Thursday, December 31, 2009

New York Phil's New Year's Eve, or How to Invigorate a US Orchestra

It was great to see the New York Philharmonic ring in the new year with its all-American program of Copland, Gershwin, and show tunes with Thomas Hampson. This is entertaining music, and certainly more a part of New York culture than the dusty old 19th-century European stuff the orchestra did last year. 

Alan Gilbert has made a strong commitment (at least relative to most) to American music this season, and that's a good thing. It's invigorated the orchestra and its audiences too.

Struggling orchestras such as the Charlotte Symphony and the Philadelphia Orchestra might do well to follow the Phil's lead. Don't assume that people want the usual classical-music standards all the time. And don't apologize for presenting American music that's new to audiences--believe in it, make it an important part of your programming. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.