If you're like most villagers, you've read about the Colorado Springs Symphony's financial problems and last week's bankruptcy filing and today find yourself asking the big question:

We have a symphony?

Yes we do. It's a terrific symphony led by world-class Maestro Lawrence Leighton Smith. It's just that we, the villagers, don't enjoy - and here I use the technical musical term - "listening to it."

Frankly, a large number of us believe culture is how yogurt is made.

Our dismal support of the arts begins at the state level.

Colorado ranks dead last - behind West Virginia, Mississippi and Arkansas, to name a few of the leading raccoon-hunting states - in per capita funding of the arts.

Our state contributes a dismal 26 cents per person annually on arts funding, about one-sixth of the national average of $1.46 per resident.

As a village, we are not big supporters of the arts. This is because of a number of factors, such as the stupid symphony scheduling concerts the same night as monster truck rallies at the World Arena.

Who's going to sit through the Ginastera "Variaciones Concertantes" when you can get drunk and watch the 755-horsepower Bigfoot crush 26 Buicks?

In a survey of our village last year by the Bee Vradenburg Foundation, 43 percent of respondents said they hadn't attended a cultural event in the past year. And 56 percent of people who attended an arts event had not donated to an arts organization.

But in my own survey, about 19 percent thought Strauss was the guy who teamed with Levi to make blue jeans, and a whopping 78 percent believe Tosca is "that moron at the Gazette."

From Pikes Peak Community Foundation director Michael Hannigan: "Communities that support the arts are dynamic communities. They have figured out what it takes to make a place a great place to live, not just a good place to live."

So here we sit with an exceptionally fine symphony orchestra sloshing through bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, symphony orchestras in the following places - I am not kidding - receive greater public support and are doing just fine:

The Boise Philharmonic. Next month's performance features Bach's breathtaking "Ode to a Potato."

The Conway (Arkansas) Symphony, featuring three oboe players, two violinists, 16 people with washboards and a 104-year-old guy blowing into a moonshine jug.

The Fairbanks (Alaska) Symphony. The highlight of each performance is a stirring harp solo - played by a harp seal.

There also are well-supported symphony orchestras in Bakersfield and Modesto, Calif., Cedar Rapids and Dubuque, Iowa, and Topeka, Kan.

And in Montana, symphonies have great support in Billings, Bozeman, Great Falls, Helena, Missoula and even Butte. Although to be honest, I bet even we'd pay to see a sheep play the cello.

- Rich Tosches' column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Friday. He can be reached at 636-0226 or tosches@gazette.com

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