An unhappy customer

A left-leaning political blogger in Philadelphia, age 37, is not happy with his concert-going experience:

I go to about half a dozen concerts per year, and the problems the orchestra faces are pretty obvious to me. Their marketing is horrible, their ushers and ticket sellers treat people like crap (not all, of course, but many), especially people who are there with discount tickets (I’m a subscriber, but since I usually have a self printed ticket they think it’s a discounted ticket), and the facility is completely unwelcoming to people.

Which ties neatly into the thesis of this post:

The acknowledged culture of classical music doesn’t tell us why so few orchestral musicians smile at the audience, or even make eye contact before or after the music-making. It doesn’t tell us why musicians dress in black tie or somewhat less formal black-and-white business attire. It doesn’t quite explain why on-air hosts at classical stations seem to put such a high premium on elegant, self-consciously correct diction, even when they’re reading advertisements for a rug shop, nor why words and phrases in languages other than English play such a big role in today’s classical music experience. It doesn’t explain why classical concertgoers who are already sitting in their seats when I come down the row to find my own seat are almost uniformly curt about having to let me past and far less likely (in my unscientific sampling) than other kinds of audiences—film, popular music, theater—to smile and engage in the little phrases and conversations that grease the social interactions of strangers. Nor does it tell us why that audience should be so stubbornly white, with African Americans and other minorities underrepresented even when we control for education and income.

About the author

Robert Levine
Robert Levine

Robert Levine has been the Principal Violist of the Milwaukee Symphony since September 1987. Before coming to Milwaukee Mr. Levine had been a member of the Orford String Quartet, Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Toronto, with whom he toured extensively throughout Canada, the United States, and South America. Prior to joining the Orford Quartet, Mr. Levine had served as Principal Violist of The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra for six years. He has also performed with the San Francisco Symphony, the London Symphony of Canada, and the Oklahoma City Symphony, as well as serving as guest principal with the orchestras of Indianapolis and Hong Kong.

He has performed as soloist with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Oklahoma City Symphony, the London Symphony of Canada, the Midsummer Mozart Festival (San Francisco), and numerous community orchestras in Northern California and Minnesota. He has also been featured on American Public Radio's nationally broadcast show "St. Paul Sunday Morning" on several occasions.

Mr. Levine has been an active chamber musician, having performed at the Festival Rolandseck in Germany, the Grand Teton Music Festival, the Palm Beach Festival, the "Strings in the Mountains" Festival in Colorado, and numerous concerts in the Twin Cities and Milwaukee. He has also been active in the field of new music, having commissioned and premiered works for viola and orchestra from Minnesota composers Janika Vandervelde and Libby Larsen.

Mr. Levine was chairman of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians from 1996 to 2002 and currently serves as President of the Milwaukee Musicians Association, Local 8 of the American Federation of Musicians, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the League of American Orchestras. He has written extensively about issues concerning orchestra musicians for publications of ICSOM, the AFM, the Symphony Orchestra Institute, and the League of American Orchestras.

Mr. Levine attended Stanford University and the Institute for Advanced Musical Studies in Switzerland. His primary teachers were Aaron Sten and Pamela Goldsmith. He also studied with Paul Doctor, Walter Trampler, Bruno Giuranna, and David Abel.

He lives with his wife Emily and his son Sam in Glendale.

Leave a Reply