further reaction to portland monthly article

You’ve got to give Bill Donohue credit – he got a lot of people’s attention with his article on the Oregon Symphony and its music director Carlos Kalmar in the September issue.  It’s gotten to the point where other media outlets are starting to examine some of the issues that Bill elaborated on in his article.  Though I disagreed with some of the tone and direction of the article, I ultimately feel that the article and subsequent debate are very healthy things to be happening right now.  Barry Johnson has a wonderful article that delves into some of what he feels are important questions to be answered about the way the symphony orchestra fits into Portland’s cultural life, and it’s a welcome addition to the dialogue.

5 thoughts on “further reaction to portland monthly article

  1. Bill in Dallas

    That article by Barry Johnson which you linked to is indeed wonderful. I especially liked his references to “the base” and “the independents” and his recognition of the difficulty of dealing with both at the same time.
    Perhaps you and he can get together for a dialog to air this topic more.

  2. Gregory Vajda

    It seems that I have to be the bad guy now at the “comments section” of all the art blogs in Portland. 🙂 I don’t particularly like Barry Johnson’s reference to “the base” and “independents”. It is simplifying and misleading. I believe that in “symphony world” there are no real independents. More importantly you can’t count on “independents” since you’d need them more often than just in every 4 years. No “independent” will get out and cheer, or write a check when the symphony really needs them. One more thought. There was a pretty good article in NY Times about a year and a half ago. It was comparing the “Golden Era” (when there was still radio and TV broadcast of classical music in the US) with present days. I’d appreciate if somebody found it and linked it here. We’d all learn a great deal about the so called “demographics” and the “popularity” problems Mr. Johnson is talking about.

  3. Elaine Calder

    Gregory, I’ll pick up on your comment that dividing the audience into “the base” and “independents” is simplifying and misleading. In my experience, many members of “the base” care passionately about the future of the art form, are encouraged by the presence of more “independents” and supportive of our efforts to attract them. Of course there are a few deeply conservative traditionalists who freak out if a conductor isn’t in tails and the program includes anything written after, say, 1860. But most members of “the base” understand the need to attract new audiences – and not just young people, either. (Can we please put that one to rest for a bit?) We have long-time subscriber/donors who loved the concert with Antony and the Johnsons last year. We have board members waiting for us to play “Son of Chamber Symphony”. One of the great advantages of symphonic programming – as opposed to opera or theatre – is that you can mix things up in a concert and provide a pretty generous range of musical experiences in a single night. And Carlos is really good at this.
    I’m supposed to be on vacation this week so I’ll stop now. My thanks to Barry for starting such an interesting examination of our work, and to Gregory for pointing out that audiences don’t break down so neatly into opposing camps.

  4. Bill in Dallas

    Having spoken in favor of the “Base – independents” concept…. I have reread the article and see I made an error. My interpretation of the split was between “committed” vs. “casual” which I see as not related necessarily to “traditional programming” but rather to a basic commitment to the symphony and its success vs. a requirement to be attracted to a particular program.


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