In case you missed it, WQXR hosted a live discussion panel webcast titled American Orchestras: Endangered Species? yesterday which you can watch online at wqxr.org or in the embedded video after the break. In complete candor, I haven’t watched the entire session yet myself but I was disappointed at the onset by phrasing of the initial question from host and WQXR VP Graham Parker…
“Dire changes for Detroit, Philadelphia, [and] Louisville. Chapter 7 for New Mexico, Syracuse, and Honolulu. Are we actually in a Crisis or is this just things as normal? Who wants to start?”
At which point Tony Woodcock, President of the New England Conservatory, jumps in.
“It’s a crisis. And until we face up to it being a crisis and get our arms around it as a problem, we won’t be able to find a solution.”
Wonderful. So we have a crisis. What exactly is the crisis about? That seemed to be a reasonable follow up question but if you were wondering the same thing, you’ll be disappointed as the moderator simply asks if anyone disagrees.
Fortunately for the panel, they have a willing participant in Ray Hair, President of the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada, who was all too eager to rush into a logical fallacy that any first year angel would have been wary to tread.
Hair’s reply was everything you’d expect (and because he likes you, the hyperbole is free of charge) and by the end of it we still have no idea what the crisis is referencing (although we do find out that Woodcock thinks Hair is the problem).
Is “the crisis” a shortage of bankruptcy attorneys? Perhaps it’s referring to the oversupply of musicians being produced by conservatories and schools of music. Maybe it’s the complete lack of preparation and training musicians receive when joining committees to represent their colleagues. Wait, could it be the seemingly willful deficiency of transparency and accountability within too many professional orchestra administrations?
At this point, I had to hit the pause button. Within the first few minutes, the entire event seemed to be unfolding along the lines of predetermined outcomes. No one bothered to define “crisis” or juxtapose the Detroit fiasco and the bankruptcies alongside the equal numbers of healthy, extraordinary examples of groups doing well during the economic downturn (LA, San Francisco, Nashville, Chicago, etc.).
Instead, the moderator let it devolve into a battle of stereotypes and yes, that’s fun to watch in a sort of sad but sorry reality show sort of way, but I’m not sure how productive it is
I’m going to try watching the rest of the video over the weekend for a more comprehensive perspective. Hopefully, it will end up in a better place than it started.
I’m curious to know what everyone thinks, especially if you’ve watched the entire 76:30 session.
Postscript: I watched another 30 minutes of the video before reaching my next limit and jotted down the following thoughts:
- Since when does a panelist tell the moderator which topics to talk about and when to do it?
- Does Ray Hair even know what orchestra musicians do for a living?
- It would have been nice to see more of a balanced panel.
- The moderator asked Hair and Parsons to step around to the other side of the bargaining table. Spoiler: they both saw things from their original point of view. So that’s what being open minded is all about.
- Apparently, Tony Woodcock doesn’t know any creative adults. How very sad for him.
- Shhhhh. Don’t tell Anne Parsons that orchestras besides LA and Boston have pops series.
- Good to see that WQXR listeners think ticket prices are too high.
- Anne Parsons may know that she’s not supposed to talk about their own organization but that didn’t seem to stop her. It’s fun to break the rules.
- I wish they would let Eric Jacobsen talk more.
- I still have no clue what the crisis is from the first part of the discussion or what the direction is moving forward.
- So far, I’m glad to see the event unfolding, but it is decidedly a first attempt and has substantial room for improvement.