Saturday, February 9, 2008

Conservatories, Orchestras and Music Departments

Here in the U.S., one has to wonder about the future of music schools and conservatories with tuition rates of $20,000 a year, when the available jobs are dwindling. Many orchestras are in a severe crisis now, with large deficits and no apparent way to make them up. And orchestras are traditionally the largest source of employment in the private sector for classical musicians. The decline of orchestral in the U.S. has to eventually impact opportunities for musicians in the education system. Yet, people with positions of authority seem pretty much oblivious.

This is not just restricted to classical music. One could throw in jazz, as well, where opportunities are even more scarce. It's sad to see people who regularly played with Coltrane and Miles Davis living in rent-by-the month hotels as they struggle with difficulties of age. Yet I know such people. We are just throwing away our history and cultural legacy.

So our music schools have the standard jazz studies department, while private sector opportunities might pay $50 a night. Who goes into music fields such as these, when the opportunities to make money are so limited ? More and more it's exclusively children of the rich, who know they will be taken care of it things don't work out in music. But you're not going to get much vitality in an art that way.

Musicians don't go into the field to get rich, but one has to survive. And the field is demanding, and requires one' full time to improve and succeed. You simply can not be a world class musician and have a 'day job'. This can apply to any segment of music, not just the above mentioned categories of classical and jazz. As economies decline, so to , do the arts. People feel the pinch and have to survive, even if it means limiting their artistic pursuits.

Anything that limits the potential income of artists is going to limit the full flowering of a societies artistic potential. Those who celebrate their ability to get free music via the internet , or sharing, is pretty much destroying another economic base. Though there are of course success stories, the general drift in the music field over the last decades has been toward less - less live music opportunities and less money through recordings (with or without evil record companies). Everything can not be about promotion - giving something away for free for a future reward. There eventually has to be a pay off. Bills have to be paid, teeth have to be fixed. If musicians can not get their teeth fixed by playing music, they will move to other fields and a whole lot interesting ideas will never be heard.