Monday, March 22, 2010

[Lao Orchestra] By the Numbers: $10K

How much would it take to put together a Lao orchestra? Less than you think.

Try: 1/6th of the salary of one player of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, or a little over 1 1/2 month's pay. With six weeks of one person's pay, you could acquire all-new instruments to create a functional, 13-piece Lao orchestra.

Of course, I simplify here.This doesn't take into account the cost for an orchestra's clothing, space rental & stage tech, transport & storage, marketing, administration or honorariums/salaries for the musicians and coordinator.

But in terms of obtaining just the instruments, the figure we've seen quoted to us is $9,671.

If you had an audience of 100 people paying an admission of $10, 4 times a year to a concert, you could make back the price of the instruments in 2 years or 10 performances.

1,000 people donating $10 or the price of a 10-piece bucket of KFC chicken could fund the beginnings of a Lao traditional music renaissance in their community. You wouldn't give up a bucket of fried chicken for that?

But with the exception of Wyoming with their estimated Lao population of 21 and North Dakota with 31 known Lao residents, every other state has more than enough people who could commit to revitalizing the tradition of Lao classical music and art.

$9,671 can get you:
1 Ranat thum (metallophone with steel keys): $1,175
1 Ranat ek (wooden xylophone): $959
1 Ranat thum lek (wooden xylophone): $959
2 Kim (hammer dulcimer, $1,099 each): $2,198
1 Gla jub pe (long neck flute): $699
1 Saw Sam Sai (3-string fiddle): $499
1 Saw Ou (2-string fiddle): $335
1 Saw Duang (high-pitched 2-string fiddle): $495
1 Larng gong (18 piece gong): $1,185
1 Glong tuk (drum): $549
1 Ta Phon Mon (royal drum): $327
1 Cymbal set: $37
1 Bell set: $17
And shipping it all? $237.

Even adjusting for inflation, our community could stand to gain so much from investing in our classical music tradition, a revitalization of a dialogue we've been having with our heritage over 650 years as a people.

Imagine if we did quarterly performances for just 10 years. 40 shows to just 100 members of your community at $10 a person. You'd raise $40,000, enough to send someone to college or start a library in Laos. You'd have 400% return on your investment while expanding our knowledge and appreciation of our culture.

That's just in one decade. Imagine what would happen if you expanded that audience and you made it something that was a permanent gift to your community for the centuries to come?

So, I ask. Do you choose this:

Or this?:

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