On the Future of American Symphonies

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Twice monthly, The CFR is delighted to feature articles from our partner ArtsNash. The journalists at ArtsNash cover the eclectic and growing arts scene of Nashville, Tennessee.
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This essay was written by John Pitcher.

Exactly two years ago this month, I came up with the idea of launching ArtsNash. At the time, no other media were publishing regular reviews of Nashville Symphony Orchestra concerts. That NSOstruck me as a terrible oversight, given that the NSO had won six Grammy Awards (the tally is now seven).

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Of course, I had no idea whether a venture like this would fly, so I decided to ask a prominent composer and university professor for his thoughts. He listened attentively for a few minutes and finally declared the endeavor to be admirable. But then he added that he also thought the idea was moot.

“Why, do you think no one will be interested in reading about the arts?” I asked.

“No,” he said matter-of-factly. “I just don’t think there will be any orchestras left in America to write about in 10 years.”

I was thinking a lot about that stunning statement last week, after the Nashville Symphony Orchestra announced that it would not renew a letter of credit on about $100 million in bond obligations. Symphony managers hope this extraordinary – and seemingly desperate – action will force the banks to renegotiate the amount the NSO owes. The orchestra incurred the debt in order to build its magnificent Schermerhorn Symphony Center.

I write about the symphony’s financial problems in some detail in this week’s Nashville Scene. Already, the story has attracted the one comment that disturbs – and frightens – diehard symphony fans the most, namely, that the NSO’s problems are the direct result of the orchestra playing too much contemporary music.

Read the whole essay over at ArtsNash.