The Music of Memphis: Saving the Symphony

Posted on July 1, 2014


links-memphis-symphony-done-spider-man-actor-sues-end-of-destination-out-stockhausens-murdered-mother-ranking-sports-tv-songsBy Ashley Dill

The way audiences listen to music has changed. For instance, live music has become increasingly unpopular due to recent advancements in technology that allow people to listen to music through other methods. With the creation of music piracy especially, artists find themselves looking for unique ways to present their music in order to draw live audiences to their shows. Such changes in the ways of listening to and making music have taken a toll on classical musicians, especially those performing in citywide symphonies or operas. Many major organizations across the country, such as the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, the New York City Opera, The Florida Philharmonic Orchestra, just to name a few, have all faced either bankruptcy or have been in need of intense fundraising and new financial planning in order to stay afloat.

The Memphis Symphony Orchestra
faces similar turmoil as it accepts its financial distress in 2014. Established in 1960 out of a small chamber group, the symphony has grown exponentially from a group of part-time musicians to a fully professional orchestra. The organization cut $200,000 from its budget this year simply to be able to perform during the remaining season. With some time off from performing, the Memphis Symphony Orchestra has found itself fundraising and building a new financial plan for the future. Deficits of over $1 million leave the organization asking how it will continue to capture audiences when there is such a large competition for their attention.

Dr. William Skoog, professor and Chair of the music department at Rhodes College, says, “they have to take two or three steps backward to take one step forward to save the symphony, to get it back where it’s sustainable. Underneath the whole thing is the attitude of the community which is the question, is this important to Memphis?”

Setting the goal of raising $500,000 for the upcoming season, Memphis has seen immense cooperation from the community coming up with $2.465 million after only a month and a half, giving the organization time to reevaluate its future. Orchestras and operas across the country, while continuing to fundraise, all face the question of how to remodel their financial and business models to fit the new face of the live music industry.

Memphis, a city with rich music culture and famous icons, holds a nostalgic place in music history that is not necessarily filled with Classical music.

When asked about Memphis and Classical music, Dr. Skoog says, “Memphis shouldn’t only be known for Beale Street. I love Blues and Jazz and I love Beale Street but [Memphis] should be the ballet, the opera, the symphony… and Beale street, jazz clubs, and sports all in a healthy community.”

Classical music, especially in a city like Memphis, tends to be lost in the shuffle of Jazz and the birth of Rock n’ Roll. However, within every city, there must be an appreciation between what is popular and also America’s European musical heritage.

If you would like to donate to Memphis Symphony Orchestra, click HERE or call (901) 537-2500.

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