July 01, 2010
There’s a fantastic article in the current issue of Time Magazine (7/5/10 issue, Thomas Edison on the cover, page 69) by Daniel Okrent called “And the Band Played On,” about how the Detroit Symphony Orchestra is surviving, despite major financial woes, in a city that is particularly decimated by our struggling economy. As reported in the article, the orchestra’s situation is scary: corporate contributions fell 52% from 2008 to 2009, their operating deficit could reach $5 million this year, and funding from the Michigan council for arts and cultural affairs has fallen from $1.6 million 10 years ago to $20,000 this year. And yet, the DSO perseveres. They’re developing inventive new performance opportunities, in venues ranging from high school auditoriums to rehab centers, and finding ways to engage and cultivate new audiences. The article touches on many issues surrounding the funding of arts and the role that arts play in a community, and makes a couple points that I thought were particularly thought-provoking, including how conductor Leonard Slatkin “imagines a musical future in which the very role of a musician is redefined… He suggests that the ability and willingness to promote the orchestra and its music might someday be part of the hiring process for musicians. He even wants to offer public-speaking classes to orchestra members.”
The article can be found here (although I think you need to be a subscriber to read the entire thing). Otherwise, you may need to pick up a copy of Time at the newsstand.