A Rocky Philadelphia Story

By all accounts America's famed Philadelphia Orchestra is navigating a difficult transition. The music remains strong in its appeal but issues of money and community have the organisation struggling.

The orchestra's president arrived only recently. The music director and marketing director have yet to be hired. The Kimmel Center makes expensive demands. The orchestra reports 62% attendance and a looming deficit of US$7.2 million. Peter Dobrin, writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer, reports that the more worrying issue in the long term is the orchestra's relationship with its audience. Philadelphia's music lovers feel increasingly remote from the ensemble that was once their pride. They miss encores, meeting players, getting reliable news. The orchestra has been slow to accommodate commuter schedules with rush-hour concerts and Sunday afternoon concerts.

It all adds up to a rocky journey for the Philadelphia Orchestra. Time will tell if it ends with a triumphant run up the steps.

The full article appears at the Inquirer site.


Conductor's Notebook


Tay said...

It will be sad if the orchestra is silenced. I remember going to the Cleveland orchestra in elementary for a school field trip. It is one of my most memorable field trips ever.

I wonder if changing musical arrangements to appeal to a newer audience, as well as changing the scheduling some, might help get more people to come to hear the orchestra play.

Alton said...

Philadelphia, like many orchestras, could benefit from more creativity in concert scheduling. America's best orchestras tend to perform in downtown venues while many members of their audience commute. Rush-hour concerts are a great way to meet the needs of these listeners. When you schedule a concert for, say, 6:30, music lovers can grab a quick bite after work, enjoy the music while avoiding the traffic jam outside, and still expect to walk through the front door of their homes before midnight. Traditional 8:00 concerts don't offer the same convenience to them.

I saw a lot of creativity with concert formats and schedules from David Zinman and the Baltimore Symphony. It paid off in attendance, community pride and listener excitement.

An ensemble with the pedigree of the Philadelphia Orchestra is in no danger of being 'silenced.' As the article describes, the orchestra is in the middle of a leadership transition right now. At the same time it faces a financial crunch brought on in part by their move to a new (fine, overdue, and badly needed) hall.

The repertoire still appeals, as the article notes. Sharing treasures of our culture is the reason the orchestra exists. That's the mission.