Sunday, July 19, 2015

Hartford Symphony in Trouble, but How to Get Out of It?

In June, the board of the Hartford Symphony approved cutting the orchestra's budget by 20%, from $2.5 million to $2 million, as the administration begins negotiating a new contract with the musicians, talks that promise to be contentious.

Writing on the WNPR website, Steve Metcalf argues that saving Hartford's orchestra does not mean resorting to performing more pops concerts, as he claims is the direction proposed by CEO David Fay, but by remembering that the primary purpose of the orchestra is to perpetuate the canon:
The pesky underlying issue here is that a great professional orchestra exists to play the great orchestral repertoire – both modern and vintage – at the highest possible artistic level. Yes, of course, pops concerts can be fun, and can furnish a nice little ancillary zone of activity and outreach. And sure, maybe there is an additional stream of revenue to be had from backing up, you know, aging rock groups or video-game soundtrack nights or occasionally accompanying faux-classical figures like a Josh Groban or an Andrea Bocelli.
Fair enough--who likes pops concerts, really--but while Metcalf's statement of purpose may have guilted people in the past to attend a concert or give money to keep afloat in the past, it simply won't fly in most cities today. Without giving up its artistic integrity, an orchestra needs to start being an educational resource as much as a performing group. And this broader thinking needs to be embraced by the musicians, not simply artificially imposed by an administration or board.

Trevor O'Donnell also addresses the Hartford Symphony's problems, taking aim at the stale language of its marketing.