The late, great symphony orchestra of Detroit? … The late, great culture of the West?

E. in Florida writes:

The Detroit Symphony Orchestra has canceled the entire season because the orchestra members were not happy that they were to take a pay cut. I don’t follow this in the details, but, as I understand it, the Detroit Symphony was long one of the better symphonies in the U.S. Well, revenues fell as Detroit deteriorated. Much of the money (the kind who give big bucks to symphonies) has evaporated or left town. Even the distant suburbs are packing up and moving elsewhere. The city itself is mostly black, hopelessly forlorn, and not at all interested in funding a symphony playing European music. The members of the symphony don’t seem to understand this, so they have gone on strike and canceled the entire year’s performances.

Closer to home, I have a similar story to relate. The Atlanta Ballet is incessantly trying to gain a large audience (and they are also well in the hole in regard to expenses vs. ticket sales). Well, last year, the powers that be in the Ballet had the great idea of hiring a local Rap artist (of whom there are many in Atlanta) to sing at a huge Atlanta Ballet production while the ballet company members performed Hip Hop maneuvers alongside some of the local hip hop dancers. The rap guy was named Big Boi. Well, the attendance was high, but apparently many of the attendees were local black high school and college students who were invited to attend more or less for free. The ballet dancers looked goofy doing hip hop. I was told by more than one member of the company that they could not understand the “unprofessional” behavior of their fellow hip hop dancers who more or less failed to show up for most of the rehearsals. They just wanted to do improv and be spontaneous.

I think Western high culture is dying out. I’d love to hear you expound on this. It’s up your alley and would be a nice diversion from the Muslim world and the Madison imbroglio.

LA replies:

The death of Western high culture is too large a subject for the moment. Surely it is no surprise that in a city that is literally shrinking, there would be a loss of the financial base to support a symphony orchestra. Over the years various big city orchestras and dance companies have decided that the answer to declining attendance and financial support was greater diversification in the company and in the works being performed. None of these efforts has succeeded to my knowledge. There was one dance company (I can’t find the entry at the moment) that announced the most ambitious agenda to diversify its ballet corps within a certain number of years. I checked it out a few years later, and nothing had changed; they were as white as ever.

- end of initial entry -

LA writes:

When a major city is ordered by its state government to close half its public schools, that city’s inability to maintain a symphony orchestra seems like small potatoes. The Detroit News reports today:

State education officials have ordered Robert Bobb immediately to implement a financial restructuring plan that balances the district’s books by closing half of its schools, swelling high school class sizes to 60 students and consolidating operations.

This week, Bobb, the district’s emergency financial manager, said he is meeting with Detroit city officials and will set up a meeting with Wayne County Regional Educational Service Agency to discuss consolidation opportunities in areas such as finance, public safety, transportation and other areas.

Bobb also is preparing a list of recommended school closures and Friday said layoff discussions are under way and would be announced closer to April, when notices would be issued. “We are moving forward with the plan,” he said “Right now my focus is on my transition plan and the DEP (deficit elimination plan).” [cont.]

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 21, 2011 04:51 PM | Send

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