Monday, February 28, 2011

Local Art for Locals

Writing about the New York City Opera (Onstage with the People's Opera, Harpers Magazine, March 2011), Christopher R. Beha precisely phrases the difference I see between Bend's music scene and the scene in San Diego (and probably Los Angeles).

In November of 2009, City Opera, located next door to the Metropolitan Opera House, where the world's largest opera company is housed, was just about out of business.

He writes
I couldn't say exactly what would be lost if City Opera stopped going about its comparatively modest business. Something more than the survival of one institution seemed at stake. As a native New Yorker, I came to think that the company's disappearance would be of a piece with the shuttering of independent theaters, the replacement of [iconic music club] CBGB with a high-end clothing boutique, the exodus of artistic excitement from the city of my birth--where locals making art for locals have been replaced by corporations making entertainment for tourists.
(emphasis mine)


In SoCal, locals no longer make music for locals. Most nightclubs got rid of their performance stages and lighting gear a few decades ago, to be replaced by the scourge of karaoke, which promises that anyone can sing if they get drunk enough, and will sound great as long as the audience is just as drunk.

Venues for musicians and bands to play have vanished.

The only places to hear live music are smack in the tourist areas, like San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter where high-priced club bands play to tourists.

There are no places for locals to go to hear locals. There are no clubs where young musicians learn to polish their craft onstage.

Mrs Elliott was out on Friday night, putting up fliers in front of stores promoting a KPOV (community radio, 106.7) event.

"I could hardly find a place to post anything," she said. "I am blown away with how much music there is in this town!"

I like living in a town which provides so many opportunities for music to be heard.

Postscript: I can't speak of the other arts in town. I was a musician, neither a painter nor poet am I. Near as I can see much of the local paintings are hung in shops for tourists, but I don't know, locals might buy a lot of canvases. Poetry is probably not a tourist draw anywhere, so it has to be for locals.


  1. I have blog friends in Australia who are 'blown away' by the music and theater in our small city! Bravo for US!!!

  2. We do have a goodly number of live music venues for a town our size. Unfortunately most of the music is not to my taste -- it's of what I call the headbanger variety, or it's country. We don't have enough population to support a jazz club or two, or a professional symphony orchestra.

  3. I, too, wish we had a jazz club. Re the professional symphony orchestra, I have lived in Santa Barbara, the LA area, and Sandy Ego, all of which boast pro orchestras, and I've heard them all over the years; but I get more pleasure listening to the Central Oregon Symphony than them other fancy bands.

    Besides headbanger and cowboy music, we also gots hip-hop, folk, Celtic, and various strange hybrids. Much of it is not to my taste, but there's usually something I get a kick out of listening to.

  4. When I was interviewing for a job at The Bulletin back in 1985, I asked Bob Chandler about the cultural life of Bend. He was candid: "There's a lot of good music badly played, and a lot of good plays badly acted."

    Hasn't changed much, IMHO, although with the Schwab and the Tower Theater here we do get high-quality professional music now and then. Too bad the Cascade Festival of Music is now defunct -- as is (going a bit further afield) the Mount Hood Jazz Festival.


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