Commentary: Can we please have some good news?

Holly Mulcahy, Neoclassical blog on, 6/6/11

It seems that there is an unbearable amount of bad news in the classical music world. I'm tired of hearing my friends and colleagues repeat, in a mantra-like fashion, the doomsdays news of various orchestras' demise and the death of classical music. While so much of it is in fact true and disturbing, there is good news in various forms and sizes out there that is being sidelined for more sensationalized and disturbing news. So I'm starting a list of positive things that I have noticed over the past month, and I hope to add to it over the next few months with help from you. Here's what good I have noticed recently:

  • Nashville built a fantastic concert hall a few years back, and it is being used and enjoyed. This past weekend, the capacity audience erupted as the final notes were still reverberating. [After] five curtain calls, the audience was still chatting about the experience. It was a concert hall project I remember many poo-pooing because it was destined to fail by a few self-proclaimed experts.  It did not and I have since watched the orchestra and the audience thrive.
  • I came across a young woman last week who works as a school secretary. She said, "I love going to the symphony concerts, I try to go to both concerts our symphony offers in a week so I can hear the music twice and learn better how to enjoy a program on the second hearing."
  • Florida Orchestra is starting a cultural exchange with Cuba.  Awesome! Spread the music, share the cultures; create a bridge in economies, politics, and beliefs.
  • Christine Brewer and Nancy Wagner get it: neither decided to dumb down music to a middle school class, and a brilliant discussion was formed.  Maybe future patrons and appreciators of the opera world were cultivated.
  • There are many really awesome living composers that have Facebook accounts and actually write back when fans give compliments. It's just nice to have some connection with the patrons that previous generations were denied.
  • Alec Baldwin is a fantastic advocate and voice for the New York Philharmonic. He brings respectable clout and a recognizable voice that isn't too stuffy to radio broadcasts.
  • On the Green Line "L" train in Chicago last week, I overheard people talking about the many picnics they were planning for the Grant Park Music Festival and how they were especially looking forward to a concert featuring the composer Krzysztof Penderecki. I always love when people talk about living composers on public transportation.
  • And finally, thanks to the patron who bought me a drink after a concert last month. She said, "I know you put all your heart and more into these concerts, and all I can do is buy a ticket and buy you a drink. Thanks for what you do." It never occurred to me to receive thanks or appreciation like that. Usually I try to thank the patrons for coming to enjoy a concert. It was really nice to see there are people out there who appreciate the work and passion that many times goes unnoticed.

In 2010, the arts got almost twice as big a bounce as overall philanthropy

L.A. Times Culture Monster blog, 6/21/11

Donations to the arts began to rebound in 2010, with an estimated 5.7% increase after a combined drop of 8.2% in the deep recession years of 2008 and 2009, according to the annual report issued Monday by the Giving USA Foundation. Factoring in inflation, the gain in arts giving was 4.1%.  Estimated largess to the arts, culture and humanities totaled $13.3 billion, up from $12.6 billion in 2009 and 12.8 billion in 2008. But gifts to the arts sector still had not rebounded all the way, falling short of the $13.7 billion prerecession peak of 2007. Americans' estimated overall charitable giving was $291 billion for 2010, with the arts and culture receiving about 4.6% of the total. The arts got almost twice as big a bounce as overall philanthropy, which was up an inflation-adjusted 2.1% for 2010, according to the report.  Americans gave about 2% of their disposable income to charity, which is about average given historic norms dating back 56 years, the study found.  Individuals and family foundations contributed 87 cents of each charitable dollar (8 cents of that came from dead people, in the form of bequests); other foundations gave 8 cents, and corporations a nickel.  The study by Indiana University's Center on Philanthropy based its estimates on information from a variety of sources, including the IRS, the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis, and independent studies of charitable giving by several nonprofit research groups.


UK's largest theater owner to install more comfortable seats across its 39 venues

The Stage, 6/22/11

Sports car-style seats are to be fitted in the Ambassador Theatre Group's 39 venues in order to make audiences more comfortable.  ProBax seat technology is designed to correct posture, leading to reduced backache and muscle fatigue, while developers also claim that improved blood and oxygen flow increases concentration.  The technology is used in Lotus cars and is under trial with aircraft companies.  ATG is the first theatre operator to use the ProBax design, and plans to introduce the seats in all its UK theatres, changing 49,000 chairs as and when they need upgrading. The company's Fortune Theatre in the West End will be the first with the new technology, with the seats in the stalls being changed later this month.  ATG property director David Blyth said: "You know what it is like when you are at the theatre and you are half an hour or an hour in, and suddenly you start fidgeting around because you can't quite get comfortable. You get none of that."  He explained that ATG initially replaced a single seat in the Fortune Theatre. When customers who were couples booked the chair, the company asked them to swap seats at the interval. Blyth said around 80% of the test couples stated that the new seating was more comfortable.  The ProBax technology does not require changes to the seat frame, design or upholstery, and seats can be upgraded by changing the base cushion alone. Blyth said there was only a small additional cost per seat to upgrade to ProBax. The cushions are also expected to last longer than regular seating.

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