At this point, I am sure that most students, teachers, performers, and enthusiasts of classical music are aware of the current strike set by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The strike is due to a lack of contract as well as the possibility of pay cuts, etc. With that said, the CSO canceled its Saturday concert due to the aforementioned conditions.
As someone who hopes to some day make it in the orchestral world, it is certainly disheartening to hear of the recent strike. It is nothing new to hear that professional orchestras are no longer the prime form of entertainment for most of society, or that the average age of the orchestra concert-goer is certainly not in the 20's or 30's. Nevertheless, I was under the impression that the local symphony was still an integral part of culture in that area. This can be said to an even greater extent with a top-tier symphony such as the CSO. It seems that the reason the pay cuts are in question is due to a lack of financial resources to continue to pay the musicians at the rate at which they are currently employed.
The question now arises, however. What does the future hold in store for the symphony orchestra? What does it hold for the generation of solid conservatory students just getting out of school and looking for orchestral work all the while paying off student loans? While, everyone knows that finding a job with a big name orchestra is an extremely competitive field, how much worse is the lack of funding going to make it for young musicians looking for a job?
I believe that the problem, while not easily solved, is an age gap issue. After playing in the orchestra of a light opera company for the past two summers, I was quick to notice that the average audience member's age was well over the age of 50. While it may be true that the light and comic opera genre does not go hand and hand with other classical genres, I have noticed this trend of older concert goers in other venues such as orchestra and chamber ensemble concerts. Often times, the concert goers are frequently the same people, season ticket members and/or patrons of the group for many years. I see this as a potential problem.
The problem within the problem, in addition, is that the young concert goer, in most circumstances, does not have the funds to afford tickets at full price considering that the majority are students. It is true, that big orchestras, such as the Boston Symphony Orchestra offer student tickets at highly discounted price (via the College Card). I believe, however, that these kind of resources are not advertised enough. In a city such as Chicago or Boston, where young musicians are plenty (especially Boston with amount of high level music schools in the area), I believe that there is a lot of potential for an orchestra to increase its popularity via the young people. By continuing to exploit technological resources such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook, the orchestras can market to younger people, in turn increasing their popularity.
Though there is a long road ahead of us classical musicians, I believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel, despite the recent strike of the CSO. Let us keep our fingers crossed that this too passes over, and, as young musicians, let us play in an active part in keeping the symphony orchestra a thriving and essential part of our culture.