I'm a professional classical musician, educator, and advocate for the popularization of classical music in America. I was a freelance French hornist for many years and have performed with numerous orchestras,concert bands, opera companies and chamber ensembles and was a substitute music teacher,among other things.
Like all people involved in classical music, I'm very concerned about the financial state of many of America's great symphony orchestras and opera companies,and other performing arts organizations. Many are experiencing severe financial difficulties, and some have already gone under because of the difficult economic times, as well as from the pitifully small amount of money granted by the government to support the arts in general.
The livelihoods of many thousands of talented,dedicated and hard-working classical musicians are in jeopardy, as well as those of the many people who work running them in all 50 states. Is this because of a lack of an audience? Most assuredly not. There are many,many people in America who love classical music and whose lives are greatly enriched by attending concerts and opera etc. Is it because a a lack of musical excellence ? Absolutely not.
America has many of the world's greatest orchestras and opera companies, and these are renowned throughout the world from both tours,recordings, radio and television broadcasts and internet exposure. This nation has produced such towering classical musicians as Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Van Cliburn, Leontyne Price , Andre Watts , Renee Flemingh, James Levine, Leonard Slatkin, and many others who are world renowned.
There is so much gloomy talk today about everything that is wrong with American culture today, the vulgarity, the crass commercialism, the lowest common denominator mentality etc. But America's great symphony orchestras and opera companies are something which Americans can and should be proud of.
But unfortunately, many Americans are adamantly opposed to government support for the arts,largely based on stories about "obscene" art which have been blown totally out of proportion. They think that the US government takes an enormous amount of money from honest,hard-working and often struggling Americans solely to support "obscene" art. But it takes LESS THAN A DOLLAR from each taxpayer a year to support the entire National Endowment For The Arts, which so many foolishly want to abolish. And many of the same people who are outraged at having to contribute less than a dollar to support the arts in America are perfectly willing to contribute much much more money to the government to support the futile and disastrous Iraq war and other things which America should never have gotten involved with in the first place .
Many of these people also say that the private sector and philanthropies should support the arts and classical music in America,not the government. If pnly this were the case ! They do provide some funding, but nowehere near enough to keep classical music alive and flourishing in America.
But in Europe, no one objects to generous government support of opera companies and orchestras; this is taken for granted, and you do not see orchestras folding there.
Among the opera companies which have folded recently are those of Baltimore, Hartford Connecticut, and Opera Pacific in California and Orlando,Florida. The New York City opera came perilously close to extinction recently . Even the mighty Metropolitan opera,largest performing arts organization in the world,is feeling the economic crunch .
Orchestras in Columbus ,Ohio, Honolulu, Phoenix, Charleston,South Carolina, and other US cities have had very difficult times, and more than a few orchestras have been forced to give their musicians pay cuts. This is wrong,and not good for America. In fact,it is a national disgrace . Even if you are not a classical music enthusiast,and know little or nothing about this kind of music, you should be concerned .
Clssical music is not a frivolous entertainment for the wealthy. It is a magnificent centuries old art form, and one of the glories of mankind . It enriches the lives of millions of listeners all over the world,including Asia and elsewhere . And if the arts flourish in America , it helps the economy to flourish also . This is a proven fact . America cannot afford to allow its great orchestras and opera companies either to struggle or fade into oblivion .