Is The Symphony Orchestra Dying?

Rising deficits and hidebound repertoires threaten the nation's concert ensembles

Buffeted by spiraling costs and falling ticket sales, frustrated by shifting urban demographics and paralyzed by a lack of innovative artistic vision, the nation's 1,600 symphonies today face the greatest challenge ever to their existence.

Long considered indispensable indicators of a community's sophistication, orchestras are in danger of becoming cultural dinosaurs. Some are already extinct: within the past decade, major ensembles have collapsed in cities as disparate as Oakland, California; New Orleans; Denver and Birmingham, Alabama. Endowments have been tapped and seasons shortened; crowd-pleasing pops concerts have been added and community-outreach programs established. And yet the slide continues. Gathering last month...

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