Create a NEW Symphony

My most recent blog post about the end of the symphony era created quite a buzz! I loved hearing the comments and suggestions and new ideas! One idea in particular gives me the greatest hope I have had in a long time for the survival of the symphony orchestra, and it was suggested by John Saunders (thank you, John!):

“Create a demand by coming up with a style.”

This simple statement has engaged my mind like few others recently. And that gave me an idea.

I propose and challenge the following:

Let’s start with just one well-funded, sponsored, creative symphony orchestra. They will host a new composer contest with a significant cash prize. They ask these new composers to create not only a full concert’s worth of music, but have them create the full concert so that it is visually and audibly entertaining. The composer can include whatever instruments he/she desires, thus creating a NEW symphony orchestra. The winning entry will have their work performed exactly as envisioned by the composer. It needs to be a performance where people will be flocking to the concert hall to a sold-out show. Rock stars put on a show to gain audiences, so why shouldn’t a symphony?

Will this work? I don’t have a crystal ball, but there needs to be some sort of new idea. Symphonies are also slow to change. Years of tradition, blah, blah, blah. But if one orchestra tries something new, and it is successful, it could spread and change the symphonic world. And that might not be the end of the era of the symphony, but rather a NEW symphony with a sustainable business model that will create new jobs for those graduating musicians.

Symphony Era – say goodbye

The era of the symphony orchestra is done. I’ve said this with a heavy heart for the past fifteen years. It has gone the way of dozens of other artistic mediums (portable mp3 players replaced CD players that replaced their tape predecessors; digital photos taken by camera phones replaced film that replaced its predecessors, etc.) It is no longer commonplace for every city to have a professional symphony orchestra, but rather a luxury for certain cities and for those patrons that can afford to keep it going (private and corporate.) Don’t get me wrong – I really hate stating the obvious, especially since I am a lover of classical music. I love playing it, studying it, practicing it, and teaching it. The history of each piece is so unique and representative of the times in which they were written. The great works will always withstand the test of time. However, the number of people who will pay to see them performed live is dwindling. The costs are going up, yet the demand is going down.
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