Friday, November 30, 2007

Just installed Fedora Core 8 on a Dell Dimension T700r
700 Mhz P III, 640 MB RAM & a 10 G HD with an Apple Mighty Mouse.
The Gnome "Live" CD did the trick after 3 tries resulting in freezing & crashing.
Before that, tho, I tried the KDE "Live" CD. That friggin thing couldn't even begin to boot. Of course I gave it 3 tries, too.
After that, I tried an Ubuntu 7.10 "Live" CD. It crashed & burned trying to boot up one time, succeeded two other times but failed upon those tries to install to the HD.
Tried the Ubuntu "Alternate" CD which just offered a text based installer.
That daggone thing was all screwed up & failed twice. No more chances for that dog.
So, after downloading & burning 4 CDs, sitting around watching installers & CDs die left & right, I figure with the time I spent, if measured in IT charges, I could have just bought a Mac Mini, had a processor about 3 times faster, 8 times the HD capacity & almost twice as much RAM (and more functionality from the mouse).
I still have to configure my wireless network (which ain't done til it's done) and download a bunch of software that would have been pre installed on the Mac.
oh yeah, time from successful install to my first freeze ?
10 minutes.
From my experiences with Linux, tho, that is strange. It is usually pretty solid once it is up & running.
Tell ya what. I'm running out of hair.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

While the Cincinnati Enquirer continues to write articles about the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra spiraling to doom, one article almost appeared to be race baiting, it's frequently claimed that their proximity to a homeless shelter is ruining attendance - the Post runs this article pointing out that the orchestra is doing about as well as any orchestra in the country, if not better !

How goes the CSO?
Surveying state of our symphony and others

By Mary Ellyn Hutton
Post music writer

Cincinnati's majestic Music Hall has excellent acoustics, but some of the seats are cramped and its mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems are outdated.

Music Hall's capacity of more than 3,400 is one of the highest in the country among major orchestras. That's a challenge for groups which perform there, because a crowd that would sell out a smaller hall constitute only half a house here.
It's the question few orchestras today want to answer. How's your attendance?

The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra makes figures available once a year, and the results for 2006-07 were disappointing. In a meeting on "New Year's Eve," the last day of the CSO's fiscal year (Aug. 31), representatives of the orchestra reported that average attendance at the 53 CSO Music Hall concerts was 1,540 last season, down 10.2 percent from the year before. CSO subscriptions dipped 13.7 percent. Single tickets were down 16 percent.

"We don't have a good answer for that," said CSO public relations director Carrie Krysanick. "We're working hard to make sure that '07-'08 is a success."

A new marketing director, Sherri Prentiss, joined the staff in October.

Last season may have been a normal fluctuation, since CSO attendance figures were up in 2005-'06, but to try to gain a wider perspective, I contacted 17 of the CSO's peer ensembles.

(The Cincinnati Pops fared better in '06-'07, with attendance averaging 2,386 for its 22 Music Hall concerts, 8 percent over '05-'06, while subscriptions and single tickets inched up 0.2 percent. Conversely, Pops figures declined in '05-'06.)

Seven orchestras responded: Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, Nashville, Rochester (New York), San Francisco and St. Louis. Four declined to answer, citing lack of time (Philadelphia and New York), contract negotiations in progress (Minnesota) and an incoming music director (Dallas). Six did not reply: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles, nor did the American Symphony Orchestra League, the orchestra trade association, even to general, industry-wide questions.

ASOL president Henry Fogel did say that “this (attendance) is a highly complex issue about which there is insufficient data available for anyone to draw any real conclusions. Any conversation would be in the nature of speculation, and I prefer not to speculate on subjects of this importance.”

Figures obtained from my ultimately modest sample of orchestras suggest little cause for alarm. Detroit, Houston, Nashville, Rochester and St. Louis reported average attendance at ’06-’07 classical concerts of 1,391 (84 concerts), 1,572 (54), 1,300 (42), 1,421 (56) and 1,506 (65), respectively. Cleveland reported 183,371 paid attendance for 120 classical concerts (averaging 1,528 per concert). San Francisco reported subscription levels as “steady to rising” each year with “programming the primary driver.”

For pops concerts, it was 1,525 for Detroit (40 concerts), 1,880 for Houston (27), 1,450 for Nashville (24) and 2,195 for Rochester (40). Cleveland, St. Louis and San Francisco do not present pops concerts.

It is generally recognized that attendance at symphony concerts nationwide is either flat or declining. The elephant in the room is too much product, but with union contracts for up to 52 weeks a year, it is difficult to reconcile supply and demand. Exacerbating the situation are changing lifestyles and competing options for people’s increasingly scarce leisure time.

The CSO has not provided house counts for years, a justifiable practice, since 3,516-seat Music Hall (which has splendid acoustics) is not only the largest concert hall in the United States, but one of the largest in the world. The perception — stigma even — that the CSO is failing when the hall is two-thirds full is undeserved. Of the 17 orchestras contacted, Rochester has the next largest venue, 3,084-seat Eastman Theater, which is currently being downsized to about 2,250.

There are many variables affecting symphony orchestra attendance. In addition to numbers of concerts, they include:
-- Performance hall (condition, location, acoustics).
-- Population served by the orchestra.
-- Ticket prices.
-- Leadership on the podium.
-- Effective community outreach.

Music Hall is the “hot subject” for the CSO right now, said music director Paavo Järvi. At a recent pre-concert “Classical Conversation” at Music Hall, Järvi commented on plans to reconfigure the hall. (Music Hall was bought by the city of Cincinnati in 1941 after the Music Hall Association, now the Cincinnati Arts Association, went bankrupt.)

“Our hall is very large and almost never full, but rumors of me wanting to blow it up and build another one are not true. I have always loved the majesty of the hall.
“I compare Cleveland and Chicago when I guest conduct and always think, ‘How wonderful this new, old hall is.’ They (Cleveland, Chicago) have new backstage facilities, restrooms, food service. They are technologically up to date.”

They are also smaller. Severance Hall in Cleveland seats 2,100; Orchestra Hall in Chicago, 2,500. Seating is cramped at Music Hall. Järvi recalled his father’s visit to the hall last spring. “He could not get up afterward. We have 1,000 empty seats, but no leg room.”

Plans to renovate Music Hall are progressing, he said. “There have been some interesting developments. We are at a stage where a lot of options are being studied.”

Parking is already being addressed. With the demolition of Washington Park School (now underway), there will be space for temporary parking across the street until a new parking garage can be built between Music Hall and Memorial Hall.

With a population of 2.1 million, Cincinnati is the country’s 25th largest metropolitan area, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures for 2006. Of the 17 orchestras surveyed, only two are in smaller metropolitan areas, Nashville (1.5 million) and Rochester (1 million).

Ticket prices, which range from $12-$79.25 for CSO classical concerts, are another “inflated” issue. Prices at the seven responding orchestras were in line with or more than the CSO. The lowest price was in St. Louis ($15.50), with top tickets going for $55 in Rochester, $71 in Detroit, $83 in Cleveland, $105 in St. Louis and $125 in San Francisco.

No American orchestra meets its expenses through ticket sales, but the CSO’s percent of revenue from earned income — “in the high 60s (percent),” said finance director Don Auberger — is the highest of the nation’s major orchestras. Most orchestras “are happy at 45 percent,” said development director Kenneth Goode.

Contributing heavily to that is Riverbend, owned and operated by the CSO. “We are one of the few orchestras that have a Riverbend-like facility,” said Goode. “And we’re adding a new pavilion to Riverbend as of next year.” (The National Bank Pavilion will seat 4,000).

An orchestra’s music director remains key to its success. Seven of the 17 orchestras approached have new or incoming music directors, a factor which invariably causes a spike in attendance. CSO music director since 2001, Järvi, 44, extended his contract through the 2010-’11 season last spring, with an “evergreen” clause for automatic renewals. The Estonian-born conductor delivers for the CSO. Music Hall has been completely sold out twice during his tenure and his concerts are always the season’s top sellers.

Järvi led his first CSO community concert in October, a fund-raiser at Lakota Freshman School in West Chester for the Lakota band program. Similar initiatives are in the works, said CSO officials.

Community support is what sustains the CSO, Goode said. “This orchestra is 113 years old and has a base of support that many orchestras can only begin to dream about. It’s part of the fabric of this community. We had an endowment before most orchestras were even created.”

In its quiet phase now is a capital campaign to help rebuild that endowment, which lost about one-third of its value during the stock market tumble in 2001-’02 before recovering to $78 million today. (The CSO budget for 07-08 is approaching $33 million.)

"They have made a very significant start and we will at some point make it public.” Goode said. “The timing is part of a plan we’ve developed to give us the greatest chance of success.” The CSO draws 6 percent a year from its endowment.

Although final figures are not in because of late season shows at Riverbend, the CSO expects to break even for the 2007 fiscal year, said Auberger. The orchestra carries a slight deficit ($100,000) left over from the building of Riverbend, which goes down every year, he said.

In the end, every orchestra must “find its own way,” Goode said. “We have to come up with solutions that work for Cincinnati.”

Said Cincinnati native Susan Plageman, vice president of external affairs for the Nashville Symphony, the industry’s “Cinderella” with a new 1,844-seat hall, incoming music director (Giancarlo Guerrero, 38), recording contract (Naxos), four Grammy nominations, $104.4 million endowment, newly ratified five-year contract with its musicians and subscription sales up 250 percent last season — all after emerging from bankruptcy in 1995:

“The Cincinnati Symphony has been around a long, long time and has some real distinctions.”

Comparing the halls

AtlantaAtlanta Symphony Hall1,762
BaltimoreMeyerhoff Symphony Hall2,443
BostonSymphony Hall2,625
ChicagoOrchestra Hall2,500
CincinnatiMusic Hall3,516
ClevelandSeverance Hall2,100
DallasMyerson Symphony Center2,062
DetroitOrchestra Hall2,014
HoustonJones Hall2,912
Los AngelesWalt Disney Hall2,265
MinneapolisOrchestra Hall2,500
NashvilleLaura Turner Concert Hall1,900
New YorkAvery Fisher Hall2,738
New YorkCarnegie Hall2,804
PittsburghHeinz Hall2,662
PhiladelphiaVerizon Hall2,500
RochesterEastman Theater3,094
St. LouisPowell Hall2,689
San FranciscoDavies Hall2,743
TokyoSuntory Hall2,006