What do the classical contributors make of the parlous state of orchestras around the world?
In the USA, the Honolulu, New Mexico and Syracuse orchestras are no more, the Philadelphia Orchestra has filed for bankruptcy protection, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra has been almost ruined by strikes and many other leading orchestras are in deep financial trouble. In the USA there is no state subsidy for the arts.
In Europe, many smaller German orchestras have disappeared or have merged and in the Netherlands, some of the most prestigious musical organisations are in danger of going bust without their traditional state subsidies (or huge cuts in them). In Europe, state subsidy is normal (to varying degrees) for orchestras.
It seems neither system is working right now, so what's the answer? Of course, many orchestras would survive on playing the classical pops time after time with freelance players drafted in as necessary (some very major orchestras in the UK have always used freelance rather than contracted musicians), but what service does that give to music? How would living composers get their new works played? How would we get to hear fine music that didn't draw-in the crowds? Not very 'creative', is it?
When times get tough, the arts are always the first target for cuts. Yet orchestras' budgets are TINY in the great scheme of things. The annual bonus awarded to a top banking executive in the City of London would keep a chamber orchestra in the UK going for about 2 years. How can this be right (don't think that the money-grabbing banker is going to part with any of his wad to support music - he won't!)? So, in reality, these swingeing and crippling cuts make very little difference to the national debt whatsoever, yet politicians always focus on orchestras and opera companies first. Could it be that the cynical politicians are relying on the (erroneous) public perception that the arts are a huge drain on the economy? And don't forget that orchestras put BACK a lot of money into the coffers through taxes and tourism.
So, good people, what's the way forward?