regional orchestras dead wood?

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.

7 Replies to “regional orchestras dead wood?”

  1. If the Pasadena Symphony is a no-count regional orchestra in Teachout’s eyes, then ensembles like the Vancouver (WA) Symphony must be roadkill. What happens to all of the musicians who don’t get the few fulltime jobs in orchestras? Are they supposed to just not play anywhere?

  2. This man, frankly is a dingle-berry. Visual art museums and local theaters are MORE deserving than orchestras? I can Google any Monet or search any production of “A Streetcar Named Desire” on youtube. So, where are your museums and theaters now, Mr. Teachout? A live performance is certainly more exciting than sitting in the subway listening to “chestnuts” of the repertoire. I know the National Symphony Orchestra does “Kinder Konzerts” specifically geared towards children. I assume the Pasadena Orch. does similar programming. The NSO will also be playing at Wolf Trap, an outdoor venue, with programs such as “Bugs Bunny at the Symphony”, “James Bond”, etc. Where’s your regional orchestras with “Star Wars” now. Mr. Teachout?

    God this article pi**** me off.

  3. He’s just someone who doesn’t connect with music and sees no value to anything when it hasn’t been commoditized for his passive consumption. He’s probably one of those people who would see someone knitting a sweater and say, “Why are you doing that? You can BUY one of those!” *rolls eyes*

  4. this article launched a few thoughts:

    i believe regional orchestras fulfill vital functions for a great many people – players and listeners.

    while i generally don’t attend many concerts of regional OR major orchestras, i know many people that do. my limited concert going is more repertoire driven than being concerned with who is doing the playing. in other words, i’d much rather go hear joe or josephine schmo render michael colgrass’s “chaconne” for viola & orchestra than get glammed through yet another lang-langerace-esque traversal of tchaikovsky’s 1st piano concerto.

    my air time is limited. given this prejudicial personal REALITY, how ’bout a regional orchestra focusing on seldom/never heard repertoire?

    hahaha, yes, i know, i’m dreaming.

  5. I think he’s also dead wrong about why regional orchestras came about. They seem (in my reading) to have popped up because local musicians wanted to get together and saw away at Mozart, not because a city wanted “prestige.” They were hobby musicians, and then they started getting good and other local people started wanting to pay to hear them. In that case, why should they go away? They’ll just pop right back up again when the next generation of hobby musicians decide they want to find a local high school auditorium and mess around together, and people start wanting to hear them. They exist because, when they arose, there was less of a divide between listener and musician — THAT’S the kernel.

    Now that divide was smaller because of a lack of recording technology, but it wasn’t that space aliens landed in Podunk and started playing music, and that was the only way the locals could hear it. The Podunkians themselves started playing the stuff. If they disappear, they’ll just pop up again anyhow. Maybe the way they “monetize” themselves may change, but there will always be a bunch of string-playing accountants and dental assistants who want to get together and pass the time in every town.

  6. Having played in several community orchestras over the years to full houses, I too think this is hogwash.

    I still vividly recall one concert when several buses from local retirement homes pulled up to the high school auditorium. They were dressed to the nines and very excited about the evening’s event. We ended up delaying the concert a bit in order to give these folks time to make it to their seats. While our performance was nowhere near the quality of the OSO or some of the other regional orchestras, the audience that night made it obvious that they enjoyed the music.

    Would they had rather stayed at home and listened to a CD? I think the answer to that question is a resounding “No”.

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