The American Symphony Orchestra League, the Washington-based national service organization for the field of symphonic music, has just issued another report on the fate of our orchestras. Its earlier report, “The Financial Condition of Symphony Orchestras,”[1] concerned itself with the economic outlook for the field and was distinctly pessimistic. The new report, “Americanizing the American Orchestra,”[2] provides, not remedies, exactly, but the optimistic suggestions of a group of experts for carrying our orchestras into the multicultural twenty-first century.

To understand this report, it is necessary to recount some of the recent history of our symphony orchestras. There is little doubt that the long-expected terminal crisis of American orchestras is upon us. For many years the crisis seemed to be artistic: there was no new music being...

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