Letters for May 29, 2003 | Letters | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida

Letters for May 29, 2003

Editor's note: We received dozens of letters in response to Jeff Stratton's May 15 column about the Florida Philharmonic. Below are just a few examples; more will follow in coming weeks.

You Get What You Pay For

It could even happen here: Since Jeff Stratton works at an alternative weekly, how does he miss the point that classical music is alternative? What could be more alternative than a beleaguered art form? Journalists like you should be defending the musicians, not running them down.

I half expected Stratton to tell the violinists he interviewed to "Go back to Poland!" His attack on the Florida Philharmonic was revolting. The rewards classical music gives are different from those of any sort of pop or jazz. The thrills produced by Beethoven's Fifth or the Berlioz Requiem or a Stravinsky chamber piece are different from those of R. Kelly or Blur. I can appreciate all of them, and so can most people if they take the time to do it. That's really the issue here: the fact that so much classical music takes more than three minutes to digest.

Classical music can gain a popular foothold; it's done it in Chicago. And I don't think other types of music were "ghettoized" there. The fan bases there for both are strong, is all.

The New World Symphony is still alive and kicking, and Stratton should check it out. He should find something out about the music before attacking it. He comes across as arrogant as the people he hates.

Marc Geelhoed

Bloomington, Indiana

He speaks for Dubya: I am sure Jeff Stratton has received, and will continue to receive, much "angry" mail from musicians offended by his article about the Florida Philharmonic. I hope you don't mind if I give a different view.

Stratton admits that the philharmonic has been jerked around quite a bit, but then he attributes its problems to being in an ivory tower, so to speak. Well, maybe -- but then so many of these problems are a result of the present-day financial situation everywhere. As is said often, "It's the economy, stupid" (along with a multibillion-dollar war).

So how does the present administration get the public to overlook the fact that billions of dollars are spent in a war looking for "invisible" weapons of mass destruction while money for schools, arts organizations, and help for the indigent vanishes? Columnists like Stratton make it easy for the administration.

He is a fine spokesman for President Bush. I look forward to his next article about teachers who are nothing but lazy, overpaid baby sitters.

Ed Staubach

Indianapolis, Indiana

Stop shoveling dirt on our grave: The demise of the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra is one of many sad events in our business of late. It is dangerous, however, to draw conclusions on musician attitudes, career paths, and cultural trends based on a few interviews and the multiculturalism of South Florida.

I don't deny that many of my colleagues in the business are "isolated" from the realities of life. Dedicating yourself to mastering classical music is as demanding as any career ever could be. Nor will I deny that classical musicians sometimes look down their noses at other more "spontaneous" music forms -- that is, "let's grab an instrument and jam" versus practicing four hours a day for 20 years. Classical musicians suffer the same gap as anyone else -- lack of exposure to and appreciation for other art forms -- just as the multicultural masses lack exposure to Beethoven.

As a performing musician and studio teacher, I encounter the "fear of career" question every day, from audience members and students alike. To students, you can't sugarcoat how difficult this career is. If they are willing to gladly make the sacrifices necessary, then I say go for it. You can always become an accountant or high-tech person in your 30s, but you get only one crack at a classical music career -- when you're young. People choose our art for reasons of passion, both performers and audience alike.

As for the survival of classical music in our cultural life, I have few worries. Beethoven symphonies will never go out of style. Whether enough people will know about them to make performing groups viable is and has always been the challenge. No amount of dirt shoveled on the grave of classical music by people such as Stratton can change the fact that it is an empty grave. The spirit of the music, and the desire for people to play it and hear it played, will outlive us all.

Thomas Derthick

Principal Bass, Sacramento Philharmonic

Sacramento, California

Don't talk to me about snobbery: I don't have a lot of sympathy for the Florida Philharmonic either. I think they mismanaged the situation and overplayed their hand with their supporters. But to call classical music a "noble profession that's heading the way of the blacksmith" is shortsighted and insulting. Fine orchestras around the country (including the Sacramento Philharmonic) are working hard to make classical music relevant to a contemporary audience. It is not elitist (in a snobbish sense of the word) for musicians to demonstrate discipline, persistence of vision, and sacrifice to preserve and advance a great art form. The Florida Philharmonic crisis isn't about entitlement; it's about the failure of management, musicians, and supporters to articulate the importance of what classical music can bring to a general audience -- "not the experts and aficionados," the "common man and woman and child." Entertainment that includes extraordinary talent and that is capable of an extraordinary impact is worth fighting for -- especially in a world in which even mediocrity is considered too much work. Mr. Stratton needs to have his "ossified particles" shaken, or at least stirred.

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