The Brookhaven Town Council On The Arts
In 1965, Yannacone organized the first municipal Arts Council in the United States just after the Rockefeller Brothers Foundation had published a definitive report on the desperate state of the performing arts throughout the United States.
At that time, the sparsely populated Town of Brookhaven in central Suffolk County, approximately 50 miles east of Manhattan, had already been dubbed Crookhaven by the Long Island daily newspaper, Newsday, because of a number of well-publicized real estate scandals.
However, its new administration, led by a farsighted visionary Town Supervisor, Charles R. Dominy, believed that the performing arts, particularly music, should receive at least some support from municipal government. He asked Yannacone to create the Brookhaven Town Council on the Arts and bring professional musical performances to the people of Brookhaven Town during the summer of 1965. Yannacone submitted a proposal to the Recording Industry Music Performance Trust Fund which had been created as part of the settlement of the Musicians strike against the recording industry in 1948 and used royalties from record sales to fund free concerts by professional musicians in all parts of the country.
The proposal was approved and Yannacone was able to establish the Brookhaven Town Symphony Orchestra, the first municipally sponsored fully professional symphony orchestra in the United States and invite the legendary tenor saxophonist, Billy Mitchell to create the Brookhaven Town Jazz All Stars around the local alumni of the Count Basie, Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie bands.
The Town of Brookhaven application to the MPTF was successful. 50% matching grants were made for the years 1965 and 1966, and 40% for 1967. Those grants funded three full seasons of free weekly concerts by professional musicians at the Bald Hill Ski Bowl. The Brookhaven Town Symphony Orchestra with over 60 players and the Brookhaven Town Jazz All Stars featuring alumni of the Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, and Duke Ellington bands alternated weekends throughout the summer.
The Brookhaven Town Municipal Music Program Proposal
Recognizing that the arts require municipal support because they are essential to the ornament and happiness of human life and the prosperity of the State, the Town of Brookhaven has established a Council on the Arts to recommend ways to maintain and increase the cultural resources of the Town of Brookhaven to propose methods to encourage private initiative in the arts to advise and consult with State, Federal and Local agencies in order to coordinate existing cultural resources and facilities and to foster artistic and cultural efforts, aware that men and women need the arts to remind them of who they are and what they can become to conduct studies and make recommendations toward formulating ways to encourage creative activity, high standards and increased opportunities in the arts and develop greater appreciation and enjoyment of the arts by the residents.
At the present time in the Town of Brookhaven, professional musical activity does not exist on an organized level. Community Concerts during the winter with soloists on tour from around the Country and the Stony Brook Concert series during the summer represent the only professional musical efforts in the Township.
On the other hand, amateur musical productions abound. The North Shore Chorus and Symphony Orchestra present such ambitious works as the Verdi “Requiem” and Mendelsohn “Elijah,” while the Suffolk Symphony and other choral groups present programs of light classics. Most of these orchestras utilize the services of professional musicians who are residents of the area but who earn their livelihood in other fields such as teaching and industry.
The Town of Brookhaven is concerned with the professional area of artistic activity, particularly in the field of music. Vital as the amateurs are to our cultural health, the fact remains that it is on the professional artist that ultimate responsibility for the highest level of creative output and quality rests.
No one can produce great art on a part time basis while working at a “day job” to support their family. The first concern of the Town in its government program is to find a way to put its musicians, actors, dancers, and other artists to work on a full time sustaining basis.
A recent survey has shown that more than fifty professional musicians, members of Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians reside in the Town of Brookhaven. Most have never performed professionally in any program presented in the Town of Brookhaven, although some lend their talents to the amateur productions.
The Town of Brookhaven intends to establish a permanent professional chamber orchestra and concert band, employing a total of fifty professional musicians, with a weekly rehearsal schedule and between twenty and twenty-five concerts annually. Some of these concerts will be in conjunction with programs presented by the Town’s amateur choral groups, augmented by professional soloists. The Town also intends to develop a program of Saturday concerts for young people in conjunction with the public school system to develop music appreciation among even the youngest children.
The Town is providing a Symphonic Shell for outdoor concerts and developing facilities for the proper presentation of concerts indoors during the winter months.
A copy of the budget indicates the extent of the Brookhaven Town commitment to the support of professional musical activity in the Town of Brookhaven. The Town is seeking assistance on a matching basis from the Music Performance Trust Fund of the American Federation of Musicians and additional help from private sources such as the New York State Council on the Arts and the National Council on the Arts.
The effort of the Town of Brookhaven represents the only attempt in the suburban New York metropolitan area to develop local professional musical talent at the present time. It represents, in our dizzy computerized age, a municipal effort to enhance what it is we have as human beings and preserve what has been left to us.
Although it is so easy to sit back and accumulate an endless string of evenings before the television set without wondering what it is all for, it would be profoundly disappointing if we found that the only comfort of our civilization was watching what we were.