A violinist I know who’s part of The New Millennium Orchestra told me they’re working on a business plan these days. Up to now, if they had money they paid the musicians; if they didn’t, everyone played for free. The musicians are all young, energetic, and very hard working. They travel long distances to teach to make enough money to continue with their art. Or their profession.
They grapple with making old music fresh. When an orchestra looks bored, they lose connection with their audience, even if they’re still playing well–anyone looked at the CSO strings lately while they’re playing Brahms?
Last night, I heard Dawn Upshaw singing Golijov’s “Ayres” with 8th Blackbird, and the stage was so filled with vitality and virtuosity that all of us in the audience were completely swept away. I was so envious of Upshaw, of her voice, her artistry, and, at the end, of the big smooch the composer gave her.
8th Blackbird is a wonderful dynamic young group, but they’re known for playing modern music, and it’s very hard for the members to get paying gigs if they have a hankering for Haydn or a desire for Devienne.
All this sounds familiar. Libby Hellmann recently blogged on her long tour on the road, often reading for 1 or 5 people. I know those blues; we all do. We’re essentially playing, not for free, but at a loss, because of the time and money we’ve spent to get to the place where we’re performing. And yet, we still have to respect the one or two or three people who came to see us, give them a fresh performance.
Libby added a link to Declan Burke’s blog on how he’s just about ready to throw in the towel because of his inability to get published, or sold once he’s in print.
We may want to write a novel set outside the mystery/thriller genre. Good luck, our publishers tell us. We’ll pay you when you come back and write what you’ve done a thousand times before, not when you stretch your creative wings.
A concertmaster told my violinist friend, “You will play with many terrible conductors. If you let them define music for you, you will not be able to love music.” Similarly, we all will meet many dreadful, inadequate editors–more, as publishing shrinks and editors are chosen more for their spreadsheet skills than their book skills. We can’t let those people be in our heads instead of the word that nourishes us and brings us life.
New Millennium is working with the Arts & Business Council of Chicago to learn how to put together a business plan so they can work for food instead of for free. You have to be a 501C-3 to qualify for support, but surely there are resources available for individual artists as well. Anybody know of any?