Paragraph du jour: Leon Botstein on philanthropy

The concluding paragraph of today’s New York Times article on the American Symphony Orchestra announcing a shorter season for 2015-16:

“The challenge facing classical music today is not a depletion of audience or potential audience, or the aging of the audience,” (ASO conductor Leon Botstein) wrote. “The real problem is that the very wealthy no longer consider it their civic responsibility to contribute to the traditions of the symphony orchestra. Their attentions have turned elsewhere.”

It strikes me that Mr. Botstein has this backwards.  The diminishing of classical philanthropy he blames for his orchestra’s problems has come about exactly because of the other causes he tries to wave away.  At a time when orchestras require increasingly more donations to stay afloat, those who have the means to make large donations are decreasingly interested in classical music.  The depletion and aging of the audience (which are really parts of the same thing) is not incidental to this.  It is the cause of it.  And classical philanthropy will keep going down until the audience size starts going up.

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