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Music and Politics in San FranciscoFrom the 1906 Quake to the Second World War$
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Leta Miller

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780520268913

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520268913.001.0001

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The Despair of the Depression and the Clash of Race

The Despair of the Depression and the Clash of Race

(p.167) 7 The Despair of the Depression and the Clash of Race
Music and Politics in San Francisco

Leta E. Miller

University of California Press

By the time Alfred Hertz retired in 1930 as conductor of the San Francisco Symphony, the orchestra was in serious financial trouble. Nevertheless, for two more seasons the Musical Association (MA) maintained the impressive offerings the public had come to expect. By January 1932 the symphony was having trouble meeting its payroll and the players were understandably disgruntled. The MA met its last payment to the players only by assuming a new loan. Among casual musicians, who depended on short-term employment, the economic situation became even more dire than for those with ongoing jobs. These musicians were affected not only by the Depression but also by the demise of theater orchestras in response to sound films—a sea change that, even without the general economic crisis, would have spelled disaster for thousands of hardworking players. One small bright spot in the discouraging employment picture was the passage in 1933 of the Twenty-first Amendment, which repealed Prohibition. With prolonged unemployment reaching crisis levels for so many musicians, the relegalization of alcoholic drinks offered the prospect of nightclubs reopening with live music—a glimmer of hope in the unemployment morass.

Keywords:   San Francisco Symphony, Musical Association, sound films, casual musicians

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