The presence of professional orchestra in a city or community can have a profound effect on that community's artistic life, educational opportunities and cultural profile.
With its concerts and events, a professional orchestra constantly offers artistic experiences to residents. Beyond that, the presence of 90-some professional musicians as residents helps provide teachers for serious students in a community, and it brings the perspective of working artists into the fabric of the community. A quality professional orchestra can represent its community, bringing a sense of pride and prestige and representing it for important occasions.
I've lived in a number of different cities of different sizes: Cleveland, Denver, Chicago, Cincinnati, Omaha, Los Angeles, Pasadena. Each had a unique relationship with its orchestra. I was actually born in Cleveland, and I remember well the reverence that every member of my extended family had for the Cleveland Orchestra, whose high quality and presence were (and I imagine still are) a point of deep civic pride. While I did not grow up there, every summer visit to my grandparents involved going to a concert at the beautiful Blossom Music Center, and I held that orchestra in awe. I did grew up in Denver, where the orchestra was an important presence, but at the time it was also under constant strain and change. Eventually the Denver Symphony folded, then rose again as the Colorado Symphony, which seems to have grown stronger. Chicago is where I went to college, and of course the Chicago Symphony is legendary, and again, that area of the American Midwest is full of high-level conservatories and orchestras. Omaha, Nebraska is a smaller city, out on the American Great Plains, and at the time I lived there, its symphony drew on musicians locally and also from elsewhere in the country, making it one of the more cosmopolitan organizations in town.
In Los Angeles, I arrived shortly before Disney Hall opened, and that made a huge difference in the city's cultural life as well as the Los Angeles Philharmonic's growth. Gustavo Dudamel's commitment to both education and excellence has also increased the orchestra's international stature as well as local relevance. More locally, I live in the LA suburb of Pasadena, where the Pasadena Symphony has had its ups and downs financially, but ultimately has increased its presence and connection in the community and has a strong, if limited, season.
How is your local professional orchestra doing? Do you still have one in your community? Is it troubled, or is it thriving? What would make it thrive even more?
For this vote, I'd just like a report from everyone on their local professional orchestra. Please answer the poll as best as you can, and then please fill us in on these kinds of questions: First, what is the name of your local orchestra (s)? About how many concerts does your local orchestra give in a year? Is there a summer season? Are there "big" concerts, with a lot of musicians and community involvement, or do they tend to be pretty scaled-back? Are there public disputes and problems, such as financial problems, strikes, etc.? Have you been to one of the concerts recently? How is the quality of the ensemble? Has it improved over time, gone downhill, or remained the same? Does it feel like the orchestra has a presence in the community - is it marketing itself well? Does it do educational programs? Anything else?
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