Terry Teachout has an article in the Wall Street Journal in which he basically says that if you’ve got a decent hi-fi at home then you are better off staying home than going to hear some “third rate” regional orchestra. What a load of crap.
Regional orchestras provide relatively low cost concerts for segments of the community that might not want to go hear the major orchestra (if one exists) in their town or city. Most regional orchestras also tend to program off the beaten path a bit, as well as feature the favored chestnuts. They provide a place for upcoming artists from from within and outside the community to perform solos and concertos. Regional orchestras give freelance players an additional place to play symphonic music, maybe their only place, if they mostly play with the ballet and opera. They also give people who don’t have deep pockets to be a larger part of a non-profit organization than they otherwise could be with a major arts group. People have a real sense of ownership with their regional or community orchestra. On top of this, most regional orchestras are quite good. Third rate, I don’t really know what that means, but often they give performances that might be a bit below world-class technically, but often are full of spirit that many major groups are unable to muster week in and week out. When you play one or two concerts every three months, you tend to appreciate it more than if it’s just another week with different music on the stand and and different stick waver on the podium.