A Piano in Every Parlor

A recent article by Drew McManus in The Partial Observer awakened some old contemplations. He wondered how classical music in the US fell so far out of favor and traces history for a possible answer.

I have often wondered along the same lines. At one point in our history, (only 70-80 or so years ago) almost every house had a piano in the parlor and people collected sheet music like they run out to get the newly released DVD. One would think this would be fertile ground for music, if not arts appreciation to grow. Instead, it has all fallen by the wayside.

One might blame technological advances and a shift to other forms of entertainment, but Europe has the same diversions available to them and they have maintained a fair ethic of interest in the arts in general. In looking back at some of my earlier entries on the history of the arts in the US like How Did We Get In To This Mess?, there are some answers, but nothing to clearly explain why we differ from our European cousins.

Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that people in the US work longer hours than their European counterparts and therefore don’t have the time to cultivate our abilities to process (or even attend) live performances. Instead we gravitate toward the more accessible forms of entertainment like television and the corner video store.

An interesting related note–(my thanks to Vinod’s Blog for bringing the above link and the following link, both from MSN to my attention) according to economist Peter Kuhn at the University of California:

�It used to be that when you got a college degree you could get a white-collar job and take it easy.It�s just the opposite now. It�s blue-collar folks who have more time for leisure.�

(Quote is about 1/2 of the way down in this article)

It makes me wonder if the arts should be restructing programs and pitching to the blue collar sector. They may not have as much disposable income as their managers, but if they have the time and inclination to expand their horizons a little, they could prove to be a good potential audience.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker (artshacker.com) website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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