Last night I wondered just how many major U.S. cities will still have a symphonic orchestra in the remainder of my lifetime.

This came after I very pleasurable experience joining my friend Brian, who had an extra ticket to a NY Philharmonic performance. Andrey Boreyko — a terrific, energetic presence — was guest-conducting and Branford Marsalis was soloist for two 20th Century pieces for alto-sax with orchestra. The orchestra led off brilliantly with Haydn’s Symphony No. 60 in C Major, and closed the second half with a Richard Strauss opus that reminded me of just how moving and powerful classical music can be, especially when played live.

The musicianship is incredible. The Philharmonic has shown a revitalization of energy in recent years that is gratifying. They were definitely having fun on stage. Yet the same problem remains — not enough people saw it to become hooked. I’m not even 50, yet too often my wife, my friends and I bring the average age down to 65 whenever we attend a classical music event.

Here I am sitting in Avery Fisher Hall, reveling in how lucky I am to be here in one of the world’s great cities, with one of the world’s great orchestra’s, yet the hall — which was perhaps 70% full during the two Marsalis pieces — thinned out during intermission. It was barely 60% occupied for the Strauss finale, and most of that audience looked to be 65 or older.

Bless their hearts, but they can’t do this forever. Will my late Baby Boomer/early GenX group and those that follow pick up the mantle? Digital delivery has given the music itself new means of exposure. Some friends say that as we get older and more disenfranchised with popular music, our patronage will happen naturally. Maybe.

But this is an age of cutbacks and tough times that are hitting NEA and cultural organizations hard. It won’t let up any time soon. There’s no guarantee that younger corporate leaders continue to see the value of sponsorship for this type of experience. The halls need subsidies and incentives to fill up and stay afloat, particularly outside NYC in cities like Cleveland and Buffalo. In that context, what will the future of live performed music be? I’d love to hear the perspective of others.

New York Times Review
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/19/arts/music/19branford.html?scp=2&sq=branford%20marsalis&st=cse

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