This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.
From card catalog: Colonel S. Rosenbaum and Mr. Daniel Josephs [sic] discuss the Rockefeller Foundation report "Performing Arts - Problems and Prospects." How to involve more people in an interest in performing arts and role of the performing arts in an age of leisure time. Norman Nadler [sic] makes speech about the theater and its importance. Questions and answers.
John Booth introduces program. Explains the Rockefeller report. Introduces Norman Nadel, drama critic of the NY World Telegram. Discusses the importance of the arts to civilization. "The arts are not for the privileged few, but for the many." Introduces Rosenbaum.
Rosenbaum talks about forming a fraternity. The performing arts don't attract a large paying audience. He'd be concerned if the audience became too voluminous. Educators, not entertainers. Has to be maintained by contributions over and above the box office. The box office will not maintain the performing arts. If it does, you're in the entertainment business - not conducting one of the performing arts.
Nadel (?) introduces Josephs, who talks briefly about the report and growing amount of leisure time. Nadel (?) quotes the book.
Panel members are asked what they think is the most urgent consideration in implementing an arts program in the country.
Josephs says to make it easier to perform. Municipal encouragement, corporate support.
Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection
WNYC archives id: 48868
Municipal archives id: T680
This is a machine-generated transcript. Text is unformatted and may contain errors.
It's a very great pleasure for the Overseas Press Club to have with us today. Contributors to the unique study of the problem of the future of the performing arts in America I will ask John both of our program committee who has arranged many of our art programs during the year to present the program. Report which we're going to talk about today the performing arts problems and prospects this is one in a series of Rockefeller Brothers Fund reports which were begun quite some years ago on vital facets of American national and international policy. Several years ago Rockefeller Brothers Fund thought of the performing arts. The affluence of the country for liberation of leisure time a more general interest in the arts indicated the need of the study it was a field virtually untouched in this broader sense it would have failed increasingly important if as a great many. Commentators on our society feel that a civilization in the end is going to be equated with its cultural life and following from from this report was undertaken with thirty distinguished Americans. Today we have two of the distinguished. Service with us. Who are going to discuss. The report and questions relating to it. We're fortunate to that Norman Nadler who is the drama critic of The New York World Telegram is with us here at my right. Mr. Crosses the disciplines in the performing arts he has been the founder of the Columbus Ohio orchestra has done much writing on the regional theater lecturing and he helped to establish a professional there and Columbus and most of us of course his critics in the. Telegram and. We have with us. To. Never see. On my left who is the former chairman of the Board New York Life insurance company the vice chairman of the board of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of. Art and the library. With. The far left kind of time no Rosen down who is a trustee of the recording industry music performance trust fund a member of the board of the Philadelphia Orchestra Association and with us at the head table to of course Joseph Newman who is the head of the program committing there I would turn this meeting over to known as. There have long been thoughtful people are among us who believe that the ultimate test of democracy lies in the quality of the artistic and intellectual life it creates and supports Oh. They arts are not for the privileged few but for the many. Their place is not on the periphery of society but at its center they are not just a form of recreation but are of central importance to our well being and happiness these two quotations are from the performing arts problems and prospects which is the Rockefeller Panel report on the future of theater dance and music in America and these are two of many quotes that could be taken out of this book that are pertinent here in New York that are pertinent anywhere in the country I am glad to see that in preparing this book the rock of hell or Rockefeller Panel did not draw a line and say New York is one thing in the rest of the country is another occasionally in the book I notice a few such tendencies but generally they realize that certain problems exist just as much in Chicago or in Los Angeles are in Louisville Kentucky as they do in New York City and they all relate to this very fact that in this wealthy society in which we live this is CYA of almost unlimited and unprecedented opportunities the arts I still having a very very difficult time and that only a small percentage of the population is actively involved in them that is something that we want to talk about today as the panel progresses I will hope I would hope that the distinguished gentleman who are going to be contributing their comments well rather look on this book not as an end in itself but only a beginning now what is in this book is known to many people who have worked around the country in the areas of the performing arts we have learned the hard way we have been through the war as we know what side of opposition you encounter when you try to raise money what sort of answers you get when you go to a corporation or perhaps to a municipal government or to the federal government the country has been slow to accept the idea of the arts as being a concern. Of government it took eighty seven years for a presidential committee on the arts to be approved by the Congress eighty seven years ago such a bill was first introduced and it was. First passed just last year it was not the same bill Needless to say but the same idea so I think that the. The book is the beginning I that's the way I look at it I think it is a most important beginning because it's going to save a great deal of time because many people who have not been quite as closely involved in the wars will be able to find many answers many good guidelines in this book and I think that as this book reaches its maximum effectiveness and I hope it will continue to grow in popularity people in the corporations in the governments individuals people in the arts on the perimeter of the arts and the general public will find ideas and inspiration for ways of and rich in their own lives and the lives of the people in the communities. In which they live the. This business of. The performing arts is such a real thing I don't know if everyone is quite aware I'm just thinking of the last few days I was in Lexington Kentucky Sunday listening to rehearsal for the world premiere of an opera wing of expectation by Dr Kenneth Wright based on the life of Mary Todd Lincoln that world premiere is tonight I wasn't able to be there tonight but I did get there to hear the rehearsal yesterday I was speaking on theater in Rockford Illinois and the managing editor of the local newspaper came to save me and asked me some questions about a certain problem they had with a regional theater that they have in Rockford and I was pleased because it it is all part of this same interest people are asking questions and wanting to know things and naturally I sold a book for the Rockefeller Brothers and I said you go I didn't have one with me but I said this is the book and you find out who has it and go and buy it it does not have all the answers but it has some of the beginnings so the interest is real in discussing it I would like to ask both Mr Joseph and Colonel Rosenbaum to say whatever they feel is pertinent at this time I would hope that they might welcome some questions and before I introduce Colonel Rosen vom and ask him to speak I'm going to mention a quotation from him that is in this book in which he makes the statement that the total audience of for the arts in the United States amounts to about one percent are no more than one percent of the population now he carefully stated in this. People different individuals because if you take the number of people attending concerts and plays and so forth it comes to a higher figure but these are people one person who will be going ten or twenty times a year but the actual number of people who are exposed to the performing arts to live performance in the United States according to the Colonel is just about one percent of the population and perhaps in discussing this book and its prospects he will direct some of his remarks to that Colonel. I must say I feel thoroughly at home in the atmosphere of a Press Club and I must tell you why. Over fifty years ago when I was an undergraduate in the college I went to. I was one of a small group that joined in founding what was then. It began as an inner collegiate honorary journalistic fraternity called Sigma Delta kite it has now become more general as you know what is a professional press for time to be all over the country but I was one of its founders. And in the discussions about founding it. It was felt that we ought to adopt just as other honorary intercollegiate fraternities had for instance five Beta Kappa something in the nature of a watch key by which we could identify each other. So the great discussion was what should be the symbol that should be on this key and I'm afraid I broke up the meeting by suggesting it should be a typographical error. You know. Now it's been mentioned that I'm quoted in this report as having no uttered the blasphemy that the audience for the Performing Arts in this country does not exceed one percent of the population Well you have to qualify that a little because my friend label has left out a couple of the words what I said was. The paying audience for the professional performing arts. I made an estimate about those who paid to get him the course there are large audiences for amateur performances has been a tremendous increase in interest all over the country in and out of college years. But the professionals after all said the town they set the standards. Quality is measured by the product of the best professionals. I've been on the boards of many performing arts organizations for my sins over the last half century and our problem has always been to get the people who are willing to pay to get there. Now the fact that the audience for the paid audience for the professional performing arts is no bigger than that is an interesting statistic but not in any sense a damaging or derogatory one but coming here I thought I might bring you just one little item of evidence that does tend to support this statistic that. I offered. Some of you here I've I soon read the New York Times. And just a short time ago there was a full page advertisement in The New York Times by the Reader's Digest that this is not a commercial plug I'm only using this as an illustration of what I'm talking about and the purpose of this advertisement Wes to demonstrate. How much better an advertising medium the Digest is than many others perfectly natural aspiration. And the way the way this argument runs is this. The digest published a list of the audiences claimed for the most popular. Of the television shows over all the networks and it begins with a show called bonanza which is claimed to reship and round figures twenty million households it goes on down Andy Griffith is the next with seventeen million and then a show called B which with seventeen million of course I'm assuming that all of you ladies and gentlemen here are of the type of households that cluster around the idiot box to watch these programs. And it goes on down from one after the other winding down the page show after show where the approximate number of households that are glued to each. Day goes down to eighty five of the most popular television shows The biggest one as I say is a show called bonanza that it's claimed reaches twenty million households and it goes down to number eighty five a show called The Rose. Unfortunate show only reaches seven million households. But if you run down this entire list of all of these television shows the most popular in the country there is not one of the nature of what you would call the performing arts there is not one symphonic music show there is not one chamber music show there is not one drama show that has an ounce of intelligence and not one of the top eighty five television shows on all the networks corresponds to the definition of what by the most lenient kind of language you would call any one of the performing arts. Now my friends I don't want you to think that this is derogatory. Now you must remember and. You must you must remember after all you know the defendant in this case is you when I it's the USA there is no use our blinking the fact that we live in a population in a climate in an app and sphere in which the performing arts do NOT a track a large paying audience and advertisers of course realize that therefore I feel that you should understand what it is we're driving at in this report that's been gathered and promulgated and published by the good offices of the Rockefeller Brothers and it's panel. I would like you to look at Dave Joseph's sitting alongside me here. Now you may not realize it but there is a focus of infection. He is in the position of the tiny grain of cobalt already and that's inserted into the system in the hospital in order to radiate out an influence through the rest of the body and effect gradually a cure for some ailment or other I this is what the leading exponents proponents protagonists whatever you wish to call us of the performing arts are trying to do in this country we are not Milly's discouraged by the fact that the total paying audience for the professional performing arts does not exceed one percent of the population it's the one percent that counts for leadership it's the one percent that radiates out its influence through the body politic and creates the reaction of cultivation of civilization of response to an intellectual appeal that's impossible for the mass of the population now you know I'd be a little uneasy if the audience began to get to volume and as. I must tell you a story in regard to that I happened to be a member of the board of the Philadelphia Orchestra and a number of years ago when we had to look for a new president to replace Tom Gates who was anxious to retire I succeeded in persuading my friend of a bullet a distinguished banker in Philadelphia to accept the burdens of the presidency and after a couple of years he came to me and he said to me Look Sam What is this you've got me into I've never before been connected with a business that always ends up with a red figure at the bottom of the right hand because. I said to marvel it's very simple. Now you might say there are two kinds of music operations you might call one the front sugar type and the other is the lesion part time. Now you can take your pay if you would like to make some money out of this operation you put on a light show with some tones that can be whistle but then you won't have me on your board so there it is the performing arts must be leaders not followers we must be educators not entertainers we must hold up an ideal Now this doesn't pay. It has to be maintained by proceeds contributions contributions donations whatever you like to call them subsidies over and above the proceeds of gain for operations in other words the box office will not maintain the performing arts and it should not because if the box office becomes too successful you're in the entertainment business not conducting one of the performing arts. And therefore one of the very useful results that will flow from the publication of this report is to spread generally the knowledge in the public at large and especially we hope among corporate executives that the performing arts must be maintained by contributions over and above over and beyond the. Results of the box office operation this is one of the most important lessons that must be learned in speaking to people about this and in the Devron to get contributions and support maintenance subsidy for the Performing Arts with which I'm associated I never permit the use of the word deficit. I never permit our friends and solicitors to say we need contributions to pay our deficit it's not a deficit it is a built in part of the cost of maintenance of that which is one of the performing arts and not by me or form of entertainment I never use the word deficit every businessman if you're going to if you talk about a deficit concludes doing it right. If you're running at a deficit is something wrong with your operation so it's not a deficit it's a necessary component an inevitable ingredient of maintaining one of the performing arts these performing arts which are necessary is what I call foes I have infection in order to spread culture cultivation civilization through our entire body politic Thank you Lou. The vital vital function of the one percent certainly has been well stated I cannot tire Lee agree with Colonel Rosenbaum however that this is something to accept because any culture which can involve only one percent of its people willing to pay for a cultural experience is not particularly healthy culturally and I do think that the very reason behind this behind everything that is done in such fine groups as the Philadelphia Orchestra has to continually broaden the reins of the arts depend on communication an art which exists and is not looked at or listened to or experienced doesn't in fact exist very much in its own time and I think that the Philadelphia Orchestra itself is a prime example of a group which is held to very high artistic standards all the time and has still steadily consistently built it. It's audience it has educated its audiences it's young people's programmes are outstanding It's recordings everything else have made the very point that if you have a good beginning and certainly one of the best orchestra boards in the United States you will enlarge your audience and this I think is a vital part of the the need today to make more people aware to make more people involved in the arts the there are so many phases of this we talk of the corporate support and of municipalities and such every once in a while you'll hear something encouraging such as the fact that Minneapolis has agreed to put up the money to have to permit the establishment of a Tyrone Guthrie Theater and then a while later we find that many ap less is demanding tax payments up there I think something around seventy five thousand dollars a year which could wreck the Tyrone gust Guthrie Theatre so you still have the conflicts going on you do not have anywhere near the Enlightenment in the arts around the country that you would like to have one of the things proposed in this book for example is a relief not only of the admissions tax on professional performing arts but removing sales tax for example from the purchase of musical instruments things like this which would enable the arts to have less of an economic burden without actually having to give more money to accomplish this there are many aspects of this that can be discussed by Devereaux see Josephs and he is the man who has been involved very closely in the arts project which probably has attracted more attention in the city nationally and internationally in the last two or three years than any other single program and that of course is the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and I'd like to ask Mr Josephs to speak to this matter of the performing arts their problems and prospects Mr Joseph's thank. You. Thank you very much I'll be very brief because having now been labeled as a focus of infection why I don't want to expose you too much. Wraps if I could radiate I think that was the other time that perhaps I could radio. Let me say one thing about this report which. Was referred to in the in the preface and that is that when we began to assemble this material we discovered there was very little. We had to dig up and make original research on almost all of the various aspects of the arts what how many people attend how many organizations were what. How many were employed and how many were unemployed in the befalling arts What was the average. Amount of money they earned How much were they out of work all of these things that were not known. Really can't have much discussion and that the real purpose of this book was to put it out hopefully somebody would read it. And perhaps from then on to develop something further perhaps they would disagree with what we had to say and that would be even better because then there would be a controversy and somebody else would we get the really important thing was to get people to read the book because you can't have much of a discussion that is worthwhile I'm lest you agree with a set of common set of facts if you have simply vague notions or a little focal or why everybody has their own private folklore and you have no really firm discussions so this book began is really the first time that there has been assembled some facts some material. Points. View attitudes that current all put down here at least not all of them are but a great many of them are there's other additional reference material so that. Anyone interested in the subject can read this and they can go further some of the. Reference material we've had they can get into arguments about it and at least they will have one common set of facts and it seems to me that that is the most valuable thing that we could do. I don't know what other comments you might like from me on this I think in back of all of us in doing this was the. Sense of the knowledge of the growing leisure in this affluent society I made it is in this report that I made a calculation the other day and something I was doing. And it is pretty staggering. The improved transportation automation labor saving devices and then by the Save the. Appliances household appliances and convenience foods if you add those up together you will discover that something in the neighborhood of fifty billion dollars a week I mean fifty billion hours a week have been turned from labor and work either in the home or in the office for short work week then. This same group of people had fifty years ago in fact if you multiply that out you got every year of hundred billion hours of leisure they did not exist would not have existed for the well this is a normal. Contribution I don't suppose it was sincere. Well since the Garden of Eden has never been this much leisure among the adult population. And here and here it is and we're confronted with it well now how we will use this is a brain you problem which no other nation is of ahead because the leadership people before even the slave societies of of Greece or Rome or they were in the privileged societies of of Europe. There was some that had leisure everybody else had to work all the time now here on leisure along stores and how that gets you is the problem that we're going to confront with us more and more as the work weeks get short of us the labor saving devices are improving as the home becomes more of a push button a fail so that the it is very timely that we turn our attention to the use of Alisha and this is one one of the ways in which we can use Thank you very much Lou Lou. This book is so full of beautifully stated ideas that there is that there is the temptation to continue to quote them I just get one more sentence that gives so well the thinking of the man who with and women who put this book together the panel recommends that the artistic goal of the nation be the day when the performing arts are considered a permanent year round contribution to communities throughout the country and our artists are considered as necessary as our educators. An. Outlet. Something like that warms the cockles of my heart we have about eight minutes left to wind this up at two o'clock and I would like to ask our two guests if they'd be willing to divide that time and comment on one matter too namely what do they think is the most urgent consideration at this time in implementing an arts program throughout the country each has referred to the factor of leisure time we have more leisure time than ever before which makes such a program possible but I'd like to ask the colonel Rosenbaum and Mr Joseph each where he would be inclined to begin to implement a program Colonel would you like to speak to that person Mr Josephs is going to speak first. I'm not sure that there is any one place to begin. What this country does with its hundred and eighty million people what attitudes it has are not changed by any single pointing of the why we have the leisure. And we tend to use it if there are facilities for the use of the leisure. The television screen or the. Baseball or the. Symphony orchestras amateur or professional There are all different ways of using the leisure I think all that we can do is to make to make it as easy as possible for the Performing Arts to perform to attract an audience all the various ways of doing that I brought out of this book. The fact that. The municipalities ought to be encouraging to it that corporations order supporting vidual wealth ought to be awfully glad to make this is a contribution to a richer and richer society these are all things and it is simply a question of discussing it encouraging it helping it to become a more stylish thing to make it more popular and it seems to me that anything that we can do to talk the matter up to help along what I think is a stream moving in that current moving in that direction. I don't think it was any one specific thing to be done I think there was one suggestion in here which is a very good one that there ought to be a central group or a body. Of a library where all the material can be over those that wish to think about the subject write about it could find the material it's a very simple saying it's a long way off from from. Increasing the one percent of the people the less but it is at least a start you get a leverage out of and that's a specific suggestion but I certainly am not don't believe that there is any way that a lot of. Good hearted people who are almost all mission their approach towards towards the arts can persuade the rest of the United States to do what they are not already ready to do. I'm sure the kind of Rosenbaum can add to this. To a very considerable extent but he had a lot more experience than I have on this going. You know when you speak of experience I always bought a Dr Joseph he's a real leader in this field but let me say this you know if a woman is very much overweight. And is unhappy about it and she goes to somebody to ask what she can do about it well you know that's a common experience because the modern American woman who wishes to be weighed and found wanting. An honest friend will say to her darling there's no pill you can take it's a regime you have got to follow it takes quite a bit of time and it requires patience and willpower and even more power so that you keep away from the things that add the flak. Now that's how it is with building a larger audience for the Performing Arts of course it cannot be done suddenly there isn't any one prescription that anybody can give you who are me or this country to bring it about. But let me say this I would like to go on record as being an in courage about optimist about the increase in the interest in the arts both Creative and Performing in this country when I compare the average level of public taste as represented let us say just to give one symptom illustrations in our mass magazines there are infinitely superior to what they were a generation ago when I compare the average level of the teaching of music in the arts in our public schools let me assure you that the improvement has been absolutely staggering in the past generation since World War two there are more good teachers of music in the arts in our public schools there are infinitely more good pupils and students for music in the arts in our public schools and ever before in our history. There is spreading through this country a feeling of appreciation for the finer things that our civilization produces and I rate more rapidly than ever before in our history now how long it's going to take for this to express itself in terms of a livelihood for the professional a performing artist I think creative or performing. That's a matter of anybody can predict I don't know not going to happen overnight but it's coming nothing could stop it it's like a wave that's going to overwhelm us all my prediction is that within a century and that is a long time to wait if you're a performing art creative artist and you've got a family to feed and you can't do it out of the proceeds of the present occupations available to you it's a long time to wait but nevertheless that's what it's going to be I say that in a century there is going to be more of a public more of a custom more accomplishment in both the creative and the Performing Arts in this country than any country in the history of the world so thank you for that. And I thank you as well. John both has told me that I should go ahead and wind things up for the Overseas Press Club I do understand these two gentlemen I wish there were some way to multiply Devereaux Joseph's and Samuel Rosenbaum each by about a thousand and distribute their counterparts all around this country and this would probably be the easiest and quickest way to get things going Fortunately there are men of their thinking in many parts of the country who are working at these things and I'm so pleased to hear the comments about the public school of music because this is always been a great an area of great interest to me things are getting better they used to say in the in the theater field of theater that in. In American high schools theater was taught they drama school dramas were directed by whichever English teacher had the sixth period free and to a certain extent this still exists but they are in theater as well as in music starting to put people in who are prepared for the job who know the job who have the enthusiasm which they can pass on to the students I think the outlook is bright the outlook certainly is hopeful and this book has done ever ever so much to help thank you.