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Cities And Symphonies: Will the Music Stop?

Thursday, July 18, 2013   (0 Comments) (07/05/13) Newcombe, Tod

Professional orchestras all over the United States are struggling financially, and some, such as Honolulu, Philadelphia, and Syracuse, N.Y. have declared bankruptcy, while others have cut back on performances, musicians, and outreach programs. For example, in 2006 the Nashville symphony built a 1,833-seat hall on the strength of awards and recognition for elevating contemporary American music, but private contributions fell with the recession in 2008, and a 2010 flood damaged the hall, putting the symphony on the brink of bankruptcy. Of the more than 1,800 U.S. orchestras, only 20 percent have professional musicians, and nearly all receive private and public support. Indirect government grants and private donations are the main source of funding for most orchestras. Despite the difficulties, some professional and many volunteer orchestras in large and small cities continue to do well. For example, the Genesee Symphony Orchestra in Batavia, N.Y., operates on a $70,000 budget, with attendance overflowing its venue at the Genesee Community College. The orchestra stays engaged with the city through outreach programs, such as performing at local schools. "For many cities, having a healthy orchestra is an important indicator of the city's civic health overall," says League of American Orchestras vice president Heather Noonan. "There's a sense of distinct public value that orchestras bring to a city."

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