Denial About Arts Funding
hate to speak in such blunt terms, but the naivety of this discussion is
appalling, even if based on very common American delusions.
You refuse to admit that our problems with the performing arts are
systemic, due to our lack of public arts funding.
It really is a form of willful denial with the result that your views are
not only blinkered, they reflect a chauvinistic ethnocentricity.
for example, notes how an audience loved a performance of an aria on British TV
and asks why American opera houses can’t create a similar positive response to
opera. What opera houses, Molly?!?
only has about five or six real opera houses, and not one of them even has a
year round season. (Even the Met
only runs for seven months a year.) Those
opera houses serve metropolitan areas that might total as much as 30 million
people, but what about the other 250 million Americans?
Where are they going to hear an opera?
is the ONLY industrial country in the world that does not have extensive public
funding for the arts. You all accept
this extremism as if it were normal and confine your thinking to this absurd
paradigm. As arts journalists you
should be the first to protest our lack of public funding for the arts.
You should be the first to open discuss how the lack of public funding
contextualizes all of the problems and challenges you are discussing.
So why all the silence?
, video and live performance are two different things, and each has its value,
but are we to simply give up on the idea of live performance?
Are we to not even question our country’s extremist stance regarding
public support for the arts? How can
you as a highly trained musician possibly suggest that a video simulcast is
anything like a live performance at the opera in good seats?
belive me, I know what I am talking about. I have spent the last seven years
working on forms of video music theater.
to see some clips.)
in spite of my involvement with and love of the genre, I
would never think that video of the Met in movie theaters should or could
replace real opera. It is exactly
the live, visceral qualities of the operatic voice that make it so special. Video,
regardless of how fine the camera work or sound system, is not a real
substitute. It is like people in
some third world country saying, well, the car is broken down, so we’ll just
hitch a donkey up to pull it. I read
these blog entries and don’t whether to laugh, roll my eyes, or snort in plain
European city with over five or six hundred thousand residents has a full time,
year round opera house. So why
? Are you all going to feed us the
usual nonsense that classical music isn’t American?
That we are too young a country to have a rich representation of
classical music? Or are you going to
try the common deceit of telling us we have about 350 symphony orchestras
without telling us that over 300 of them are part time and semi-professional?
look at a mid-range example. The New Mexico Symphony is a fairly good orchestra.
Even though it is based in
, which has a metropolitan population of 500,000, and serves the whole state
with a population of 1.8 million, the base pay for first chair winds is around
15 thousand a year. The base pay for tutti strings is about $6000 a year, which
means that the sections, to put if frankly, are often actually filled with
amateurs. The orchestra can’t even have daytime rehearsals because most of the
musicians have to have day jobs to support themselves. And touring is a problem,
because it means many of the musicians have to leave their “real” jobs for a
few days. The orchestra has had recurrent financial problems, and the musicians
have had to go through long periods without being paid at all. The New Mexico
Symphony is hardly an exception. In fact, this abysmal situation defines the
norm for many, if not most regional
orchestras. Naturally, the artistic standards are deeply affected, even though
these orchestras serve the vast majority of our population.
we’ll just get some websites and electronic gizmos and that will solve the
as for opera,
performs in the summer for only six weeks.
Even such a paltry season as that makes it one of
’s major houses. The other opera
which are 1010 and 788 miles away respectively.
So just where are those folks going to go to hear opera, Molly?
Or maybe I need to remind you that the Hudson river isn’t the west
coast of the
? (Perhaps you can ask “Alex”
about that – no last name needed.)
of public funding,
has about 28 times more full-time, year round opera houses than the
. Even a small city like
, with a population of 80 thousand, has have a full-time opera house with a
ballet and chorus, a fulltime radio symphony orchestra, and a year round spoken
theater. Public funding.
all sit and come up with rather superficial, postmodern ideas that are
supposedly revitalizing the arts while remaining absolutely silent about the
lack of public funding which is what actually separates us from the entire
industrial world, and which represents context that overwhelmingly shapes all of
the problems you are discussing. (And
again, I speak as someone using all of the new media technologies in the
creation an presentation of his art.)
look at another example, the grotesquely low pay
scales that so many of our major orchestras have. Her are some examples:
numbers are two years old, but nothing much has changed.) How are musicians in
, one of the world’s richest cities, supposed live on $25,000 a year with
’s real estate prices? Why do all of these musicians worry for their job
security because the bankruptcy of the orchestra is always a real possibility?
Why do we take our most gifted artists, who are graduates of our most elite
music schools such as Curtis, Juilliard,
and Eastman, and pay them salaries that not even a car mechanic or truck driver
would accept? All of these orchestras serve very wealthy metropolitan areas of
millions of people and have tax bases that could easily pay decent salaries.
situation is ridiculous and shameful, and yet even here among the people who are
supposed to be representing the arts and its interests, there is nothing but
silence about our lack of public funding. And
you confuse the issue by thinking the usual, rather worn out Postmodern,
technological cant is going to solve the problems.
Are you telling us that the
and Kansas City Symphonies went bankrupt because they didn’t have fancy
enough websites or because they failed to employ enough electronic gizmos during
their performances? Ah, I see,
iPods will solve the entire problem…….
with a population of 4 million, or
with a metro population close to 15 million, have operas with only about 6 week
seasons. And in other large metropolitan areas like
, the best we can hope for is an occasional slap-dash production with pick-up
musicians in a rental facility. Compared to
, it is so hokey it boggles the mind.
lack of work and respect is why American classical musicians, as a matter of
course, look abroad as a possibility for employment. American orchestra
musicians even turn to countries like
to find work. There is not another industrial country in the world that treats
its classical musicians this way – not even
it’s time we realize how low our overall standards really are, and how badly
we treat our artists. I guess that will take some time, when even the members of
this panel seem not to understand.
think the really interesting question is why you remain so silent about our lack
of public funding when it actually contextualizes all of the problems you are
presumably addressing. I think this
willful silence says something about what it means, and what it takes, to be a
American musical “luminary.” Don’t
rock the boat with any pinko ideas. But
that is another topic, and a very difficult though important one.
I am sorry to speak so harshly, but there simply comes a point when people
should begin expressing contempt for out country’s blinkered, ethnocentric