easily discern...

Originally Posted by KeemaNan
I had a look at the piece and found it rather odd that classical music was referred to as 'longhair' music. I haven't encountered that turn of phrase before and it seemed to me rather odd, and also somewhat pejorative.


The term "longhair" when used to refer to Classical music is very old and well known and has been widely used as either a positive and affectionate term by lovers of this genre or as a negative and critical term by it's detractors equally.


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Originally Posted by Monica K.
...Of course, the figures we're given in the article are for rather big-city orchestras. I'm guessing the orchestra members in my home town are paid considerably less.


I'm not sure about that Monica - do contracts with the musician's union apply "across the board" to all members in all orchestras in the country, or are they negotiated locally?

From what I vaguely recall the salaries & benefits of the musicians in our local (and surprisingly good) orchestra here in the relatively small city of Harrisburg aren't that far off from those mentioned in the article.

Personally, I don't attend these concerts because of the high ticket prices and also (primarily) because the seats in the old theatre where they perform are too close and too hard!

Trap

Last edited by TrapperJohn; 10/10/12 08:33 AM.

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Originally Posted by TrapperJohn
The term "longhair" when used to refer to Classical music is very old and well known and has been widely used as either a positive and affectionate term by lovers of this genre or as a negative and critical term by it's detractors equally.

Well, I've learned something new here today. I'd never heard this before but I guess it's another example of a difference between American and British English (see threads passim, ad nauseam). It seemed to me (wrongly, I now know) to be a dismissive sort of a term and that rather put me off what followed.

Originally Posted by TrapperJohn
the article is not about the pros & cons of public funding of the arts - it's about the economics of orchestras and their musicians and the musician's union and their contract demands and how these have come to constitute an unworkable business model...

Fair point. I'll admit I just skimmed it (for the reasons outlined above) and got the wrong end of the stick.

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The name "Longhair" is most certainly not perjorative for pianists, at least a couple of generations ago.

For example, "Professor Longhair" (birth name Henry Roeland Byrd, aka "Fess") was a giant figure in New Orleans music.

It is believed that he got his moniker from the fact that "longhair" was a nickname for pianists.

He is credited with making New Orleans music what we know it as today. His signature song "Tipitina" is the inspiration and the name of two of New Orleans' major music venues, and his "Going to the Mardi-Gras" is an anthem that every New Orleans band plays.

Fats Domino, Doctor John, Allen Toussaint, and many others credit Professor Longhair as a 'father' of New Orleans Piano music.

Here is Allen Toussaint demonstrating Fess:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q62qTlHfyWI&feature=related

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Professor_Longhair


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Originally Posted by Monica K.
But I'm guessing it's going to be hard to generate a lot of public sympathy for the musicians' cause.


Yeah, for some reason we've come to believe only fraudulent paper pushers on Wall Street deserve money. People who actually work and produce only deserve whatever crumbs fall off the table.


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(Actually, unions are a politically-charged subject, so I agree that this subject, with all the sub-subjects, is politically-charged. TJ - I'll copy your quote about not using something as a jumping off for political discussion. It could come in handy some time smile )

I believe it's been true for years and years and years that arts organizations - orchestras, operas, dance troupes, do not support themselves with ticket sales, but use private/public funding to cover the rest of their costs. It doesn't seem to me that's a new situation for them.

But if their audiences are now becoming small enough, and I doubt that's because of ticket prices, that they are getting less funding, that's a different problem. Thiry years ago when I was still buying season tickets to the opera when the Met toured, people were bemoaning all the white hair in the audience. Now I'm one of the white hairs laugh But now the Met no longer tours - they broadcast live in HD tv and the local theaters here buy the broadcast and sell tickets. So do some theater companies. The tickets are still high (from my perspective now) but the place is packed, and there's even an encore taped performance later.

So the classical orchestra/chamber music situation has many facets, and I don't think ticket prices are in any way all of the problem, and perhaps not the major one, tho I dunno. Building an audience, or appropriately serving the needs of the size of audience you actually have and not the one you dream about, is definitely an issue they need to address. Having a budget that will realistically support that is mandatory. And yes, the musicians, the board, the audience, the funders, have to deal with that. I suspect the Met's budget isn't all funded by tickets, either.

(But unions, which is really what this article is about, it appears to me, are a political topic. JMO, of course smile And I'm still going to remember JT's quote and use it in future appropriate threads smile )

And as a personal aside, I don't go to our local professional orchestra. But I attend most of the performances of the community concert band, and quite a few of the community orchestra. Once in awhile I go see the Met broadcasts. I've always liked community music and theater most (high school productions, for instance) and that's where I spend my entertainment time. The ticket prices don't really come into play unless they're more than $25. And then I'm picky about where I spend the money - I saw Anderson and Roe for more than that a while ago. I have no idea how typical I am. But I just like a different setting for music than a professional orchestra provides most of the time.



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According to the OP's quoted article, the striking musicians are getting this in their salary package:

Quote
Nor are the musicians poorly paid. Minnesota Orchestra's proposed contract, which musicians consider insufficiently generous, would put the average salaries start at $89,000 a year, with base pay of $78,000. The St. Paul Chamber players pull in an average of $90,000 a year. Both packages include good benefits and more vacation and sick time than most Americans would recognize as standard.


And they are striking because that is not enough! Good Grief!


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I haven't read the article yet (will in a minute), but wanted to comment that there are two things that provide a significant energy barrier for me to attend our local symphony orchestra:

1) Tickets are pricey.

2) Getting there is not easy.

We would have to drive to the city, find our way around said city at night, find and pay for parking, and drive home again. (Okay, I'm a chicken. Downtown St. Louis is not the safest place in the world.)

Matinees would solve the problem of after-dark driving. Public transportation works for the city center (I'm guessing), but not to get us from where we live to where public transportation starts.

Given all that, I told my DH that I wanted a trip to the symphony for a Christmas present.


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Whether we fund the arts from the public purse string is obviously a contentious issue. Personally I think we owe it to future generations to preserve and encourage "high art" even if it has a limited market. I am reminded of Oscar Wildes definition of a cynic as "A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing."

In my experience, unions are often blamed for doing exactly what they are supposed to do - make sure their members don't get shafted. In any negotiations where the future of the organization is on the line, of course one side wants to say that the other is the obstacle. Some orchestras have become self-governing, saying management is the issue - quite successfully too.



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Okay, I read the article. Yes, the system is not sustainable.

I think the fine arts and the taxpayer would be better served with private support rather than public.

Bill, Warren, Sergei, Elon...????




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Originally Posted by Andy Platt


In my experience, unions are often blamed for doing exactly what they are supposed to do - make sure their members don't get shafted.



In my experience some unions do much more than they ought to do - much more than is economically wise - at the expense of consumers and/or taxpayers - driving up the cost of products and services and the cost of labor unnecessarily with unjustifiable wage & benefit demands, and thus ultimately hurting and "shafting" the very members they were supposed to help by driving companies out of business. Are the musician's unions guilty of this?


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