Some people just don't go to the symphony.
Maybe it's not their cup of tea. They'd rather be fishing, they just spent $500 on funnel cake at the fair, they're holding out for that day when the Charleston Symphony Orchestra performs the music of Hank Williams Jr.
They give a "no big deal" shrug to the news this week that the CSO's financial woes have reached a crescendo.
Maybe they think it's economic Darwinism — things are tough all over, and only the strongest survive. Well, that is if they believe in Darwinism.
But that's not the way to look at this. Just ask George Stevens, president and chief executive officer of the Coastal Community Foundation. He can tell you that some things are worth more than the sum of their parts; that not all assets show up on a balance sheet.
He calls it "goodwill value."
"They are not just doing a job or providing a service," Stevens said. "They are part of the answer to 'What's good about this place?' The community and the region have intrinsic value beyond the hard assets. We're proud of the Charleston Symphony or the ballet or Crisis Ministry."
Basically, the symphony is part of what makes Charleston "Charleston" — you know, one of the top-ranked tourist destinations in the country, a place that attracts new residents every week. Whether you like that or not while sitting in traffic, it's a good thing for the community.
Don't think so? Ask Detroit how they'd like to have a little more traffic about now.
Burton Schools, chairman of the board for Piggly Wiggly Carolina and the Coastal Community Foundation, can explain perhaps better than anyone. The symphony, he notes, is one of those valuable amenities that make the city attractive to new residents and retirees — you know, the people who expand the local tax base and give generously to all our local nonprofits.
Schools tells a story from his days as CSO board president, when a couple told him the symphony was a big factor in their decision to retire here. When he asked where they were from, they said New York.
Let that sink in. New York.
Maybe some people don't go to the symphony because they think it's entertainment for the wealthy, that they don't fit in or can't afford it. But consider the ticket prices: $20 or $30 gets you in to most shows, and students can buy seats for $5.
By comparison, try to see the Eagles in North Charleston this winter for less than $150.
The symphony can point to its extensive community outreach, programs with school children, free shows. These musicians tutor a lot of kids who probably won't learn to play viola at school.
But most importantly, the symphony introduces children to the classics — powerful pieces of the most dramatic, moving music you'll ever hear. Everyone should hear it more than once.
Unfortunately, that is a bit of culture missing from a lot of people's lives.
If none of that impresses you, consider the bottom line: When big industries are looking for new places to locate, one of the factors that goes into the decision — along with available land and workforce — is "quality of life."
The calculus of corporate bigwigs takes into account professional sports, parks and, yes, the arts. These guys are looking for a place that, hopefully, their employees will want to stay — at least until they are downsized.
If you don't think these things are important, ask Myrtle Beach. How many BMW factories has the Dixie Stampede, bless their hearts, brought in? Think Bosch came here for monster truck rallies at the coliseum? Everybody has those things.
Finally, consider history. Not only is the Holy City historically an arts-friendly city, host to the Spoleto Festival, but it's also the home to the St. Cecilia Society, which started out more than 200 years ago as a private group that provided subscription concerts.
You could do no more damage to Charleston heritage if you lopped off the Battery.
So this year, show a little sympathy for the symphony. Take in a show (it's cheaper than the fair). Find out what you've been missing. You might just like it, and you'll be helping Charleston remain "Charleston."
And who knows what might happen next. The symphony played with the guy from Styx a couple of years ago. Could Willie Nelson be far behind?