Saturday, July 20, 2019

Thank You, Anne Midgette

In her Washington Post article about the closing of the National Philharmonic yesterday, Anne Midgette said a few things that deserve serious amplification, so I will do my bit and amplify them here:
I often talk about the way the classical-music world tends to conflate institutions with the art form. When an orchestra closes, it’s seen as an assault on Beethoven and Brahms. By contrast, when a restaurant closes or a car company goes bankrupt, people may bitterly bemoan it, but they don’t see it as a threat to food, nor do they think that cars are endangered.

And while discussing the demise of a high-budget and high-profile institution, she mentions that there are a lot of excellent lower-profile ensembles that exist in the D.C. area that could use some support (and I imagine that these ensembles will be the ones employing the members of the National Philharmonic who have lost their jobs).

Then Midgette pulls back her camera and mentions that there are worthwhile musical things happening outside of Washington D.C.
How about the production your local shoebox-opera organization has managed to mount on a shoestring? Or the new music ensemble that’s putting together a small concert series in an unexpected space in your neighborhood? These stories are happening, literally, all over the country. Let’s try focusing on the positives that we do have, where our interest can do some good, rather than waiting until another institution shutters to let the field know how very much we profess to care about it.
In our retail-minded society so many things, tangible and intangible, seem to be evaluated by how much someone will pay for them (and that includes orchestras who employ soloists and guest conductors). But musical quality is not something that anyone can put a price tag on.

This brings to mind the joke about the teacher who offers three levels of hour-long lessons: $10 lessons (but nobody wants those), $50 lessons (the most popular), and $100 lessons (which most people can't afford). The real quality of any lesson with a good teacher, as we all know, depends on what the student brings to it. And there are times when teachers feel like they should be paying the student, because working with a prepared, serious, hard-working, and inspired student is a priceless experience.

This is turning into a ramble, so I will stop. But it is a good idea to follow Anne Midgette's advice. If you want to continue to have the opportunity to hear classical music played in real time, go to concerts and bring friends. If you have the resources to support institutions that put on concerts, but can't find the time to go to them yourself, give money to those institutions so that other people can have concerts to go to.

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