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Swan Song or Song and Dance?
A chronicle on the coming fate of the world's music ensembles
Part I

What's happening to live classical music? The trials of American orchestras have been splashed across the front pages of arts publications as of late, with the Florida Philharmonic and San Antonio Symphony filing for bankruptcy and the Louisville Symphony narrowly missing the same fate with a last-minute gift from a generous donor. Several thousand miles away, the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra has shut it doors, and even the great opera traditions of Berlin do not seem to be enough to sustain all three of the city's opera houses. Perhaps subscriptions are down, or maybe state funds have disappeared. In any case, the status quo for classical music seems to be shifting, for better or for worse.

Bernard Holland in a recent New York Times article pointed to the avant-garde movement of the late 20th century as well as ensemble administration to take the blame for deteriorating musical organizations. Not only, he claims, did the less meritable works of the avant-garde fragment audiences, but non-musican board members who are "admirably devoted to keeping orchestras fiscally afloat but who, with little knowledge of music or real interest in it, have no capacity to fix a purpose or a path" have led their charges astray. Julian Lloyd Webber, however, claims in his July Telegraph article that the heralds of classical doom are making "tired predictions," presenting Seoul's six full-time orchestras and the steady membership growth of the Association of British Orchestras as evidence of vitality in the music world. San Antonio music writer Mike Greenberg stated in the San Antonio Express-News that the symphony in his city can return to stability by "doing more of what it does well: making music." Clearly, the views concerning classical concerts run the gamut of opinions.

In the next few weeks, will be speaking with artists, symphony/opera administration, and music critics to discuss the current state of live classical music. Find out what they think is responsible for the seemingly tenuous position of the arts, as well as what-if anything-should be done to rectify it. Read what ensembles are doing to survive, and even prosper.

Our readers can play an important role in this as well. Let us know your ideas for drawing audiences to classical music concerts by entering the "Saving Classical Music" contest. Click here for contest details. The three grand prize winners will receive 100 Naxos CDs each.

Check back next week for part two in our special multi-part feature.

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Naxos Records, a member of the Naxos Music Group