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The Hollywood Bowl and the democratization of music

The Hollywood Bowl represented a dramatic change in the musical culture of Southern California. Los Angeles by the 1920s had become a burgeoning metropolis; the population had increased from about 11,000 in 1880 to almost one million by 1920: the fastest-growing city in the United States. Yet there were few venues for classical music concerts. Up to this time, theaters were the main places people might hear an orchestra; traveling orchestras had performed in Los Angeles theaters at least since the 1880s, and with the founding of the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1919, the city had its own professional orchestra. There was a problem, however, with theaters and concert halls. They could be hot and stuffy, especially during the summer months; the location downtown was not always convenient, such as for those who lived in the suburbs; and the formal atmosphere of a theater might dissuade some people from attending, even those who had a genuine interest in listening to classical music.With such perfect weather conditions, why not have an open-air venue which took advantage of the climate? The Hollywood Bowl changed entirely the experience of listening to orchestral music by presenting that music outdoors. When it opened officially in 1922, it was one of the first open-air theaters for orchestral music in the world. In this article I would like to emphasize the role of community support of the arts as an essential component in the establishment of an outdoor theater for music.

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