Polyphonic Member Login

Lost your username or password?

Not a member yet?
Sign Up for Free!

Register How to Create a Profile

Category: Sustainability

Millennial America

0 Peter Sachon

Orchestras need to offer compelling reasons for millennials to make live symphonic music a part of their lives.  After all, millennials are the largest generation in human history, and at nearly 90 million people they will very soon make up the vast majority of our orchestras’ stakeholders, constituents, audience, staff members and supporters – and

Read More →

Madame Butterfly is not a business strategy

0 Robert Levine

After 50 years, the San Diego Opera is shutting down because… it’s just too hard: The San Diego Opera shocked many in the arts world by announcing it will cease operations at the end of the current season, citing a tough fundraising environment and weak ticket sales. The company’s board voted to shut down rather

Read More →

Memphis Symphony Crisis Management

0 Michael Barar

Michael Barar is a violist with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, and serves as their representative to ROPA. Exactly one week ago from the time I am writing this, the board of directors of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra was holding its regular quarterly meeting. Most readers who follow arts journalism and the blogosphere surrounding goings on

Read More →

Why you don’t want your orchestra’s name to start with “M”

0 Robert Levine

First Minnesota, then Milwaukee, and now … Memphis: Following in the tumultuous footsteps of its Nashville counterpart, the Memphis Symphony Orchestra announced that it is facing a financial crisis that will require “aggressive steps” to complete the current season. “The Memphis Symphony Orchestra celebrates decades of accomplishments thanks to a committed group of patrons, musicians

Read More →

Baumol’s common cold

0 Robert Levine

Musicians who have had the privilege and pleasure (dubious, in some cases) of discussing the future of professional orchestras with experts of various stripes are all too familiar with Baumol’s Cost Disease. The best description comes from the economist who came up with the concept, William Baumol: Any economic activity affected by it will tend

Read More →

Armistice Day on the Northern Front

1 Robert Levine

There’s been what intelligence analysts call “chatter” for a few weeks about a settlement in Minnesota being close. I heard some new chatter in the past couple of days, which led me to to set up a Google watch on the news. About twenty minutes ago, the official news came through, after some preliminary reports

Read More →

Another missed opportunity

3 Robert Levine

The great Israeli diplomat Abba Eban famously remarked, after the 1973 Geneva Peace Conference, that “the Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” The same could be said of the Board of the Minnesota Orchestra. At their annual meeting yesterday, the Board passed on the perfect moment to let the current board chair

Read More →

Our conspiratorial industry

15 Robert Levine

One of the more intriguing aspects to the psychology of our industry is a general propensity to conspiratorial thinking. It’s not hard to find amongst musicians; the widespread belief that the League of American Orchestras A National Service Organization is behind all our woes is the best-known example, but conspiracy theories fester within orchestras as

Read More →

Bringing Down the Sky: From Great to Good in Minnesota

3 Michael Manley

I. The Tornado and the Plow Horse I recently plugged the words “Salieri” and “Festival” into Google, which limped back with a meager Salieri Opera Festival of 2010, presented by Fondazione Fioroni in Verona, Italy. Curious, I added “2013” to the search, and Google came back with only three results, none of which led to

Read More →

No good news from the Northern Front (with update)

0 Robert Levine

Today is what most observers are assuming is the deadline for a settlement in Minnesota that will keep Osmo Vänskä and the November Carnegie concerts in the picture. It doesn’t appear that negotiations are going well, though. One indication of that is the management offer of last week, made with great public fanfare and certainly

Read More →

Bought and paid for

3 Robert Levine

The Minnesota Orchestra leadership released a “financial review” yesterday. Most of the coverage, though, focused on remarks made by MO board negotiating chair Richard Davis, who told the Star Tribune editorial board that he was prepared to say bye-bye to music director Osmo Vänskä, the upcoming Carnegie concerts, and the opening of the newly-renovated Orchestra

Read More →

No Time At All

0 Peter Sachon

Just like Rip Van Winkle, American orchestras have been asleep for twenty years. Season after season of the same repertoire, played again and again for generations until the idea of an orchestra participating in modern musical life seems outrageous. Last week, the League of American Orchestras focused their annual conference around the idea of “Imagining Orchestras in

Read More →

Modern Times

2 Peter Sachon

Half of the fun of watching Mad Men is observing how dramatically American society has changed since the 1960’s.  The characters’ constant drinking and homophobia make us blush, and we notice how far attitudes have shifted towards everything from smoking to sexism.  Our lives in America have changed so thoroughly since then that looking back

Read More →

Breaking Up with Beethoven

0 Peter Sachon

Go out to hear an orchestra concert tonight and chances are the orchestra will be playing Beethoven.  The most recent Orchestra Repertoire Report, from ’09 – ’10, details that 137 orchestras in America performed Beethoven’s music 457 times that season.  His ninth, seventh, and fifth symphonies were ranked first, second and third respectively among the

Read More →

An Indexed Financial Model for Symphony Orchestras

0

This article by Michael Drapkin was first published in October of 2011. In it, Michael describes a different orchestra financial model–how the financial stakeholders of an orchestra i.e., the musicians, staff, conductors could share in the economic success or failure of their orchestra. There is definite risk/reward here, if instituted by an orchestra it would

Read More →

Big Tent Thinking

3 Peter Sachon

History is filled with people who have tried to define art.  They have all been wrong, and there is no reason to suspect we are any better at it than they were. Changes to what experts call “Art” happen all the time.  There was a time when people questioned whether photography constituted fine art.  Some

Read More →

Cooking the books

11 Robert Levine

This is a pretty amazing story: For four years, the Minnesota Orchestra board has walked a tightrope between managing public perceptions about its financial health and making its case to cut musicians’ salaries. As early as 2009, board officers were discussing how much money to draw from investments, and the advantage of reporting balanced budgets

Read More →

Beyond Prestige

1 Peter Sachon

In the American system, the arts are funded mostly through indirect subsidies.  Our government’s tax policies toward charitable giving elicit billions of dollars in contributions annually.  The beauty of this system is that it not only allows the citizens to determine which not-for-profits benefit a civil society, but also it does not require the government

Read More →

Osmo joins the party

0 Robert Levine

It’s been a bad week for the management of the Minnesota Orchestra, and this very public letter from their Music Director was was likely the cherry on the cake: Dear Members of the Minnesota Orchestra Board and the Musicians of the Orchestra: In the last few years, the Minnesota Orchestra has truly established itself as

Read More →

Managements not part of the reality-based community

4 Robert Levine

The musicians of the locked-out Minnesota Orchestra and the locked-out Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra got some helpful press today from Minnesota Public Radio: Locked-out musicians at the Minnesota and St. Paul Chamber Orchestras have been warning of a dangerous decline in artistic quality if they accept new contracts sought by management. They say the severe

Read More →

Who’s Afraid of Popular Culture?

1 Peter Sachon

A recent missed opportunity for orchestras in New York City came in late October in the form of Comic Con.  The New York Comic Con is an annual New York City fan convention dedicated to comics, graphic novels, anime, manga, video games, toys, movies, and television.  Comic Con is an event that brings more than 100,000 people

Read More →

When bad boards happen to good orchestras

1 Robert Levine

There’s a very interesting story going around the Twin Cities, but this one’s about baseball. Apparently the management of the Minnesota Twins has decided that they need a retractable roof after all, for about a $100 million price tag. The chances of public funding are essentially zero, so the management is planning to reduce player

Read More →

Minnesota nasty

0 Robert Levine

Minnesotans are known for being averse to conflict, generous to arts and educational groups of all kinds, and generally plain-spoken (unless, of course, such speaking would lead to conflict). So, on top of the ongoing Minnesota Orchestra lock-out, this comes as a shock, even if not a surprise: The Twin Cities’ distinctive status in the

Read More →

The rest of the ugly

0 Robert Levine

Although the guts of the Minnesota proposal (and the damage done by it) lie in the economics, there is plenty of other stuff not to like as well. In particular, there are loads of changes proposed to work rules; far more than one would expect in a normal negotiation, much less one in which the

Read More →

Minnesota by the numbers

1 Robert Levine

In an act of remarkable generosity, Drew McManus not only obtained the actual proposal made to the Minnesota Orchestra by management but posted it on his Adaptistration website. I know he’s planning on some analysis, but it was too tempting a document for me to resist reading and writing about any longer. So here are

Read More →

My kingdom for a decent news article

0 Robert Levine

ICSOM Chair Bruce Ridge has joined the ranks of those writing about the underlying causes of the current situation in our industry, although of course he is hardly new to the party, having written extensively about the problems in the orchestra business for Senza Sordino over the years. It’s an interesting piece in many respects;

Read More →

The reason why

5 Robert Levine

It seems inherent in human nature to look for someone to blame when bad things happen. Bad things have been happening in our field of late (or at least to a higher-than-usual number of orchestras), so those on the receiving end – who are mostly, although not exclusively, musicians – look for an enemy who

Read More →

Gold in them thar toobs?

0 Robert Levine

Think “orchestral institutions” as “artists” in this article and some interesting questions emerge: Are we finally entering the age of the digital cultural entrepreneur (DCE)? That is, has it now become possible for a gifted artist or writer to control the reins of his or her career from a laptop, scheduling gigs, selling books or

Read More →

Didn’t work

0 Robert Levine

The Los Angeles Philharmonic has pulled the plug on its attempt to emulate the Metropolitan Opera’s successful series of live broadcasts to movie theaters: When the Los Angeles Philharmonic launched its series of live broadcasts to cinemas in 2011, the organization touted it as an innovative program intended to broaden the popular reach of the

Read More →

One Wow and One Uh-Oh

1 Robert Levine

This letter appeared in Saturday’s Minneapolis StarTribune: As former music directors of the Minnesota Orchestra, we came to the state because we believe that it wants and deserves to have a world-class orchestra. We are proud of the cultural gem we have built, with the musicians, for more than half a century. It required long

Read More →

Peter Dobrin says it all

0 Robert Levine

This article by Peter Dobrin of the Philadelphia Inquirer is the best reporting on the current crisis yet to appear. Go read the whole thing: …What someone is willing to pay for orchestral musicians in this country has changed radically in recent weeks. Yes, a brief strike last month by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra resulted

Read More →

A bad settlement in Atlanta

0 Robert Levine

The musicians of the Atlanta Symphony voted to ratify a tentative settlement that was pretty much what ASO management (or perhaps the Woodruff Center) wanted all along: Symphony Orchestra accepted a new collective bargaining agreement Wednesday, barely averting a postponement of the fall season. The deal will cost players $5.2 million in compensation over two

Read More →

Guest Bloggers: Quartetutopia by Nicholas Kitchen

0 Tony Woodcock

[Nick Kitchen is the founding first violinist of the Borromeo Quartet, ensemble in residence at NEC. In addition to receiving the Artist Diploma from NEC, the quartet has gone on to win the 2007 Avery Fisher Career Grant, Lincoln Center's … Continue reading

Read More →