Dear Syracuse Symphony Youth Orchestra…

Posted on April 4, 2011


Dear Syracuse Symphony Youth Orchestra,

Hi there. You don’t know me, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are getting the shaft. BIG time. I don’t know the details of your situation or the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra’s situation. All I know is what I read here and here. And if what those articles say is true, I’m disturbed to hear that your last concert has been cancelled because of something that is over your head and has nothing to do with you. In response to what I’ve read, I’d like to offer you some unsolicited advice and a solutions-oriented response to your predicament that you can take or leave. You ready? Here it is:

Stick it to The Man.

Just like Dewey Finn in the School of Rock in this clip. Stick it to the Classical Music Man.

If you want a career in classical music, I suppose that sooner or later you will have to come to grips with the fact that The Man is alive and well in classical music, but now should not be that time. Not like this.

In some ways, The Man has helped and continues to help classical music a lot; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. But in your situation and in many other situations like yours, The Man can be an absolute Prick. And when he’s a Prick, we need to stand up for what matters to us. After all,the only thing worse than The Man himself are those of us who let The Man walk all over us, wear down our spirits and crush our dreams. You are not powerless. You can stick it to The Man. Play your final concert, whether it’s in a concert hall or a school hall; a classroom or a gym; a park or a parking lot. And when you play your concert (not if, but when) do it not for publicity’s sake, and not even for sticking-it-to-the-man’s sake, but rather for the sake of who you love, what you love, and the future of what you love.

They took your music on your last day. So? Email me at with your rep list, and I’ll buy and/or rent your music for you.

I don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes there, but based on those quotes in those articles, it seems like your music director isn’t the type that’s going to stick it to the man (Unless he’s just playing it cool in the media, which, for all I know is exactly what he’s doing.). Big deal. If he won’t do it, find someone who will stick it to The Man with you, regardless of the consequences. Someone like me.

Here are some dates in May that I could pay my way to fly out and conduct your concert: May 14, 20, 22, 23, 27, 29, or 30 (I could probably come the whole Memorial Day weekend for rehearsals if you wanted…I’d just need to give away my Colorado Symphony tickets on May 28…no big whoop.) I’m no Gustavo Dudamel, (I’m pretty sure there’s only one of those) but I can conduct, and I can stick it to The Man; not for publicity’s sake, and not even for sticking-it-to-the-man’s sake, but rather for the sake of who you love, what you love, and the future of who and what we both love.

But better than me conducting the concert would be one of you conducting it. I’ll still spring for your parts and a conductor’s score for someone who is willing to study it. I’d probably even still come see the concert if you decided on a day that didn’t conflict with my work schedule.

So there’s my advice. Take it or leave it. Maybe I’ve watched too many cheesy inspirational movies (ok, I have). And maybe I’m too idealistic (ok, I am). But be that as it may, I’m sane enough to know that sometimes when we get knocked down, inspiration comes flying in from the weirdest places and helps us get back up when we thought we were down for the count. And if a letter from a random, 20-something children’s choir conductor/blogger in Denver, Colorado inspires you to make this happen with or without my help, then suddenly what seemed laughable becomes the next chapter in a very long book about how truth is indeed stranger than fiction.

Don’t give up, kids. Play your concert. Stick it to The Man, and in so doing honor your families, your communities, yourselves, and the music you love so dearly. And if you need any help, holla.

In music,

Travis Branam

aka @musicapologist

Posted in: Life, Music