April 2009

Painting by Yvonne Rabdau, 2009

April 25, 2009 11:09

In August 2009 I had the pleasure of doing a photo shoot with Yvonne Rabdau, a photographer/visual artist living in the Hudson Valley.   Her intention was to take a series of photographs from which a portrait would be painted.

Well, it's done - and I'm amazed.   Yvonne is a spectacular painter - this is evidenced by the capturing of many of the violin's details.   I have posted both the original photograph and a link to the portrait on my Facebook page, and invite all of you to take a look at some really marvelous work...or if you'd like, simply visit Yvonne's website.

Happy Spring!



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Violinist Tai Murray in MUSO Magazine

April 22, 2009 03:01

Dear all:   Please feel free to take a look at this article about violinist Tai Murray that appears in the most recent issue of MUSO Magazine:


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Post-Script on Music and Meaning

April 13, 2009 02:40

Thank you all for the commentary on my most recent entry.

In the days since the publication of the Philadelphia Inquirer article, there have been at least TWO commentaries posted by well-known and extremely knowledgeable men in the orchestral world.   The first is by Drew McManus - orchestral consultant and author of Adaptistration.com - and the second, which I have to quote here, is by violist Sam Bergman of the Minnesota Orchestra:

"Such articles usually contain a lot of scary but isolated numbers (an orchestra CEO who makes $1 million a year!! a stagehand who makes north of $400K!!! a newly minted orchestra musician right out of school making $130K!!!!) designed to drive home the idea that orchestral finance is completely out of control, thus relieving the author of actually having to prove his thesis with real economic data that applies across the broader industry."

"So taken in a broader context, pronouncements of the unsustainability of our business model (and if history is any guide, there will be many more of these in the coming months) are more or less entirely contradicted by the self-evident ability of most orchestras to adapt to changes in our specific economies. The headlines trumpeting layoffs and salary givebacks aren't evidence of the failure of a business model. They're a demonstration of how the model bends without breaking."

Mr. Bergman's entire article can be found through this link.   Enjoy, and please share your thoughts.

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On Music, Meaning, and Value

April 10, 2009 07:48

Hello, all - I'm back. The past few weeks have consisted of much practicing and much WRITING, but not writing of this sort: it's both tax time and grantwriting time, and while I am one of the many that is still working on his 2008 IRS 1040s I did, after a forty-eight hour lockdown (that consisted of slaying some personal dragons as well as many takes of Bach and Ysaye), get a grant application out before the deadline. While I have done this before, I have to say that I now have an even deeper respect for those who work in Development and fundraising for our arts organizations. Thank you all so much for doing what you do!

In a recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Peter Dobrin speaks of the state of America's orchestras and the (if I may) draconian measures being taken to survive the economic downturn. For those who are unaware, many orchestras are cancelling tours, laying off employees in administrative positions, freezing salaries, shortening both summer seasons and the number of concerts to be given during the 2009-2010 season - and many music directors are taking salary cuts. While this has happened before (in an earlier blog I mentioned the cataclysmic period between 2001-2003), this round of "chopping" is sounding greater alarms due to the fact that these measures are being taken by large cultural institutions including the Cleveland Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, Atlanta Symphony and the Metropolitan Opera.

In his article, Mr. Dobrin does make a very valid point, that being that both business and artistic plans across the nation were based on market speculation - we can all look at the years between 1996-2008 to see some of the amazing growth and expansion that has taken place in the United States. However, with the stock market shrinking, many endowments have lost up to half of their value, which of course creates problems when interest from those endowments is allocated for operations costs.

However, Mr. Dobrin takes a very disturbing turn in his article when he begins to speak of some of the salaries earned by top orchestral executives and the musicians who make up the membership of these orchestras. "Is it really a good thing that Deborah Borda, president of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, made well over $1 million for the year that ended in September 2007? Or that a hornist in the New York Philharmonic made $300,000, an oboe player in the Philadelphia Orchestra $249,000?" he asks.

He then speaks of the fees commanded by international soloists and follows with: "Then there's the regular payroll. When a hundred or more applicants audition for a section violin spot, is it necessary to offer a starting salary of $130,000 for a player just out of school? Would the same audition draw less stellar talent if the job were offering, say, $80,000 the first year on a multiyear schedule to reach $130,000 in some year thereafter?"

My first argument with Mr. Dobrin is that in listing these salaries he is in effect ignoring the reality of most musicians and most orchestral musicians in the United States, as very few orchestras in this country provide those salaries. Secondly, speaking of these salaries does a great disservice to the public's perception of all musicians, particularly those who perform in two or more groups on a freelance basis - which is, I think, the case with the majority of musicians in America's major cities (if not the nation).

Is it not safe to say that the aforementioned "philosophies" are moot, considering what we have seen take place in the "productive" business sector since 2001 (Tyco, WorldCom, Enron, AIG, Merrill-Lynch, Bank of America, Countrywide, et cetera ad nauseum)?

*sigh* *exhale*

I must ask your forgiveness - believe you me, I am WELL aware (painfully aware) of what's happening in this country and how arts organizations and artists are being affected. It's almost frightening. However, if the conversations continue to consist of questioning the cost of what we do, the VALUE of what we produce will continue to be maligned and that could result in great loss - particularly if the world's economic situation takes an even sharper nose dive.
And what IS the value of a symphony orchestra, a soloist, an art museum, a ballet company, a theatre company? How do you measure that?

That value is something that cannot be measured in dollars and cents: it can only be measured by the soul and the senses - and with that, I share with you a clip from the 1939 movie They Shall Have Music, during which an audience (including a young man who would for all purposes be called a "troubled child") listens intently to a performance of Saint-Saens' Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso played by Jascha Heifetz:

"It's a MOVIE! They're ACTING!" you may say. Regardless - we as artists and everyone who has attended a concert has had the experience that makes itself visible on the faces of those in that audience - and the value of those transcendent experiences should NEVER be questioned in terms of "pocket change".

More from the road,

Update:   My deepest thanks to Karen Rile for her correction.   The newspaper cited was the Philadelphia Inquirer (as opposed to Enquirer - as in "The National")

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