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Running on Empty: Scarcity for Small
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Running on Empty: Scarcity for Small

January 14, 2014

By Michael Zwiebach

When the New York City Opera collapsed in September there seemed no end of reasons and plenty of blame to go around. Various opinion pieces placed the blame on the recession, on board members for various sins, on management for shortsighted decision-making, declines in artistic quality and relevance; and on the all-purpose excuse, declining audiences for classical music.

At roughly the same time, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, which had already cancelled two seasons since the beginning of the 2008 recession, cancelled its 2013-2014 season, and in November was struggling to stave off bankruptcy proceedings. Though it didn’t make headlines, the orchestra was certainly not stuck in the mud; its most recent principal conductor was Alan Pierson, founder of the new music group Alarm Will Sound. It was bringing its concert series to venues in different parts of Brooklyn. Again, reporters seeking reasons briefly touched on all of the same culprits as (above) in the NYCO story.

But there is one problem that unites these two stories and others nationwide that is rarely investigated because it goes to the root of the way in which we have chosen to fund the arts in the United States: the problem of scarcity of resources.

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