UK funding cuts affect regional orchestras more than their London orchestras

From BBC News, December 3, 2010

Like almost all England's arts organisations, the Halle Orchestra in Manchester has had its budget cut by the Arts Council, which distributes public money to arts organisations in England. For this year, the cut is about 7%, and for the Halle that means losing about 150,000 off its 2.2m grant.  John Summers, the chief executive said: "It affects regional orchestras much more than the four independent London orchestras because we have to employ our players on salary. We need to do so to get a world class ensemble here."  Orchestras in London have a much larger pool of talented musicians to choose from, so can afford to pay their players for each performance. Regional orchestras often do not have that luxury.  [In the UK,] orchestras rely on public money for about a third of their costs.


Turbulence at three of America's regional orchestras

(FROM TC: These 3 stories were posted today on

         Slatkin speaks about Detroit Symphony strike: "Very few days went by while I was in Detroit when I did not speak with board members, urging them to help find a way out of this.... The indication was that when a settlement was reached, purse strings might open once again. And that is the crux of the issue. The players want a guarantee and the board cannot give it." Detroit Free Press 12/03/10

         Louisville Orchestra musicians say bankruptcy filing is bogus: "The Louisville Orchestra's musicians want the orchestra's bankruptcy filing thrown out, claiming the organization isn't really broke and has nearly $9 million in assets." Courier-Journal 12/06/10

         Charleston Symphony musicians and board battle over future governance: "Musicians demanding the immediate resignation of Charleston Symphony Orchestra board members and the right to nominate new members have received a quick response from symphony officials." The Post and Courier 12/05/10


Commentary: Why classical music leaders have reason to hope

Arts critic Kyle MacMillan, writing in the Denver Post, December 5, 2010

Despite the seemingly dire situation in which classical music finds itself, many leaders in the field remain surprisingly upbeat.  That optimism comes in part from a fundamental belief in the quality and importance of the art form and excitement about the talent and ingenuity of a new brand of tech-savvy up-and-comers in the field.  Ronen Givony [music director of New York's Le Poisson Rouge], knew nothing five or six years ago.  "The reason I learned about classical music in the first place was because of the Internet," he said. "If you are a legitimately intellectually curious person, you can... really teach yourself to an amazing degree."  Givony believes chamber music in particular hold a great deal of potential, because it is similar in size and approach to indie rock bands.  Classical music has to start taking some risks. And scrappy presenters across the country like Le Poisson Rouge are. So are outfits like Denver-based Telling Stories, which mixes music and narratives into performances that recall public radio's This American Life.  "That makes me optimistic, seeing how there really is a spontaneous movement for change," music writer Greg Sandow said. "I see so many and very different examples of how to do things in new ways."  "No one says it's easy," Givony said. "But in general, I think people can surprise you... the classical world has really underestimated people's ability to encounter this (form)."


For artists' fundraising, a new social networking site

From the New York Times, December 7, 2010

United States Artists, a nonprofit group founded by foundations and wealthy art donors to broaden support for working artists, will unveil a new Web site on Tuesday that solicits small donations from regular people to help underwrite specific artworks.  Part social network, part glossy brochure, part fund-raising mechanism, the site seeks to democratize arts patronage as government support for the arts continues to decline and private sources of financing also shrink. In testing, the Web site attracted roughly 36,000 unique visitors and raised a total of $210,000, with an average of $120 from each of 1,500 small donors.  Artists like Zoe Strauss, a photographer, who have received USA grants in the past were asked to participate in the test, and 47 did so.  Ms. Strauss said, "I'm totally unskilled in how to hustle money and totally repulsed by the idea of asking people for it, so this site was a dream come true for me."  Bill Frisell, a jazz guitarist, said  "I'm not rich but I make a living, and so for me to say, 'Please, please, please give me money,' it felt a little embarrassing.  I had to get over that."  He raised $20,300 through the new site.  Ms. Strauss and Mr. Frisell say they anticipate that the kind of incremental fund-raising on the site will become more and more important to sustaining art. Mr. Frisell said, "We have to try new things."


= = =


Commentary: How much respect does your theater give to its audience?

Posted by Howard Sherman on the American Theatre Wing blog, December 6, 2010

Each of the following has caught my attention over the last 10 days:

  • A major institutional theatre featured on its blog of a series of overheard audience conversations which I shall refer to as "rather unenlightened" regarding the nature of theatre
  • A composer sent a tweet seeking to incite use of the hashtag "Dumb Audience Comments"
  • A theatre employee tweeted the title of their production in the form most mangled by a patron
  • Theatre ushers endlessly shouted at patrons outside a theatre as to which lines to get into and to "keep it moving" in a manner that reminded me of airport security

I don't provide this litany in order to embarrass or criticize any single person or institution. Frankly, I think these are a) just the tip of the iceberg and b) entirely typical of the kind of conversations and interactions that go on within producing offices and non-profit institutions all the time.  In an era where there is constant talk about declining audiences, rising prices and the need to attract "the next generation of theatre patrons," I think it undermines those efforts when the staff  take opportunities to make sport of the people who are actually going to the theatre.  Considering how hard we must all work to inspire audiences to visit for the first time, let alone return again and again we cannot afford to foster any activity which diminishes respect for the theatre patron.  Every human being can be the source of good natured fun, but when it becomes pervasive or sport for those who make their livings off of the enthusiasm of audiences, a line has been crossed, and we have institutionalized elitism in a way that will prove damaging, no matter how innocent any single comment, tweet or blog may seem.

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