Andrew Hamlin 10 a.m., Nov. 14
Patrons and Clients
Let's take a look at the history of patronage. The English word patron is borrowed from the Latin patronus (relax Harry Potter fans) which was derived from pater--father.
In ancient Rome, the patron/client system was tightly woven into the fabric of the Republic and was part of the ancient traditions. We sometimes forget that the Roman Republic lasted for 500 years before Augustus established the Empire.
The system of patronage pre-dated even the Republic and was a part of the Roman Monarchy--roughly 800 B.C.-509 B.C.
Influential men would bestow patronage upon their clients. Each morning clients would gather in the offices of their patron.
The patron would receive his clients and either bestow a favor or ask a favor. Having a large number of clients was crucial for any citizen looking to climb the political ladder. Offices in the Republic were determined by voting. Clients were expected to deliver the vote for their patrons when called upon.
The opposite was also true. If a client was running for office, the patron was expected to support the client and wield his influence to enhance the client's campaign. The relationship extended beyond politics and included marriages, the courts, and any number of clandestine activity.
Patrons were almost always rich and their social status depended, in a large part, on the number and ability of their clients.
The patron/client relationship was a sacred trust. The idea of a client betraying his patron was unthinkable and vice versa.
Moving forward, the patron/client relationship in classical music resembles the ancient relationship. Patrons are still wealthy and influential people who use their resources to support their client--classical music.
A patron can still enhance their public status and prestige by supporting the arts.
In the 18th Century, Austrian Emperor Joseph II was a patron of music and his clients included Gluck, Salieri, Mozart, and Beethoven. Count Esterhazy was a patron and his client was Haydn.
In our society, patrons tend to support organizations instead of individuals but it is still a relationship that is based on a tradition that goes back to the 9th Century B.C.
I respect the patron/client model and it has worked, for better or worse, for eons. I see no reason why patrons of classical music to disappear. Ticket sales might be down but ticket sales have never been what drives classical music.