When I read that the San Francisco Symphony plans to come to San Jose on October 5 and play a free concert in Chavez Plaza, I jumped for joy. They are also increasing their number of performances at the Flint Center next season by adding three family concerts, and the symphony’s Youth Orchestra will present Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” in the California Theater on December 15. This is exactly the type of regional approach that we need to take here in Bay Area. How lucky we are to have our neighboring world-class orchestra coming here to play an absolutely free concert for our community and picking up the $100,000 tab themselves.
Unfortunately, it appears that there are some misguided souls who equate this with some sort of deadly foreign invasion and who say we should defend our “territory” from Attila Tilson Thomas and his gang. A front page article, no less, by Richard Scheinin in Tuesday’s Mercury News, suggests that there are actually some local self-appointed protectionists, including some musicians who should know better, who think this is Symphony Silicon Valley territory and having the S. F. Symphony here will have an adverse effect on attendance at the local orchestra’s and opera’s events. This is exactly the kind of provincial “thinking” that makes some people consider San Jose the boondocks.
Fortunately, Symphony Silicon Valley President Andrew Bales’s quoted response to this notion shows that he has no time for this kind of misguided and wrongheaded criticism. Like other large urban area arts professionals, he knows that the more cultural events we have in our region, the better—it raises the level of consciousness of the arts in general. This is not a competition. The San Francisco Symphony is one of the oldest in the country and rates up there with the L.A. Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony and the London Philharmonic Orchestras. They have an incredible repertoire and range, including the kind of adventurous programming that Symphony Silicon Valley, good as it is, cannot even approach at present. That gives us fringe dwellers a chance to hear something new and unusual without having to find a parking place up in the core.
It’s easy to dismiss this matter as yet another storm in our teacup, but we must guard against this type of ridiculous territorial squabbling that could result in our city being written off as a no-go area for the very best arts groups. That would really be going in the wrong direction. In the meantime, I heartily welcome the San Francisco Symphony to our corner of the region and I look forward to receiving their gift of a free concert as much as I look forward to next season’s musical programs at the California Theatre and La Petit Trianon.
And, while we are on the subject, wouldn’t it be great if Symphony Silicon Valley could do concert swaps with other regional orchestras, like Berkeley and Redwood City? Our orchestra takes its concerts there and the others bring theirs here. Then we could have many more concerts and hear a much wider range of music performed locally, and all the orchestras would be able to offer their musicians more work. That would be a win-win for everyone.