This is month two of my blog and it’s time to write about classical music. It’s fitting since it’s classical music month and I urge you all to read Proclamation 6716 from Clinton’s Presidency. It eloquently discusses this robust repertoire and its ability to bridge divides and to communicate powerful messages without any words.
I live in Nashville – “Music City”. We all know the facts – that there is a greater concentration of people working in the music industry here then anywhere else in the world, that Nashville is considered to be a global music industry center along with New York, London and LA and that Nashville is growing at an unprecedented rate.
Classical music is a living art form. Composers around the world are creating new works that reflect their time and more then ever, classical music is diverse and explorative. A discussion for another day is whether or not we should even be using the term “classical” since it in no way captures the robust repertoire we create and communicate. But, this is where we live – in a genre steeped in tradition, often misunderstood, with perceived barriers to entry (even though as a classical musician, I passionately believe classical music is for everyone and I know that most classical organizations are welcoming and open to all).
With the new excitement in Nashville surrounding Intersection, Chatterbird, and OZ and the great work of ALIAS, the Nashville Symphony, the Nashville Opera and many others (as well as our great colleagues at DART) I firmly believe that we are in the midst of a special time here in Nashville, not unlike Paris in the 20s (I know that’s a big leap – but why not!). Something amazing is happening here. There is a spirit of creativity, collaboration, support and exploration and a feeling that anything can happen. It is exciting and I believe it is here, in Music City, that we will realize a music industry that embraces “classical” music as relevant to everyone. I have a vision that we can build a music community that sees classical not as some side thing, but as a central voice in artistic expression and I applaud artists like Ben Folds for having the bravery to explore and use whatever medium they need to express their voice – whether it is a band, a guitar, an ensemble of classical players or an orchestra.
But, here’s the truth – it’s hard. It’s very hard. With any artistic renewal and cultural movement, there is great effort in realizing the change. I love the analogy of a large ship on a given course. If you shift that course by just a degree, you see little to no immediate impact. The further out you go and the longer you stay the new course the more you see how far you have come and recognize that you are in a completely new place as a result of even a minor change. Now imagine the impact of even a large degree of change!
Music has value and the music industry is in the midst of its own sea change as streaming becomes the new primary model of consumption. There is consistent discussion on the best ways to monetize music and how to fairly compensate musicians and classical needs to be open to new models and evolve as well.
One thing that I will not compromise is that musicians must be paid for their work, time, expertise and passion. With Intersection, the repertoire we are playing is not easy. It takes skilled musicians to bring this music to life. To put it into hard numbers – for our October performance we have 18 musicians performing. When you calculate the cost of paying them for rehearsals (4 rehearsals) and the performance that adds up to $12,921.90. That is at a rate of $104 for a 3-hour rehearsal and $138 for the performance. It’s really not that much. I wish we could pay them more – they certainly deserve it! If we want to hear this music and have composers like Julia Wolfe the 2015 winner of the Pulitzer Prize come to Nashville this is what it costs. And, this is just the cost of the musicians – there are additional expenses related to renting the music, producing the concert, etc. We can be creative about finding partnerships that are mutually beneficial and turning things into in-kind donations to keep costs down, but compensating musicians is non-negotiable.
Here’s where I get to the question of action and sustainability. I, like everyone else, grow tired of the constant bombardment from non-profits asking for money. I, too, ask myself – “isn’t there another way” and am constantly searching for an answer. But, now that I am on the side of running a non-profit and growing something that I hope will be sustainable I realize there is no work around. We are here for you – the community – for all people that believe in the value of music, for all that believe that composers have a voice that deserves to be heard, for all that are curious and for all that recognize the power of the universal language of music. And, therefore, it falls into the hands of all of us.
The question is – do we want these arts organizations to be here? If yes, then WE need to do something about it. I am guilty of deleting the emails, throwing the mailings in the trash and listening to NPR for years without ever making a donation. But, I am trying to change. Excuse my poor analogy, but for me I think about emptying the dishwasher – I never want to do it, it seems like such a chore, yet the truth is that it takes only 5 minutes, I always feel better when it’s done and I VALUE having a clean house. Even though it may take effort, I strive for action and make small changes and hopefully (maybe one day!) I’ll have a clean home.
Here’s the point. The next time you get an email or something in the mail from a non-profit asking for support – think twice before you throw it away. Ask yourself, “Is this something I value? Would I be sad if this was gone?” If yes, then take the five minutes to pull out your credit card and make a donation at any level, or buy a ticket, or sign-up to volunteer, or spread the word about what it means to you! The point is to engage and show the world what you value. That is the only way to insure sustainability for the things we cherish.
Right now people are wondering “Does Nashville want Intersection?” We can certainly make the case that we are unique, filling a gap, offering something that no one else is doing and that “Music City” needs us to be a true “Music City”. But, do we WANT it? And, if so, how are our actions reflecting that?
I am forever hopeful and optimistic about the great opportunities and potential that exists in this city and I am excited about the future. I feel honored and inspired to be here, now, in this remarkable time. Thank you all for all that you do to make Nashville great and to propel classical music into our future.