Sunday, January 24, 2010

The end of the world (as we know it)

It's a scary, yet quite telling time for orchestras these days. Last week, the New York Philharmonic posted its largest recorded deficit in its 168 year history. That's saying quite a bit, especially in the wake of the appointment of its young new music director, Alan Gilbert. In the same week, the Cleveland Orchestra's musicians made the unprecedented move of handing out leaflets to its audience prior to a concert in order to make a statement amidst contract negotiations. This, from one of the greatest and highly paid orchestras in the country.

What is happening? Essentially, our profession is struggling to catch up with the catastrophic economy and rapidly changing societal tastes with a dinosaur of an organizational paradigm. Despite unrivaled quality, audiences, donors and sponsors are either pulling back their focus on the arts and entertainment, and we are witnessing a possible cyclical or permanent cultural ice age for certain art forms. In some ways, it doesn't really matter which, for many arts institutions are increasingly being forced into oblivion on a daily basis all over the world. What is needed is a general revolution of presenting classical music in a way that the American public can embrace broadly; a new approach that accepts the arts as a business (at least in part) and the viewer as a consumer with limited time and resources, and then begin to ask the difficult question of whether we are truly in touch with the public we are supposedly serving in the first place.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Why do you work in the arts?!?

I get that question when I talk to some of my friends from high school or college - why do you work in the arts? Why work in a nonprofit - especially now?

I think the answer is simple and universal to every member of our dedicated team: we work in the arts and in the nonprofit world because we love it. To be a part of the creative process, to contribute to something larger than yourself and to be a part of a cultural tradition that spans millennia - that is pretty cool.

It takes dedication to work in a world like this, especially at a time like this. We are lucky at Orchestra Nova to have a very dedicated staff team - people who genuinely believe in the art that we help create and who love serving the audiences who come. I know that sounds cliché, but talk to any of us and you’ll soon discover a passion that doesn’t exist in many other organizations.

So yeah, that is why I work in the arts, and that’s why I feel blessed to have the opportunity to work at Orchestra Nova.