“Don’t let Canada become the wasteland that is the Americas”

Today’s title is an excerpt from a reader comment protesting the decision by CBC Radio to disband the CBC Radio Orchestra after November, 2008. Although it’s heartening to read such a passionate reaction in response to eliminating a professional orchestra, I’m not certain if an appropriate response to the comment, as a citizen of the aforementioned wasteland, is "glad we could help" or "go to hell." Passionate rhetoric aside, the 4/1/2008 edition of CBCNews.ca published an article entitled Protesters demand CBC Radio Orchestra be saved which reports on a live demonstration by approximately 150 protesters demanding that CBC Radio rescind its decision to eliminate the CBC Radio Orchestra…

The article
reports that the University of British Columbia cancelled classes for
all music students so they could attend the Vancouver protest rally and
quoted Canadian Music Centre
regional director Colin Miles as saying "This is our orchestra. We
demand that you rescind your decision and restore the CBC Radio
Orchestra to health." In addition to the Vancouver protest, orchestra
proponents have scheduled a live demonstration in Montreal on Friday,
April 4th and the more than 11,000 member Save Classical Music at the CBC Facebook group has established a multi-city "day of action" event entitled Raise a Ruckus for Radio Two! on Friday, April 11, 2008.

Whether an odd coincidence or deliberate attempt to play down the decision to disband the orchestra, the CBC Radio Orchestra website
(hosted and managed by CBC Radio) has no mention of plans to eliminate
the ensemble, which the homepage describes as a "legacy." In fact, CBC
radio promotes the ensemble with the slogan "There’s nothing else like


Further reading:


About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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3 thoughts on ““Don’t let Canada become the wasteland that is the Americas””

  1. I don’t know if the situation in Canada is similar to that in the USA, but there were a number of factors present that were favorable to the formation of network organizations, as well as the broadcasting of non-radio orchestras, in the USA. Foremost among these factors were the following:

    -Radio networks and stations needed staff musicians. Therefore, the networks and stations had to respond to the demands of the musicians union. The union specified that each network have a staff symphony orchestra and most stations have staff musicians.

    -Networks and stations were obliged to devote a set proportion of their time to “broadcasting in the public interest.” Religious broadcasting and music broadcasts were a cheap way to meet this demand.

    -since it was hard to sell time on Sunday morning and early afternoon, this time was filled with religious broadcasts, musical shows, and other “sustaining” (ie, unsponsored) shows.

    -new broadcasts occupied much less time than they do today (then, they took up some half hour or less of the daily broadcasts; today, they take up some two to four — or more –hours), so stations had more time to fill and, once again, musical shows were a cheap answer.

    -programming for children was limited to about and hour’s worth of 15-minute shows broadcast late afternoons daily (Air Adventures of Jimmy Allen, Buck Rogers, Jack Armstrong), Sunday morning, and perhaps Saturday. This also left room for more music programming.

    -networks were less rapacious and would accept shows with modest, but loyal, audiences.

    In short, the elimination of music from broadcast time is not directly corelated to a drop in interest for concert music. We have to acknowledge come degree of cause and effect; nevertheless, the loss of broadcast time is not directly related to a loss in public interest.

    Yes, it is sorry that the last radio orchestra in North America has gone belly up. But it is not as portentous an event as we think.

    Paul Alter

  2. I would be glad to see the CBC Orchestra saved, but the idea that the loss of one orchestra, or even the loss of the entire classical music industry, would turn a nation into a “wasteland” is pretty offensive. . .

    I suppose the best thing to say here is that passions run deep when orchestras are unjustly eliminated.

  3. I’m a proud Canadian and I’m proud to be taking part in the upcoming protests against the CBC’s efforts to distance itself from classical music. But I have never seen Canadian and American orchestras as being separate issues – to me they seem the same sort of creature trying to survive under fairly similar circumstances. We’re all in the same boat, so to speak: we’re all struggling to fill seats, balance budgets and attract sponsors. There are many fine Canadian musicians in fine American orchestras, and vice versa! We, as musicians and music lovers, have nothing to gain from making poorly considered nationalistic remarks.

    well put Mike!

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“Don't let Canada become the wasteland that is the Americas”