The Well-Tempered Ear

Should Wisconsin Public TV broadcast Madison and Milwaukee Symphony Orchestras?

October 29, 2009

It’s been a good — make that great — month or so for orchestral music in Madison.

So I found myself thinking: Why do we have to wait for the national PBS’ “Great Performances” to broadcast concerts from the East Coast (New York Philharmonic last month) and the West Coast (Los Angeles Philharmonic this month)?

I heard the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra perform a wonderful program of Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms.

Then this past weekend I heard the Madison Symphony Orchestra (below) perform Glinka, Piazzolla and Mahler in a triumphal and dazzling concert. MSO-HALL

Both local performances struck me just as broadcast-worthy as the bigger groups from far away.

So, I ask: Why doesn’t Wisconsin Public Television broadcast some concerts by those state-based groups?

I mean, Wisconsin Public Radio airs performances by both the Madison and Milwaukee Symphony Orchestras.

So, why not Wisconsin Public Television?

And Wisconsin Public Television broadcasts usually one of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra’s Concerts on the Square.

So, why not the classical fare?

Maybe it’s not as popular as pops or rock or blues. But Public TV is supposed to be an alternative. It is funded, after all, by state tax dollars and Wisconsin-based donations?

I suppose there may be some issues and questions about expenses and staff and scheduling and permission rights from soloists. But my guess is that those aspects or problems are not insurmountable, especially at a time when all classical musicians need more exposure to the public.

Maybe the orchestras themselves are concerned that free TV concerts could cut into the attendance, although I think just the opposite. The more people who see and hear them on the TV, the more who will want to attend them and hear them live.

And why stop there?

Why not videotape and broadcast some performances, even in short segments, by the UW pianist Christopher Taylor, the UW Pro Arte Quartet or other faculty members who are also state workers in state-financed  School of Music that ranks very high nationally.

Well, you get the idea. And classical music groups can use all the coverage they can get right now in a bad economy just as consumers who lack money to attend live concerts might appreciate TV broadcasts of Wisconsin-based classical music groups.

So, again I ask: Why shouldn’t Wisconsin audiences see Wisconsin classical music groups and individual performers on TV?

Do you think we should?

Here are links (first telephone, then e-mail) to tell public TV if you think so?

And be sure to leave an answer or comment here too as a kind of informal survey.

Maybe we can even launch a movement–if the idea appeals to enough people since it is the people who really do own Wisconsin Public Television.

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

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