Music: Rhapsody in White

Which brings up another point. It isn’t that easy to convince musicians to work in a symphony orchestra in Philadelphia when they can make more money in New York playing recording engagements, for television broadcasts and what not. It is possible to negotiate salaries for first desk positions, but not for jobs in the sections. There is no leverage there at all. Philadelphia has to bargain with prestige, not cash.

So apparently the Philadelphia Orchestra has awakened to the fact that it’s going to have to beat the bushes if it wants to find qualified black musicians. Normally, the personnel manager sends out notices of auditions to schools and advertises in trade papers. For the November auditions he has also notified the Symphony of the New World (an all-black orchestra) and the viola and violin players on a list of 34 black classical musicians the Ford Foundation has compiled. That is why Ormandy has started his own recruitment program and why everyone is trying to bring along Booker T. Roe. Personnel manager Mason Jones is making it his business to keep an eye on black musicians in orchestras all over the world. "There’s one in the Bordeaux Symphony who might be interested in playing for us in the spring when there will be more openings," he can say. "And then there’s one I heard about. … "

The rush is on. If there ever was a time when the Orchestra was not friendly to black talent, it has passed. Ormandy is really on the spot. He needs a black body right away. The New York Philharmonic debacle could happen here. Unlike banks and industry that created instant vice-presidents and managers, just to be above criticism, even when the quality of the choices was questionable, top-notch orchestras feel that they can’t lower their standards for even one player. At least, that is what they felt in the past.

But the times are changing. Ormandy and guest conductors with the Philadelphia Orchestra now rehearse students at Curtis on Saturdays in the Orchestra’s program to help give them practice and experience, to help short-cut them. Orrnandy says he has great hopes for the future. It will be only a decade before black musicians will make it. But what about right now?

The eyes of the public are on them — on the Eugene Ormandys of the musical world. It will be interesting to see how they reconcile the pressures of today’s racial demands with their own musical demands. It is not an enviable spot to be in.