San Jose Symphony

An Evening with the San Jose Symphony – Chapter 18

Chapter 18 tells of an ill-fated performance by the San Jose Symphony. After reading the story, a prominent music educator asked me to tell him what happened as a result of this performance. The answer requires a little background information about the San Jose Symphony and the times.


San Jose is located in the heart of Silicon Valley, which was having boom times until 1998, and this performance was in 1996. Much of the boom was based on promising outlooks leading to huge investments in high-tech start-up companies that were not reaping much profits. In the mid-90’s money was flowing in the area, such that large donations were coming in to the San Jose Symphony. With such a rosy picture of the future, the Symphony over-extended their finances with contracts for well-known performers and big performances. When the money and the donations suddenly dried up after the dot-com bust, the Symphony did not have the resources to back up their commitments. The orchestra was forced to declare bankruptcy and sell off their music library. It seemed like the end of the story, but surprisingly it was not.


Out of the ashes arose the Symphony San Jose and the Symphony San Jose Chorale. They began with a new market-driven model that was financially conservative with low overhead. That description might lead one to believe that the performances would be of lower quality, but they pulled a rabbit out of their hat. You can read of their success HERE. Likewise, the Symphony San Jose Chorale is led by a spectacularly talented and experienced conductor now. You can read of her accomplishments HERE. So the story has a happier ending than one might imagine.


To answer the original music educator’s question, I do not think any immediate change happened as a direct result of the performance. I do no think anyone in management would quickly realize the cause of the problem of the exhausted choral members. It would have required significant interviews and analysis. Also, I think that many of the chorus members were too inexperienced to know and to report that what we experienced with the rehearsals was out of the range of normal. I am hoping that college choral direction teachers will read the story to their classes, so that the result of this concert will not be duplicated.