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VOL. 7 | NO. 12 | Saturday, March 15, 2014

Editorial: Help Symphony Keep Creating Joyful Sounds

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These are critical times for the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. And it involves more than the organization’s financial problems.

The Memphis Symphony Orchestra’s financial problems may be the price of an unprecedented burst of creativity that lined up with the wallop of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Because the orchestra is, on one level, a business, an argument can be made that the organization should have delayed some of these efforts as the recession settled in for an extended engagement.

The symphony in recent years has become the scope and sweep of our story as told through the arts whose collaboration around the symphony in recent years has been unprecedented.

The Opus One series had drawn attention recently for its collaborations across genres from hip-hop’s Al Kapone to a Big Star tribute to the music of Stax. It has been innovation in a city where musical innovation has changed American culture. The symphony’s reach has gone beyond the proven to embrace the current music scene as well on numerous levels.

It’s hard to describe the sensation of music that is innately Memphis, created in Memphis by Memphians given an orchestral sweep and body that gives it a fullness while maintaining its simple and universal appeal.

It is not difficult, once the music ends, to imagine the work and expense that goes into the scoring and rehearsals and time and talent of dozens of musicians. The work of these recent years is a treasure that should not be forgotten but performed over and over and inspire the creation of more original compositions that tell the story of Memphis.

In its scoring and singular sound from so many individual parts is the affirmation that our story is more than the sum of its parts. Yes, what happened on the books of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra was clearly a risk – a gamble. But what was at stake was more than a financial endowment. It was a creative endowment and legacy

We think there is a way forward that involves the creation of a new financial endowment and clearly a new business model able to keep up with the level of innovation and creativity that has blossomed in ways few could have foreseen. In that blossoming, the symphony’s individual talents have worked in countless ways to transform the elements of an undertaking that is identified with musical traditions to create new paths from that musical foundation.

The way forward should include securing what has been created in recent years as a public testament that will endure within the confines of the symphony’s hard earned home at the Cannon Center as well as elsewhere in the community whose story the symphony, its partners and its collaborators have tried to tell.

It is our story and our legacy. It should become our cause to make the funding match the effort.

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