The Orchestra Is Dead.

Classical Music is Dead.jpg


Long Live the Orchestra.


{If you're more of a Beatles fan, scroll down.}

The Orchestra of the 19th and 20th centuries is dead. Everywhere you look in the classical music industry, and the symphony orchestra is classical music's primary symbol and driver, there are signs that the markets for both are on their last legs.


In 2014, a morbid piece in Slate ("Requiem") declared:

When it comes to classical music and American culture, the fat lady hasn’t just sung. Brünnhilde has packed her bags and moved to Boca Raton.

Classical music as recent as 20 years ago was a major segment of the music industry; now it's just a fringe market, traded in bulk by the last few remaining major record labels. In 2012 alone, classical music sales experienced a 21% decline.

Consider the average age at Symphony Orchestra concerts. Every single year - and this is a decades-long trend - it inches upwards. Imagine that in Los Angeles of 1937 it was 28! 

The grimness goes on and on. Younger would-be donors are no longer interested in financially supporting orchestras in good times, let alone rescuing them in bad, and not all ensembles are winning the fight to fend off bankruptcy.

But how did it all go wrong?

Any other industry facing a similar crisis would reinvent itself - it's not like we lack a quality product!

What's needed in classical music and in symphony orchestras is version 2.0, with annual upgrades (presently version 2.016) based on customer feedback and ongoing, innovative redesigning of the user experience and interface. 

The underlying problem is an out-dated elitist mindset, and not simply decades old, but centuries old.

Orchestras still pretend they're performing for the King, Pope, or local Lord, and audiences often join the charade by pretending to be nobility.  It would be farcical if not very real, even cultivated by typical 1.0 orchestras. Think about that the next time someone shushes you at a "serious" concert.

Music is meant to meet you now, where you're at, and bring you joy. 

Joy needn't equate to happy-talk music - there's nothing more cathartically joyful than closing your eyes on a rainy day and taking in Barber's melancholic Adagio for Strings. It will sooth your sadness and uplift your soul, resulting in joy, and that's why I use the word unabashedly. 

It's not the Maestro's job to judge you on whether you prefer Beethoven, The Beatles, or Bieber. Yes, if an evil dictator forced me to choose, I'd have to opt for Beethoven, but who would deny me Revolution! And who's to say whether Penny Lane might sooner or later intersect with Mahlerßtrase? Music is music.  

The biggest single factor in enjoying classical music is exposure and familiarity. What happens when you take a little bit of funding away from Music Education in Public Schools across America every year for fifty years? Is it a mystery that people ages 55 and under feel increasingly alienated from classical music the younger they are?

This is a reversible problem; the Orchestra is not dead.

Orchestras are going to by necessity experience a 2.0 renaissance, a revolution, a revolt, and I find that tremendously exciting.

What if every 1.0 orchestra in America decided to enter the 21st century? What if every orchestra's active Strategic Plan aggressively cultivated future audiences, 20, 30, and 50 years out, rather than just this season and maybe the next? 

What if every orchestra pledged to bring exceptional concert experiences to twice as many children as adults every year, and not only in their immediate market, but in the outlying, less affluent countryside and suburbs?

Take what The Carolina Philharmonic does, after just seven years in existence - we bring interactive orchestral experiences to all the 1st, 2nd and 5th graders in Moore County. That's over 3,500 children every year. And they don't come to sit cultivatedly and be enlightened by a short yet serious concert; they come to become the orchestra. We create an ensemble of 1,300 musicians, playing and singing together. The children eat it up! And they'll own the experience for the rest of their lives.

All of us have a story about how music entered our lives as children, and we have someone to thank for that. What are we doing now for our children, locally, regionally and nationwide to give back?


A struggling orchestra will say: "That's great for tomorrow, albeit expensive to implement - what about today? What about the generations we already lost?

What would happen if Orchestras really started to put the customer first, and not simply try to "educate" them? Any company exists to serve its customers, joyfully. Why do orchestras set themselves apart? Orchestras that embrace their audience as their customers will see their audiences grow. Larger audiences equate to larger donor bases. More donations allows for greater educational service and expansion. Greater educational expansion will create tomorrow's audience and donors. Not to mention what it will do for the children.

Please share your thoughts with us.

Please share with me and The Carolina Philharmonic what you want from us, where you want us to go, what you want us to collectively discover and experience. Let's forge as a Philharmonic community our future path in music together.

And maybe with a little luck and tenacity, our small community in the NC countryside might make a difference and set an orchestra ver. 2.016 standard. 


But first, a stroll down Penny Lane...


Experience Orchestra 2.016 Live.


(there are no online fees, and tax is included.) 

You may also get tickets at our Box Office (5 Market Square, Pinehurst, open weekdays 10am-4pm), by calling the ever-friendly Sherry at 910-687-0287. 

General admission tickets (seats pre-assigned) – cash or check only – are available by visiting any of our outside vendors around our local communities: 

Heavenly Pines Fine Jewelry5 Dowd Circle, Pinehurst
Artist League of the Sandhills129 Exchange St, Aberdeen
Arts Council of Moore County482 E Connecticut Ave, Southern Pines
Nature’s Own95 Bell Avenue, S. Pines
Sandhills Winery1057 7 Lakes Dr, West End
The Country Bookshop140 NW Broad St, Southern Pines 
The Given Outpost95 Cherokee Road, Given Outpost, Pinehurst