Budget Crisis Forces Classical Music Out Of Its Box

In major U.S cities, symphony orchestras face financial problems. But there are bright notes in dark times. For example, the Metropolitan Opera has begun live broadcasts of its operas in movie theaters around the world.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And now we're going to hear how some struggling orchestras in this country are trying to innovate their way out of big financial challenges. Those challenges have led to a four-month strike by musicians in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra; musicians who would normally be performing music like this, Aaron Copland's "Hoe-Down."

(Soundbite of music, "Hoe-Down")

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

So the strike is on in Detroit, and Louisville's orchestra recently filed for bankruptcy. The Honolulu Symphony folded last month, and orchestras from Cleveland to Charleston are facing financial problems. However, it's not all gloom.

MONTAGNE: The Washington Post's classical music critic Anne Midgette told NPR in 2009 that financial troubles are forcing classical music out of its box.

Ms. ANNE MIDGETTE (Classical Music Critic, The Washington Post): Orchestras are trying to come out of the ivory tower and engage a little bit. And I think they're going to have to in some way in order to survive. I don't think you can just fall back on the model anymore that we offer the greatest music in the world and you'd better like that. And I think that's a good thing for the field.

MONTAGNE: The Metropolitan Opera, for instance, began live broadcasting their operas in movie theaters around the world.

Many young classical artists are also experimenting with the fusion of electronica and classical music, artists like Mason Bates, an electronica DJ and composer-in-residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

(Soundbite of music, "Deliver us from Evil")

INSKEEP: This composition is called "Deliver us from Evil." The hope is that innovative, modern works like this one will deliver America's orchestras.

Now, at npr.org/music, you'll find a new conversation on classical music, which you can join. Leave your comment at npr.org/music.

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

MONTAGNE: And I'm Renee Montagne.

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