Your opinion on the impact of the financial crises on classical music.

October 12, 2008 at 06:16 PM · The current financial crisis is becoming the tail wagging the dog in almost every area. Even in the best of times, classical music as a career and as a "business," being in part entertainment, in part fine art, in part education, and in part who knows what else, is not usually an easy arena in which to build a successful career. What impact do you think the current financial crisis is going to have?

Replies (59)

October 12, 2008 at 06:37 PM · Presumably negative on all fronts. High-value instruments will become a safe haven for investors, support for orchestras will diminish as those who can afford large-scale philanthropy will cut back donations as their wealth evaporates, musicians will look for day jobs.

The only bright spot might be development and/or expansion of community orchestras, which would be able to provide decent music at reasonable cost; but only to the extent that a given community is willing and able to provide an audience.

My hope for classical music in general is for a re-invigoration thru this sort of involvement. So long as it is priced out of all but the most elite strata of society, it will eventually wither. But given exposure and training in schools, it should be possible to train and develop interest in today's children. Sadly, arts in general are not seen as worthy of taxpayers' support, especially in hard times. (Blame ubiquitous sources of recorded music for eliminating the need for musicians in general).

Of course, if we end with total system collapse, and end up with village-sized feudalism as the highest order of social organisation, muisicians will again be needed locally. So mayhap we should hope for that outcome?

October 12, 2008 at 07:16 PM · It depends on the location, the exact sector, and the organization.

I imagine that parents whose children are currently taking lessons are generally of the economic strata (and mindset) that can afford to continue them.

Orchestras in vulnerable areas of the country, such as Detroit, Cleveland, or other rust-belt cities, will experience pain, but much will depend on how those orchestras have been managed: did management stick to a tight budget, or blow money on frivolities? Is the endowment being prudently managed? What about long-term commitments to expensive conductors or stars? Overly-generous pension promises? My prediction is that orchestras on the low and high ends will do well, but that the ones in the middle (who constantly aspire to be bigger and better) will feel the pinch. I don't foresee a drop in attendance. The need for diversion goes on.

Right now I'm glad to be a kayaker on the tide of the economy, rather than a passenger on the Titanic.

October 12, 2008 at 07:31 PM · Private lessons can add to a lot when there is more than 1 kid in the family taking lessons. Some parent will naturally cut back in these times. Maybe teachers (esp high end ones) can consider reducing their rates?

October 12, 2008 at 09:10 PM · High end, much sought after teachers will not be lowering their hourly rate. Marginal teachers, without established credentials will. The highest paid teachers around the country all seem to be big city orchestra members, i.e., NY Philadelphia, Chicago, LA, etc.

October 13, 2008 at 12:25 AM · I am afraid to say that the current financial crisis is extremely serious. There is a high probability of a severe recession, and the risk is present for something outright catastrophic. I am an enthusiast of the economic history of the Great Depression.

People may not realize that there is $ 516 TRILLION in derivatives floating around in the world. About $12 trillion in US mortgages are present, and about $1 trillion of them have gone bad. Many of those are unregualted sub-prime mortgages and are insured, spreading the pain to the companies that insured them. Because of the derivatives triggering unexpected financial events and the insurance on those bad mortgage securities, which are spread around like poison to many institutions, the entire system is chained together and could collapse.

It's like a group of mountain climbers. When three fall, they all go down together. That is the fear: that everything will collapse like a house of cards. I'm afraid that three climbers have already fell.

That is why the government had to take-over AIG. AIG wrote many of the insurance guarantees on the bad mortgages. Had AIG failed, all the institutions around the world holding those securities would have had to write-down massive amounts of lossos. It would been a financial Chernoble. The key is stop the first few dominoes from falling any further.

Pople may not realize that Fannie Mae holds more dept than any country in the world, except the United States. Had Fannie Mae been allowed to fail, we would have seen the world economy end as we know it.

Had it not been for the efforts of the Federal Reserve to flood the system with massive liquidity ($650 billion in one day) over for the last several months, the world would have fallen into another Great Depression.

The US stock market has already lost 8 trillion in value. Last week was the worst week in US stock market history. The balance sheets of many companies and institutions have been hit hard. Now you can't get a loan, even if your credit is good. That is causing businesses to fail, leading to lay-offs. We have seen this before. It was called the Great Depression.

First some background. There were several causes of the Great Depression. However, the bottom line is that a severe contraction on the money flow in the economy caused the global economy to collapse. The biggest cause of the money contraction was the collapse of the American banking system. Over 10,000 banks collapsed.

Citizens rushed to get their money out of the banks, causing bank runs. That left the banks with little money to lend, which led to less money flowing into the economy.

Banks also were afraid to make new loans, because they were afraid they would not get their money back on those loans. Credit crawled to a standstill.

Preceding the collapse, credit was loose and speculation was rampant during the 1920s. You could buy stocks on margin at a leveraged ratio of 100-to-1. If you bought 1, you could borrow for 99 more. Land prices in Florida skyrocketed as loose credit bid up asset prices. The stock market soared. Then it all came crashing down when the money flow contracted. People with 100-1 margins got calls to cover their massive losses, wiping out everything they owned. The stock market lost 90% of it's value.

To prevent this from happening again, President Franklin Roosevelt passed several measures as part of the New Deal. The FDIC insured bank deposits so people would not rush to pull their money out of banks in panic. There has never again been another bank panic. He created the SEC to bring rules to the securities market, banning 100-to-1 leverage stock buying and forcing companies to produce audited financial statements. He stabilized the mortgage market with the HOLC, which saved millions of mortgages from default. He created the FHA which invented 30-year insured mortgages for the middle class, which brought homeownership to millions, if they could qualify. The Federal Reserve Open Market Committee was created to better control the money supply by adjusting interest rates. FDR created the Glass-Stegall Act to put a firewall between investment banks and commercial banks, so that a crisis on Wall Street would not spread to the banking industry. Banks were also required to keep certain percentages of high-quality capital reseves (such as treasury notes) so they can withstand a spike in bad loans and deposit withdrawals. Thankfully, most of the New Deal safeguards are still in place today to keep the fire contained.

Unfortunately, some of those safeguards were repealed or weakened in the last 28 years. The Glass-Stegall Act was partially repealed, removing the firewall between Wall Street and traditional banks. Unregulated sub-prime mortgages were allowed, which never would have been approved under previous guidelines. Now we have trillions of dollars of bad mortgages going bust, spreading to several sectors of the finance industry, after a period of speculation and loose credit.

What is happening now is that credit has frozen. Banks are scared to lend because they think they will not get paid back. Banks need to lend to each other overnight to balance each other's books, but they are all afraid to do that because they other bank may not be around tomorrow. We may have mass unemployment next year so they do not want to lend to businesses.

This is what is called a liquidity trap. Interest rates could fall to zero percent and still few loans would be made due to fear. You could give businesses massive tax cuts but they will not invest it in investment projects, such as factories and new products, due to fear of losing on those investments. If you see a massive recession coming, you are not going to make any new investments.

The money stops flowing.

What happens next is critical to stopping this from spiraling into another Depression. First, credit needs to start flowing again. The current credit freeze in extremely dangerous and must be fixed soon. The government needs to create incentives to get lending and investing activity going again. Tax cuts are not enough, because people will simply sit on the money. Giving consumers money to spend might help, because that creates demand. Government investing in roads, bridges, health care, etc. Ultimately the private sector money flow needs to get flowing again.

If this does not happen soon, this will lead to sharp job layoffs, which causes other layoffs, etc. The key is stop the dominoes from falling much further. The low cards on the house of cards need to be propped-up fast.

The good news is that many safeguards are still in place. The Federal Reserve has pumped hundreds of billions of dollars of liquidity into the system to keep the system stable until the crisis pass. Banks that need overnight money can borrow as much as needed from the Fed.

Frankly, the economy is like a patient in cardiac arrest. The Fed is performing CPR until the pulse comes back. Right now everything is going fine, but at some point the patient needs to start coming around. The credit system needs to become unfrozen. Credit flow is the lubrication of the economy.

Japan refused to fully address their banking problem a couple decades ago, and it led to a full decade of flat growth. Fortunately, the world seems to be serious about addressing this right now. If they do that, we will probably see only a nasty recession for a year or two. Otherwise, this could be a catastrophic debacle. Also, the world needs to work together otherwise one country will simply spread the pain to another country, which is what happened in the Great Depression. We recently saw this kind of behavior in Ireland when the Bank of Ireland announced it would insure all deposits no matter how large, and England experiened a massive flood of bank transfers to Ireland.

Also, monthly government spending, such as Social Security, contributes a continuous stream of stimulus spending into the economy every month, so the economy can only fall so far. Back in the days of the Great Depression, this was not the case. When private sector spending contracted, it had a huge affect on the economy. That impact has now been dampened.

This is just my quick opinion written quickly. Nobody really knows what is going to happen. I moved all my investments to government securities, because the level of risk now is sky-high. Plan for a nasty recession next year. Hope it is nothing much worse.

October 13, 2008 at 12:20 AM · Thank you for the great insights on the history of the economic woes we find today. In my opinion, I am noticing an increased bombardment by arts/educational organizations for donations. In my box right now are at least 4 request donations for "capital campaigns" and "legacy" type donation requests. It seems to me the arts need to get over their ownership issues a bit and pool more resources quickly. For example, why are facilities rented from one arts organization to another instead of doing gifts in kind? That seems a lot smarter to me. In general there are too many non-profit organizations with goals that overlap. Museums, orchestras, zoos, parks, aquariums etc. need to pool more resources and not set up all these separate organizations that compete for the same dollars. If I joined every organization I could spend a fortune. I would rather buy one pass to all of it somehow. Almost every museum, zoo etc has a performance space which they should use more and let other organizations use if nothing is scheduled. So what we end up with are a bunch of buildings that are under utilized and always begging for money and memberships from the same customers. Most people can't join every museum, orchestra, public radio, tv, orchestra, chamber group or school benefit. Plus add in all the homeless shelteres, school fund raisers, food pantries, and other causes, get my drift.

We have been invited to serve on many boards for art and community organizations and we always say no because it drives us nuts to watch the process of how these places run. As a family who is generous to the arts, we are aware they keep coming back to our little well over and over, looking for the easy money, instead of getting smart about how they operate. I am not very sympathetic but have my favorite organizationd I guess. They operate in the mindset of "OPM" (other people's money) For example, they think donors want to go to these gala events which we hate attending. Who really goes to those things? Another one is silent auctions. Who needs more stuff? I don't know about you but these events are a drag and we usually give our tickets to someone else. If you're really "lucky" (read: give them a bundle) you get invited to even more events. I know the goal is to recognize giving but you have to wonder why the organizations with so much talent can not sustain themselves a little bit better.

October 13, 2008 at 12:08 AM · Thank you all for your excellent ideas and incites. In particular, thank you, Todd, for that brilliant summary of the great stock market crash of 1929, how we live with the results yet today, and it's impact on what is happening right now. If anyone else wants to chime in, please do. This is much too important for anyone interested in the future of classical music to ignore - personally or professionally.

Cheers, Sandy

October 13, 2008 at 12:15 AM · Sander,

That orchestra in the park bandshell in Chicago is one of the greatest things I have ever seen. The Millenium Park I think they call it. That is a pretty high mark for outreach and classical music.

October 13, 2008 at 01:19 AM · the problem with so called "insurance" mentioned by todd is actually not insurance but swaps. in a nut shell, insurance is regulated by feds and ins company must put reserve in place in case of a payout. to bypass this fed reg, wall street came up with swap in case of default. simply stated, it is an IOU without any reserve (imagine that!). while the going was good, no problem. with the sheet hit the fan, there was no payout because no payout was ever established. one option is to file bankrupcy, but feds step in, throwing good money after bad. currently there are so many layers of swaps out there, reaching every cracks of the global economy, that no one even knows how much bad debts have been incurred as a result. the feds have enough money to pump into this dark hole? really, how would you know if you have no idea the depth of the hole?

end of american capitalism, that is, getting rich with other people's money?,,,dunno.

end of classical music sponsors? hope not, but some big wall street players, those prominently listed on the last 2 pages of the playbill, will have to think hard being patrons in the near future. BUT CLASSICAL MUSIC ITSELF WILL RIDE OUT ANY STORM BECAUSE THE PEOPLE WILL ALWAYS CHERISH IT ONE WAY OR ANOTHER.

personally, i highly doubt people would flock into high end violins as a captial presevation venue. going from getting involved with unknown mortgage deals to buying violins of all things in the universe? are you kidding me? :):):)

cash is king for a long time to come because one thing is lacking: trust.

October 13, 2008 at 01:12 AM · Cutbacks in everything. It may not be noticable to the general public, but I can attest that the professional musician may suffer. I have experienced it personally, even in the best of times. Already, my students are canceling their lessons, due to the price of gas, and in the interest of saving money. I understand this completly, and am thankful I have other avenues of income set up. I only hope that education, overall, will not be to affected. It is already in a dismal state as it is. It is done in order to keep budget at a level of consistant and productive operation. Without the cutbacks, operations could be diminished and profits would suffer. We will just have to ride out the storm and be prepared.

October 13, 2008 at 02:57 AM · If I may some it up in 1 sentence: I think we're all screwed if this thing does spiral out of control.

Satisfied with that answer?

**Edited, happy?

October 13, 2008 at 01:03 PM · One thing that could be addressed is the high cost of soloist and conductor fees.

October 13, 2008 at 01:43 AM · Economies are local. If a sponsor moves to your town because they can't afford to move to Beverly Hills anymore, you'll have a high high.

But the U.S. isn't even in a recession (last I heard). We were a couple of years ago. If you noticed it :))

October 13, 2008 at 01:48 AM · jim,, may want to look up the definition of a recession yourself:)

October 13, 2008 at 01:51 AM · You're a real do it yourselfer aren't you?

October 13, 2008 at 02:04 AM · Nobody knows what will happen. We are probably entering the worst recession in half a century, according to a Wall Street Journal Survey of Economists:

"The U.S. economy has sunk into a recession and government action is critical to stem the damage, according to economists in the latest Wall Street Journal forecasting survey. 'We're in the middle of a very dark tunnel,' said Brian Fabbri of BNP Paribas, referring to the worsening credit crunch. 'Each day we see another crack in the system.'

"...The 52 economists surveyed now expect U.S. gross domestic product to contract in the third and fourth quarters of this year, as well as the first quarter of 2009... it would mark the first time U.S. GDP -- the total value of goods and services produced -- has contracted for three consecutive quarters in more than a half century. Economists put the odds of recession in the next 12 months at 89%..."

"The new administration will have to get up to speed quickly, taking over the largest government intervention since the Great Depression..."

The third quarter was July-Sept. The call will not be made until the quarterly statistics are gathered and studied.

October 13, 2008 at 02:06 AM · We are entering a recession, according to a Wall Street Journal Survey of Economists:

"The U.S. economy has sunk into a recession and government action is critical to stem the damage, according to economists in the latest Wall Street Journal forecasting survey.


"Recession" has a definition. It's not the result you get from a survey. You're here to tell scary stories. Cool, it is close to Halloween :)

October 13, 2008 at 02:32 AM · "This is just my quick opinion written quickly. Nobody really knows what is going to happen. I moved all my investments to government securities, because the level of risk now is sky-high."

This is why the markets have crashed: panic!!!! So what will you do--buy into the market when the prices go higher?

Personally, I'll be shoveling any spare cash into the mutual funds in my IRA. Why? I like getting things at a discount. My focus is not on whether or not my share values have fallen this week--it's how many shares I can accumulate for when the market recovers. And it will recover.

October 13, 2008 at 04:43 AM · Scott, generally your strategy is a correct one, and that may be what happens now. Buy when stocks go on sale after overselling. If you miss the five best up days of a year, you miss almost all of the gain that year. But that has not always been the case in past history.

RISK/RETURN: My view is that I judge potential return in the context of risk. A couple weeks ago I judged risk to be too high. (I also did back in the spring but figured I made a false alarm.)

Two measures of risk are the TED spread and the Libor-OIS spread, which indicate the health of the financial system. The TED spread is the difference between the interest rates paid between quality banks for interbank lending (3-month dollar-denominated loans) and the interest rate on 3-month Treasury bills. Usually, the bank rate is nearly the same as the Fed rate. But now the spread has spiked sharply, suggesting great risk to the financial system. This would be like taking the blood pressure of a patient and it's sky high.

It means that banks are afraid of a severe credit event sometime in the next few months, which means they would rather take the lower interest rate paid by the Treasury than take a higher profit by lending to another quality bank at a higher interest rate.

Buying low does guarantee that stock will go up soon. The US stock market went sideways for almost the entire 1970s. After the Great Crash of 1929, the stock market rallied and then sold off over and over until about 90% of the value was wiped out by 1932. At the time, nobody knew they were entering an abyss. Hoover said it was a great buying opportunity.

WHEN TO BUY: Nobody knows. Watch to see if global leaders are able to coordinate a global solution to the crisis. Watch for news that credit is flowing again. Make sure no more big banks go under. If Citibank or JP Morgan are in trouble, we are all in trouble. Follow the TIPS spread. Beware that a recession is still probably unavoideable for at least a few months. Whoever is able to time such a turnaround, whenever it happens, will probably make money. That's what Warren Buffet did.

Buffet bought beaten-down blue chip stocks, such as Coca-Cola and Wells Fargo, in the 1970s at cheap prices and then made a killing in the 1980s when the stock market soared. But that strategy is not for everyone. Government bonds and prudence look pretty good right now. Good luck!

THE FUTURE: Here is a really good story in the New York Times about the long-term crisis America is facing due to the excess of debt today (for consumption and not investment) that will drain from the future, although America is flexible enought to adjust to these things, history shows: Power That May Not Stay Super

And here is another New York Times article that discusses the credit binge but offers a scenario as to how it will be simply but painfully addressed, and then we will move on to better and bigger things (as long as the tough medicine is taken): Post-Binge World

October 13, 2008 at 02:51 AM · See Laurie's blog of Oct.12. The decline of support for classical music has taken a nosedive lately, although it's been creeping down for a long time.

October 13, 2008 at 03:01 AM · For some reason I don't feel this $680 billion dollar injection will survive...

Hey they're planning to cut off the lotto in australia! =[

Hope is lost :P

Seriously though - if the nation is in debt, what about the people? There was a news report about Generation Y's and their bad credit spending sprees.. could those stereotypes be one such a reason for this?

Credit cards who needs them!

October 13, 2008 at 03:10 AM · Doing great here in Alaska, getting calls every day for more students after I just raised my rates.

Things cost a lot more than they did a couple of years ago, and I tend to complain about that, but it could definitely be much worse. George and I are getting ready to hunker down for winter, and we've stored up a bit extra, just in case.

My number one advice to everyone who reads this: Get out of debt as quickly as you can, and don't choose to go into debt right now if you can help it. (I know, I'm a real financial genius.)

October 13, 2008 at 03:22 AM · Emily, you are thinking on the right lines. That is the best advice I have come across yet on this forum.

October 13, 2008 at 04:33 AM · In other words: don't decide to go to college just right now if you can help it.

Whoops. Strike one, Charles.

October 13, 2008 at 04:55 AM · Well, if I were you, I wouldn't take out a loan to go to college. Wish I could give you my degree, since I'm not using it.

October 13, 2008 at 04:59 AM · Do you think that the violin market is:

a. buoyed by easy credit and represents a bubble of sorts maybe not as stark as housing/mortgages but a bubble nonetheless?

b. buoyed by purchases in the far east and decline of the dollar analagous to the price of oil?

c. none of the above?

October 13, 2008 at 05:10 AM · I think the effect of the economic crisis on classical music and the effect on the violin market are like comparing apples and fish.

Classical music is generally held in a venue that has a high level of sponsorship from a variety of sources, but I'll bet that most are supported by banks or other financial institutions for a large part of their budget. This is probably going to go away fairly quickly.

There are, however, some intermediate levels of organizations that will feel a benefit; increased participation because the instead of everyone trying for the majors, they will start to think local in their support.

Therefore, the stratification of participation will be reduced.

For teh violin market, however, it will probably tank, except for the top level, where there will still be investors with available funds. They will be a smaller pool, so the size of teh market will probably constrict, but it will probably not retract.

Players with budgets, on the other hand, or those with less than a serious interest in the market, will probably wait, compromise, etc. and the result will be similar to the housing market; until confidence comes back, the market will stay flabby.

Them's my two cents worth!

October 13, 2008 at 07:57 AM · wow, with comments such as these, no wonder so many musicians are slightly above poverty. I know not how to correct the extensive misconceptions.

For those who have the time, I suggest 2 things: watch "zeitgeist", as many times as you need to understand the message; and read ALL the blogs of Robert Higgs. (

October 13, 2008 at 09:36 AM · "wow, with comments such as these, no wonder so many musicians are slightly above poverty."

I am not sure what this means, exactly. It would be a rude thing to assume the financial status of the posters here, I would think.....

"I know not how to correct the extensive misconceptions."

But,this one says it all.

October 13, 2008 at 11:45 AM · "don't decide to go to college just right now if you can help it"

actually i do not see any logic in that. i would recommend that for a person who does not have immediate usable employable skills (entertainment, sports are the only 2 i can think of), it is extremely important to go to college but be careful to choose the right field, hopefully something you love:)

college education imo is the most valuable asset to one's career barring wacky exceptions. think long term and avoid risky behavior. with that piece of paper, more doors will be open.

i have seen people trying to "time" the stock market; any time for college is the right time!

October 13, 2008 at 01:06 PM · That is another thing that might have to give in the next few years: tuition at private music schools. Curtis excepted, aren't the big-name private schools up to 50K a year now? Can anyone really afford that? Are these schools' endowments big enough to float a complete student body? Will those endowments retain enough value to provide scholarships? Or will, quite frankly, what is really a vocational degree become a vanity degree for the wealthy?

October 13, 2008 at 02:40 PM · Anne wrote,

That is another thing that might have to give in the next few years: tuition at private music schools. Curtis excepted, aren't the big-name private schools up to 50K a year now? Can anyone really afford that? Are these schools' endowments big enough to float a complete student body? Will those endowments retain enough value to provide scholarships? Or will, quite frankly, what is really a vocational degree become a vanity degree for the wealthy?

Just as a point of information, there are other schools besides Curtis that are "tuition free", such as Colbern, which also offers free room and board, and the McDuffie program at Mercer University. Since I was at an information session for Juilliard on Saturday, I can tell you that the current tuition there is about $28K with about $11K for room and board (the latter a bargain for a Lincoln Center address.) This is slightly lower than other private conservatories such as NEC, but most of these places do offer scholarships and merit aid. The tuition at the Esther Boyer school at Temple University is $10K for in-state student. (I was at an info session there yesterday for a kid who is considering Temple's Tyler School of Art, which is slightly higher at $13K.)

I don't disagree with Anne's larger point. She is correct that a music degree, like a nursing degree, is essentially a vocational degree but without as good a promise of a future career as nursing.

In general, music conservatories don't have as large endowments as other types of colleges. At Juilliard, for example, admissions are need-blind, but they do not guarantee meeting 100% of demonstrated need as some colleges and universities are able to do. We were told that students are offered need-based scholarship on a merit ranking system after admission.

October 13, 2008 at 03:28 PM · J Kingston,

I have been thinking about what you wrote and I think you are correct on a number of points. I have been doing development and fundraising for years and it never ceases to amaze me how we leach on to our donors as if they are our saviours. On the flip side of it though I know plenty of donors that live for being invited to special events.

It is hard enough to run a non-profit than to collaborate with other non-profits. It can be done successfully with a knowledgeable staff but how often will you find truly capable staff in a field that pays non-profit salaries?

Musician would do well to remind themselves that the arts are considered a public service in the eyes of the government and we should not be dependent on high salaries. But try telling that to someone who paid $20-$30 tuition per year to attend conservatory. We all see the price tag of a YoYo Ma or Zuckerman appearance, many times going over $50,000 or even more for a conductor. A medical student will have to pay high tuition fees for many years but will ultimately gain it back within the first few years of employment.

In general a musician's attitude indicates that they think the audience is there for them when in fact the opposite is true. Organizations need to stop reaching out so much to individual donors and promoting elitism and reach out to government funding and educational support.

All the problems of this nation would be solved by quadrupling the budget and resources for education. It's the only way people will gain enough skills to get better jobs and become productive members of the economy. Plus it's the only way that children will get exposure and appreciation for the arts thereby giving hope to the future of the arts.

Where do we expect to be in 50 years if the American education system continuously ranks 26th in the world?

October 13, 2008 at 04:14 PM · Marina, #26 isn't necessarily a bad thing, say if what's passing for education is really a form of indoctrination, or if the ranking is of how much is spent per student, or etc. Years after I graduated from high school, I found out that the year I graduated, that state was #50 in education. Not only that, but the county high school I went to ranked last in the state. I joke that I had the certified worst high school education in the nation.

October 13, 2008 at 05:16 PM · I think the rating is based primarily on math skills and reading comprehension.

October 13, 2008 at 06:11 PM · Expenditure per student used to be the measure, I think. But you know, nobody uses math even as basic as algebra; and if you can't process info critically, it doesn't matter how well you read. Complicated stuff. The best thing to measure really might be happiness of the students five yrs after graduation :)

October 13, 2008 at 06:32 PM · Just for the record, I never said "don't decide to go to college just right now if you can help it."

I personally wouldn't take out a huge loan over it. Especially to be a musician. I'd be looking for a full ride scholarship, that's what.

October 13, 2008 at 10:18 PM · Wow, so much, so little. I'm retired and in good financial shape. I invest in a wide range of securities and bonds. I have been doing so for more years than I want to think about. I never panic. Buck up folks, the world is not coming to an end. This stuff has happened before and feeds on fear. Go to and see the video by the CEO. A very sane perspective, not coming from the talking heads on the cable networks.

October 13, 2008 at 11:19 PM · Great post as usual Marina.

I enjoy reading your post as they are always well thought out. Don't get me wrong some events are fun, but these arts organizations get really "stuck" when they smell money. Many of the educational outreach programs I have supported are really a delight. How can we conceptualize a world with classical music when the majority of children never hear any? Recently I attended an amazing chamber music series and I was one of the youngest people and believe me I am pretty old. I was pestering my son to go, but he had homework. If he had attended he would have been othe ONLY child to attend. If you can imagine it you can do it and if children don't have classical music in their imaginations they will never do it.

In some ways I panic more about the lack of imagination in music and schools than the lack of money. You can't always fix things with money. Artists who want to make money write jingles for commerials I think. This is unfortunate but if you like what money can buy, that is what you do in the arts. Same with painting. Many painters end up in the graphic arts because money can be very cool and is only a drag if you don't have any. They often plan to buy back their time somehow. So in the end, if the art organizations have a compelling story to tell, and can capture the imagination, people will part with some money even if it includes bidding on some junk at a silent auction. This is more easily the case if they have a good track record of delivering on their plans I think in a timely way. Imagination is the missing piece in my opinion.

Edit: Re imagination: Download the Podcast "Going Big" from This American Life. It shows how sometimes you need to suspend doubts and just go big for a worthwhile idea.

October 13, 2008 at 11:48 PM · Oh yeah? Where can I make money writing jingles for commercials?

We've got the cheapest gas in town

Don't you be out driving with a frown

When all the rest are out of sight

come to us, we'll treat you right!

We've got the cheapest gas in town!

That's right!

And we've got Coke liters for a buck

Yeah, so they're metric what the...

If of thirst you're dyin'

our cokes you should be tryin'

You won't need to liquidate

due to your need to re-hydrate

We've got the cheapest coke in town!

That's right!

October 13, 2008 at 11:59 PM · That's so 80s...

October 14, 2008 at 12:05 AM · Man, you're right. Here's a contemporary version.

Gas! da da da da daaa

Coke! da da da da daaa





October 14, 2008 at 12:19 AM · Hahahahahahahaha

You would make big bucks for that :P

October 14, 2008 at 12:28 AM · Ok then you make one. Show me how it's done, big boy.

October 14, 2008 at 12:48 AM · Stradivari, that's the one.

Stradivari, have some fun.

Even though it cost a ton,

You can play it on the run.

With the stock market going back up over 900 points today, I guess we can feel at least a little bit better.

:) Sandy

October 14, 2008 at 02:51 AM · My jingle talent isn't just there :P Haha

October 14, 2008 at 04:42 AM · Did this conversation just devolve into a poetry contest again? People!

Yes here is the sad and yet-to-be-resolved story from LA.

October 14, 2008 at 05:32 AM · So, how about combining all aspects of this thread, and having the orchestras that are saddled with debt write jingles?

And, since everyone else has tried, I have to throw in my verbage:

Got no money for the Detroit Demon

All the 'lil cars go, but my wheels stop screamin'

Cause workin' at MAC Daddy don't pay the bills, and the 401K no got the ills.

So whatcha gonna do when the market crash

and you find your pockets are out of cash

No way to go nothin' left to spen'

So I stand on corners with my violin

Playing rag daddy songs for 5 & 10

SO I stand on corners with my vio lin

and I play it,play it, play it, play it

thpppp,thpppp, WOP; thpppp,thpppp, WOP.

October 14, 2008 at 07:17 AM · Jingles notwithstanding, it was I who said that you shouldn't go to college. I was entirely joking, while at the same time lamenting the cost and possible dangers of taking out such a large loan at this point in time. Sorry if I was misunderstood/taken seriously.

Most degrees pay for themselves eventually, though. Not sure about music degrees. Those do seem financially sketchy to me.

Good thing graduate school, at least, is free ><.

October 14, 2008 at 11:17 AM · it saddens me you people are this materialistic,,,all you care about is money, money and money, like how soon after college you will get your money back!

you completely overlook the process, that is, the chicks and the beer!

October 14, 2008 at 04:10 PM · hmmm

October 14, 2008 at 10:27 PM · After the first rescue plan was passed

Most voters were very aghast

The market went down

A new plan was found

And then stocks rebounded fast

B u t -- i t -- w i l l -- n o t -- l a s t

Ne'er forget wild spending once near

'Twas time well-spent for love and beer

October 14, 2008 at 06:44 PM · there is no free lunch as you know,

it is your neighbor that hits the lotto.

stay with what you know, better yet with what you love, dear,

otherwise you may end up very queer.

(can anyone suggest a melody to go with my poetic fart? i want to play it and ask my daughter to sing along,,,perhaps during father-daughter bonding time? Please help!!!???)

ps, i may have to switch queer with another word, but for now, keep it for the rhyme,:)

October 14, 2008 at 07:49 PM · No matter who wins the election, prograns like art, music and physical education will be side tracked. As musicians, teachers, instrument makers we have to step up to the plate. The future of the arts in this country is on our shoulders. I think you will find that people's spending habits reflect what they are truly interested in. I am interested in music. How about you?

October 16, 2008 at 09:28 PM · Long ago Jascha Heifetz said that violin playing "is a perishable art," as is classical music in general as well as many other of the arts.

As an amateur violinist and in a profession that rarely involves music, I know that even small gestures here and there can spread the knowledge and joy of classical music to others, and increase their curiousity and interest, even if a little bit. While being careful not to overdo it, I do not keep my enthusiasm to myself, and I know it has made a difference to many, many friends, co-workers, and family members over the years.

Indeed, I feel my greatest "talent" in music (and especially classical violin music) is probably more as a listener and "appreciator" than as a player.

I fear that the economic picture, at best, is going to be a difficult one for some time to come. The combination of the economy and the ease of copying musical performace will make it an especially difficult time for the performing arts and for performing artists.

But, yes, maybe to at least some extent our destiny is in our own hands, and we all need to educate the world around us to learn as much as possible about how wonderful this musical world really is and how it can truly enrich one's life.

October 17, 2008 at 12:26 PM · At the moment I'm feeling rather down about our current economic situation, mostly because the arts are the first to suffer. It seems that most local orchestras are cancelling concerts, lowering pay, and even tweaking the programming in order to cut costs.

Usually September is a very busy month for me as all our donors seem to be sending in their donation checks at the start of the season. Some are trickling in here and there but I'm still waiting waiting waiting for the big rush.

Now what?

October 17, 2008 at 02:43 PM · i don't think people at this juncture have any good answers. on one hand, i am a strong believer that classical art should always be treated as art, not as a commercial venue. to me, that means classical art should be supported by grants and endowments and not repackaged to fit a for-profit model. having said that, during the hardship that is to come, the low tide will float all boats and classical art should find its place accordingly until another day.

on the other hand, what is concerning is that some of us have listened to the financial experts dutifully, but the system turns out to be crooked in its core. the best and the brightest in wall street gambled away with abandon while we faithfully sit on something that is quick sand.

there are money available for the classical art, but some have decided it is better spent buying worthless papers, which is what the bailout is about.

October 17, 2008 at 05:32 PM · All...You are so creative in these dark hours of clogged cash!

I don't mean to insult musicians ever, with the suggestion that commericials are the only may to make a living in music. Not at all. But in all honesty I have encountered musicians who "sold out" and they live very well and make no apologies for their extraordinary financial success and royalty cheques etc. The bigger point I think that Al, Marrina and Sander make is that performers need audiences who listen, and if the audience is busy or broke, they don't go to concerts. Music seen as a luxury not a necessity like reading or math. I do notice on the posts that some students seek reassurance that if they go into music as a profession they will be OK financially. In my experience, jobs don't reliably create wealth, the way taking risks does. If you want a reliable paycheck there are many other reliable, recession proof jobs like nursing for example. Jobs guarantee income until you lose the job and need another one. So too in music I suppose.Self employment in any field is far more stressful but more reliable because you know what is going on... even when the news is bad.

If music is a commodity (product) then you can cut it out of your budget. Line item veto on that orchestra membership for example. If it is a way of life with people with a shared perspective it is how you live, then you can't cut it out and you find a way as Al suggests. While I am nuetral about unions and organized labor, do those of you who are professional think the musicians union will help you at all in this climate? I always thought it was a dicotomy to have organized labor in the arts, as the original idea was for worker safety etc. This approach is one of many factors that makes music more of a commodity possibly. While I understand it for recording artists in some ways I don't understand the advantage for someone sitting in an orchestra. Visual artists usually end up with a product to sell like a print or sculpture. Musicians and actors, (who perform live with no resulting recording or movie) lack a lasting product of their own, productize their labor in some respects. Are there any examples of orchestras that are "owned" or run by the musicians versus some non profit or foundation? The musicians then would share more risk and maybe see things differently. While you could argue their "risk" was going into music to begin with that goes with any college education. Anyway, an employee owned business model comes to mind as a possible solution. Share the risk, share the rewards. In my opinion, this aspect of the arts is difficult to understand. The arts want to be a business but not suffer the downside of a business. It does not seem you can have it both ways.

As a business, music is the tail of the economic dog. So it seems a little nutty to define it that way and expect anything different. It is like skiing, an activity that people feel passionately about but relies heavily on disposable income due to the business model. It is a "recreational mindset" not a "necessity mindset". So you need many more participants cheaper to reach the required economic threshold, or fewer but with higher priced transactions as currently seems to exist. Like Al says, the arts will get through somehow, and possibly those left standing will benefit from the lessons ahead.

October 17, 2008 at 05:37 PM · J Kingston, a couple of things:

-Every nurse I know is terrified about job security.

-With the union, you can pay into the pension, obtain health insurance at group rates, and work with decent banks for loans and credit. The union backs you up against the whims of management, conductors, or for freelancers, the folks that hire you for gigs.

-As for worker safety, there are guidelines set by the local. These guidelines cover all sorts of worker protections, including rehearsal lengths, breaks, overtime rules, decibel levels, temperature ranges, etc.

In other words, I will never be forced to play three back-to-back "Magic Flutes" with no intermissions, no breaks in between shows, sitting right next to an amp the size of an SUV, outdoors, in a snowstorm.

That is all. I agree with you about the vulnerability of the arts. 'Tis nothing new...

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