Economic meltdown and performing arts

January 28, 2009 at 06:15 PM ·

This story features a colleague of mine from the Pasadena Symphony: after 30 years as a professional violinist she is struggling to find work. Long-term arts organizations seem to be collapsing right and left. Another orchestra in my own community, the California Philharmonic, also seems to be struggling to pay its musicians.

How are things in your community? What can we do?

Replies (75)

January 28, 2009 at 06:42 PM ·

Wow. The Texas Ballet Theater uses recorded music. That's terrible. I don't think I would want to go see a ballet with recorded music---but I wonder if the general public cares so much about that aspect of it.

January 28, 2009 at 08:01 PM ·

Unfortunately we live in a very unbalanced world. There appears to be tons of money for bullets and bombs and unnecessary killing - and our sons and grandsons getting killed in foreign lands  daily . We can bail out greedy avaricious banks. We can save failing conglomorates whose executives have bled the public dry.    Yet -we have no money to give people the simple pleasures of hearing beautiful music. The rank and fiile of professional orchestral players are still very poorly paid. I trust and hope Laurie that your colleague does find work . I do have some ideas on how to help struggling musicians. But it would involve an international set up - and willingness on all music lovers to participate. D.D Yorkshire England



January 28, 2009 at 08:24 PM ·

I have struggled for years to find work playing the kazoo but no one wants to hear the kazoo.  I wonder if I can get a bailout. /sarcasm

If there are more violin players than there are people who want to hear violin players why should violin players have work? For the record I am disgusted by the bailout of the banks and the auto companies. They do not deserve it. But no one deserves a bailout. 



January 28, 2009 at 09:54 PM ·

Meaning: if there are not enough dealers on the roads considering all the need for drugs we should make sure more people will enter the dealing business?

Corwin, mixing culture and business is sometimes inevitable, but risky. And too much business will ruin culture, most likely. Considering what good music can do for individuals and whole societies I am pretty sure there are too few musicians especially right now.

Morality might change over time and changes definitely over geography, but a culture "business" without any morale, any intentions, any education? If only money decides on the amount of good music available then we might as well give up our whole civilization gradually or quickly, as you prefer.


January 28, 2009 at 10:05 PM ·

govt and big corps will be less reliable/dependable in the future.  it is important for performance people to consider some "double majoring".  difficult to live down once we are used to living up.  suck it in and adapt like everyone else.  who do you think feel worse, you or an unemployed wall streeter who is used to 10 mil/yr lifestyle?.  

private studio teaching should be explored further.  depending on where you desire to live,  a good teacher in bigger metro/suburban is a safe play.

you are healthy,  your kids are healthy,  you are capable of working.  how fortunate!

January 28, 2009 at 10:15 PM ·

"Wow. The Texas Ballet Theater uses recorded music. That's terrible. I don't think I would want to go see a ballet with recorded music---but I wonder if the general public cares so much about that aspect of it. "

Well, people don't care about recorded music used on Broadway, they don't care about recorded music during inaugurations, why should they care about the TBT using it?

We've reached peak oil, peak currency, peak agriculture, peak fish, peak finance--I propose a new peak: Peak Symphony! That's right--we've dug up all the symphony in the ground, and now face declining production! Actually, it probably started in 1970. Maybe we should import Symphony from Sharia-crazed dictators........?

January 28, 2009 at 10:16 PM ·

Ah Laurie, another depressing article.  I'm just riding it out and hoping for the best.

Ever notice how DJ's are now considering themselves "artists" and giving themselves fancy titles?  How lower can we go than glorifying canned music?

January 28, 2009 at 10:39 PM ·

Mr. Fisher, Of course on the individual level I agree. I purchase music for reasons that cannot be tied to economic utility. But as a society who can decide such things? I personally believe that everyone should listen to good classical music. I also believe that everyone should go to church every Sunday. I imagine you agree with me on the first but perhaps not on my second belief. I don't want to force either of them on anyone. They work for me and I think they would work for others but forcing the issue and allocating society's money to them isn't a good policy.

Let the market choose.


January 29, 2009 at 01:41 AM ·

I just submitted this as another thread:

Should we support the arts? Go to Ask Your Senators to Support the Arts in the Economic Stimulus Bill. Go to to see how you can.

January 29, 2009 at 05:57 AM ·

The market doesn't "choose" anything, it's completely senseless, just a force like gravity. It has no magic, it will not bring about best kind of society.


January 29, 2009 at 06:02 AM ·

Not true, Laurie. The market is about as "senseless" as evolution is "random": neither is correct. The market and its actors are fully rational, especially (and unfortunately) in the short term. A good example: the market tells musicians, via low salaries, that their talents are better used in other industries. We're just senseless to keep banging our heads against the wall. 

January 29, 2009 at 07:07 AM ·

Politics versus market: Push e.g. towards more music lessons in high school and you will need more teachers asap. Later in the game - as adults - you would have more listeners etc. One cannot develop a society by market forces. One may ofcourse deny the need for society development, the need for a political (and therefore also cultural) governement. I am just not sure who of us would like to exist in a market only controlled society.


January 29, 2009 at 10:11 AM ·

These are indeed "interesting" times. Having been recently swept up into the economic turmoil the whole world is facing, I have unfortunately developed a new view on what is happening at the moment.  I believe that there is going to be a huge shift of values in society.  The days of gain and prosperity have passed us by for the moment.  People will gravitate towards actvities that give them some level of comfort and normalcy, whatever those will be, as long as they are affordable.  The people who are secure in their own futures will feel that it is their duty to contribute financially.  The rest of us will take advantage of those contributions.

Unfortunately, this time around, there are not many people left with that sense of security.  However, this may spawn a new age in music.  Who knows....  time will only tell.

January 29, 2009 at 12:03 PM ·

I find it sad that at a time when there is probably more realised talent around than ever before people have the least inclination to enjoy all that talent.  No doubt this is due to the media - TVs, iPods, etc - combine that with spending all your spare cash to be able to shut yourself away from everyone else in your car (while listening to your canned music) and orchestral concerts are at most 70% full on a good day, usually far less.  Plus the fact that even if every seat were filled they would still need subsidies.

This wouldn't have been the case several decades ago - you could get jobs, and people had no other source of entertainment.

January 29, 2009 at 01:49 PM ·

corwin's "market choose" is actually a fitting lingo used often in talks on free market enterprise economics.  it simply means suppliers and demanders meet up with free will.

same applies to evolution as illustrated by darwin.  if a finch wants to live on certain island, it better has certain beak for unqiue food sources, thus let nature chooses who survives.

i would to reiterate fmf's point on building the demand from ground up, a point i have made earlier.  IF there is funding, to encourage instrument lessons in school is possibly the most efficient and reliable long term solution.  once there are people out there on lessons, everything else will fall into place.   create the market first here:) and then let the market chooses,,,your way.  there are clear benefits with human intervention instead of having nature taking its course.  think about vaccines against polio, small pox, etc, or flush toilet. 

ever notice how they sell you a printer cheap and then charge an arm and leg for the cartridges?  :)

January 29, 2009 at 02:17 PM ·

Political Decisions are part of the Market. (And this is true whether you are a communist or a libertarian. The difference is that in a communist regime, people have to wait 70 years to get their chance to speak out).

If a politician makes choices against the market, he had better have a convincing argument as to why. As we've seen in the U.S. recently, whether he was right or wrong is beside the point--Bush went against the market, and lost.

To arrogantly demand that public money be spent on projects which do not come from the consensus--the market--is sheer folly.

To get people to spend on music, music education, etc requires that age-old skill--of persuasion and not the religious right sort of--"you are going to hell if you don't."

Of course we want music to be supported, to be valued, to continue. We see it as essential as a(b+c) = ab + ac und der die das. But to keep it going requires persuasion, not cherry-picking. The difference is whether the rightful owners of tax resources agree with the spending. No different than East Coast outrage against spending tax money on logging roads in Oregon.

January 29, 2009 at 02:18 PM ·

well, bill, from a longer perspective, one can argue that market has voted him out.   except when we are inside the roller coaster, we felt every bump:)

stop showing off your algebra acumen! :)


January 29, 2009 at 02:18 PM ·

Yes, that's my point Al--too bad for John McCain--sins of the father and all that (even though McCain the political "son" is old enough to be his political father's father...).

January 29, 2009 at 02:35 PM ·

you have to admit, though, that the rep ticket is a little odd on many levels.   there is no question bush and tina fay are partly to blame for the final outcome.   good lessons for violin performers,,,,image is everything:) 

January 29, 2009 at 05:43 PM ·

Interesting - albeit it depressing - article, Laurie. Thanks for posting the link. 

January 29, 2009 at 06:44 PM ·

Thanks for this article and I would be very concerned if I made my living in the traditional art markets.

I read an article yesterday about how more people want to write a book than read a book? More supply than demand. Could the same be the case here? Not surprisingly, "vanity publishing" has exploded while traditional publishers are laying off editors and signing fewer authors.With free content available online, readers don't need to buy books. They can preview books and decide not to buy them, or just wait for them to be free at the library.

After giving it a bit of thought, I think the U-tube craze has really hurt the performing arts and music industry (read: Giving it away for free impacting demand?) We fall prey to this like most. Instead of ordering three different recordings of a particular piece for my kids, I now buy one and then surf around to see if I can find free stuff on UTube or someplace.  I confess we are too lazy to buy the other two and don't have a compelling reason to make the effort. The bad economy has just punctuated this approach. Now every "prodigy" can post a video and we can all watch it for free in front of the fire with a glass of fine wine and never move out of our chairs. Corwin, there is probably a free video of someone playing a kazoo so even that is free. It is probably pretty good too.

Entertainment has become immediate and free in so many cases. I think it is easy to underestimate the impact of the changing distribution of entertainment including music. If the economy tanked before the digital age, I don't think the situation would be as painful for artists. Arts organizations have always had the job of putting buyers and sellers together in a type of brokering role. Now buyers don't need brokers to dictate what they can hear this season or what time the need to be there, or what they should wear or think. Anything goes and the chips are falling (painfully) due to this grand experiment in new distribution channels. Artists loose unless they have something special that only they can deliver. Customizing is where it is at. No one will buy season tickets because usually you buy them for one or two shows and are cool to the rest of the program. On Itunes I can craft a custom play list. Target marketing and target buying is where people are at. Remember the Beatles White Album with all that filler stuff? No one puts up with that stuff now. 

January 29, 2009 at 06:58 PM ·

I'm glad to see this topic is being discussed.  I've been following this issue for orchestras and smaller music groups for some time.   Most all are facing pay cuts, hiring freezes, programming "adjustments," etc.  Most orchestras rely on donations and endowments as the main source of revenue, as opposed to ticket sales alone.  With such a recession we are in (which will likely worsen), Wall Street bailouts, the Madoff factor (and "mini-Madoffs"), such revenue has sharply dwindled, or been cut off all together.  I'll add some links to articles I've read recently about this.  Articles include the NY Philharmonic's upcoming season, budget deficits, pay cuts, Carnegie Hall's 2009-10 program, other major orchestras, and smaller ensembles.  

The outlook is indeed grim. For me though, ignorance is not bliss.  These burdens are not exclusive to one city or group - in such understanding, one can, at the very least, know they are not alone in a time of great difficulty. 

12 Dec 2008: "Arts Groups Tightening Schedules and Belts" - notes Westchester Philharmonic, where Itzhak Perlman was appointed musical director:


27 Oct 2008: "Bracing for Bad Days, Opera Houses and Orchestras Batten Down Hatches:"


21 Jan 2009: "Carnegie Hall Announces New Season:"


16 Jan 2009: "The Maestro and the Money:"


I hope these articles are of use.



January 29, 2009 at 07:08 PM ·

All very good points J.

Live music will I  believe have a surge rather than a wane, but not so many will be able to make much money at it. There is no substitute for live music and I think that is not lost on the youngest generation. You tube has terrible audio and it isn't the true experience.

The days of aloof recitals will end. Nobody wants that, unless it is part of the show that people want---I'm not saying that a lot of yacking is what people want--they merely want to be connected.

Example: we saw Joshua Bell in a 500 seat auditorium last year. He did very little talking. He started out by coming out and playing. He did introduce one of the pieces, much later on, and introduced his accompanist (the fantastic Jeremy Denk).

But Bell spoke through his music like almost no-one else. I mean it was extraordinary. I am getting shivers up my spine remembering the emotion of the experience.

That just cannot happen in the same way with any recording.

So does this mean that to make a living, one must tour? That may in fact be where we are going--or not. Certainly the sheep who pay a dollar a song on itunes are paying a *lot* of money for recordings, but are there more recordings per capita for sale than in the days of vinyl? Probably--and the old recordings are still for sale. I bought the White Album on CD this year.

January 29, 2009 at 08:21 PM ·

“How are things in your community? What can we do?”

At risk of being seen as a pessimistic old guy I say this

If you voted for Obama do not be depressed, relax and remember:

Yes We Can, just volunteer, pay your taxes it’s patriotic, and hey spread your wealth.

Gosh, where do you think the money to fund the arts comes from anyway the government?  Not really, it comes from individual, big and small local business donations, foundations and endowments.

You ask what we can do. We need to start holding people in this country responsible and accountable and the ebbs and flows would not be so devastating.  Our economy would not have been hollowed out as it has been, businesses could weather the small anomalies, and the arts would not be so affected. 

Moreover, the last thing we need is Government in our Arts.


January 29, 2009 at 11:54 PM ·

The problem with culture is the vultures are disappearing.

 Laurie, seriously, when you say the "market" is a senseless thing, it makes me realize that it might look like that because it's really undirected potential energy. 

"A rising tide floats all boats." 

What your friend is experiencing is being stranded by a falling tide.  Expensive entertainment has got to be especially susceptible.  This is a basic thing.  The only thing, really, in fact. 



January 30, 2009 at 06:16 AM ·


My friend has performed behind J. Bell and said he really delivers as a performer on every level, every time. He delivers a real experience as you describe. That is what I mean when I mentioned that musicians will have to deliver something unique. That kind of performance keeps people coming back. A real conneciton is forged. Good technique is just a click away, but not a profound personal experience...Good points.

January 30, 2009 at 09:00 AM ·

"that age-old skill--of persuasion and not the religious right sort of--"you are going to hell if you don't.""

Uh? If you take a look at the world, past and present, you will find that there has never been a more successful persuasion technique than the "you'll go to hell if you don't" kind. Like it or not, even today, there is no other approach that works as well.

January 30, 2009 at 12:26 PM ·


January 31, 2009 at 04:53 AM ·

 For a long time, there's been some sort of patronage system for so called "classical music", whether it was Palestrina writing for the Pope, or Bach writing for the Margrave of Brandenburg or  composers getting awards, grants or commissions from wealthy benefactors like Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge- this article on her might prove very interesting:

 There is no doubt that the Suzuki approach became popular in this country and gave many musicians a chance to earn a decent living teaching the violin to youngsters all over. The interest in violin is much greater now than it was when I was growing up and I don't think the increase in the general population accounts for that alone.

  With that interest strong, it seems that our students can be our best ambassadors. Those who have taken to enjoying music stand the best chance of  spreading it far and wide. When kids perceive it  for all of its benefits, including the joy of having fun, it becomes something desirable. Parents ( and by extension society at large) are willing to invest in their children's happiness and it is infectious-  other kids become interested too. The majority of my students participate in sports, take their academics seriously, and also keep up with their violin playing.  They find this a perfectly normal, positive thing to be engaged in, and others catch on to that commitment and enthusiasm. Through them and in them, future audiences are born, future musicians, future  supporters of music- they carry on the future.

   It would be great if every child who wanted to could get to play an instrument. If it were a part of everyone's general education, we might find society in the  future to be brighter, happier, more sensitive, and productive.

  Perhaps it isn't a bailout  for the arts that should be expected, but a  willingness to promote teaching our children the inestimable value of  music and its "essential-ness" in society. If the oppportunity to learn is there, more people will appreciate it and want it and the more people know about it, the more they will want to be involved with it.

It comes down to education and exposure. For some, a daily dose of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven is as essential as food- they couldn't live without it. If those who believe this way promote it with enthusiasm and a non-elitist, non-judgmental attitude many more would learn to appreciate it and support it .

January 31, 2009 at 08:57 AM ·

Ronald, I was just thinking the same thing today.  I was thinking of what I could do to keep my own business going strong, and I thought about advertising and promotion.  These two things come in the form of being actively involved in the community, meeting people, and making the violin accessible to everyone.  Play for people, make them fall in love, and then sign them up for lessons.  Then give them a reason to play, like organize a youth orchestra, plan a recital, or join the community musical.  Form a band, play at the coffee shop, go to the nursing home.  Affect the people you know positively toward music.  Spread music and teach it.  People will pay for lessons, and then you'll secure your own future, as long as you charge what people will pay.  Start small, think locally, and then cast your nets far and wide.  

Teaching is so underrated.  It forms the backbone for our society. 

January 31, 2009 at 01:40 PM ·

Emily, I totally agree. Spreading the faith of music is the job of individuals and we all must do what we can to evangelize its value to the world.

January 31, 2009 at 02:59 PM ·

It seems many concepts discussed in this other thread were not read by many of the posters...

I totally agree there's an evangelization campaign needed....but if such evangelization should not discar gvt heavy support by making MANDATORY to learn music from very early age (preschooler) ....such would be a huge boost, isn't it?

I mean, when you prove something it's extremedly USEFUL (not just good or enjoyable)...then you can demonstrate that IT'S A MUST not just something 'desirable'.....I'll repeat some of the info I posted before, for direct verification.

There have been experiences of UNMATCHED POSITIVE EFFECTS of music taken into poor kids that otherwise would have ended in gangs.... is just one of them

There have been serious scientific research showing in MEG how music affects brain development ....

This link is about Fujioka et al research

This Link is about Gotfried Schlaug et al research

 In this video you can see an interesting explanation from 4:50 on..

And there's a lot more to use as information backing up the point....

That's the point, showing classical music training in young kids as something URGENT for the society, not just something optional.

Japan did it (learning an instrument and reading music as MANDATORY learning for young kids, AFAIK) after WWII....... asian countries and other emerging economies like Brazil are doing it now....UK is having a big budget to port EL SISTEMA to them.......

Why should the actual #1 economic power do the same? don't they want to be at the top anymore? aren't they giving a lot of advantage to competitors by not making mandatory music education to EVERU CHILD?

My point is that you teach kids to read and write well, no matter if they'll be professional writers, engineers, or boxers....can you imagine a fether saying his kid won't learn to write because he won't be a professional writer? That's what parents do when they refuse music learning for their kids (he won't be a musician, they say)....

Why shouldn't music have similar consideration, when you back up with facts how useful for brain and personality development the music is?

I guess perhaps some people think this is long term....but making learning a classical instrument and reading music mandatory for every kid....would open INMEDIATLY a lot of teaching jobs, isnt it?

wouldn't it also BRING MORE PARENTS INTO LISTENING CLASSICAL MUSIC as a way to understand better what their kids are doing?

That's why I think it's not a bad idea to have peoplke making LOBBY at the gvt....even the guys against federal funding of music said something about 'real world' or 'market'.....well isn't POLITICAL LOBBYING (for making serius music learning mandatory for every kid)  about how the real world works?

Shouldn't this lobbying be done in every country of the planet?

January 31, 2009 at 03:46 PM ·


I don't think you understand that the United States is a Federation.  This concept was further strengthened in 1791 with the ratification of the "Bill of Rights" (the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution.:

Amendment X:

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

Ever since Jefferson and Hamilton debated it, the issue of States Rights versus a strong Federal central government has been a lasting point of debate. But in fact, it is a matter of degree--much of the governance of this country is taken care of locally--state by state or even at a county or municipal level. We are as a race generally mistrusting of large entities, including our own government, Walmart, Microsoft etc. We have to trade with them but that doesn't  mean we do so happily at all times.

So when it comes to funding arts it is difficult to do this "top down." There is a limit to how much positive effect can be set down from the Federal Government.

Arts funding comes from the bottom up--and that includes corporate sponsorship which was derided as "market fairies" in the other thread. If we want more money for art, we have to convince our fellows to spend it--and that is, after all, only fair--in a democracy!

Education is one of the cooperative activities which is by tradition and political will is carried out locally and at a state level. The federal government essentially "bribes" state and local education entities with incentives. When the federal government goes further as it did with the "No Child Left Behind" act, there is much controversy and resistance--justifiably so. I can assure you that a federal push for classical music education in all shools would go down like a lead zeppelin. But locally grown programs have a chance for success--and have had success in the past.

January 31, 2009 at 03:53 PM ·

Bill, my point is promoting music training NOT AS ENTERTAINMENT, BUT AS A MUST HAVE.....

My point is making the music training AS MANDATORY AS READING AND WRITING LEARNING....

You could say that reading and writing is more necessary....but check this scenario..... NOW if you don't learn to read and write you are in a HUGE DISADVANTAGE in the society, isn't it?

What will happen when every time more countries realize this music and brain development stuff? can you device the children raised with no mucis education competing in societies or against economies where their children are stimulated far better from early age?

AFAIK, having this kind of strategy must be done in a nationwide way, not separate local efforts...

This kind of shift can't be achieved in disperse local or private effort, was MANDATORY in japan, it was seen as a nationwide strategy in china

"But far from seeing the violin as a decadent tool of the bourgeois West, Mao saw it as an instrument of the revolution, said Zheng Quan, director of the Violin Craft Research Institute in Beijing.

'Mao Tse-tung said we have two armies: one is with a gun, and one is with this,” he said, raising his arms as if to play a violin.' "

This is my point, it should be done as a nationwide, or even better, worldwide mentality the US particular example. can you imagine not making mandatory learning to read and write and letting states leaving it as 'optional learning'?

Sure it can be implemented and managed at local levels, but isn't it obvious that this mentality shift should be encouraged and coordinated by some kind of nationwide power?

Perhaps in the past the establishment needed to dumb down the masses, but now with global crisis and facing fierce outside you think any nation can have the luxury of dumbing down its population for keeping power over them, but at the same time putting the whole nation in severe disadvantage?

January 31, 2009 at 04:00 PM ·

Cesar, dude, you are clueless. Did you not hear me? We ain't Japan and have no interest in being Japan, and even less interest in being China! We are a Federation, not an Empire. That is the way it is. Your argument is fatuous, as you refuse to take reality and our customs into account.

January 31, 2009 at 04:04 PM ·

@ Cesar

You are contradicting yourself. Either something is a mentality shift, then you don't need any "dictator" to impose it, or if it has to be imposed "from above" then it's not a mentality shift.

@ Bill

You have no clue how Japan works. Yes, we have an emperor here, but he matters even less than the Queen of England, he has absolutely no political power whatsoever. Furthermore, the Japanese decision making process is entirely based on group consensus and group consensus is built bottom up, not top down.

January 31, 2009 at 04:12 PM ·

@@Benjamin. Yes, yes, yes, I know about the Emperor and Japanese consensus, but I was being rhetorical. We really don't want to be Japan, either. We had some shrill voices in the education business back in the 80s telling us how we must change and be like the Japanese or we were going to be swallowed whole...and then guess what? Japan experienced an economic implosion. We don't hear that nonsense anymore.

Education and everything else we do as humans can be influenced by success and failure in other places, but it is all nonsense if you don't take the whole into account. The point that Japan has significantly different cultural predispositions merely supports what I tried to tell Cesar--that you can't do this sort of stuff in some universal way and expect it to work. It is untenable.

January 31, 2009 at 04:25 PM ·

I agree that cultural changes have to come from the grassroots to be meaningful, but your previous post really looks like it implies that Japan is a sort of dictatorship where people don't have free will but they do.

The funny thing is that the Japanese are every now and then discussing that their education system should be more like it is in Western countries, fostering individuality instead of group think, thus the exact opposite of what you described happened in the US.

However, it would be a mistake to confuse the state of the education system in Japan with a lack of freedom by the people to determine on their own how they want to run things. The Japanese do have this freedom and they exercise it just as much or as little as people in Western countries do. It just so happens that their mentality and customs leads them to choose different ways. They are for the most part happy with how they run things, just as people in Western countries are for the most part happy with how they run things. Let's face it, humans aren't really that much into revolutionary changes, most of the time we like to see things to stay by and large how they are because we're used to how they are. The devil you know versus the devil you don't and all that ;-)

January 31, 2009 at 05:12 PM ·

Hi Ben, I don't see anywhere that I stated or even implied that Japaneze do not have free will, or live in a dictatorship, but whatever...we agree on the real issues.

January 31, 2009 at 05:50 PM ·


you wrote..."So when it comes to funding arts it is difficult to do this "top down." There is a limit to how much positive effect can be set down from the Federal Government."

don't be so pessimistic! when wall street failing banks can get couple hundred mil from fed as bonus, nothing is impossible! :)

the problem is we never bothered to try!  we never learned to make the constitution work for us! :)

January 31, 2009 at 05:58 PM ·

So Al Ku,

What you're saying is that because Wall Street gamed the system and bilked the taxpayers out of billion, the arts should as well?


January 31, 2009 at 11:37 PM ·

But would your neighbor, and your neighbor's neighbor, feel the same way, or would they feel used? 

Building local arts consensus can lead to regional and national consensus, but top down is, well, unpopular I'm afraid.

Really it is absurd though--Arts have always flourished in our country (US) regardless of pessimists. And for most of that history, with zero government dollars...

Maude Powell, Dvorak touring the U.S., Sousa, How about all those Mandolin orchestras at the turn of the century, and then the banjo orchestras after that; Mark Twain, Thomas Eakins, Hawthorne, Peale, Cassatt, more recently  Bertoia, I mean there are and have been thousands of artists out there making art history here in the U.S. and always have been.

The idea of subsidising arts as a national resource could be applied to just about anything--log rolling, curling, stickball, hey even the Americas gets is called socialism...

January 31, 2009 at 11:59 PM ·

Amen Mr. Platt

In some countries they make you go to "church" because they think it is good for you to be in church. Some people in this country would even force us to do good things because they are provably good for us (like wearing a helmet when riding a motorcycle.) Both of these are unbearable impositions on our freedom. So we want to force people to listen to classical music?

There are a number of people who support the current administration who consider this an unbearable imposition. The study and propagation of the art of dead white males? Don't even think about it. When these people ask for money for art they want it for photographs of religious images in bottles of urine and the like.

The benefit of good music is arguably unprovable. Those of us who believe in its benefit can only use persuasion to convince others.


February 1, 2009 at 12:03 AM ·

One can only spread the faith so far, without pay. Not everyone can afford private lessons, and it certainly would help to have more public education funding going to music education. I'm very convinced that music education lifts education in all areas: math, reading, etc.

February 1, 2009 at 01:33 AM ·

...and music education *is* important. But it happens district by district, then State by State. I learned to play the violin in public school; my son did, too. A very dedicated teacher, a very good school program, some volunteering, it all adds up.

Don't forget that school band, school music class--where you get to play with boomwhackers and Orff instruments--all of this is important and generally  in the mix. Yes we've seen arts funding in public schools wane, and we should do what we can to rebuild it--but it is a *local* effort. By the way, each and every one of us has much more chance of actually getting results working locally. We all have our limited influence--which is larger in relative terms in our local politics.

Support arts education, lobby for it to your school boards. Just forget about wasting time on the federal government--that's my take on it.

February 1, 2009 at 01:37 AM ·

To risk another whole subject--things that are free are not valued. Things that you value, cost money and you are willing to pay for, willing to sacrifice other ideas for. Why should you never sell your painting for $20? Not because it is worth more in some time vs money sense. No, because you only want someone who values it to have it. It is devalued if it sells for nothing. There are millions of private lessons out there. There are many many disadvantaged children who benefit from private lessons through scholarships--at least in Connecticut these are common. Who pays for these scholarships? Why, well-meaning people of means (sometimes parents of students themselves) who believe in just what Laurie is speaking of. And the beauty of it? It doesn't take direct tax expenditure.

Finally on that last point, we have a very special sort of socialism in the U.S.--it is a grass-roots type, and it *is* supported by our federal taxes in a backhanded sort of way: Charitable Deductions. When you give to a charity, as long as you itemize your deductions, you get a reduction in your taxes -- because of a reduction in your revenue-- and *you* get to choose what is important.  This is cost-sharing -- you pay less tax, and you apply some of your savings to a worthy cause. The U.S. has *much* higher charitable giving than Europe. Why is that? Well, a part of it is our culture--but part too is due to this very interesting and in some ways revolutionary tax scheme--it is a wise idea isn't it? It gives us some additional local control of our federal tax dollars...

February 1, 2009 at 01:38 AM ·

At the end of the day it all comes down to the age old wisdom "you can lead a horse to the water, but you can't make him drink".

It follows that it may be a good investment of public funds to "lead folks to the water", but at the point where this turns into "forced drinking" it would be a lost cause.

February 1, 2009 at 01:43 AM ·

Classical music is definitely here to stay.  I don't buy into the doomsday picture that some people are painting.  Granted, the economy sucks, and classical music is hurting, but that is simple economics.  Millions of people are out of work.  What's more important, violin lessons for the kids and $80 concert tickets, or paying the mortgage and putting food on the table?  It stands to reason that "non-essential" expenses (e.g., music) will be the first to go.

Things look pretty bleak right now, but we will get through this recession.  And when we do, classical music will be alive and strong.  Keep the faith.  It's all this negative energy that got us into this mess in the first place.  If people didn't panic and overreact, we'd all be a lot better off and I'd have a heck of a lot more money in my 401K plan.


February 1, 2009 at 01:58 AM ·

February 1, 2009 at 02:24 AM ·

yes, scott cole:)

my opinion is that classical music is very much an endangered species right now.  what was it like before, what will be like in the future,  i cannot really say for sure. but right now the bottom up approach does not seem to be working. on top of the usual level of apathy, waves of orchestra folding are signs of bad things to come.  it will immediately put pressure on the classical music education system and deter people from going into the field.  if i am a naturalist, i would have said,,,hey, too bad, survival of the fittest.  since i am in support of classical music education,  doing nothing,  which is pretty much what we are doing now despite the usual albeit helpful rhetoric, is not helpful enough, imo.

i think top down help is needed.  not one time bailout to plug holes and save jobs temporarily,,,but legislation so that there will be fed/state/district school funding for music and instrumental classes.   as i said somewhere, if we cannot graduate without meeting phy ed  requirement, we should not be able to graduate without meeting a music/instrument standard... a very simple request of mine:)  that is a lot to ask i understand, but i think it is a reasonable place to start.   we cannot negotiate or compromise until we take one clear position.   this is what i suspect:  IF what i have suggested comes true, there will be increased demand for  violin teachers, violin related activities and higher income for violin people.  then i don't think violin people will complain about the new structure, that classical music is being forced upon the school kids.  

now, to get back to your question,,lets say  the classical people hire a bunch of lobbyists and compete for the same dollar against lobbyists for wall street bonus and such.  the classical music lobbiests do the usual whole nine yards, going as far as playing dirty, being immoral and unethical to grab a piece of the pie...hey,  as long as the activities are legal, i support them.

this classical wheel does not squeak.   not because it is well oiled but because it is sitting dead like a log.

February 1, 2009 at 03:01 AM ·

I believe in public education and all, but I think art is one area where vouchers, or some other flexible options could work. If it is an elective, it should be on a voucher in my opinion. Vouchers for private lessons for example and a shorter school day, or no study halls or something like that. In my observation, most schools, public or private, want to run their studnets lives with a bu-zillion activities, tests, and study halls ect. Schools in the end cannot, in my opinion be tasked with engineering society, although that seems to be the trend because many parents are AWOL for a variety of reasons. I am honestly doubtful it can work and forcing music education beyond the basics seems rather oppressive in my thinking.The notion that every child will go to college for example is a rather recent trend in education, so the emphasis is math and science and not vocational studies .Foremost, kids exploriing  the arts or sports need time to develop at their own pace, without collateral noise. If they are always doing homework or running around "crazy-buzy"  they can only aspire to competence. Forthose that have a deeper interest, there is not much flexibility to develop in the arts. Maybe a voucher could allow credits for PE and Art/Theatre and Music to use the way you want in or out of the school day.  That way, you could decide where to focus, or decide to be more of generalist in PE or the arts and use the rest for study hall.

All kids are different and I really don't think everybody has the temperment to learn the fine details of a musical instrument nor should they. That is like saying all students should be competent in football or chess. Music, beyond basic competence is an issue of temperment more than talent. Much like the writing analogy, you need competence, not brilliance in some areas of life no matter what your interests.  In hard economic times people must choose, and those who value music will choose it over say, football tickets or club soccer. Whatever your passion, you make the determination, with support from your family, that the step beyond mere competence is an important step for that individual child.

I think sometimes the "talent myth" makes the arts seem too estoteric for people. The whole prodigy discussion gets people out of the arts before they ever even give it a real shot. It really contorts the arts as a discipline and people see it more as some type of karmic destiny for some and not others.This type of  thinking makes a populist movement for arts funding rather unlikely.promotes art. It is dangerious to build myths like that and it is coming home to roost as parents drop music lessons because their kid isn't interested or talented enough to warrant the cost. 

February 1, 2009 at 09:55 AM ·

"The Federal Gov't should recognize/subsidize the performing arts as a national resource.  I would sacrifice a lot of picnic tables to save a good opera. "

You might, but I might not.  See, there are many different opinions on value, and this is why I think it best to leave the decision-making up to the people who worked for the money.  Socialism should end where the common interest ends. 

(i.e. Toilets = a good socialist cause.)

February 1, 2009 at 09:57 AM ·

"Toilets= a good socialist cause."

That's interesting.

How about public libraries? Are they a good cause too? Do they deserve public funding?

February 1, 2009 at 10:11 AM ·

Let's have a vote.

February 1, 2009 at 12:07 PM ·

 "best to leave the decision-making up to the people who worked for the money. "

if we survey v.comers, those who play in orchestras and deliver the goods on the front line:  what decision making role do you play in the orchestras...,  my suspicion is that most are not part of the decision-making process in terms of how the orchestras are structured/ran nor the directions the orchestras are heading, unless they are the music director or the board.

here is a decision making: 

continue under  the current biz model, rely heavily on endowment, aka other people's help,  and be at their mercy,  or,

take back the decision making into musicians' own hands, shrink the scale, including lower income or no income, for the time being and for the immediate future to come.

i do not see socialism in the dilemma.  perhaps realism.

February 2, 2009 at 03:45 AM ·

So nobody wants to stick their head out to say that they feel public libraries are a worthwhile cause to receive public funding? Or is it that everybody thinks they are not such a worthwhile cause and shouldn't receive public funding? I am seriously curious about this. 

February 2, 2009 at 04:19 AM ·

(I think they're all busy surfing the internet.)

February 2, 2009 at 04:45 AM ·

yeah, but the free computer is in the public library.

February 2, 2009 at 08:16 AM ·

I bought my computer.  With the money I earned from the job I work.  That's the money I earned after taxes I paid for the public library, of course.  No such thing as a free computer.

February 2, 2009 at 01:46 PM ·

I didn't hear anybody come out *against* libraries in the first place.

February 2, 2009 at 02:09 PM ·

No? What about that socialism talk then?

Isn't a public library also a socialist thing?

If so, then why is nobody against it?

If not, then why is a publicly funded concert hall or theatre any different?

February 2, 2009 at 02:59 PM ·

Ben, you are confusing socialism with community, utility and common interest.

Government money ends up in concert halls and other venues all across the U.S. sometimes rightfully, other times regressively. In the past decade, large and very expensive sports stadiums have been subsidized, incensing market capitalists because of the inherently regressive nature of that subsidy. (Market capitalists are not champions for the rich--on the contrary, most market capitalists see regressive policy as destructive to a robust economy).

Whether a concert hall is subsidized is ultimately a local government decision and is taken in context, with many players weighing in. Often subsidies are partial. It isn't a simple answer, like your simple rhetorical question.

If a local government, through proper procedure, reaches a consensus among its constituents to pay for a concert hall, that is good. That isn't "socialism" or "capitalism" or "communism" etc, it is simply an action taken.

Now, promoting federal subsidy of concert halls across the country, from top down, that is socialist, as it is a form of economic planning at the state level, rather than allowing market forces and local decisions to bring appropriate support. But note that many concert venues are actually part of educational institutions. There is sharing of resources. There are *many* towns with town-owned venues. What is the difference between a town concert hall and a Mead Hall in the days of Beowulf? not much.

A free, democratic, capitalist society has many public welfare oriented structures both physical and conceptual. In fact public school and public libraries were spearheaded in the United States in the very early days--even pre-revolutionary--long before "socialism" even existed. Regardless of form of government or governing philosophy, we create a government in order to provide for those needs that we all feel are in the common interest--roads, etc. Where the lines are drawn is a matter of debate. You are debating that public libraries be privatized yet you do this merely for rhetorical purposes. You are wrankled by american anti-socialism. You are pissing into the wind my friend--you are living in Japan having grown up in England and you challenge Americans to become socialist. I don't think you are going to have much success in this enterprise, except perhaps to create flaming responses like this one. I don't really want to educate you on the nuances of true capitalism vs socialist market hybrids. Just accept for a moment that whereas a socialist arrangement seems to be acceptable to many if not most europeans, a more market oriented  approach is generally preferred on this side of the atlantic. This diversity is a good thing. Each approach has its strengths and weaknesses and we learn from each other and we don't all fail the same way at the same time--a good thing for global social robustness. It seems that socialists the world over are tripping over themselves with the excitement about Barak Obama--they all seem to think that they will finally see the Socialist International come to the U.S. Sorry to disappoint you, but B.O. is fundamentally a market capitalist--even if he has socialist tendencies in some areas. Many here were more concerned with his apparent relationship with revolutionary thug William Ayers. B.O. seems to have dodged that bullet and I am very much relieved that that turned out to be one of those political red herrings.

If you want to see what is wrong with socialism, just look at Sweden. Until they put market oriented reforms through approximately a decade ago, they were sinking under the weight of their socialist nirvana. It was rotten to the core, to the point where the founder of Ikea was repeatedly chastised by the tax regulators for "wanting to make a profit." Duh!

February 2, 2009 at 02:53 PM ·

Bill, the word "socialism" doesn't do anything for me because it is used here and there in ways that makes it impossible to know what somebody actually means when they call something "socialist", especially in the US.

The only thing that seems to be clear is that "socialism" is always considered something bad, but it is impossible to tell just where socialism starts, everybody has a different idea on that. Because of that, us non-Americans have to ask stupid questions to find out just what "socialist" means in the context of the discussion when it pops up.

What I am really interested in is something far more practical though: Where do Americans consider public funding to be acceptable or desirable, and where do they draw the line where it becomes unacceptable and undesirable to them. Further, I'd like to know why they draw the line where they draw it. Ideally, I'd like to get answers to that on the basis of examples, such as "public toilets", "public libraries", "public concert halls", "public theatres", "public schools", "public hospitals" etc. Note, I am not trying to tell you how you guys should run your country, I am honestly curious, that's all.

February 2, 2009 at 03:17 PM ·


Well, we are very varied! The landscape of private vs public is always evolving. Currently, our hospitals are primarily private, but legislation makes them effectively public. You cannot refuse treatment...but the hospital has to cover much of that expense, and find ways to transfer that cost onto paying customers...a total has evolved because our very feelings have changed about it. Once upon a time not so long ago, it was very different.

Public toilets are another good example. Somebody first has to say, "hey we need these!" Whether that person is a government wonk, or a businessman, or a tourist, is besdie the point. In the end, a lot of different people have to agree on it. In the U.S. when your local government starts spending money, people pay attention. The government is culpable. If a bureaucrat puts a public toilet programme together and there is vocal opposition, well, why should it proceed?

"Socialism" has a bad connotation here for a number of reasons. One is that Socialism and Communism are not clearly differentiated. Even our old adversary, the CCCP uses the word "socialist" rather than "communist" in their name. Of course we all merely laughed with incredulity at "Deutsche Demokratische Republik."

Unlike europe, the U.S. has never been invaded, nor had a cathartic interior war action since the 1860s. We have had a take care of your own, business economy for a long time. We experimented with socialism in the 1930s but it went badly. The depression lasted too long. After the war, we had the McCarthy period. We are distrusting of socialism for many reasons but the most fundamental has to do with self-reliance and self-determination. We like to take care locally even as our national government gorws and grows and grows. We are a culturally and philosophically diverse nation--far more than any in europe--and we are *huge* the size of all of the former western europe. It is very difficult to get Portugese, Spanish, Germans and English to agree on one thing. Try doing it with Texans, Californians, Bostonians and New Yorkers!

Socialism is a top-down system. We don't have the consensus for comprehensive top-down systems. We have it for Social Security--the one success of our Socialist esperiment of the 30s. Why? Because it is the ultimate Ponzi Scheme but hasn't crashed just yet. "Everybody Wins."

Social Security is the nagging little itch that reminds ome of us that socialism can be folly if you promise everything without any is our reality check...

February 2, 2009 at 04:08 PM ·

That's all very nice talk but it doesn't really answer the questions I have nor does it clear up the confusion I have when somebody uses the word socialism attached to something they want to portray as a bad thing. I am rather open minded when it comes to these things, if you have a good and consistent argument why public funding is deserved in one case but not in another, I will accept that even if I don't share the opinion, or I might even be convinced by the argument.

The trouble is that "X is bad because it is socialist" is not really an argument.

Let me give you an example. If I talk to a true libertarian, they will tell me that any kind of public funding is bad, even the police should be privatised, they say. Now, I am unable to make up my mind whether I agree or disagree with their views, I would have to see their ideas tested in a kind of libertarian sandbox first to be able to form an opinion, but I know one thing about them: when they say "I reject this idea because it is socialist" then I know they are not using this as a rhetoric device, they actually mean what they say, they are consistent, they don't try to BS me. They reject no matter what kind of public funding on the grounds that all public funding is objectionable, pet projects of the opinion holder included!

However, when I am talking to an average American who is against certain types of public funding but in favour of other types of public funding, and they make the same statement "I reject this because it is socialist", then I am at the very least confused because it is unclear whether they are just using this as a rhetoric device and try to hide the real reason why they are against whatever it is they speak out against, or whether they don't actually have any reason and are unable to tell, hence using the "because it is socialist" thing as a convenient way out not to have to explain themselves. They are not being consistent either because some things they denounce as "socialist" and some others which they are in favour of they don't, yet they're unable to explain what the difference is that makes one socialist and the other not.

That's the problem I had with this discussion, the moment the s-word was used in this way. That's why I asked the questions I asked. Not because I am trying to impose an opinion. I don't live in the US, so this is not my fight anyway. Still I think it should be permissible to ask what do you guys think is worth public funding and what isn't and why.

I don't know, maybe the honest answer is "we don't have enough money and we don't want to raise taxes so we draw the line entirely arbitrarily, no rationale whatsoever, it's all random". Whatever the answer may be, "because it's socialist" smells like fish to me.

February 2, 2009 at 04:22 PM ·

Ok on fish. (Japanese eat a lot of fish. Americans who fish sell fish to Japan for a good price. Markets at work:)

Here is a set of quotes from a word search through this thread. Searched for "social":

"The idea of subsidising arts as a national resource could be applied to just about anything--log rolling, curling, stickball, hey even the Americas gets is called socialism..."

"Finally on that last point, we have a very special sort of socialism in the U.S.--it is a grass-roots type, and it *is* supported by our federal taxes in a backhanded sort of way: Charitable Deductions."

"You might, but I might not.  See, there are many different opinions on value, and this is why I think it best to leave the decision-making up to the people who worked for the money. Socialism should end where the common interest ends.

"(i.e. Toilets = a good socialist cause.)"

"i do not see socialism in the dilemma.  perhaps realism."

"From Benjamin K
"Posted on February 2, 2009 at 02:09 PM

"No? What about that socialism talk then?

"Isn't a public library also a socialist thing?"

And then we go on with today's threads.

If you look at my first use of the word socialism in this thread, it is in the context of "why don't we just fund everything as a national treasure" and the socialism is used there correctly--top-down subsidy for mostly everything, rather than merely the most important common good essentials...spending at the top without grass-roots support at the bottom.


February 2, 2009 at 04:33 PM ·

still doesn't answer my questions about which causes are considered deserving of public funding

public toilets?

public libraries?

public concert halls?

public theatres?

public schools?

public kindergardens?

public hospitals?

are they deserving or not and why?

I personally can answer them for a place in which I want to live (and pay taxes) and I can give reasons that are consistent across all areas. Can the folks who have argued here for and against public funding of the arts answer these questions and give consistent reasons for the answers? I think that would be far more interesting than musings about ideologies.

February 2, 2009 at 09:37 PM ·

"I'm very convinced that music education lifts education in all areas: math, reading, etc."

I'm not so sure, but I know it's an essential ingredient and not just because it indicates something about spending on education. Healthy fine arts is an essential part of a community that wants to grow and progress. 

NYC couldn't be what it is for finance and industry and media and so on, and not be equally important in the arts.  I don't know why, but it's a fact of life. Same with Seattle and L.A. and the Research Triangle area.  This is something that localities trying to attract or create industry are usually oblivious to.  Rednecks with a master plan that exceeds their grasp.


February 2, 2009 at 10:39 PM ·

Bill said "Cesar, dude, you are clueless. Did you not hear me? We ain't Japan and have no interest in being Japan, and even less interest in being China! We are a Federation, not an Empire. That is the way it is. Your argument is fatuous, as you refuse to take reality and our customs into account."

My exposition was about the CONCEPT of making music education MANDATORY, NOT OPTIONAL, USA was used just as an example....aren't you being a little self centered by thinking that any posting here should rely only in one single country?

I'm not interested on how each country handles it, I'm interested in promoting music education as mandatory.....wether if it's donde top-down, bottom-up or laterally......I tried to focus IDEA OF MAKING MUSIC LEARNING MANDATORY, not on how each country should spread the idea....

The gvt was used in the idea as another tool to help to spread the idea.....if funding can be done nationally, great! if you must lobby for federal resources? why it shouldn't be done?

if federal money is going into car companies, what's wrong with federal money going to improve kids education?

the global crisis should encourage even more in education to parents, cause such education can'tbe affected by Wall Street plumetting, as it would happen with college savings, shares, bank accounts and so on....

The crisis is point is to promote music education regardless of the country, perhaps with a different strategy in each case, sure...but to DO IT was my to do it perhaps needs more discussion of each particular case...

For instance, even in your country, USA, deciding to teach kids to leanr to read, write, add, substract is done on NATIONAL basis, I don't think any state can refuse to teach kids to read or write, isn't it? that's my point of making mandatory some reading or basic math was made mandatory in the US? (I don't know, that's why I ask)

February 2, 2009 at 11:49 PM ·

Actually, education is handled at the state and local level.

February 3, 2009 at 12:15 AM ·

Education may be handled at the state/local level; however, the federal gov't certainly can and does dictate what happens in a public school (NCLB= gotta past those tests). 

February 3, 2009 at 12:58 AM ·

...and many people--including in the arts--believe that was a bad idea!

February 3, 2009 at 08:36 PM ·

Here is something that might help the arts...

Not much about education, but the meltdown and performing arts.

February 3, 2009 at 10:47 PM ·

The more prosperous a society, the more funding is available for the arts.  Realistically, arts are secondary in importance to food, shelter, etc.  When a sufficient capital base has been established in a socieity (and this takes decades or centuries) there becomes available a store of wealth that can support a flourishing artistic community.

Unfortunately we are in a period of capital CONSUMPTION.  The store or our nation's wealth is being eroded through inflation, deficit spending (consumption of future resources) and outright fraud.

Not only with the arts suffer, but the primary needs of society, including food and shelter, will be more scarce (more scarce = more costly relative to other goods).

This is not primarily an issue of music or art education; it is an issue of fundamental ignorance regarding the wealth of society and how it is to be preserved.

February 4, 2009 at 06:44 PM ·

how they milk it...


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