Does the symphony orchestra model have to change?

Posted on: November 10, 2009

In Tuesday’s (11/10) Huffington Post, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts President Michael Kaiser writes, “One of the Fellows participating in the Kennedy Center Arts Management Institute raised a serious question with me: can the traditional model of a symphony orchestra work in the United States? He observed that salaries are very high for musicians, conductors and guest artists, and ticket demand is not strong enough to cover most of these costs. … I cannot argue with this analysis. Somehow the cost structure for American orchestras has risen to the point that every orchestra is likely to struggle to make ends meet. I do believe that a group of elite orchestras will survive, and even thrive. These orchestras will have the support of their communities, a large thriving fund-raising program and, of course, exciting art. But the number of orchestras that will be able to achieve this status will be limited.” Musicians’ salaries are often an easy target when it comes to cuts, Kaiser notes. “In many cases, radical restructuring can be avoided if musicians and administrators embark on a reasonable, long-term planning process that addresses marketing strategies, fundraising approaches, and artistic initiatives. In other words, plans for activities that build revenue.” To read the full article click here. The League’s response will be posted on the comment board.

Posted November 10, 2009