Since before I was hired to report on music in Santa Fe, I’ve been annoyed by how negative and whiny so many people are about the scene—both those who are actively part of it and those who are on the outside.
The problem is first a matter of perspective.
This is not Portland or Austin or Brooklyn. This is Santa Fe, and for all its smallness, it still packs a punch.
Too much of the music scene’s impact is taken for granted. I’m reminded of my high school years, when everyone complained about how there was nothing to do in Santa Fe and how lame it was, only to return after their first year of college with a Zia tattoo and newfound, excessive “505 Pride.”
I encourage any person who approaches our music scene with blind negativity to move to a Southwestern town of similar size. Maybe you’ll find more stimulation in the larger New Mexico cities of Rio Rancho and Las Cruces; Odessa, Texas, or perhaps Flagstaff, Ariz.
The hallmark complaint leveled against SF local music is that there’s not enough done (by whom I’m not exactly sure) for the youth scene.
I agree—we do not have a particularly youthful scene.
The arts in Santa Fe are tourist-driven by an older demographic. Rather than finding this reality to be a target of disparagement, why not latch onto its positive benefits and use them to our advantage?
We have an excess of venues in town. None of them are routinely packed, and several of the better ones have gone out of business in recent years due to a lack of consistent support (Corazón, Paolo Soleri and Tin Star come to mind).
Yes, there are issues related to city regulations as well as the ownership and management of a small business, and plenty of our venues have room for improvement. But if the challenges are insurmountable, then maybe we should be booking our favorite performer in our basements, or organizing house parties for some of the local bands that can’t seem to get enough gigs.
Another issue is the lack of appreciation for the numerous world-class musicians who call Santa Fe home.
Due to a type of genre-discrimination, this talented resource group is frequently under-utilized by the younger generation. Many of these people (nationally and internationally appreciated jazz artists, opera singers, mariachis and beyond) have made significant outreach efforts directed toward students and youth musicians. What seems to be lacking is a reciprocal interest.
I get it: jazz, opera, traditional New Mexican music aren’t cool enough.
The younger crowd prefers (demands?) younger music. But the development of a stronger youth-oriented music culture/scene is not the responsibility of the older generation of musicians, or the city, or the hospitality industry or the various non-profits like W21, SITE and CCA, laboring (often thanklessly) to support music and the arts—it’s the responsibility of the kids making the demands.
On the positive end, many people are actively, and often successfully, pushing for change. High Mayhem, Meow Wolf, the After Hours Alliance and the recently formed Santa Fe Music Alliance all come to mind.
The community has certainly benefited from the efforts of all these organizations (September alone yielded the AHA fest, RE:Mike and—plug alert—SFR’s own Arts Festival), but the occasionally bureaucratic structure and approach of some groups can either bog down creative development or alienate potential allies.
Rather than writing mission statements laden with language such as “fostering,” “promoting,” “initiating” and “developing” our local music community, maybe we should spend more time writing music, writing blog reviews that promote local music or writing checks that support musicians.
My main beliefs are simply put: 1) Access to good music is a privilege and not an entitlement; 2) Undirected criticism that offers neither new insight nor suggestions for improvement is nothing more than complaining. And 3) Such complaints only worsen the scene.
When musicians are inundated with criticism about the poor quality of music in this town, they aren’t particularly encouraged to keep putting themselves out there to prove everyone wrong. Likewise, when venue owners/bookers are barraged with complaints about how their schedules, lineups and business models suck, they aren’t compelled to work productively with these complainers. Finally, when would-be music patrons are suffocated by the resulting atmosphere of negativity, they are far less motivated to check out a local show over checking out what’s new on Netflix.
I’m sure there are many people out there who disagree with what I’ve said, or think I’m being naïve or whining too much myself. Well, don’t be shy: I can’t wait to hear or read all of your complaints/suggestions/whimpers/grumbles and petty anonymous comments in the near future.