Filed under: Commentary | Tags: Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Denver Art Museum, Denver Debutante Ball
Two articles recently appeared in The Denver Post concerning the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. Both of them caught my attention because one article underscores the elitist attitude and easy use of the arts for the gain that is reflected in some members of Denver society, and the other article seems to proselytize the belief that the Colorado Symphony Orchestra is only for those who are in the stratosphere of Denver society.
In her article entitled, “Behind Colorado symphonies split from debutante ball,” Joanne Davidson states, and I quote, “Those involved with the ball wondered what could have prompted an orchestra that weathered one bankruptcy in 1989 and came very close to declaring another in 2011 to turn up its nose at what can best be described as ‘free money,’ an annual gift frequently in the six figures.”
I would suggest that if any of you readers are curious enough, that you go to: http://www.denverpost.com/coloradosunday/ci_20745011/behind-colorado-symphonys-split-from-debutante-ball?IADID=Search-www.denverpost.com-www.denverpost.com. The article presents both sides of the issue fairly well, I think. Jerry Kern, who co-chairs the CSO board with his wife, Mary Rossick Kern, is quoted as asking, “How appropriate is it for us to reach out to diverse groups and venues when we’re associated with an organization that is perceived by at least parts of the community to be a closed society?”
My point is that, once again, the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, and you can name almost any symphony in the United States, is considered by some to be the wayward party in this dispute. Frankly, any clear thinking individual would realize that the Kerns are one hundred percent correct in asking the question in the last sentence of the above paragraph. One has to realize, and there are many who do not, that the orchestra is not at the beck and call except from their board and the musicians who perform in the orchestra. Joanne Davidson puts it quite succinctly when she says that several individuals welcome this change because the orchestra has to be something other than “the house band for the Denver Country Club.” In addition, and please read the quote in the second paragraph above concerning bankruptcy, there is an implied belief that the orchestra itself, and its musicians, are somehow to blame for the recent orchestra troubles. I do know individuals who truly believe that musicians should still be wearing servant’s livery as they did in Haydn’s time, therefore they must be at fault because they were servants. Heaven forbid there would be excessive demands made on the orchestra by some of those who donate, i.e., “If I donate money to your organization you will use it the way I see fit.” And, heaven forbid, that it would be the former CEO who caused many of the problems due to serious marketing errors, the dwindling audience attendance because of the elimination of the less expensive seats, in order to increase ticket revenue from the more expensive seats. And, of course, there was the fiasco of reduced salaries for the musicians, and convincing them they should be part-time because they didn’t need to be full-time. There is also the popular belief that musicians don’t have to work hard at what they do because all they have to do is play an instrument. After all, they don’t have to deal with mergers and acquisitions.
I must say, that I was a little bit confused by Ray Rinaldi’s article in the Denver Post. It can be found at http://www.denverpost.com/entertainment/ci_20807271/colorado-symphony-orchestra-rethinks-programming-funding-everything?IADID=Search-www.denverpost.com-www.denverpost.com. Rinaldi attempts to explain all of the changes that are being made by the Kerns. Troublesome to me, is that he quotes Jesse Rosen, who is the executive director of the League of American Orchestras. It was Jesse Rosen that I heard speak on Colorado Public Radio, when he said that orchestras need to change their “product.” I have written about that before, and expressed alarm that Rosen, who leads this orchestral organization, thinks that orchestras should not play so much symphonic music, but switch to something with more mass appeal, like rock and pop. (I will also interrupt myself at this point to let you readers know that Bruce Clinton, who left the board of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, and whose ideas helped put the orchestra in such bad straits, is the Treasurer for the League of American Orchestras). The confusing aspect about Rinaldi’s article comes when he says (and in his article there are no quote marks around the following comment) “The CSO’s new strategy is wide ranging, but it is based on a simple belief: Despite what you may have heard about classical music, the brand remains strong. It just needs to get down off its high horse.… They can’t look like an elite club that lets regular folk in on the occasional evening.” I don’t know if that statement is Rinaldi’s, or if he is quoting someone else. Truly, I can’t imagine that one of the Kerns made a statement like that.
The point is this: I have absolutely no idea why people to this day think that classical music is on a “high horse.” And, because they perform in concert halls, why do people seem to think that makes them an “elite club.” That kind of sweeping generalization lacks intelligence on several levels: 1) it exposes the speaker’s lack of knowledge and appreciation of symphonic music, 2) it displays a lack of intelligence by assuming that every kind of music that is presented must be just for that individual, 3) it also demonstrates that the individual who speaks thus, has not had any kind of music or art instruction in school. And, of course, that is another issue entirely.
However, I would like to point out that many parents today, for example, up to the age of 50, were raised during an age in American education when arts and music were disappearing from the schools. In addition, I suspect that the only music that they knew, and are therefore handing down to their children, was rock or pop. As I said before, there’s nothing wrong with rock and pop if it is done well, but, unfortunately, it seldom is. Another factor has absolutely nothing to do with music whatsoever. That is the fact that today’s generation, and by that, I mean individuals from the age of eighteen to fifty, seem to have been brought up in an entitlement generation, where everything has to be tailored just for them. If it isn’t, then they don’t want to take the trouble to learn it
Rinaldi, in another paragraph where he discusses the rebuilding of Boettcher Hall, states that, “The city does need to keep up its properties and it has good reason to support the symphony – no politician wants to be blamed for its collapse. Still, giving money to an organization that many see as elite, without the match it promised, could be a tough sell to the City Council.” My question is, instead of stating that the organization is one that “many see as elite,” why doesn’t Rinaldi defend this symphony? Of course, if he did, then I might not be writing this article, and he might not be able to show his bosses at The Denver Post that his article is getting a response.
I admit that it is unclear whether some of the statements that Rinaldi makes in his article are his, or if he is simply reporting what others have said. I have to assume that many of them are his because he does not indicate that they are from someone else either by statement or by quotation marks.
Mr. Rinaldi also makes a statement in reference to finding a new and permanent conductor whom, “Symphony fans dream of connecting with a character like Marin Alsop, the former conductor who was respected as an artist and a part of the Denver community.” I do think that there are some symphony fans who miss Marin Alsop, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if a conductor was chosen that the symphony musicians respected? Symphony fans do not have to sit through rehearsals. Do any of the fans remember the problems concerning her hiring in Baltimore?
It is my wish that all of Denver thanks Mr. and Mrs. Kern, and Mr. Sobczak for the splendid job they are doing with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. And, it is my wish, that people on many levels would stop making mindless remarks about how symphonic music is “elitist” and on a “high horse.”
In addition, I would encourage those involved with the Denver Debutante Ball to earnestly search for another arts organization of which they could make use, and make amends with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. Though judging by some of the indignation reported by Joanne Davidson in her article, it seems that will be unlikely until someone is able to prove the efficacy of porcine avionics. I don’t ever recall the Denver Debutante Ball being as smitten with visual art as they clearly were with musical art. However, I don’t suppose the Denver Art Museum has a hall big enough for their purposes, and I would certainly be the first to admit that it is difficult to dance with a painting.
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