The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: For this coming Giving Tuesday, The Ear takes note that symphony orchestras are not alone in now being more like charities than businesses | November 26, 2016

By Jacob Stockinger

This coming Tuesday, Nov. 29, is Giving Tuesday.

It follows such hyped-up promotional and for-profit business days as Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday.

But this year Giving Tuesday seems more important than ever.

It’s no secret that the conservative political forces now in ascendancy do not favor government subsidies of the arts. And one has no idea about what the taste in the arts is for the incoming administration.

Plus, economic competition among proliferating music groups has only tightened the screws even further on many organizations.

Of course, lots of music organizations – small, medium and big – need your help.

The Madison Symphony Orchestra, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, the Madison Opera, the Wisconsin Union Theater and increasingly the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music all seek out and solicit donations with more and more frequency.

And it is no secret that The Ear especially favors supporting music education organizations for young people such as the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras (below, at the group’s 50th anniversary concert last winter). They not only train future musicians but also build future audiences for classical music.

WYSO 50th players

But in whatever direction your philanthropy and generosity extend, here is some relevant news.

It is a story from The New York Times about how symphony orchestras are now less like businesses and more like charities.

Symphony orchestras aren’t alone, so the account seems especially timely with Giving Tuesday looming.

Here is a link:

If you have some thoughts, please leave them in the COMMENT section.

The Ear wants to hear.


  1. Declining interest in orchestral music (with perhaps the exception of film scores) seems to me to be a sign of the growing, continuing anti-intellectualism in this country.

    Comment by Brian Larson — November 26, 2016 @ 10:33 am

    • Hi Brian,
      I hadn’t thought of that, but I think it is a very perceptive connection to make.
      Thinking about it more, I have to agree with you.
      I would add that perhaps the same trend explains current tastes in bestselling books, especially fiction, and movies.
      Plus, strict right-wing conservatives often want to defund the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
      In short, deep thinking and serious culture seem to be on the outs more than ever. And they will be even more so, given how the election turned out.
      Thank you for replying.

      Comment by welltemperedear — November 26, 2016 @ 11:33 am

      • “Declining interest in orchestral music (with perhaps the exception of film scores) seems to me to be a sign of the growing, continuing anti-intellectualism in this country.”

        Highly unlikely considering the 10% drop in just a few years by the NYTimes article. Does anti-intellectualism spread that quickly?

        More likely due to continued economic difficulties and angst. I think we have to face the real problem in the room: the middle class is getting trashed in America and it is bringing on all kinds of other problems.

        Comment by FFlambeau — November 27, 2016 @ 12:03 am

  2. A good read, Jacob, thanks for the NYTimes link.

    The most important thing I read there was this: “Attendance declined by 10.5 percent between 2010 and 2014, the study (of orchestras) found.”

    Note that this happened in the heart of the “economic recovery” which I suspect has never really happened except in DC and NYC and even there, only among certain groups.

    Why should attendance be declining at symphony orchestras:

    1) high prices;
    2) a church-like, cultist atmosphere;
    3) same music being performed, by a handful of composers, with few groups making an attempt to bring in new music; MSO has played Brahms Requiem how many times in the last 2 years? Ditto for Holsts’ The Planets. There is music out there that is as good as this or better but organizers/maestros, for the most part, don’t seem to realize this or it’s easier for them to play something they just played.
    4) gulf between performers and audience and even between soloists and orchestras;
    5) audience is attracted to cheaper tickets, more audience-friendly smaller groups (chamber concerts, for example);
    6) many orchestras/maestros and their music often have little or no connection with the local community and seem out of touch;
    7) insufficient musical outreach to the young;
    8) failure of classical music institutions to use the Internet/social media (Youtube, for instance) in the same way other, competing groups do. Lots of classical events could be live-streamed but almost never are;
    9) snobbery, both real and perceived. Classical radio seems to cultivate this type as announcers.
    10) cuts in arts at the high school level (and lower) which has repercussions further on.

    Comment by FFlambeau — November 26, 2016 @ 12:23 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,261 other followers

    Blog Stats

    • 2,343,972 hits
%d bloggers like this: