An Ever-Shifting World



Welcome to Classical Music in the Modern Age!

The world is changing at an incredible place: wealth is created more quickly than at any time in history, yet many people find themselves on the less fortunate end of the income scale. The middle class, the hallmark of the industrial revolution, is beginning to fade away as the income gap steadily grows.

In the world of classical music, traditional orchestras are folding left and right. The end of 2010 also marked the end of two long-standing organizations. The 110-year old Honolulu Symphony closed down in December after operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for about a year. Just a few days prior, the Louisville Orchestra filed for bankruptcy. And last month in April the Philadelphia Orchestra, one of the “Big Five,also filed for bankruptcy.

The message: no one is safe

Gone are the days when one could graduate with a Master’s, Ph.D, or performers certificate in music and easily land a full-time position playing with an orchestra or other ensemble until the nice old age of retirement. The arts relies heavily on two sources for funding: government programs, such as the National Endowment for the Arts, and private philanthropy which includes a great deal of small- and large-scale funding across the country. A look at the donor list of any arts organization will demonstrate this: the largest donors are almost always attached to successful enterprises.

Unfortunately, in times of economic hardship, these sources often run dry. The government is trillions of dollars in debt and struggling to meet its current obligations in social security, health-care, defense spending, and every other critical area. Many successful businessmen and philanthropists continue to support the arts, but everyone must recognize the reality that there is a limit to what they can do. These people give millions of dollars away per year to a variety of different industries, causes, programs, and organizations.

Over at the Denver Post, fine arts critic Kyle MacMillan writes that: “Somehow, the world of opera, symphony orchestras and chamber music has come to be seen by much of the general public as staid, stodgy and just plain passe.” In other words, classical music has fallen into a rut, and to quote the American novelist Ellen Glasgow: “The only difference between a rut and a grave is their dimensions.”

No industry is being left unaffected by the changes occurring today, and it is a mistake to believe that these changes are all tied to the recent economic recession. These shifts in our economy, our society, and our world are part of a multi-decade long process. The notion of a single career to carry you through the entirety of your professional life disappeared long ago. The average person will have over 10 jobs in their lifetime… some even before they reach the halfway mark of their productive professional life.

What does this mean for the world of classical music? Long ago the classical movement inscribed the element of tradition as one of its core principles, even leading Harvard University to produce a 1000-page compilation titled The Classical Tradition. However, within classical music, there is a need to review and revise many old institutional models. In fact, there have already been a number of arts groups who have risen to prominence precisely because they challenged the traditional norms. Their success in a world of declining funding and interest is a result of their entrepreneurial spirit and creativity, their ability to harness the forces of the information revolution in our economy.

Change comes slowly to people and movements alike. But classical music, if it is to survive, must learn to adapt and reinvent itself in the modern world. In order for this to happen, we need a new form of musical entrepreneur to step up and answer the challenge of the times. Entrepreneurship is a central element of  String Visions and Visionary, whose mission is to empower people to be able to take up the mantle not of preserving classical music, but of transforming classical music so it remains an eternal staple of our society.

(continued in part 2…)

Tags: , , , ,

, , , ,

One Response to An Ever-Shifting World

  1. Colin Cronin May 14, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

    Welcome to String Visions everybody! We’re excited to be here!

Leave a Reply