When Lee Eiseman, Bettina A. Norton, and I embarked on starting a classical music website in 2008, our enthusiasm was qualified by naiveté. We were convinced that greater Boston needed and deserved better coverage of its musical events, but we were uncertain whether we had the abilities to provide a persuasive alternative. How heartened we are that the perseverance and enthusiasm of the publisher, the executive editor, and the 70 able reviewers and writers have won a devoted following. On a busy day the site has registered 18,000 hits from 3,000 visitors. Given the narrow focus of the enterprise, these are spectacular results indeed.
As we begin the fourth year of this venture, we note with pleasure that our group of writers included eminent musicologists from the outset, and that they continue to provide such elucidating copy. This base has been augmented by numerous proficient musicologists and other music professionals, including performers—who run the gamut from retirees from eminent careers and established concert artists to those embarking on a life within the classical-music world.
The sheer volume of content is in itself cause for satisfaction as well — 1,200 reviews and 4,000 concerts listed in three years. The public forum in January 2009, and the 13 subsequent articles on the transformation of WGBH and WCRB garnered not only hundreds of comments, but seem to have induced the WGBH Foundation’s administration and the stations’ personnel to listen and adopt many of the suggestions of our writers and readers. In their interviews, our writers’ integrity and their reluctance to accept boilerplate responses from their subjects are truly admirable. This is brave and effective journalism.
BMInt has maintained an enviable record for reviewing performances by some of the smaller organizations, whose concerts tend to escape the notice of the major newspapers. This, in my view, provides a major contribution to the cultural scene, both by enriching the historic record and by raising the visibility of talented and deserving performers. Inevitably, some of our reviewers have sung hymns of praise, whereas others have found fault with details of what they have heard. It is heartening that for the most part they have avoided both the treacle of uncritical enthusiasm and the venom of personal prejudice.
The prevailing level of scholarship has been and is high. We are proud of the distinguished PhDs who write for BMInt and the intellectual level of their evaluations. In turn we accord them a well-read forum for views on subjects and aspects of the arts that their normal professional publications might not engender.
This is surely why concert presenters increasingly quote from our reviews in their publications and place our ads in their program books as a courtesy. It undoubtedly explains why Lloyd Schwartz, classical music critic of The Boston Phoenix, called us one of the 10 best events for classical music in Boston in 2010.
What lies ahead? For one thing, it is clear that we should expand the number and frequency of articles on upcoming performances, as well as on various subjects of musical interest. To this end, we solicit and welcome pre-qualified submissions from readers.
So far, we have worked on a shoestring. The generous $3,000 annual grant from Harvard Musical Association, used only for ancillary expenses, constitutes our entire income. Everyone involved with the endeavor is a volunteer, which makes our survival possible, at least for now. Almost every presenter provides two tickets to the reviewer per concert, which provides a viable basis for our operations. Neither the publisher nor executive editor receives any compensation. A vibrant future will depend on our finding a more sustainable model. We welcome suggestions from those skilled in financial matters on how the Intelligencer can be supported while remaining independent.
I close with the BMInt mantra: “If you hear something, write something.”