The Arts As Communal Endeavor

Newmusicbox November 11, 2007


I think there might be something to the idea of musicians thinking more about how they serve their communities.


There is an awful lot of grandezza surrounding classical music.   This problem is compounded in the States by our elite funding system focused on the wealthy.  The public funding of the arts in Europe creates a different environment.  Outside of a few private organizations like Bayreuth and the Salzburg Festival, the patrician rituals of the wealthy at concerts and operas are far less notable.   And the demographic of the publics are much wider, because tickets are far cheaper than in the States.  In Italy , everybody goes to the opera, right down to the cab drivers and auto mechanics.  (They all know the operas practically by heart, and even shout at the singers if they hear something they donít agree with.)


Some interesting things are happening in Baltimore in this regard.  A large financial institution gave the orchestra a huge donation so that all tickets for the next season cost only $25.  There were huge lines when the box office opened that included a lot of people who had never been to an orchestra concert before.  In a completely spontaneous gesture, the orchestraís new GMD, Marin Alsop, went out and served donuts to the people in line.  It was written about in the papers, and the city was completely won over.  It became THEIR orchestra.


There are a lot of reasons this was notable, but perhaps one of the most important is that Baltimore is 80% black and the orchestra is 98% white.  We need to change the whole structure of our music world to better reach our communities.  We need to examine classical musicís traditional attitude of aristocratic grandezza.  And we should leave behind our patrician form of funding that hearkens back to feudalism, and let people build and identify with their own local cultural through an effective, locally operated system of arts funding.


William Osborne