If one were to take a surface view of the state of classical music today, one might reasonably assume that it is a dying practice.
In the last five years, the major symphonic orchestras of Detroit, Minnesota, San Francisco, and even Chicago have all gone on strike at some point.
The musicians of the Atlanta Symphony experienced a lockout in 2014 as well.
One of the nation’s most successful and historical musical institutions, the Philadelphia Orchestra, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2011, though they seemed to have found an exit from such bankruptcy in 2012.
And how could we forget, one of the world’s premiere opera companies that existed for seventy years, the New York City Opera, went out of business in 2013, citing $10 million in assets and debt when it too filed for bankruptcy.
And of course, one might also be tempted to point to a perceived irrelevance of classical music in today’s popular culture, with only a few names, such as Yo-Yo Ma, Dudamel, and Glass being known to the greater public.
Certainly, one cannot deny that some degree of truth exists in these aforementioned statements – many of the basic values and institutions that the classical music community still holds in high regard no longer carry the same gravitas they once held.
In college music programs featuring classical music majors, many of the same values held in yesteryear are still held in 2015.
One example – the mentality that you need to get an orchestra job or you are a bust still exists in a number of institutions. This is a mentality that tells students that the truest and best path to achieving financial stability with your career is to get an orchestra job.
With several top-tier orchestras going on strike, does this actually seem like prudent advice?
After all, it’s not like many top-tier orchestras actually exist in America that can provide a substantial living! Maybe 20-25 or so, and at least six of them have gone on strike or filed for bankruptcy in the last 4-5 years.
While I am in no way disparaging the institution of orchestras, these ensembles that were originally created in the eras of Sammartini and Haydn are not only consistently having problems reaching fair labor and compensation agreements, they are also filing for bankruptcy and going out of business, as mentioned previously.
On top of all that – and this is the most important point – orchestral employment represents just one dimension of a truly multi-dimensional art that has, in reality, grown in leaps and bounds over the last 20 years. We’ll get more into that in a bit.
Other similar values from yesteryear taught in music schools also exist in 2015, including the thought that winning classical music competitions is the trust path to success, when in reality they have become less and less relevant over time.
Another value that many of my friends’ teachers have relayed to them is that we should practice our craft until someone else decides our music careers are worth managing, should we ever be “deemed good enough” to be soloists or published composers.
This all leads me to the actual point of this article…
What is the actual “one problem” with classical music?
Welcome to my website, and thanks so much for reading! I sincerely hope my website will help you choose the music school best for you, succeed as a music student and beyond. Follow me on Twitter @musicschoolcent