The Decline of the Orchestra: New Horizons?

I’ve read many articles of late (such as this one) talking about yet another symphony orchestra that is headed for bankruptcy, or is locked in disputes over salary cuts, etc. It is indeed a sad thing to see orchestras in dire shape. The musical world is definitely feeling the economic hit, along with other sectors, and orchestras have long been the “large corporations” of that world.

However, maybe we can also see this as an opportunity. There are many other avenues for musicians to explore outside the realm of large concert halls. What about chamber ensembles? What about pairing with composers, applying for grants to commission new works? Many musicians I know in Boston are able to piece together decent livings through freelancing, playing in various traditional and/or new music ensembles, raising money (through grants, fundraising, etc) for their own creative projects and collaborations, and teaching.

Yes, orchestras play an important role in the preservation of great works, and their disappearance would be a tragedy, as would the disappearance of museums or great past works of literature. But perhaps we should also embrace the reality of a shift in paradigm, and equip ourselves to not only survive, but to thrive within this change of environment.

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