symphony FALL 2014 n $6.95
THE MAGAZINE OF
THE LEAGUE OF AMERICAN ORCHESTRAS
Heard Around the Orchestra World
Coping with the Ivory Ban
Now Playing! Orchestras Go to the Movies
Alex Ross: Should Artists Speak Out on Politics?
Supporting Exceptional Careers In Philanthropy
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symphony FA L L 2 0 1 4
all it the rap heard around the orchestra world. At a Seattle Symphony concert on the closing day of the League’s 2014 Conference this June, Sir Mix-A-Lot performed his 1992 hit “Baby Got Back” with the orchestra and Music Director Ludovic Morlot. The rapper invited female audience members to the stage, and a crowd of dancing, laughing women turned this orchestra concert into a rave. Video of the event went viral, and no wonder: famous rapper, raunchy hit song, distinguished orchestra, classical musicians, people getting their groove on, a pop-up vibe, spectators-as-participants. Though it’s unlikely that rap will secure a permanent place in the orchestral rep (the new Three B’s: Beethoven, Brahms, and Busta Rhymes), the video got millions of hits, and people who may not have known that there is a Seattle Symphony sure know now, and they may see orchestras as something cool. What got lost in the shuffle is that the program was part of Seattle’s Sonic Evolution series, which spotlights symphonic compositions inspired by Seattlebased musicians; there were world premieres of works by young composers who are thrilled to work on a symphonic scale. In this issue, Aaron Flagg unpacks the multiple meanings of the concert and their implications for orchestras concerning diversity and inclusion, community engagement, contemporary sensibilities, accessibility. Meanwhile, new regulations concerning ivory from the endangered African elephant may have potentially disastrous effects on the lives of classical musicians, whose instruments sometimes contain fragments of ivory. It’s fair to say that most people think saving these beautiful creatures from extinction is a good thing, but the new policies illustrate the truism about unintended consequences. The League is at the forefront of work on this challenge, which sits squarely at the nexus of art and politics.
THE MAGAZINE OF THE LEAGUE OF AMERICAN ORCHESTRAS
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2015 - 2016 SYMPHONY ROSTER *New for 2015 ABBACADABRA - A Tribute to ABBA A Night of Symphonic Rock Broadway Today Cirque Musica presents Crescendo* Cirque Musica Holiday Spectacular Copacabana - A Tribute to Barry Manilow* Engelbert Humperdinck* FAITHFULLY - A Tribute to the Music of Journey Full Moon Fever - A Tribute to Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers Get up and DANCE!* Horns!* Jack Jones* Kenny G Kieko Matsui* Le Ombre Me and My Shadow* Over the Rainbow-Judy Garland in Concert* POPS Divas* REWIND - Celebrating the Music of the 80â€™s Spy Who Loved Me with Sheena Easton* Stayin Alive - One Night of the Bee Gees Starship* Survivor* Symphonic Shakespeare* THE KING - The Music of Elvis The Las Vegas Songbook* A Tribute to John Denver* The Police Experience* U2 Symphony* WME Country Artists w/ Symphony - Sara Evans, Oak Ridge Boys, Diamond Rio, Kenny Rogers, Ronnie Milsap, Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers
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T r i b u t e M u s i c
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THE MAGAZINE OF THE LEAGUE OF AMERICAN ORCHESTRAS
2 Prelude by Robert Sandla 6 The Score Orchestra news, moves, and events
20 Board Room League Board Chair Patricia A. Richards outlines three things board members must do to be effective leaders. 24 Opinion What the Seattle Symphony’s concert with rapper Sir Mix-A-Lot means for orchestras. by Aaron Flagg 30 Conference Follow-Up At the League’s National Conference in Seattle this June, researcher Alan Brown and flutist Claire Chase gave provocative speeches about the rapidly evolving orchestra field.
14 Critical Questions Four musicians-turned-chief-executives of their orchestras speak with Jesse Rosen about what it takes to make the switch.
symphony FA L L 2 0 1 4
In Wide Release Composers of film music speak about the booming orchestra-concerts-with-film trend. by Kyle MacMillan
The Unanswered Question Should musicians speak out about politics? by Alex Ross
Saving Elephants—and Instruments The League is taking a leadership role in representing the interests of musicians and orchestras, as new policies designed to thwart illegal trade in elephant ivory go into effect. by Heidi Waleson
Orchestras Resurgent Following bankruptcies at orchestras in Albuquerque, Honolulu, and Syracuse, the music has returned. by Chester Lane
44 2014 Guide to Symphony Pops Advertisers 77 Advertiser Index 78 League of American Orchestras Annual Fund
80 Coda about the cover Conductors weigh in on why pops matters. At the Seattle Symphony’s June 6 concert, rapper Sir MixThroughout this issue, text marked like this indicates a link to websites and online resources that can be accessed by visiting SymphonyOnline ● at symphony.org.
A-Lot performed his 1992 hit “Baby Got Back” with the orchestra and Music Director Ludovic Morlot. The concert, immediately following the League of American Orchestras’ National Conference, was part of the orchestra’s Sonic Evolution series of symphonic compositions inspired by Seattle-based musicians. Photo by Ben Van Houten
SCORE News, moves, and events in the orchestra industry THE
League President and CEO Jesse Rosen’s state-of-thefield address underscored the connections between time and place as reflected in orchestra programming, finances, diversity, and artistry. He celebrated programming that reveals “creativity emerging from a deep sense of place” and emphasized that, financially,
Photos by: Robert Wade
he League of American Orchestras’ National Conference, hosted by the Seattle Symphony, began with a riveting keynote address by flutist Claire Chase on re-imagining the orchestra, and concluded with a media frenzy and a viral video: Ludovic Morlot and the Seattle Symphony’s Sonic Evolution concert featuring world premieres by Luis Tinoco, Du Yun, and Gabriel Prokofiev, and spotlighting Sir Mix-A-Lot’s now-famous orchestral rendition of “Baby Got Back.” That range suggests the energetic mood of the Conference, which had as its theme “Critical Questions, Countless Solutions,” and focused on innovation, creativity, and how orchestras are connecting with their communities. From June 4-6, 2014, nearly 1,000 orchestra administrators,
music director of the New West Symphony Orchestra in Los Angeles and associate conductor at the Boston Symphony Orchestra, received the Helen M. Thompson Award for an Emerging Music Director. Lehninger was featured in the League’s 2011 Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview. At the League’s Annual Meeting, Patricia A. Richards was elected chair of the Board of Directors. Former Chair Lowell J. Noteboom remains on the Board, and was honored at the meeting, along with League Vice President for Learning and Leadership Development Polly Kahn, who stepped down after fourteen years of service. Musical highlights included two concerts by the Seattle Symphony, led by Music Director Ludovic Morlot at Benaroya Hall, and performances by the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra, cellist Joshua Roman, composer/DJ Gabriel Prokofiev, and Seattle Symphony musicians with Native flute player Paul “Che-oke-ten” Wagner. Twenty-seven orchestras received 2013-2014 ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming, and fourteen orchestra volunteer projects received Gold Book Online Awards of Excellence from the League’s Volunteer Council.
“challenges and opportunities in your local market are at least as important, if not more so, than benchmarks compared to orchestras in other communities.” The League’s highest honor, the Gold Baton Award, Top: Conference delegates meet in Benaroya was presented to Hall, home of the Seattle Symphony. Wayne S. Brown, Above: League President and CEO Jesse Rosen at the 2014 Conference in Seattle. former Director of Above right: Violinist Adé Williams performs at Music and Opera a Conference event. for the National Endowment for the musicians, volunteers, and board Arts and now president and CEO of Michigan Opera members came together to Theatre. Marcelo Lehninger, share practical knowledge and best practices, engage in debate, and identify emerging trends. Conference Resources Conference sessions covered Check out the videos, presentations, toolkits, and such topics as social media, additional resources from the League’s 2014 Conference diversity, donor relations, music at americanorchestras.org/conferences-meetings/ education, and the impact of conference-2014.html. unusual repertoire. symphony
It’s been a big year for composer John Luther Adams. First, his orchestral work Become Ocean— premiered by the Seattle Symphony in 2013 and reprised by the orchestra this May at Carnegie Hall—was awarded the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Music. In July, his Sila: The Breath of the World had its premiere at Lincoln Center, with musicians positioned adjacent to the Milstein Pool and Terrace—and in the water, too. The piece, based on harmonics deriving from a low B-flat, is meant to be performed without a conductor. Participating in the concert were the Asphalt Orchestra, JACK Quartet, TILT Brass, eighth blackbird, and the vocal ensemble The Crossing. The music blended with the aural cityscape—fire engines, cars, buses, helicopters—which Adams hoped would increase “awareness of the world around us.”
On the Financial Front
The Metropolitan Opera grabbed the big headlines this summer by averting a lockout when its musicians and members of the house’s fifteen other unions agreed to new contracts. Many orchestras also reported contract agreements in recent months. The Colorado Springs Philharmonic’s new musicians contract runs through July 2019, with a cumulative 13.7 percent pay increase over the length of the contract, and a 6.2 percent increase in pension benefits. The Hawaii Symphony Orchestra has a new contract with its 84 musicians, through June 30, 2016. Musicians of the Omaha Symphony have signed a collective bargaining agreement through the 2018-19 season that includes modest wage increases; greater contributions by the Omaha Symphony Association toward health insurance; and more flexibility for rehearsals and performances. Musicians of the Oregon Symphony agreed to extend their contract one year, through September 2015, while maintaining current salary levels. The agreement follows several years of pay cuts for musicians and staff. Musicians of the Seattle Symphony have agreed to a contract extension through August 31, 2018. The contract guarantees 47 weeks of employment; a 6 percent rise in the post-retirement defined benefit pension; and annual pay increases of 3.2, 3.1, and 3.6 percent. The Shreveport Symphony musicians and management signed a new contract through the 2016-17 season that includes modest pay increases and increased numbers of guaranteed services for musicians, and greater flexibility for management to add activities such as educational programming. The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra’s new five-year collective bargaining agreement with its musicians began in September. Other financial developments included the announcement that the Chicago Chamber Musicians have suspended artistic operations, due to growing deficits, and will not present a concert season in 2014-15. At press time, management at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra had locked out musicians after contract negotiations reached an impasse at the expiration of the musicians’ contract on September 6. Issues include salaries, healthcare, and rules about how open musician positions are to be filled. Both sides said they would continue talks, but the fate of the ASO’s season-opening concert on September 25 was uncertain. The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra projected a deficit of $1.4 million at the end of the fiscal year on August 31. The Sacramento Philharmonic and Opera cancelled their fall seasons while working to establish a sustainable financial plan. americanorchestras.org
Boston’s Longwood Symphony Orchestra has appointed NICK ADAMS executive director. Violinist FRANK ALMOND has been named by the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra as its first artist-in-residence. CHARLES BABCOCK has been elected chair of the Delaware Symphony Orchestra
The Tucson Symphony Orchestra has named MARK BLAKEMAN president and CEO. BARBARA BOZZUTO has been elected chair of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
has been appointed artistic director of San Juan Symphony Youth Orchestras (Durango, Colo. and Farmington, N.M.).
Everyone in the Pool
WILLIAM F. ACHTMEYER and PAUL BUTTENWIESER have been elected chair and president, respectively, of the Boston Symphony Orchestra Board of Trustees.
At the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, TAMARA has been appointed vice president of marketing, and ERIK FINLEY vice president of artistic administration. CLEMENT
The Hartford (Conn.) Symphony Orchestra has named STEPHEN COLLINS director of artistic operations and administration. RODERICK COX and SAMEER PATEL have been selected by the Chicago Sinfonietta as the first participants in its Project Inclusion Conducting Fellowship Program.
Virginia’s Roanoke Symphony Orchestra has appointed DAVID CRANE executive director.
has been named artistic operations director at the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Symphony. STEPHEN MULLIGAN is the orchestra’s new assistant conductor.
JAMES TRAVIS CREED
The Adrian (Mich.) Symphony Orchestra has announced that JOHN THOMAS DODSON will step down as music director at the end of this season. has been appointed artistic administrator of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington D.C.
The Symphony of Southeast Texas has appointed executive director.
DOUGLAS J. FAIR
California’s San Luis Obispo Symphony has named EDMUND FEINGOLD executive director. MICHAEL FRANCIS has been appointed music director of the Florida Orchestra, effective with the 2015-16 season.
Wintergreen (Va.) Performing Arts has appointed ERIN FREEMAN artistic director.
The Albany (N.Y.) Symphony Orchestra has named LAWRENCE J. FRIED executive director.
New in League Member Relations
has been appointed CEO of the San Diego Symphony.
At the Los Angeles Philharmonic, MIRGA GRAŽINYTE-TYLA has been named assistant conductor, and JUAN FELIPE MOLANO conductor of Youth Orchestra LA (YOLA). THOMAS WILKINS will continue his relationship with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra with a new title, principal conductor.
MARTHA S. GILMER
has been named CEO of the Owensboro (Ky.) Symphony Orchestra.
The Nashville Symphony has appointed DANIEL vice president of marketing.
has been named general manager of California’s New West Symphony.
KEITARO HARADA has been named associate conductor of the Richmond (Va.) Symphony.
has returned to the Philadelphia Orchestra as principal trombone. NITZAN HAROZ
In August, the Utah Symphony’s “Mighty 5” tour of the state’s national parks kicked off with a concert just outside Capitol Reef National Park (above). An audience of 1,000 gathered to hear Music Director Thierry Fischer and the orchestra perform Bizet, Dvořák, Gershwin, and Shostakovich—with the park’s stunning red cliffs as backdrop. League of American Orchestras President Jesse Rosen was in attendance, along with former Utah Symphony Board Chair Patricia Richards (above left), who was elected League chair in June. Rosen noted that the tour addressed the increasing need for orchestras to be connected to their communities: “For the orchestra to appear in this incredible natural environment and all these terrific parks just says, ‘We’re a part of this. We fit in.’ ”
The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra has appointed IAN HARWOOD vice president and chief operating officer.
The Kennett Symphony of Chester County (Pa.) has appointed MICHAEL HALL music director.
Rocking It in Utah
BOB HATTON has been elected president of the Amarillo (Tex.) Symphony.
The Baltimore Symphony has named NICHOLAS HERSH assistant conductor, KEN LAM associate conductor for education, MICHAEL REPPER BSOPeabody conducting fellow, and MARKUS STENZ principal guest conductor.
New York’s Albany Symphony Orchestra demonstrated its ongoing commitment to living composers this spring with a festival of American music headlined by Grammy Award-winning percussionist Evelyn Glennie, seen left performing Joan Tower’s Strike Zones for Percussion and Orchestra, led by Music Director David Alan Miller. Music by many other noteworthy American composers was also spotlighted over the festival’s six days.
has been named executive director of the Ridgefield (Conn.) Symphony Orchestra.
Garden State Compositions
Florida’s Atlantic Classical Orchestra has named president and CEO.
ALAN T. HOPPER
NIR KABARETTI has been appointed music director of the Southwest Florida Symphony.
The Los Angeles Philharmonic has appointed KATHLEEN KANE vice president of philanthropy. JANE E. KENWORTHY has been named executive director of Oregon’s Rogue Valley Symphony.
Orchestra Iowa, based in Cedar Rapids, has appointed BENJAMIN KLAUS operations manager. LARRY KOPP
The Lake Forest (Ill.) Symphony has appointed VLADIMIR KULENOVIC music director.
has been named music director of the Charleston (S.C.) Symphony.
COURTNEY LEWIS has been appointed music director of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, effective with the 2015-16 season. He conducts two concert pairs this season as music director designate.
North Carolina’s Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra has appointed FABIÁN LÓPEZ concertmaster.
The Fort Wayne (Ind.) Philharmonic has named JIM general manager.
KEN-DAVID MASUR has been appointed assistant conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Oregon’s Eugene Symphony has named LINDSEY
The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra raised its profile in the contemporary-music scene this summer with the inaugural Edward T. Cone Composition Institute for emerging composers. David Biedenbender, Lembit Beecher, Daniel J. Choi, and Chris Rogerson were selected for the five-day program in July, presented in collaboration with the Princeton University Department of Music. Activities included master classes with Institute Director Steven Mackey; orchestral readings and feedback sessions with the NJSO and Music Director Jacques Lacombe; and the world premiere of a work by each composer.
Christopher Wessel recently joined the League as Director of Marketing and Member Relations. Wessel spent a large part of his career in the media industry working on such diverse publications as Variety, Adweek, and The Wall Street Journal. He also worked in the online world, marketing domain names and related services for Register. com. Contact Chris at cwessel@ americanorchestras .org or by calling the League at (212) 262 5161.
The NJSO celebrated its composition institute with a limited-edition ice cream flavor.
The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has appointed vice president of orchestra operations and general manager. Violinist SHLOMO MINTZ has been named soloistin-residence with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra (Brisbane, Australia) effective in 2015. Ohio’s Westerville Symphony Orchestra has elected SCOTT MOLINE board president. JON P. MOSBO has been named executive director of the Reading (Pa.) Symphony Orchestra.
The Vermont Symphony Orchestra has named KAREN PAQUIN development director. Opera.
Composer KEVIN PUTS has been named director of the Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute. JAMAL ROSSI has been appointed dean of the Eastman School of Music.
The Fort Bend (Tex.) Symphony Orchestra has named DOMINIQUE RØYEM music director. has been named associate conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.
Florida’s Artist—Naples has appointed YANIV assistant conductor of the Naples Philharmonic.
(March 6, 1930 – July 13, 2014)
SCOTT SHOWALTER has been appointed president and CEO of the Oregon Symphony.
Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos (September 15, 1933 – June 11, 2014)
The Rockford (Ill.) Symphony Orchestra has appointed LINC SMELSER conductor of the Rockford Symphony Youth Orchestra. MARGO STEDMAN is the Rockford Symphony’s new education and community engagement director.
Florida’s Palm Beach Pops has appointed LEE MUSIKER music director.
DAVE PETERSEN has succeeded PATRICIA A. RICHARDS as board chair of Utah Symphony
The National Philharmonic (North Bethesda, Md.) has named COLIN SORGI concertmaster. WARD STARE has been named music director of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. CHRIS THIBDEAU has been appointed music director at Metropolitan Youth Symphony Orchestras of Atlanta.
has been named principal pops conductor of the New Haven (Conn.) Symphony Orchestra.
he orchestra world lost two distinguished conductors this summer with the deaths of Lorin Maazel and Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos. Maazel, born in France, died at his home in Virginia on July 13, from complications from pneumonia. Raised in Pittsburgh, Maazel was a child prodigy who conducted the NBC Symphony Orchestra at age eleven and went on to serve as music director at orchestras including, in the U.S., the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, and New York Philharmonic. In Europe he was music director of the Munich Philharmonic, Philharmonia Orchestra (London), Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, and Orchestre National de France. In 2009 he established the Castleton Festival on the grounds of his home in Virginia, together with his wife, Dietlinde Turban Maazel, featuring classical music, theater, and opera performed by emerging artists. Opera posts included the Vienna Lorin Maazel State Opera and Deutsche Oper Berlin. Frühbeck, born in Burgos, Spain, died at his home Rafael Frühbeck in Pamplona after a long battle with cancer. Frühbeck de Burgos began his conducting career as principal conductor of the Bilbao Symphony Orchestra and Spanish National Orchestra. In the United States, he served as principal guest conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra from 1980 to 1988. He made his U.S. debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1969, and was a frequent presence thereafter, marking his 150th performance with the orchestra in 2013. From 2011 to 2013 he was creative director of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s Masterworks Series. He was a frequent guest conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, among many other orchestras. Frühbeck also held top conducting posts in Europe, Canada, and Japan.
Man’s best friend took center stage at Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Arts Festival this June as Grizzly, seen here with his handler and vocal coach Anthony Greco, joined fellow canines Jetty, Sonny, and Sergeant Preston in singing the Allegro from Leopold Mozart’s Sinfonia da Caccia in G. The piece, performed by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra led by PSO Resident Conductor Lawrence Loh, is scored for hunting horns, strings, and gunshots—with optional added shouts and barking dogs. Backing up the dogs were PSO horn players William Caballero, Robert Lauver, and Joseph Rounds. Meanwhile, Griffin—a four-year-old Siberian husky mix—won the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s open casting call for the walk-on “dream dog” role in its June concert performances of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Baltimore’s Folger Theatre, featuring Mendelssohn’s music for the play.
The California Symphony (Walnut Creek) has appointed DAN VISCONTI to a three-year term as Young American Composer in Residence. has been appointed executive director of the Dubuque (Iowa) Symphony Orchestra.
KELLY WALTRIP has been named executive director of the Denver Young Artists Orchestra.
The Houston Symphony has appointed BETSY COOK WEBER director of the Houston Symphony Chorus. San Francisco’s New Century Chamber Orchestra has named PHILIP WILDER executive director. The Las Vegas Philharmonic has named AMY WILES vice president of development. Wiles
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Crowds at the Montreal Symphony’s Carmina Burana, August 2014
This August, a crowd of 42,500 braved unseasonably chilly temperatures to hear Music Director Kent Nagano lead the Montreal Symphony’s free performance of Orff ’s Carmina Burana at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium esplanade. The mammoth presentation—with vocal soloists plus 1,500 singers divided into three choirs—was the kickoff event of the OSM’s third annual Classical Spree (Virée Classique): 30 short concerts packed into three days, at four different concert halls in Montreal’s Place des Arts. Nagano quipped that he hoped the programs’ brevity would encourage people to try new music, like sampling new food: “But not like fast food—more like a tasting menu at a fine restaurant.”
Partnering for Brahms
The Sweetest Sounds
Virginia’s Richmond Symphony spotlighted the individual talents of its musicians this summer in a new recital series, partnering with Richmond CenterStage, the University of Richmond School of Music, and Virginia Commonwealth University’s VCUarts. Featuring all of the Brahms sonatas, the inaugural Summer at CenterStage consisted of one-hour recitals on consecutive Thursday evenings, each priced at $20. Six of the eight sold out. A second season of Summer at CenterStage is in the works.
The Canton Symphony Orchestra in Ohio opened its new administrative building this July with a sweet touch: a free ice cream social and open house. The Zimmermann Symphony Center includes offices, a music library, an education program area, and a multi-purpose reception hall. Named after the Canton Symphony’s longtime music director, Gerhardt Zimmermann, the 22,000-square-foot facility is located on the campus of McKinley Senior High School and was funded by the CSO, the Canton City School District, and community members. The recently renovated Umstattd Performing Arts Hall, the orchestra’s primary concert venue also located at McKinley High, now includes hearing loop technology—a wire embedded in the floor that works with hearing aids to deliver amplified sound inside the ears, eliminating the need for headphones. The new reception hall is looped as well, making for a new level of aural accessibility.
Richmond Symphony Assistant Principal Cellist Jason McComb and pianist Joanne Kong at Richmond CenterStage in a July 31 performance.
“I’ve admired Dan Kamin’s work for many years. He has a unique talent for physical comedy and wonderful feel for music.” — Ted Wiprud, Director of Education, New York Philharmonic
“Engaging and delightful shows for symphony audiences of all ages.” — Don Reinhold, Executive Director, Wichita Symphony
“Dan is absolutely THE BEST artist you would ever want to work with—his shows are terrific and his residencies really build your audience.” — Delaware Symphony
Check out the file on Dan at www.dankamin.com
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Nilsson Prize to Vienna Phil
On October 8 in Stockholm, the 2014 Birgit Nilsson Prize of $1 million was awarded to the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra for its 172 years of excellence and outstanding contributions to music. The entire Vienna Philharmonic attended the event— and then played Liszt’s Les Preludes and the orchestral version of Wagner’s Liebestod led by Riccardo Muti, a 2011 Nilsson Prize laureate. The Nilsson Prize is the largest award in classical music, and is given approximately every three years to a currently active artist or institution. In photo: The Vienna Philharmonic and conductor Riccardo Muti at the Musikverein.
Young string players from multiple El Sistema-inspired programs in the U.S. demonstrated their musical skills at a June 28 benefit concert at the United Palace Theater in upper Manhattan. The event was dubbed “The Concert to Benefit El Sistema-Inspired Youth Orchestras in New York, New Jersey, and New Orleans” or just “The Concert,” for short. The 150 students came from the Corona Youth Music Project, Harmony Program, Union City Music Project, UpBeat NYC, Washington Heights and Inwood (WHIN) Music Project, and Youth Orchestra of St. Luke’s—all in the New York metro area. The concert also benefitted Make Music NOLA, based in New Orleans. Following the student performance, musicians from the Orchestra of St. Luke’s performed Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra.
Orchestra of St. Luke’s
Take the A Train—to El Sistema
Students rehearse for “The Concert” at the United Palace Theater in New York City, a benefit held by and for seven El Sistema programs.
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SOPRANO Julia Bullock COMPOSER David Hertzberg Chris Rogerson
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Are New Leaders Hiding in Plain Sight? Four musicians who were recently named chief executives of the orchestras where they played talk about what it takes to make the switch from the artistic to the administrative side.
number of musicians have become orchestra managers, notably Arthur Judson, Bob Jones, and Deborah Borda, among others. But, in the last two years, several musicians have become CEOs of the orchestras they played in. Maybe these recent appointments of musicians as the chief executives of their orchestras are just a coincidence. But I wanted to know what it is like to make that transition and what it might mean for the orchestra community. After the rich and thoughtful discussion with four of these new CEOs that follows below, I am even more convinced that extraordinary leadership talent resides among the musicians in American orchestras. This is a talent pool hiding in plain sight. It’s time we take notice. JESSE ROSEN: What has surprised you about the role of CEO? Was there something that you had no idea was part of the job, or was different from what you had thought the job was before you were in a CEO position? JAMES ROE: The biggest surprise has been the complexities of personnel management with the staff. As a member of an orchestra, roles are defined by where you sit onstage. Understanding the interrelated motivations within a staff is a new process for me. No one becomes a classical musician to get rich, but there’s a great deal of
by Jesse Rosen personal satisfaction that comes out of a great performance. With the administrative staff, I am learning how that kind of satisfaction is built around our work. JONATHAN PARRISH: For me, there is frustration with spending time on issues that don’t really advance the organization, but are essential to being able to advance it, like cash flow. Just the amount of time and energy I spend making sure that we always have enough money to make our payrolls. We were successful, but there were some very close calls, and it felt like an empty victory because everybody expects you to make your payrolls, and I wanted to work on the things that would show people the new course that we’re taking. I wanted to get new things established or at least give indications of new things to
Jesse Rosen, President and CEO, League of American Orchestras
process—trying to figure out what you have to pay for, what you don’t have to pay for, what your real liability is going forward, what your projected liability is going forward, and trying to come up with cost certainty around benefits. For me, that was probably the steepest learning curve, and I didn’t expect it to be so convoluted. MICHAEL SMITH: I had spent some time prior to taking this position bridging the gap between the two worlds, serving as operations manager and principal trumpet, so I was not completely blindsided. A few things did strike me, though. With the amount of time spent managing the finances and countless other
We’re so committed to the value of what an orchestra is and presents. We love it so much, we love the music so much, that we’re going to find a way to make it work. — Jonathan Parrish come—that’s important for us since we’re essentially starting over. While we have a great artistic legacy, we also have a troubled legacy on the management side that we have to prove is not going to happen again. MARK NIEHAUS: I was surprised at the amount of time I spend dealing with health insurance and pension issues, and the quagmire of benefits packages and the difference between cash liability and pensions, when it comes to the budgeting
tasks that all seem to be top priority, I had to keep reminding myself and my staff that we are all here for the music! It’s easy to be distracted and pulled in a million different directions. When I took this position, I had a vision of what type of leader I wanted to be, but quickly realized that everyone involved, including staff and musicians, needs something different from me, and I have to adapt to them in order to get the best results. symphony
Tim Evans Hawaii Symphony Orchestra Fred Stucker
on my staff, and have an amazing team helping to drive our success. Colleagues from other orchestras have also reached out and offered support and advice, which has been a tremendous help. ROE: Mitigating that weighty sense of the day-to-day work is something that I have had to get used to. I often think about the mortgages and college tuitions of the musicians and the administrative staff. To carry that around is very different than wondering if I really landed a particular passage or if my intonation is shifting. NIEHAUS: People think of being in an orchestra as such a collaborative experience, and it is. But for much of the time, especially as a principal trumpet player, I’m in my own zone trying to nail my part and make sure that I don’t mess up. It’s like being a starting pitcher in baseball: if you have a great night, you throw lots of strikes, you go home, and you feel good about yourself, and sometimes, the pitcher feels good even if the team lost, right? As a chief executive, every success for the organization is a broad-based participatory experience. I joke that the only unilateral decision I’ve made as executive director is the music on hold in our phone system. I said, “It’s going to be the last movement of Mahler Seven.” It’s odd that I would find being executive director as collaborative if not more collaborative than being a member of the orchestra. That’s what I didn’t expect. ROE: Moving the ball down the field so that we all can celebrate the goal is really the job. Part of the fascination is that each of the major stakeholders of the organization—board, staff, musicians, and audience—has a different perspective. Finding alignment across these groups requires an empathetic imagination, to describe a new world for the organization and then point everyone in that direction…there’s a deep sense of fulfillment in that, and it is much deeper than anything I’ve experienced. ROSEN: Jonathan, how did you navigate the need to learn new roles, and where does the satisfaction in the work come from now?
ROSEN: Given that you’re each confronting new roles and responsibilities, what have been some of your strategies for learning while on the job? PARRISH: I have great resources in terms of my board and committee chairs—one with incredible managerial experience and the other with great fundraising and external experience, so I have both things to draw on. They’ve been extremely invested in the success of my time here, and I can rely on them. I’ve called other administrators from time to time, and the League has been great for this. Learning to build a support network has been a big focus of mine these first thirteen months. NIEHAUS: I had the same experience as Jonathan. My board chair took a risk when rallying his board and the community to appoint me as executive director. He’s a very high-functioning corporate CEO type, and he knew that I was going to need support, and he tasked different members of our board and the community to have my back in different areas. There’s nothing like coming in as a CEO and having your board own your success, meaning, “We know this person is only going to be successful if we support them fully.” It can happen that executive directors will come in, and the board would just sort of wipe their hands and say, “Okay, fix it. Well, you got it. Bye-bye.” You could bring in the most seasoned CEO and they won’t be successful if the board isn’t fully engaged and ready to do the hard work. With the exception of the New Jersey Symphony, all of our organizations were in crisis and fighting for their lives. There had been a fair amount of turnover in the chief executive position in Milwaukee and, since necessity is the mother of invention, our organizations took some unconventional choices. That included hiring me. SMITH: There was a tremendous learning curve to taking on this role. Only nine months in, I believe I still have a lot of ground to cover, but it has been a thrill. I too am very grateful for my strong board leaders, who are committed to supporting me and equally dedicated to the success of the orchestra. In addition, I rely heavily
Mark Niehaus was appointed president and executive director of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra beginning in the 2012-13 season. He had played principal trumpet of the MSO since 1998, and had also served as chairman of the orchestra’s Players’ Council and as a member of the MSO Board of Directors
Jonathan Parrish was named executive director of the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra in November 2013. Since 1998 he was assistant principal/utility horn with the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra, which closed in 2010, and also served as the musicians’ representative to that orchestra’s Board of Directors.
James Roe was named president and chief executive officer of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra in June 2013. From 2011 to 2013, he served as the NJSO’s acting principal oboe.
Michael Smith became executive director of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra in December 2013, having served as the orchestra’s operations manager from 2010 to 2012. He had been acting principal trumpet of the CSO from 2009 to 2013 and second trumpet from 2006 to 2013.
Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra
At the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra: Mark Niehaus (at right) with MSO Co-Principal Trumpet Dennis Najoom.
PARRISH: I tried to utilize all the resources that I have at my disposal. I was recruited by Steve Monder, and he has had the semi-official role of senior advisor for the orchestra, so I’ve tried to take full advantage of that. I’ve made use of the board, especially our board chair, who runs his own business, so I call him for advice. When I was running Chamber Music Hawaii, I didn’t play every concert, and I still got a lot of satisfaction out of a successful program and an enthusiastic audience. And now, being able to hear the orchestra sound great and the audience enjoy it is very satisfying for me. Building a good team in the office, with people supporting each other and pitching in—I get a lot of satisfaction out of that as well. ROSEN: How has having been a musician in the orchestra helped or hindered your work? SMITH: Playing trumpet in an orchestra, or any instrument, really, can be a stressful job. Musicians put a lot of pressure on themselves to perform at an extremely high level all the time. Every note you play, you are laying part of yourself out there for the audience—as well as your colleagues—to hear. It’s very personal. There is no in-between. It’s hit or miss. To be a successful musician, you have to be able to fail in public
and quickly pick up the pieces mentally. You have to be able, with brutal honesty, to assess why you failed—or why you performed well. The pressures of this job are different, but still come from the same underlying desire to be successful at a very high level. I’m tasked with advancing the organization, but I’m motivated by the people who drive it, my friends and colleagues who make the music. I think it’s
especially during a crisis, was very, very difficult for me. The part of being a musician that helps in this job is that I take criticism better than most. My self-worth wasn’t connected to whether or not I played the high A-sharp or not. If I missed, I came back and did my best. As the CEO, I am open to suggestions from my staff. I told them, “You have to push back, I expect you to have opinions and to challenge me.” And the same with the board. Because it’s not about me, it’s about the orchestra and it’s about us working well together. ROE: I’ve had to ask for feedback that’s quite direct. Any of us who survived the intense criticism of a conservatory education will understand. So, this ability to take harsh and pointed criticism is a strength. PARRISH: I often am surprised to find that people are expecting me to pronounce what’s going to happen, when I’m actually looking for input. I try to give people permission to say what they think. And if it’s a good idea, I will adjust my course. ROE: As a fundraiser, having great fluency in the music has been incredibly helpful. Mark encouraged me to be totally fluent with the numbers when talking to
It’s odd that I would find being executive director as collaborative if not more collaborative than being a member of the orchestra. I didn’t expect that. — Mark Niehaus easy to connect the dots and see how my career in music has helped prepare me for this job in so many ways, but I believe the ability to put failures behind me quickly and keep on trucking towards success is really critical, especially as I am learning many new things. NIEHAUS: Negotiations are extremely difficult. You know what’s best for the organization, and you also know that the largest part of the organization is the orchestra and the musicians. In order for the organization to function well, the musicians have to be functioning well, which means they have to be supportive of a contract that’s fair. To be sitting on the other side of the negotiation table,
donors—and you have to be. But what’s interesting is that donors want to know what it felt like to be in the middle of the orchestra. The ability to talk about the meaning of a symphony, or what it’s like to have a life in music, and to understand that this potential donor is not only supporting the art and the audience, but working artists—this ability to speak about art and your life in the art was extremely useful. PARRISH: There’s a real authenticity from people who made the decision to devote many thankless hours to this art form. There’s a certain passion that you can’t hide about the product that you’re trying to get supported. symphony
We’ve entered a new time, and the idea that artistic excellence can exist as its own goal, outside of the relationship with the audience—that time is over. — James Roe
impact as a voting board member, which I had been previously, and here I was being offered an opportunity to have a real meaningful, positive impact on the future of the organization. NIEHAUS: Jonathan, you stepped into a risky situation. But you had the
ROSEN: Now you’re in charge of whole institutions. How were you able to walk into these roles after years as a professional performer? ROE: I got my first job playing in a professional orchestra when I was fifteen, and the next year, I got an administrative job with the high school band. Except for a one- or two-year break at Juilliard, I always maintained a position in both areas. I had an epiphany the summer I turned 40. I had been playing professionally for 25 years, I had made my concerto debut at Lincoln Center, I had played a concerto in Carnegie Hall, I had done more than I ever could have dreamed professionally as an oboist, and I started looking in earnest to make the switch to administration. When the opening was announced at New Jersey, a new horizon opened up and I threw my hat in the ring. PARRISH: I always had a bit of entrepreneurial activity on the side. I was involved in the founding of the Washington Symphonic Brass Ensemble when I was in the D.C. area. When I came to Hawaii, I started playing with Chamber Music Hawaii. There were administrative things that needed to be done, and I just started doing them. Pretty soon, I was doing everything. Then I began to reach an age where I realized that I’ve had some good, professional playing experience, done some very good stuff—but is this all there is for me? Is there something more I can contribute? I came to Honolulu hoping to play in a really good orchestra, which I did for a number of years. But I stayed in Honolulu to make sure that there’s a good orchestra there. My wife and I had been in Hawaii for sixteen years, and we were considering a move back to the mainland. Ultimately, we decided that I couldn’t turn my back on the opportunity to have a major impact with the symphony in Honolulu. I couldn’t have that impact representing the musicians and being their spokesperson, I couldn’t have that
it’s supposed to do and how it’s supposed to function. What I brought to the table that nobody else could at the time was credibility and trust with the musicians, because they knew that I had spent many years in unpaid service representing their interests. From the board standpoint, what I brought was an understanding of what’s often seen as a challenge to hiring an executive director in Hawaii, which is, you can find somebody who’s a professional in the industry, but aren’t familiar
James Roe (left) in performance with fellow New Jersey Symphony Orchestra musician Andrew Adelson and the NJSO
institutional knowledge and ability to create buy-in from the different constituencies that needed to come together to avert a complete disaster. I’m not sure if that would have been accomplished by someone from the outside. I know that Steve Monder worked with the orchestra, but you had the internal credibility from all sides. There’s no substitute for that in a crisis. PARRISH: In all our cases, including Mike’s, we were hired from within the same organization, and I think that’s significant. Even though there are many things to learn for the job, the reality is that we’ve been working in this type of an organization all our careers and we know what it’s supposed to look like and what
with Hawaii, they don’t know the culture. And I did know that. What I hoped to bring was credibility from all sides, so that people could begin to believe again in this orchestra. ROSEN: Having been in these two roles as performers and top administrators in your orchestras, what message would you send to fellow managers? What would you want musicians to know? SMITH: My primary message to fellow managers is that everyone needs to be a part of the success. After every board meeting, we now gather with all of our musicians, all of our staff, and key board leadership in the same room to have a frank and transparent dialogue about our successes and challenges. While we have
Hawaii Symphony Orchestra/Brad Goda
Hawaii Symphony Orchestra’s horn section, from left: George Warnock, Maura McCune, Marie Lickwar, Jonathan Parrish, and Nick Lobanov-Rostovsky.
different generation. Be willing to step out of your comfort zone. We want nothing more than to provide the best possible environment for you to be able to perform at the highest level. Don’t be shy about bringing your concerns to management—
which means that over time a process of collaboration and trust has been built. A Milwaukee musician would never say during a negotiation, “We just don’t believe the numbers,” because for 20 years musicians have been on our finance committee, and all other committees. None of us like the numbers, but in Milwaukee we do our best to solve our differences in private and then speak to the community with one voice. Many of the challenges we face are external and involve our “deal” with the community. The sustainable business model involves more than just the organization itself. We are inexorably linked to the environments we live in. From the musician side, it’s about artistic excellence. One mantra I’ve been hearing over and over is, there was a day when artistic excellence and operational efficiency were enough. Well, we live in a time when that in itself is not enough for many of our organizations to remain vibrant in their communities. The Cleveland Orchestra is a shining example of operational efficiency and artistic excellence— their budget was never crazy, and they’re regarded as one of the finest orchestras in the world. And when even that was not enough to sustain them financially, they started going to the Salzburg Festival and established a Miami residency and New York, and they’re doing neighborhood
There is something to being in the trenches and understanding the life of a working musician that inspires me to want to provide a steady platform for my friends and colleagues to flourish. — Michael Smith and be prepared to have a constructive dialogue to find solutions. Trust is a twoway street, and open communication is the best way to meet in the middle. NIEHAUS: I’m tired of reading managers quoted in the paper talking about how hard it is, or that the art form is less relevant or valued; I don’t think that’s productive, and it’s just wrong. My feeling is, okay, then get out of the way and let somebody else do it. I hate seeing the dirty laundry aired in the press. Thoughtful people should be able to sit down and figure out what’s best for the organization,
residencies and creating partnerships. They figured out that they have to do something else if they want to maintain what they have. That doesn’t mean you have to dumb down your product or ask your musicians to go play bar mitzvahs and weddings. It means that the organization has to look at how it can partner with the community and be relevant and create value for people. No one wants a brain drain in Milwaukee, in which some of the brightest and most creative people leave. Milwaukee wants to keep them, and the best way to do that is with a vibrant arts scene.
different roles in producing great concerts or meaningful educational activities, we can’t do it without the entire team functioning well. Bringing everyone together has helped develop an overall understanding and respect for what each member of our team brings to the success of our overall mission. To the musicians: We work for you! Your ability to adapt to changing times is critical. Your flexibility is appreciated. Be open to new way of doing things, new ways of being involved in the community, more meaningful ways of educating a
Michael Smith in Charleston
The cities that have and retain the creative classes have the arts. Some Milwaukee business leaders may not give a damn about Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, but they care if their smartest engineers leave because they don’t like living in Milwaukee—or worse, won’t even move here. The symphony is part of that answer. A lot of times musicians are resistant to hearing that, because they think the nature of their job will change so that excellence is no longer primary. Artistic excellence and operational efficiency are givens now. It has to be excellent and it has to be run well. Now, we have to do these other things, too. And that takes resources that are already stretched thin. ROE: What we as musicians see on the faces of the people in the audience tells us a lot about how we’re doing. Of our constituencies, right now the audience is the most important. We’ve entered a new time, and the idea that artistic excellence can exist as its own goal, outside of the relationship with the audience—that time is over. The New Jersey Symphony plays in six different venues, we have very vigorous community-engagement and education programs, and we’re focusing on how to build relationships with all of those audiences to create sustainability for the organization. Along those lines, I want to quote something quite brilliant that my friend Matt Herren, who’s the new executive director at the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas, said to me the other day: “We have to remember as a performing arts group that we are guests in the lives of our audience.” How many concerts does symphony
would think it’s so novel that a physician would be the head of a hospital, or that a baseball player becomes the manager of a baseball team. There are multiple pathways, but I think the one that works with musicians is you’re taking people with passion and maybe some raw skills, and equipping them with more. Hopefully,
that benefits the whole organization—and the industry—in the long run. For a look at other musicians-turnedmanagers, check out Symphony’s 2010 article, Hidden Talents.
Weill Music Institute
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Free | Summer 2015 National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America Lead Sponsor: Founder Patrons: Blavatnik Family Foundation; The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation; Marina Kellen French and the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Foundation; Robertson Foundation; Robert F. Smith; and Sarah Billinghurst Solomon and Howard Solomon. Lead Donors: Ronald O. Perelman and Joan and Sanford I. Weill and the Weill Family Foundation. Additional funding has been provided by Yoko Nagae Ceschina; The Rockefeller Foundation; The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation; and Ann Ziff. Public support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.
someone attend in a year? If someone attends once or three times or eight, aren’t we are really guests in their lives? How do we make our existence as a guest one that fosters a deeper connection? PARRISH: I would echo what Mark said about some people giving up because it’s just too hard. With us, the last thing on our minds is shutting down. We’re so committed to the value of what an orchestra is and presents—we love it so much, we love the music so much, that we’re going to find a way to make it work. We really believe in it. A big part of the reason I accepted the job was because I care about these musicians, this orchestra, and this community. ROSEN: In the last two years, five musicians have become CEOs of the orchestras they play in. What do you think this means, and what are the implications of these recent appointments? ROE: If there is a meaning, it goes to shared passion across all sectors of our industry for bringing people and music together, something so beautifully echoed in what Jonathan, Mark, and Mike have said. I think it also underscores an essential optimism in people who are involved in this work. All the members of our staff have that passion and that optimism. In the end, this work is about bringing to life the greatest artworks of our culture, and sharing those artworks with an audience that not only wants to hear it, but needs to hear it, and whose humanity is enhanced by the shared experience. SMITH: I think we all share a passion for orchestral music, and a deep respect for the work and personal sacrifice that goes into each great performance. That’s not to say that someone can’t perform this job if they have never been onstage, but I think there is something to being in the trenches and really understanding the life of a working musician that inspires me to want to provide a steady platform for my friends and colleagues to flourish. PARRISH: It does seem to be a bit of a new trend, although there are lots of managers who are musicians. I think this trend is a little bit coincidental. I’d like it to be not so novel; I don’t think people
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Leadership, Communication, Relationships An experienced board chair on what it takes to lead. by Patricia A. Richards
ine years ago I assumed the chairmanship of the Utah Symphony | Utah Opera Board of Trustees. At the time, I recognized that the USUO was bigger, more complex, and more important to the community than the other nonprofits whose boards I had chaired. It had a long and storied history but also faced many of the same challenges confronting orchestras and opera companies throughout the country. This chairmanship would require more thought, more governance skill, and more leadership and would draw on all my past experience. As I transition this year from that chairmanship and assume leadership of the League board, it seems a good time to reflect on some of the lessons I have learned about how boards can make a meaningful contribution to the health and vitality of orchestras. LEADERSHIP MATTERS. I totally believe this and have seen it confirmed repeatedly. The board itself represents a significant part of the leadership team of an orchestra and must recognize that. We are not there just to raise money and be overseers, but to represent the community’s ownership of the orchestra and to take a leading role in identifying and building its future. Who the board chooses to be the leaders within this leadership function—board members, committee chairs, officers, and the chairperson—will have a profound impact on the outcomes. The process of selecting, supporting,
and partnering with the executive director and music director of the orchestra is perhaps the most important work the board must do. As the management guru Jim Collins explains, the first and most important factor in the success of an organization is “getting the right people on the bus and getting them in the right seats on the bus.” Only then do strategy and implementation matter. COMMUNICATION IS KEY. Trust is hard to build and easy to lose. Many organizations going through change and facing challenges—especially economic ones—find that mutual understanding and trust among staff, musicians, and board can be disrupted easily. At USUO, I
The process of selecting, supporting, and partnering with the executive director and music director of the orchestra is perhaps the most important work the board must do. hoped that increased communication and transparency might change the internal dynamic. Open, ongoing communication has made an incredible difference. Most orchestras now probably include musicians on the board and its committees, but if yours does not, do it immediately. It is a tremendously valuable way of helping musicians become familiar with the work and challenges of the board and allowing the board to get direct feedback from the artists.
Patricia A. Richards
But including musicians in board meetings is not enough. Rehearsal schedules and group dynamics often do not allow the musician representatives on the board adequate opportunities to inform their colleagues and bring them into the broader issues of the organization. Consider other ways of making sure the internal organization has adequate information to help create alignment. Town hall-type meetings, newsletters, open door policies all can help. Be sure to listen, not just talk. Share the news, both good and bad. In my experience, it takes five iterations before messages are truly heard and understood, so don’t give up quickly. Equally important is to keep donors, audiences, and the community at large aware of your activities and of your value to the community. Much of what orchestras do to enhance the quality of life in their communities—education programs, access for underserved groups, and related work—largely goes unnoticed unless you are strategic and diligent in communicating your message. symphony
The Governance Center The skills and experience that board members bring to the boardroom can make the difference between success and failure for an orchestra. The League of American Orchestras offers a rich array of resources for board members, helping them address the issues their organization face now, while taking steps towards a stronger future. The League’s online Governance Center, at americanorchestras.org, provides information about governance through distance learning, seminars, peer-to-peer discussions, and other tools. Resources include articles by governance experts Jim Collins, Richard P. Chait, William P. Ryan, and Barbara E. Taylor; toolkits from League partner BoardSource; and webinars from the Center for Creative Leadership and other industry leaders. Two self-assessment tools in the Governance Center were developed and/or tested by the League in partnership with BoardSource and customized for orchestras: the Board of Directors Self-Assessment Tool helps board members identify areas of strength and opportunities for growth, while the Board Diversity in Action Assessment focuses on age (multi-generational), gender, and racial/ethnic diversity and inclusion. Orchestras depend on support from the public and must operate ethically and effectively to maintain public trust, and a section on ethics provides resources to help orchestra boards meet the highest standards. E-books on governance are available for free to League members from BoardSouce.
RELATIONSHIPS MAKE THE DIFFERENCE. The best advice I received on becoming chair of the board was: “Go backstage. Meet the musicians.” The advice surprised me at the time, but I have since been astonished at how powerful it turned out to be. In the end, organizations are about people—and it is relationships that allow things to get done. Whether it is staff, donors, musicians, or other board members, the
Most orchestras now probably include musicians on the board and its committees, but if yours does not, do it immediately. building of lasting relationships is both satisfying and productive and should be part of the work of the board. Social events related to board meetings or concerts create an ideal setting, but casual and chance interactions can lead to even more treasured friendships. It is the value of those relationships that can sometimes bridge the rough spots that all organizations encounter.
The Board Room column in the Summer 2014 issue of Symphony featured Susan Howlett’s Boards on Fire! Inspiring Leaders to Raise Money Joyfully; read it here. For more, visit The Governance Center at americanorchestras.org.
Whether with staff, donors, musicians, or other board members, the building of lasting relationships should be part of the work of the board. Relationships can sometimes bridge the rough spots that all organizations encounter. Often we fear that we as amateur music lovers have nothing to offer our talented and skilled colleagues on the stage. But I find that the musicians often feel the same way about the community leaders who support the orchestra and who serve on the board. It is a happy moment when we discover we actually do have things in common on which to build relationships. I am so grateful for the opportunity I have had to serve on the board and as
chair of the Utah Symphony | Utah Opera, and I salute all those of you who love, support, and work for the betterment of orchestras. It is not easy work, and the demands on boards and management today are greater than ever. But the rewards of sustaining an artistic treasure in your communities are worth the effort. The League stands ready to help you with that task and to support your efforts on behalf of an industry we all love. PATRICIA A. RICHARDS was elected chair of the League of American Orchestras’ Board of Directors in June 2014, having served on the League Board since 2008. Richards served as chair of the Utah Symphony | Utah Opera Board of Trustees from 2005 to fall of 2014; in 2013 she received the National Opera Trustee Recognition Award from Opera America and the Governor’s Leadership in the Arts Award from the State of Utah.
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The Diversity & Inclusion Resource Center
Whether you’re talking about generational perspectives, disabilities, ethnic or religious difference, or gender identification, it’s easy to see that communities are rapidly changing. Learning to communicate effectively – and respectfully – is one of the most important things we can do for staff, audiences, community members, artists, and beyond. The League’s Diversity and Inclusion Resource Center, made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, provides League members with a range of free resources that offer practical guidance and tools to address these areas of focus. Learn more by visiting americanorchestras.org.
Breaking the Fourth Wall What does the Seattle Symphony’s recent concert with rapper Sir Mix-A-Lot say about how orchestras connect with their communities? Aaron Flagg offers his perspective.
t was a balmy evening a few weeks before the start of summer when the long-awaited piece on the program was finally performed. This premiere drew a sizable crowd of newcomers to the concert hall. Their reaction to the orchestral work was quite unusual, as it broke the traditional fourth wall between the performers and the audience. In fact, the audience was drawn into a frenzy, and near-chaos broke out. The event disturbed many sensibilities and inspired critics to question the appropriateness of this mixture of music and dance in a concert hall and whether melody and harmony were sacrificed for rhythm. Perhaps you are thinking of the reactions to the video clip of Anthony Ray’s aka Sir Mix-A-Lot’s June 6, 2014 performance of “Baby Got Back” with the Seattle Symphony. Actually, I’m thinking of the reaction to the Ballets Russes’ premiere performance of Igor Stravinsky and Vaslav Nijinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps on May 29, 1913. Both performances involved dance—one choreographed, the other a bit more freeform. Both were down-home—one based on nationalistic folk culture, the other local popular culture. Both overshadowed the other wonderful works on the program. In 1913, that included works danced to music by Carl Von Weber, Alexander Borodin, and Frederic Chopin. In 2014, it was new works by composers Luis Tinoco, Du Yun, and Gabriel Prokofiev, and the rock band Pickwick. Both performances inspired questions of artistic, moral, and societal
value, and unleashed criticisms from traditional orchestra lovers that derided the work, chastised the organizers, and ignored the other pieces on the program. One performance included a virgin’s sacrificial dance to her death as part of a pagan ritual honoring spring. The other included a stage full of gyrating female audience members, mainly Caucasian, some Asian, and a few African American, celebrating an African aesthetic of beauty, accompanied by
The Seattle Symphony’s performance of “Baby Got Back” and the online conversations ignited by it exist in a challenging environment where American orchestras must find fresh, locally meaningful ways to demonstrate greater relevance to society. largely Caucasian orchestra musicians and their conductor, and led by a middle-aged, Seattle-born, African-American rapper. The Seattle Symphony’s performance and the online conversations ignited by the video of it exist in a challenging environment where American orchestras must find fresh, locally meaningful ways to demonstrate greater relevance to society. Their very survival depends on it, as do the centuries of great music they are charged with cherishing, building upon, and sharing. In response, many orchestras are asserting
their local identity, creating unique and meaningful ways to break the fourth wall, to embrace artistic innovation while holding on to the music of the past. This activity questions our rituals, traditions, expectations, and touches on sensitive issues in the field such as cultural elitism, presentation, entitlement, and diversity. There are many reasons why this performance generated such strong emotions, while also serving as a wonderful example of creative collaboration for the orchestra field. First of all, impassioned public discussions about music played by a professional orchestra are rare. Few outside the industry seem at all interested in the music-making that happens onstage, only in the offstage “news” that is either more commonly understood or simply more exciting to read. Headlines are left to budget battles, dramatic ultimatums, and bankruptcies. Seattle Symphony staff members are to be applauded for deftly using technology, the presence of industry leaders due to the concurrent League of American Orchestras’ National Conference, and their media contacts to capitalize on this performance and generate an incredible amount of buzz. To receive 2.3 million hits in three weeks— as the YouTube video of Seattle Symphony and Sir Mix-A-Lot did—is, unfortunately, unheard of for orchestras. Second, few orchestras are known for impacting the full diversity of their local community in sustained and meaningful symphony
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acknowledge the need to increase their local community relevance. Despite accepted wisdom, the traditional definition of quality on the stage, effectiveness in the boardroom and among the staff are not always enough to sustain the same type of growth and loyal financial support American orchestras have enjoyed for well over two centuries. It is much easier to blame this reality on a lack of musical education in the public, the managers, the programming, a “lazy” board, or an unexciting conductor, than to face the broader and more complex issues and design thoughtful action to reverse this trend. Third, the infrequent mention of, and lack of serious action to increase ethnic diversity in American orchestras, especially in cities with sizable minority populations, is a lingering embarrassment to our field. The reality undermines our statements about a focus on excellence, invites challenges to our tax-exempt status, and renders any featured appearance of a minority artist with a professional orchestra newsworthy. The most recent U.S. Census data show that 7.9% of Seattle’s population is Black or African American, which is double the percentage in the state of Washington (3.6%); 13.8% Asian, which is higher than
At the Seattle Symphony’s June 6 concert, rapper Sir Mix-A-Lot performed his 1992 hit “Baby Got Back” with the orchestra and Music Director Ludovic Morlot. The YouTube video of the performance hit 2.3 million views in just three weeks. The concert was part of the symphony’s Sonic Evolution series, which celebrates the city’s legacy of musical innovation with symphonic compositions inspired by Seattle-based musicians, and included new works by contemporary composers Luís Tinoco, Du Yun, and Gabriel Prokofiev.
ways. Those who prefer rock, folk, jazz, R&B, and, yes, rap seem to have little need for orchestras, and from the actions of many in our field, orchestras are saying we have little need of them. This is of course not true. Several recent studies document the fact that audience attendance at live events is measurably shrinking and that the honored place of the fine arts in public policy and americanorchestras.org
American daily life can no longer be assumed. These include the NEA’s 2008 Survey of Participation in the Arts; the League of American Orchestras’ 2009 Audience Demographic Research Review; and the NEA’s 2012 preliminary report on the Survey of Participation in the Arts. This data and other evidence, including actions by state and federal governments, have forced symphony orchestras to
The YouTube video of the Seattle Symphony’s performance with Sir MixA-Lot received 2.3 million hits in three weeks—a number that is, unfortunately, unheard of for orchestras. the state-wide average; and 6.6% Hispanic, which is lower. As an exercise, if we apply the 7.9% to the 200 concerts the Seattle Symphony presents annually, this would suggest that 15.8 concerts could attempt to reflect that particular diversity. Looking just at the Masterworks Series of 26 concerts, this would suggest two concerts. For the 2014-2015 season, one African-American performer is scheduled to perform on two concerts as a vocal soloist. The fact that the popularity of Sir Mix-A-Lot crosses race and age groups makes the Seattle Symphony’s decision to feature this AfricanAmerican rap artist and his music quite
The Human Connection
Surprising as it may be to hear, our love for and commitment to classical music is not the only passionate love of music in the United States. To have a place in the dialogue at the town square, we must be able to make authentic, meaningful connections as human beings to other human beings, and then show how our music, like theirs, expresses joy, laughter, whimsy, love, silliness, as well as profound sadness and grand aspirations. For example, sensuousness is not the sole domain of any one musical style, nor are musicality, tone, balance, intonation, intelligence, or ensemble cohesion. Orchestras have long attempted to “cross over” to other audiences by performing more popular styles of music. In 1981, at the end of the disco era, London’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, arranger Louis Clark, and a drum machine made by Linn Electronics teamed up for the popular “Hooked on Classics” series, which introduced classical favorites to a new generation—with a backbeat. This “Symphonic Rock” experiment was panned by classical purists at the time, but reached No. 2 on the popular chart and introduced a new generation to wonderful melodies from classic works. In addition, orchestras have long presented popular, folk, rock, R&B, and jazz artists on separate pops series. The field has learned that these series have their own value and should not be given
the added burden of populating the more strictly classical series. The degree of umbrage taken by some to the recent Sir Mix-A-Lot performance seems to be heightened by the fact that it occurred not on one of Seattle Symphony’s many pops or young adult series like Seattle Pops!, Symphony UnTuxed, or the latenight [untitled ] series. It was on a series entitled Sonic Evolution, which is in its third year and is part of the orchestra’s New Music WORKS initiative. Sonic Evolution celebrates Seattle’s legacy of musical innovation with brand-new symphonic compositions inspired by Seattle-based musicians.
The infrequent mention of, and lack of serious action to increase ethnic diversity in American orchestras, especially in cities with sizable minority populations, is a lingering embarrassment to our field. This year, jazz guitarist Bill Frisell, R&B and country singer and pianist Ray Charles, and rapper Sir Mix-A-Lot inspired new works by contemporary composers Luís Tinoco, Du Yun, and Gabriel Prokofiev. Next year’s inspiration will be the rock band Nirvana. Significantly, this concert was conducted by Music Director Ludovic Morlot, not a guest or associate conductor. It also took place on the last night of the League’s National Conference, and a video capturing the performance was posted soon afterward. This prominence implied that the Seattle Symphony was serious about this entire concert having artistic merit, representing its brand well, and being enjoyed by its audience. Despite the assumption by some including the New York Times that the goal was to develop new audiences, Seattle Symphony Executive Director Simon Wood stated, “Our goals are to honor music legends and to create new symphonic pieces at the same time.” I imagine these goals can also be attractive to both current and new audiences. It’s one thing to allow events in your space for a rental fee, quite another to actually commit to a real relationship with
musical invention in your city. The Seattle Symphony is to be applauded. The impact of this particular concert, or the Sonic Evolution series itself, will take some time to assess. At this point, the orchestra reports repeat performances and recordings of earlier commissions in the series, joint commissioning opportunities, and evidence that the series has inspired conversations about “why it’s important for orchestras to collaborate with other art forms and their individual regional musical histories.” The Shock of the Now
The night before the Sonic Evolution performance with Sir Mix-A-Lot, the orchestra played a program including Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé, which was also written for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, and Henri Dutilleux’s Symphony No. 2. The impact of the orchestra’s exquisite playing and the subtle innovations in presentation for the Ravel, including projected descriptions of the story taken from the score, was quite moving. For Friday night’s concert, there were eight pieces including four world premieres on the program. The last three pieces on the concert featured the Seattlebased indie garage-rock band Pickwick. Relatively little has been said or written about Thursday evening’s program or Friday’s four world premieres, the all-white band Pickwick’s performance, or the other Sir Mix-A-Lot song, “Posse on Broadway,” which opened his set and was also shared on a video clip. The key difference seems to be the type of audience participation generated by “Baby Got Back.” For those unaware, the song “Baby Got Back” was released in 1992 on the album Mack Daddy. It sold 2,392,000 copies and earned Sir Mix-A-Lot a Grammy award for Best Rap Solo Performance, was #1 on the Billboard Charts for five summer weeks in 1992, and was the second-biggest selling record that year, behind Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.” The song celebrates the beauty of a familiar African-American female body type over the European “beanpole” standard of beauty touted in publications like Cosmopolitan. It does so by blatantly objectifying the part of symphony
Ben Van Houten
strategic and a brilliant investment. Fourth, the era when individual benefactors like the Civil War veteran and Boston Symphony Orchestra benefactor Henry Lee Higginson, or national charitable organizations like the Ford Foundation in the 1970s, would significantly undergird the general operating expenses of orchestras is long past. Today, revenue streams must be diverse and strong. Ticket and other sales, rental income, donations from individuals, foundations, government agencies, and local business sponsorships are all required. In addition, donors are asking for more unique impact in projects they support. We must engage as many in our community as possible in as many ways as possible to earn this support.
Sir Mix-A-Lot invited audience members onstage when he and the Seattle Symphony, led by Music Director Ludovic Morlot, performed his “Baby Got Back” at the orchestra’s June 6 concert. The song celebrates the beauty of a familiar African-American female body type over the European “beanpole” standard of beauty touted in mainstream publications.
At a party following the June 6 concert, composer Gabriel Prokofiev served as DJ.
Opinions on the performance have certainly varied, but some people were shocked at the playful, sexual nature of this song and the women dancing onstage. I assume that those who objected were unaware of the song before the Seattle Symphony exposed them to it. However, a selfrighteous stance for classical music regarding provocative behavior is not entirely wise, in part because it invites charges of hypocrisy. We market female and male classical artists with a conscious eye to sex appeal. The 2005 book Mozart in the Jungle, recently dramatized as a fictional Amazon television series, is a memoir by a classical oboist that uncovers, among other things, a vibrant sexual life in our field. We stage operas depicting rape scenes and feature lewd and promiscuous characters such as Don GiovanBen Van Houten
the body that allows humans to sit without use of their feet. The lyrics’ singular focus on a body part is reminiscent of songs like “Blue Eyes” by Elton John, while its focus on sex is similar to “Love for Sale” by Cole Porter.
ni, the Duke of Mantua from Rigoletto, the Drum Major in Wozzeck, Sergei the laborer in Shostakovich’s Lady of Macbeth of The Mtsenk District, or Tarquinius in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia. The story of the ballet Daphnis et Chloé is a Greek erotic romance that met with both praise and moral disapproval when first published. Part Five of Hector Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique, entitled “Dreams of a Witches’ Sabbath,” depicts a “devilish orgy” inspired by opium. These examples are more deviant than Sir Mix-A-Lot expressing his personal preferences. Also, the grown women in Benaroya Hall who almost rushed the stage for the opportunity to dance were willing volunteers. This was a simply a dance party with people who obviously knew and enjoyed the song. In this context, some posts on Facebook about Sir Mix-A-Lot’s performance with the symphony seem a bit out of touch. “No. This is not a question of being stuffy. This is about protecting
the beauty, quality and grace of a rare and unique art form. The video is demeaning, cheap, distasteful, and sexist. Also, the Duke is a character in an opera. This is a real person. With an ugly message. It shames the name of classical music.” “... all it’s doing is making me cringe. This is the epitome of an orchestra getting it all wrong.”
There is a lot in these quotes that resonates with the deep racial history of America. I can’t help seeing a connection between these sentiments about a pristine art form and the Southern ideal of white women’s purity that needed to be kept safe from defilement, including from the American Negro. This xenophobia has fueled injustice in our country such as the killing of Emmett Till and the Central
Park Jogger case. In our field of classical music, does fear of community keep us from exploring locally appropriate ways to broaden our relevance? Does allowing the audience to break the proverbial fourth wall and have harmless fun on stage for one evening out of 200 harm or expand our brand? We need to encourage arts organizations to find ways to be meaningful to
We need to encourage arts organizations to find ways to be meaningful to their communities. This work has to be based on a sincere, omnipresent commitment to want to matter to as many of your neighbors as possible. their communities, be it Houston’s River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, where the ROCOroosters program provides families with childcare during concerts, or orchestras such as the Cleveland Orchestra, whose members play in local bars. In doing so, we must always respect that what works in Seattle may not work in Delaware, Detroit, Stamford, or Glens Falls. Demonstrating our relevance cannot simply be pre-packaged business processes called “doing community engagement or audience development.” This work has to be based on a sincere, omnipresent value expressed through the culture of the organization to want to matter to as many of your neighbors as possible—regardless of whose sensibilities may question any particular attempt. As orchestras seek to honor and celebrate their local communities in ways that feel authentic, let’s ask them what their goals are, whether they feel they have met them, and what help, if any, we can provide. Judgment is easy. Increasing participation in the arts is hard and requires risk taking and a team effort. Fresh artistic collaborations like those of Stravinsky and Prokofiev (Gabriel, that it) must be encouraged for our art form to continue to thrive. DR. AARON FLAGG is Professor of Music and Dean, The Hartt School, and board member of the League of American Orchestras and Stamford Symphony.
Katie Wyatt, executive director, Kidznotes
Invest in one, invest in many Through our leadership programs, the League invested in Katie, who now invests in nearly 300 kids annually from Title-1 schools in Durham and Raleigh, N.C. Supporting the League means investing in people, their communities, and the future of classical music. Donate now at americanorchestras.org.
Critical Questions, Countless Solutions The League of American Orchestras’ 2014 Conference in Seattle opened and closed with provocative keynote addresses about where orchestras are today—and where they might be headed. Here are excerpts from the speeches by Claire Chase and Alan S. Brown.
e are gathered at this conference to speak together about the future of American orchestras, a subject I might be the least qualified person in this room to address, since I have created a life in music that challenges much of what the institution has embodied for the last halfcentury. But I have reverence and boundless curiosity for the orchestra as an evolving art form, for its vast and everexpanding repertoire (past, present and future!), and for the palpable utopia of 100 people coming together to make music with one common purpose. Although I have no solutions to offer, I am honored to have the opportunity to tell a different story today. Density ignited much more than a search for the next great flute solo. It marshaled in me a desire for new vehicles of expression, and for an engine to drive them. It unleashed a curiosity about creating new economies, collaborative models, and definitions of community that could also pulsate with life. What might hap-
Claire Chase—flutist, founder and executive director of International Contemporary Ensemble, and 2012 MacArthur Fellow—opened her keynote address with a flourish: she played Edgard Varèse’s groundbreaking 1936 work Density 21.5. Then she delivered her speech.
pen if a group of young artists came together to create new music for ensembles large and small as pioneers seeking new instruments, technologies, performance practices, and new Claire Chase delivers ways of hearing her address the League of American Orchestras’ and distilling our 2014 Conference. world? What if Check out her complete we did it with the presentation in the spirit of invenConferences and tion rather than Meetings section of americanorchestras.org. preservation, and with change rather than convention, as our guides? As a junior at Oberlin, in 1999, I assembled fifteen of my Oberlin classmates to commission a program of new works in celebration of the year 2000, and moreover to create a scene around their world premieres. Somehow, we got permission to do this in Oberlin’s 750seat concert hall. We wanted to pack that hall with young people, old people, people from school, town, people who loved new music and, just as importantly, people who thought they hated new music. Whether it was about marketing, fundraising, budgeting, education, production, outreach, where to
put the chairs at the concert, or how to get people on and off stage, there was no decision that wasn’t creative. It took all year, but we did it. On that night in April 2000, Warner Concert Hall was standingroomonly—and for a brief moment, we felt that absolutely anything was possible. We were about to graduate into a world with dwindling job opportunities for classical, let alone contemporary, musicians. We had this nutty idea that, in the face of all kinds of adversity, we could create a new kind of organization—part twentyfirst-century orchestra, rock band, circus troupe, startup—in search of new expressive means in our artistic and organizational practices. We didn’t imagine having one concert hall as a home base. We wanted to be mobile, modular, and light on our feet. We could be a duo one night, and a cast of hundreds the next. We didn’t want to exist in just one city. We could play in a black-box theater one night, the back of a pickup truck the next. As we view the demise of the subscription ticket model and what the news characterizes as the “death of classical music” (!), we’re even more fired up. All along, it’s been the ICE musicians—not managers, not market forces—that have been in the driver’s seat of every one of
Conference Resources A wealth of information about the 2014 Conference, including texts, presentations, and videos, is available at americanorchestras.org under Conferences and Meetings.
Rachel Ford, executive director, Knoxville Symphony Orchestra
Invest in one, invest in many Through our leadership programs, the League invested in Rachel, who now invests in the healing power of music â€“ exactly when patients need it the most. Through live performances in healthcare facilities, the KSOâ€™s awardwinning Music & Wellness Program helps the healing process of more than 4,500 patients every year. Supporting the League means investing in people and their communities. Donate now at americanorchestras.org.
these innovations. If the most creative people are artists, why not engage them as the engines of the organization, the necessary agitators of change? Where did we get this idea that there are people on stage who do creative things, and people behind the scenes who enable them? Isn’t it time we challenged that binary? But this story isn’t about ICE. We are just one grain of sand in a landslide of startup momentum. It’s not even about our generation. It’s now about the generation younger than we are, the ones I constantly tell to please, please put me out of business. While you’re at it, please go ahead and put new music out of business! Isn’t it time we called it something else and told an even newer story? Please, play better than we do. Please, innovate with more velocity, with more fire. Please, teach with greater knowledge than we have amassed. Please, think of solutions we haven’t thought of.
At the closing session of the League’s 2014 Conference, arts researcher Alan S. Brown took stock of the trends reshaping demand for the arts—and the groundswell of creativity leading orchestras into the future. Here are excerpts from his address, “If It Ain’t Broke, Break It.”
he external environment in which orchestras operate is an oil slick of changing consumer behaviors, changing musical tastes, and changing music. In hopes of building a bridge between where we are and where we need to go as a field, I’d like to share with you a framework for thinking about the creative health of an orchestra, drawing on a study I’ve just completed for Arts Council England. Over the past few months, my colleague John Carnwath and I have taken a deep dive into scholarly research on the impacts of arts experiences and the characteristics of organizations that present and produce meaningful, impactful arts programs. The product of
this research is called “Understanding the Value and Impacts of Cultural Experiences,” which Arts Council England released in July 2014. What makes arts organizations financially healthy is reasonably well understood—although this, too, is changing. But there is no consensus on what makes an arts organization healthy in an artistic or creative sense. This is a challenge we can and must face. The term that emerged from our study is creative capacity. This refers to an organization’s ability to conceive and present programs that engage audiences and communities in meaningful, impactful experiences. Open and frank dialogue about artistic matters among board and staff is a core element of an orchestra’s creative capacity. We’ve moved from believing that the value of what we do is self-evident to working within a much more definedvalue framework. This is, perhaps, one of the biggest paradigm shifts in the field: seeing ourselves not just as curators of concerts but as architects of impact. In the months after 9/11, we learned how to help communities grieve in times of great need. We’ve Alan S. Brown: Watch become adept and read “If It Ain’t at designing Broke, Break It,” his socially engagaddress at the League of American Orchestras’ ing experiences. 2014 Conference, at We’ve learned the Conferences and how to create Meetings section of americanorchestras.org. programs that bring families closer together. We’ve learned how to approach and engage diverse communities as partners in music making. This is a major change in how we understand our jobs. And it signals an important change in how our communities see us. Community relevance cannot be achieved through advocacy or branding. Community relevance is a way of thinking
and acting that respects and acknowledges the hopes, needs, and aspirations of the community in all that the organization does. Community engagement has moved from the periphery to the center of dialogue. Many orchestras have stepped into the void of music education and stepped out into their communities in ways that could never have been contemplated ten years ago, working in hospital and prison settings, and animating entire communities through crowd-sourced and co-created programs. At the core of this sea change is a new sensibility of what it means to be embedded in a community. Over the past ten years, we’ve witnessed a tidal wave of programming experiments. Interdisciplinary work is at the center of this: weaving together classical music with dance, theater, film, spoken word, circus arts, and other artistic forms and exploring the intersections between classical music and other genres of music. Take, for example, the proliferation of alternative concert formats in recent years, some with educational goals, others thematic in nature, some designed as trial experiences for newcomers, and others designed to blur the line between socializing and concertgoing. This represents a big shift in programming, from a series of one-off concerts to a portfolio of branded formats and product lines: renewable artistic assets that pay dividends into the future. As the musical tastes of Americans continue to diversify, it’s inevitable that orchestras will need to offer a wider selection of concerts, formats, and settings that engage the public. We will survive by giving audiences choices and guiding them toward concert experiences that map to their preferences and life experiences. Tastes in music are changing at the speed of light. And because of this, the creative possibilities in front of us now are greater than ever. So, if it ain’t broke, break it. Imagine something new and unexpected. Create new rituals that involve tens of thousands of people in making music, and capture the imagination of the public in ways that no one would have thought possible. symphony
Mei-Ann Chen, music director, Chicago Sinfonietta
Invest in one, invest in many Through our leadership programs, the League invested in Mei-Ann, who now invests in connecting the diverse cultures of Chicago by expanding the boundaries of classical music. Supporting the League means investing in people and their communities. Donate now at americanorchestras.org.
Wide by Kyle MacMillan
Orchestras are plunging into movie music at an unprecedented rate. To get the big picture, we spoke to several composers with programs in concert halls this season.
Photos by: Paul Sanders
Danny Elfman’s Music From the Films of Tim Burton was premiered by the London Concert Orchestra in 2013 at London’s Royal Albert Hall, led by John Mauceri (on podium) and featuring a costumed appearance by Helena Bonham Carter (right), who has acted in many Burton films. Among the ensembles presenting the Elfman program in the U.S. in 2014-15 are the Atlanta, Columbus, Colorado, Detroit, and National symphony orchestras.
f it seems like everywhere you turn there’s a screening of a movie with live symphony orchestra, you’re not imagining things. A tiny sampling of events from the 2014-15 season includes a return of the San Francisco Symphony’s popular cinema series launched last year, with a four-concert line-up that will include an April program of excerpts from Tan Dun’s scores for three martial-arts movies, including Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, winner of the 2000 Academy Award for Best Foreign Picture. The Cleveland Orchestra will perform Bernard Herrmann’s Vertigo score, accompanied by a live screening of the film; Hitchcock’s Psycho had a successful 2013-14 screening at Severance Hall. In September, the New York-based Wordless Orchestra performed the complete score to There Will Be Blood in Manhattan, and the same orchestra will perform Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild score in 2015 at New York’s Symphony Space, with a live screening of the movie. The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra will perform the complete score to Singin’ in the Rain this February, while the remastered film is shown with original dialogue and vocals intact. Among the numerous smaller orchestras also part of the trend is Indiana’s Fort Wayne Philharmonic, which will present Pixar in Concert in 2015, featuring the orchestra performing to film clips from Toy Story, The Incredibles, and Up, and others. At one time, the classical world tended to dismiss film music as commercial and less weighty, but this perception has been
changing gradually, and today this music is appearing not just in pops concerts but on standard concert programs as well. Performances by orchestras of film-score highlights by John Williams—a giant in this genre—are so popular that it’s difficult to keep count. Audiences for these events have been known to come dressed up in outfits themed to the movies. And they tend to sell well: for the Detroit Symphony’s benefit with John Williams and director Steven Spielberg in June, tickets ranged from $375 to gala packages up to $100,000. In the last decade, orchestras have plunged into movie music at an unprecedented rate. Along with this, there has been an explosion of new programs for orchestras to perform. These range from sets of excerpts—such as Pixar Live, featuring music from films like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and Monsters Inc.—to screenings of complete films like The Matrix and Star Trek, with the scores performed live. Composers in this genre represent some of the best-recognized and respected names anywhere in music today, from Michael Giacchino and Danny Elfman to Stewart Copeland, the former drummer with the Police. The reasons for this sudden increase in interest are partly artistic, reflecting the broader acceptance of film music into the pantheon of classical music, as well as the fact that large and small screens are becoming ubiquitous today—including in the concert hall. Film music comes with the built-in advantage of being an inherent marriage of sight and sound. Then there’s the financial element. “There’s a need for
orchestras to make some money,” says the Academy Award-winning Giacchino, who provided the music for the two most recent J.J. Abrams-directed Star Trek films, “and if they can put a few programs on their schedule every year that will bring the people in and (help) cover the cost of the rest of their season, why not do that?” Indeed, when it comes to selling tickets to new audiences, film music, with its ready ties to families and younger adults, has emerged as a popular concert format. James Fahey, director of programming at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, oversees the orchestra’s “CSO at the Movies” series. That series has a subscription rate of 70 percent, above the 44.8 percent average for orchestras. (That average is based on preliminary findings from the League of American Orchestras’ 2012 Orchestra Statistical Report.) Most “CSO at the Movies” concerts in Chicago’s 2,522-seat Orchestra Hall are sellouts or near-sellouts. In Chicago next season, offerings will include 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Godfather, and the 1920 silent film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, with a new score by organist Cameron Carpenter. “When we saw the appeal and the wonderful connection that was made between the two art forms, we wanted to explore this further and found that the audience was very interested and excited by these concerts,” says Fahey. Meet the Composers
Some of the latest orchestra-with-film presentations this season are Danny Elfman’s Music from the Films of Tim Burton, Don Davis’s The Matrix Live Film in Concert, Stewart Copeland’s Ben-Hur, and Michael Giacchino’s Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness. Davis, who composed the scores for the trilogy of Matrix films, likes orchestral film programs because they put the music front and center and allow it to be performed by top classical musicians. “The music is featured much, much better than it ever would be in any kind of film theatrical situation,” says Davis. On the other hand, some composers whose scores are now being performed by symphonies were initially reluctant to get involved. “I avoided it,” says Danny Elfman, whose extensive cinematic composing credits include fifteen films by director Tim Burton. “I felt that to do it was going to be a huge effort, and I don’t normally like focusing
backwards.” Besides, he prefers to write works expressly for the concert hall, as he has every few years so for the past decade. But once Elfman realized that events featuring his cinematic music were going to happen whether he liked it or not, he decided to jump in and make sure they were done right. The Films of Tim Burton was premiered by the London Concert Orchestra in December in Royal Albert Hall in London, and performances have followed in such cities as Prague and Mexico City, as well as by the San Diego Symphony. In addition, the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra, a European ensemble that specializes in film music, presented the first live concert screenings of Alice in Wonderland in March in Lucerne, and a similar presentation of the1989 film Batman is in the works. Other composers have eagerly jumped on the bandwagon. Giacchino heard the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra perform Howard Shore’s score for Lord of the Rings in a live concert screening and was immediately excited. “I was like, ‘Why can’t we do that with one of our movies?’ ” His big symphonic score for the 2009 blockbuster Star Trek seemed like a perfect place to start. “This is a property that is very well known and very well received and has a lot of fans,” the composer says. “And even if you are not a specific fan of Star Trek, if you saw it live in concert, you might think, ‘That sounds like a fun thing to take the kids to and hopefully introduce them to what a live orchestra can do.’ ” He got to work on adapting the Star Trek score, debuting a concert screening of it in Lucerne in 2013 and the movie’s sequel, Into Darkness, a year later. Performances have followed across Europe and North America. Stewart Copeland, who is best known as the drummer for the rock band The Police, has been heavily involved in film composition since director Francis Ford Coppola asked him to write the music for the 1983 movie Rumble Fish. Copeland did not intend to have anything to do with live performances of his film music, but he got involved in a
roundabout way by composing accompaniment for Ben-Hur Live. The arena show, in which the key points of the story were enacted live, including chariot races, debuted in 2009 in London’s 02 Arena and toured throughout Europe. Afterward, Copeland wondered what more he could do with the music, which is tinged with some of the exotic sounds he heard growing up in the Middle East. His manager suggested adapting it to the epic 1925 version of the story by director Fred Niblo—the biggestbudget silent film ever made. “The movie is just unbelievable,” Copeland says. “It’s so much more dramatic and bigger than the art movie that Charlton Heston produced [some] 40 years later.” The composer spent three years getting the rights to the film, editing it down to a manageable 85 minFrom top: Fans dressed up this July for the U.S. premiere of Michael Giacchino’s music from Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), performed by the Houston Symphony. Composer Giacchino speaks to the audience onstage at Jones Hall in Houston during a Q&A with conductor Constantine Kitsopoulos. Kitsopoulos conducts the Houston Symphony as footage from Star Trek films is screened above the stage.
Game, 1992; Ridley Scott’s Tristan & Isolde, 2006), both of whom have won Academy Awards for best original film scores. According to the Center for the Study of
Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, just 2 percent of the 250 top-grossing movies in 2013 had scores written by women. “The orchestra itself, which used to be all male, has gone heavily female,” says Danny Elfman. “I don’t know why composers haven’t.” In December, Karpman helped found the Alliance for Women Film Composers. “There is an awareness now,” she says, “and a really strong emerging feminism in Hollywood, that I think will change this. But right now, we’re facing some tough odds.”
Photos: Courtesy Houston Symphony
utes in length and adapting his music to fit. The resulting concert screening, which features Copeland performing on drums alongside an orchestra, debuted at the Virginia Arts Festival in April and will be performed by the Chicago Symphony in October. It is worth noting that although film music has been mainly a boy’s club up until now, several female composers are active on the scene. One of these is Laura Karpman, a visiting assistant professor in the School of Theater, Film and Television at the University of California at Los Angeles whose credits include the film Carrie (2002) and the videogames Halo3 and EverquestII. A shortlist would also include Rachel Portman (Emma, 1996; and Belle, 2014) and Anne Dudley (The Crying
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Road to a Screening
Courtesy MGM Films
Courtesy Virginia Arts Festival and MGM Films
Movie scores and concert music have always had a tight relationship. After all, such leading classical composers as Aaron Copland, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, and Sergei Prokofiev wrote for the cinema, and film composers like Bernard Herrmann, Ennio Morricone, and John Williams have penned works for the symphony hall. On pops programs, film music has long been a part of the mix to one degree or another. In 1946, for example, legendary Boston Pops conductor Arthur Fiedler led his orchestra in one of the first American recordings of film-score excerpts: Dmitri Tiomkin’s score for the classic 1946 western Duel in the Sun. Among the most important pioneers in taking film music into the concert hall was famed movie composer Henry Mancini, who, beginning in the 1960s, directed more than 50 symphonic performances of his works each year from London to Omaha, Nebraska. His programs typically ranged from his jazzy, saxophone-driven theme to The Pink Panther to his Oscar-winning romantic standard “Moon River,” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Probably no one has done more to set the stage for the current explosion of film music than John Williams, composer of scores for films ranging from Star Wars to Harry Potter to Lincoln. Not only do his film scores draw on classical music’s rich heritage—who can listen to “Darth Vader’s Theme” from Star Wars without thinking of Richard Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries”?—but at their best they also go beyond anything derivative and set their own musical directions. Like Mancini, he has served as his own best exponent, conducting concerts of his film music with orchestras around the world and serving as principal conductor of the Boston Pops from 1980 to 1993 as well as leading programs of film music with myriad other orchestras. But today’s performances of movie music go further, esBottom photo: Richard Kaufman led the Virginia Arts Festival Orchestra in the April 2014 U.S. premiere of a new score to Ben-Hur by Stewart Copeland (left). In October, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will perform Copeland’s score to the 1925 silent film.
CLASSIC CONCERT PRODUCTIONS
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Don Davis, pecially the complete screenings with live performances of the accompanying scores. To work well, such presentations must showcase films with not just occasional musical shadings but music that runs through much of the story. “You want something that has as much music as possible,” Giacchino says, “because you want the orchestra doing something. It’s not so much fun when the musicians are just sitting there watching the film with you.” In
addition, notes Ulrich Wünschel, manager of artistic planning for the Berlin-based European FilmPhilharmonic Institute—a film-music and concert-production company—both the movie and music must possess artistic worth and the ability to enthrall audiences. He points to the 1999 sci-fi thriller The Matrix. “Don Davis’s film score is really special,” Wünschel says. “His music combines the sound of the full symphony orchestra with techno beats and
“Ronnie Kole is a true entertainer who knows exactly how to please a crowd. His powerful piano playing, lush arrangements and winning personality had the audience on its feet.” Scott Speck…Music Director… M o b i l e , We s t S h o r e S y m p h o n y a n d Chicago Philharmonic Orchestras
other pre-produced music. who composed Davis does not imitate the the scores for lush romantic Hollywood the trilogy of sound—he develops his Matrix films, own musical language.” likes orchestral Once a promoter or comfilm programs. poser decides a film might “The music be suitable for a concert screening, the work has only is featured just begun. First, it is nec- much, much essary to get the rights to better than it screen the movie and then ever would be obtain a version in which in any kind of the recorded music has been film theatrical removed. Next, the score has situation,” he to be arranged and, in some says. cases, essentially re-orchestrated to accommodate a standard concert orchestra of 85 musicians or so, because scores can be originally written for more than 110 players, sometimes including specialty instruments. In other cases, the strings might be divided into four groups in the original score and then blended during the recording process, something that is not possible live on a stage. “I come from a world of production and mixing,” Elfman says, “so I write music
Composers name some recent favorites in the film-music category
" R o n n i e K o l e c o m e s o u t o n s t a g e a n d P O W, t h e audience realizes they are in for something completely d i f f e r e n t . H e w a s a n a b s o l u t e h i t w i t h Ta i p e i a u d i e n c e s w i t h h i s t h r i l l i n g j a z z a r r a n g e m e n t s a n d w a r m a n d f u n n y c o m m e n t a r y. They'd never experienced anything like it." John van Deursen…Conductor… Ta i p e i P h i l h a r m o n i c P o p s O r c h e s t r a
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Stewart Copeland: Films: The Act of Killing (2012), Simon Thandrup Jensen. Slumdog Millionaire (2008), A.R. Rahman. Composer: Thomas Newman. Don Davis: Films: Tim’s Vermeer (2013), Conrad Pope. Moliere (2007), Frédéric Talgorn. Monsters University (2013), Randy Newman. Frozen (2013), Christophe Beck. Danny Elfman: Composers: Jon Brion, Alexandre Desplat, Clint Mansell, Dario Marianelli, Thomas Newman. Michael Giacchino: Sherlock television series, David Arnold. Her (2013), scored by Arcade Fire. Laura Karpman: Composers: Mychael Danna, John Williams, Dario Marianelli (Atonement, 2007; Anna Karenina, 2012). symphony
The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Resident Conductor Lawrence Loh perform Pixar in Concert at the Mann Center, June 2013.
Derek Brad Photography
knowing how I can mix it and get what I need out of it, never thinking how it would sound as a single concert piece.” Even a concert consisting of film-score excerpts is not easy to assemble, because the individual sections from the score have to be arranged into a suite or some other appropriate form. For his program of Tim Burton music, for example, Elfman created a separate suite for each of the fifteen Burton films that he worked on—a timeconsuming process. “I didn’t want it to be a ‘best of ’ hit parade, meaning every main title,” he says. “That to me is just boring. So, I knew that I would need to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to create a suite that both had the piece that was most recognizable, but also had some part of it that may have been the most interesting for me.” As this profusion of film music is hitting the concert stages, a countervailing trend is happening at the same time in Hollywood. Because of the rising costs of live music and the ease of new digital technologies, more and more television themes and film scores are being performed not
by live studio orchestras but by using orchestral sampling. Composers say that can never match the emotional expressivity of live musicians, especially in quieter, more dramatic movies where the music is more exposed. Indeed, the composers inter-
viewed for this article are convinced that sampling has contributed to an overall decline in the quality of movie scores. “There is this constant gravity toward being generic,” Giacchino says. “You hear the score and it could be any one of ten composers.”
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to insist on using live musicians for their projects, not sampling, and that the Sundance Institute has put an emphasis on it as well. The institute sponsors labs each summer that bring together aspiring film composers and filmmakers, so that each can better appreciate the other and learn how to work effectively together. Given the success of film-music concerts at the box office, there is every reason to expect the film-screening-with-live-
Explores the collaborative relationship between MUSIC AND STORYTELLING
Featuring music from BATMAN, EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, PEE-WEE’s BIG ADVENTURE, THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, ALICE IN WONDERLAND, and others. Composer Danny Elfman and visionary Filmmaker Tim Burton have created a unique concert experience, blending music and visuals to celebrate the nearly three decade-long partnership of two of Hollywood's top creators. This concert event features Danny Elfman’s famous film scores brought to life on stage by live orchestra accompaniment and enhanced with big screen visuals of Tim Burton’s original sketches, drawings and film footage.
SELLING OUT AROUND THE WORLD 42 Performances | 10 Countries | 4 Continents
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Photo Credit: Jimmy Lenner Jr. (Danny Elfman) & Leah Gallo (Tim Burton)
With permission of The Gene Kelly Image Trust
While orchestral scores are not as prevalent as they once were, especially in the so-called golden age of movie music in the 1930s and ’40s, nearly everyone interviewed for this article agrees that compelling music is being written now. “There’s always been these exceptions to the rule— wonderful stuff that breaks through,” Elfman says. It helps that certain high-profile directors such as Spielberg and Abrams are fans of film scores and have the clout
In February, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra will perform the complete score to Singin’ in the Rain, while the remastered film is shown with original dialogue and vocals.
orchestra trend will keep booming. Many of the film composers interviewed for this article are preparing more scores for such presentations; Giacchino is hoping to bring Up, Ratatouille, and The Incredibles to the concert hall. At the Chicago Symphony, on Fahey’s wish list for future concert screenings are Star Wars, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and Jaws, all with scores by Williams, as well as On the Waterfront (Leonard Bernstein) and To Kill a Mockingbird (Elmer Bernstein). Laura Karpman says she also expects orchestras to begin to mix more performances of film music into their standard programming. She envisions a program, for example, that might explore the evolution of, and influences on, music for the Pixar films, beginning with Richard Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks and continuing with examples of Carl Stallings’s themes for Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons. “Part of the mission of bringing these things into the concert hall,” Giacchino says, “is to educate anyone who hasn’t had an experience like that before—anyone who hasn’t really understood that this is how [film music] is created: by people sitting in a room together playing the music as an ensemble. That’s a pretty amazing thing to see and feel.” KYLE MACMILLAN was the classical music critic for the Denver Post from 2000 to 2011. He now freelances in Chicago, writing for such publications as the Chicago Sun-Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Opera News.
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Guide to Symphony’s Pops Advertisers
The following paid listings have been supplied to Symphony by League of American
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TheUn a by Alex Ross
Do musicians and composers have an obligation to speak out on political matters?
Conductor Valery Gergievâ€™s close association with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his policies has led to protests at Gergievâ€™s international appearances. Putin (right) presents a Hero of Labor award to Gergiev during a ceremony in St. Petersburg in May 2013.
versive Oxford History of Western Music, every work in the repertory, and every institution playing those works today, is stamped by the political reality that engendered it. These days, the political underpinnings of our musical institutions seem more visible than ever. Almost every month, a new controversy erupts, one in which a composer, conductor, or general manager lands in the hot seat. Valery Gergiev has perhaps become the most spectacular lightning rod on the musical landscape. His close association with Russian President Vladimir Putin has led to repeated protests not just outside the concert hall but also inside of it: gay-rights advocates, mindful of homophobic laws in
to find common ground with the multicultural West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which he founded with the Palestinian-American scholar Edward Said. The Hungarian conducting brothers Iván and Ádám Fischer are determined opponents of Fidesz, the nationalist right-wing party that presently controls Hungary and has been accused of fomenting or tolerating anti-Semitism. (I wrote at length about Iván Fischer in The New Yorker of June 2, 2014.) The Turkish pianist and composer Fazil Say has been similarly bold in his criticism of Recep Erdoğan’s conservative government in Turkey, and has been threatened with imprisonment on account of irreverent comments he has made
answered For centuries, the classical-music world has clung to the idea that music is an apolitical art—that it hovers above the petty squabbles of the day, contemplating itself in a state of serene majesty. The nineteenth-century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer popularized the notion that music is a “universal language,” one that transcends national and cultural boundaries. In the Romantic era, when the religion of art was at its peak, the entire sphere of the humanities came to be seen as an independent, self-contained organism. Schopenhauer wrote: “Beside the history of the world the history of philosophy, science, and art is guiltless and unstained by blood.” Hans Pfitzner quoted those words on the title page of his 1917 opera Palestrina, which explicitly addresses the intersection of politics and music, and shows the eponymous Renaissance master rising above the disputations of the Council of Trent. The illusory nature of such claims is apparent in the lamentable fact that Pfitzner subsequently used the title page of his score to write a dedication to Mussolini. Politics is, in the end, inescapable. As Richard Taruskin insists, in his monumental and subamericanorchestras.org
on Twitter. The pianist Gabriela Montero Putin’s Russia, disrupted Gergiev’s appearis a vocal adversary of the current Venezuances in Carnegie Hall and at the Metroelan regime, and has chided Dudamel on politan Opera last fall, and similar actions that score. Anti-Putin gestures in Russia have taken place in London. Gustavo Duhave been much rarer, but in April of 2014 damel has drawn criticism for failing to disthe conductor Vladimir Jurowski spoke up tance himself from the repressive regime of for the LGBT community at a Moscow Nicolás Maduro, the President of Venezuela. performance of Britten’s War Requiem with Peter Gelb, the general manager of the Met, the London Philharmonic, angered the new-music describing the work as a celcommunity by cancelling The politicization of ebration of gay love. a planned HD Live transthe musical sphere is Composers, for their part, mission of John Adams’s by no means a recent increasingly use recent poThe Death of Klinghoffer, on development; in litical history as material. the curious grounds that the every era, composers In his operas, John Adams opera, while not itself antihave worked under has dramatized not only Semitic, might arouse antiexplicitly political the 1985 murder of Leon Semitism if it were widely Klinghoffer but also Nixon’s broadcast. Gelb was seen conditions. 1972 trip to China and as having surrendered to the creation of the atomic bomb. (Interestpressure from right-wing pro-Israel groups; ingly, he has avoided such charged topics in even Michele Bachmann, the strident Minhis orchestral music.) His near-namesake nesota Republican, weighed in. John Luther Adams has addressed climate Other musicians have spoken in defiance change in a string of instrumental pieces, of power and entrenched interests, risking notably the chillingly gorgeous Become their own popularity in the process. Daniel Ocean, which recently won a Pulitzer Prize. Barenboim has rebuked both sides of the We have also seen operas about Malcolm Israeli-Palestinian conflict and attempted
X, Harvey Milk, Muhammad Ali, and Mahatma Gandhi—a genre that the critic Peter G. Davis once dubbed “CNN opera.” In the oratorio August 4, 1964, commissioned by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and premiered in 2008, Steven Stucky portrayed a crucial day in the presidency of Lyndon Baines Johnson; the life and death of John F. Kennedy are occupying the composers David T. Little and Conrad Tao, neither of whom was alive at the time of the J.F.K. assassination. Tania León is writing an opera about the Little Rock integration crisis of 1957, with a libretto by the venerable African-American scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Derrick Wang has written a piece called Scalia/Ginsburg, about two ideologically opposed Supreme Court justices who find common ground in a love of opera. And so on—the list is long. All of which raises the question: do musicians and composers have any sort of obligation to speak out on political matters? Are there issues too tense, too inflammatory, to be treated in musical form or discussed on the concert stage? What kind of rules and guidelines should exist for a classical-music world inclined to set aside the old “art for art’s sake” mythology? I will not pretend to offer crisp answers to those nearly unanswerable questions, but I do believe in the necessity of the discussion. Controversy is the unavoidable price of joining art to reality. Politics and Politesse
One myth should be discarded at the outset: the politicization of the musical sphere is by no means a recent development. In every era, composers have worked under explic-
write a funeral march for the democratic hopes of Perestroika and glasnost? What if Beethoven were a Palestinian woman? The instances are progressively more difficult to imagine. Far from being bolder or more outspoken than prior eras, our present period seems a great deal more cautious. This is not even to mention Richard Wagner, still the most politically divisive figure in musical history. A few days after September 11th, 2001, That said, the hazards of political disKurt Masur led the New York Philharmonic course in the concert hall are clear. Older in Brahms’s German Requiem; before readers will have acute memories—perhaps beginning, Masur and the musicians stood quietly on the stage, refusing to fond, perhaps embarrassed, perhaps both acknowledge applause—a silent, motionless at once—of the monologues that Leonard gesture of remembrance that said far more Bernstein used to deliver at Lincoln Centhan political speeches. ter and in other settings. On certain occasions, he waxed eloquent: when Kennedy was killed, he famously said, “This will be itly political conditions, negotiating realities our reply to violence: to make music more enforced by the Church, by kingdoms and intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly duchies, by bourgeois political parties, and, than ever before.” But often he rambled on of course, by twentieth-century regimes, self-indulgently, freighting Mahler symwhether totalitarian or democratic. One phonies with irrelevant messages and causneed only consider the case of Beethoven’s ing even those who agreed with his views to “Eroica” Symphony, which stands close to squirm in their seats. the heart of the orchestral repertory, and As time goes by, criticism of Bernstein whose once-radical musical language may seems ever more small-minded—what we be said to have engendered the modern orwould all give to have such a charismatic chestra as an institution. Beethoven wrote figure among us today!—and yet politically it in the wake of the French Revolution, in minded musicians should think twice before the course of which composers often tackusing him as a model. Rather, it is salutary to led present-tense subjects. (Louis Jadin’s look at Kurt Masur, who, in his long career opera Le Siège de Thionville, first heard in in Germany, America, and else1793, describes a battle that had where, has spoken out sparingly taken place the previous year.) What kind of Beethoven followed suit by pro- “Eroica” might but potently, never squandering ducing Fidelio, whose libretto is a contemporary the admiration he had earned. In 1989, as East Germany was derived from a French RevoluBeethoven tionary story. And, of course, he write in America, in its last days, Masur pleaded with protesting crowds to remain initially intended the “Eroica” as a Europe, or peaceful, and helped to bring tribute to Napoleon, giving it the Russia today? about a bloodless revolution. provisional title “Bonaparte.” And in the wake of September 11th, the Every classical listener learns the story conductor led the New York Philharmonic early on: when Napoleon crowned himself in a tremendous account of Brahms’s GerEmperor, Beethoven struck the dedicaman Requiem, which stands in my memory tion from the title page. Instead, the work as the most gently shattering response to became at once a memorial to a shattered that ghastly day. Before the performance, dream and a premonition of future liberaMasur stood stock-still before the audience, tion. We tend, however, not to think about nobly rigid, refusing to acknowledge apwhat kind of “Eroica” a contemporary plause. That silent, motionless gesture of reBeethoven might write in America, Eumembrance said far more than any political rope, or Russia today. Would he compose a speech of the day. symphony on the subject of Barack Obama, As for new music, a little subtlety goes a suggesting how great hopes were undercut long way. In more than two decades on the by the Administration’s failure to prosecute New York concert beat, I’ve attended plenty financial criminality and its determinaof politically tinged events—not just the tion to continue drone warfare? Would he symphony
obvious “CNN operas” but also scores of new-music concerts at which various presidents have been lampooned and repressive measures have been lamented. Almost all have come from the left side of the spectrum; notwithstanding classical music’s conservative image, Republican composers and conductors tend to keep quiet about their political leanings. The hectoring works have tended to fade from memory; a more playful or pensive approach is more likely to linger in the mind. One of the most effective musical-political interventions I’ve witnessed came in the wake of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, when the composer Phil Kline, long a fixture on the New York downtown scene, set to music the strangely gnomic utterances that Donald Rumsfeld, then the Secretary of Defense, was in the habit of spouting at Pentagon press conferences ( “As we know, there are known knowns…”). In a cycle called Rumsfeld Songs, Kline couched the Secretary’s epigrams in an unexpectedly light, lyrical style, over burbling accompaniments. The surreally pleasant result was more subversive than an angry frontal assault would have been: the music captured Rumsfeld’s flippancy and indifference. What the political musician must confront is the slippery nature of musical language, which can be attached to a specific message but can just as easily slide away. Consider how Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, originally intended as a tribute to the radical-tending New Deal politician Henry Wallace, ended up being played at inaugural ceremonies for Ronald Reagan. Musical notes cannot in themselves be said to express anything in particular, and this gives them an ambivalent power in the political realm: on the one hand, their ability to transmit an explicit agenda is limited, and yet at the same time their abstract façade can allow for an oblique kind of political utterance. Such sub-rosa musical speech came into play when Beethoven’s works, widely identified with progressive democratic thought, were performed under the spying eyes of Metternich’s regime and other authoritarian governments of the early nineteenth century. Franz Grillparzer once said to Beethoven, “The censor cannot hold anything against musicians. If only they knew what you think about in your music!” The same dynamic operated in the Soviet Union, with Russian audiences detecting americanorchestras.org
in Shostakovich’s symphonies tones of defiance and sorrow that the composer may or may not have intended. Again, it is the indirect statement that can sometimes have the most impact. None of this is intended as an argument against forceful political expression. Classical music is tactful to a fault; more boldness, even rudeness, is always welcome. But our concert halls are communal in nature, subject to the complex psychology of crowds, and unless an audience is entirely unanimous in its beliefs—a boring prospect— musicians should always be prepared for unpredictable results when political matters are broached. Conversely, when a musician seems to make a political gaffe, we listeners should be careful of racing to judge. I am personally disgusted by Russia’s anti-gay laws, not to mention its predatory incursions on neighboring countries, and am dismayed by Gergiev’s collaborationist stance. Yet I wonder how I would feel if, sitting in a Moscow audience at a performance by an American conductor who had appeared at the White House, I saw listeners shouting in protest of American drone warfare or financial imperialism. None of us is standing on morally pure terrain. We should deliver our opinions all the same, but with an awareness that politics is a bottomless morass. A final plea: let’s avoid comparisons with Nazi Germany or Stalin’s Soviet Union. Nothing on the modern landscape remotely resembles the horrors perpetrated by those regimes. (See Godwin’s Law, formulated in the early nineteen-nineties by the lawyer and author Mike Godwin: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches one.”) We need a space of discussion that allows for political passion without degenerating into drastic analogies or character assassination. Instead, we should prize the cosmopolitan identity of contemporary classical music, in which musicians of radically diverse backgrounds find themselves playing side by side. The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra is a particularly potent symbol in this regard, and a musical-political achievement of the highest order: each time its musicians file onstage, audiences catch a glimpse of a better world. ALEX ROSS is the music critic of The New Yorker and author of the books The Rest Is Noise and Listen to This.
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by Heidi Waleson
ne morning last May, the Pro Arte Quartet arrived in Brussels, where they were scheduled to play concerts. Two members, violist Sally Chisholm and cellist Parry Karp, were carrying instrument passports issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which allowed them to take their instruments, which contained small amounts of ivory, in and out of the U.S. “We were told we had to get them signed at the port in Europe as we entered and left,” Chisholm said. “So we presented the passports at the airport, but the customs officers had never seen one before, and they had no idea what to do with them.” So began a lengthy ordeal, with the two musicians cooling their heels in the airport (they declined to leave their instruments behind), while calls were made, and the other
members of the quartet, who had already passed through customs and immigration, went to the U.S. Embassy to get help. After six hours, a contact in the Belgian government supplied the correct information. The passports were stamped, and the two musicians were allowed to enter the country with their instruments. “There’s fine print in the Belgian rules that says if the object is for personal use, you don’t need a certificate,” Chisholm says. “Our passports were stamped P, for personal use, but because it’s such a new process, everything is in flux.” The saga was almost repeated when the musicians left Belgium: once again, the officer on duty had never seen an instrument passport. Happily, another one had. “She said, ‘I was there when they came in. It’s fine, sign it!’ ” Chisholm recalls. Chisholm’s tale represents a new complication in the life of a traveling musician, one that is likely to become more frequent rath-
er than less. In July 2013, President Obama signed an executive order that called for an interagency national strategy to combat illegal wildlife trafficking, estimated to be a $10 billion global industry, in the U.S. and abroad. On February 25, 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued Director’s Order 210, one component of the strategy; it imposed a near-total ban on the importation of any elephant ivory. (The next step in the enforcement process, still to come, is the issuance of proposed regulations that would effectively ban domestic sales of objects containing ivory.) The original Director’s Order meant that most musicians owning bows or other instruments containing even small fragments of ivory could not take them on international tours, since they would be unable to bring them back into the U.S. The League of American Orchestras immediately assumed a leadership role in representing the interests of musicians in
in fine bows, as well as on troubling airline policies for carrying instruments onboard planes and the unpredictable procedures for visas for foreign musicians. The two are now giving testimony, meeting with policymakers, and working on negotiating long-term solutions to protect the use and ensure the preservation of musical instruments within the ivory ban. The League has also published detailed information and offered individual assistance as musicians, orchestras, and presenters navigate the evolving rules. Vicky Dominguez, who as operations manager of the Boston Symphony had to deal with the new ivory rules for the orchestra’s Asia tour in the spring, says, “I couldn’t have done it without Heather. She had the right contacts, and all the information about changes in policy. I called her every day.” League of American Orchestras Board Chair Patricia A. Richards joins fellow music advocates in It has been illegal to buy and sell most preparation for a meeting in the League’s D.C. office with senior Obama Administration officials raw elephant ivory for decades. The Conregarding preserving the use of existing musical instruments containing ivory. Left to right: League vention on International Trade in EnVice President for Advocacy Heather Noonan, Richards, American Federation of Musicians dangered Species of Wildlife Fauna and Legislative-Political Director Alfonso Pollard, and The Recording Academy Director of Government Flora (CITES), which currently has 180 Relations Todd Dupler. member nations, first listed the African elephant as an Appendix III species in many more musicians to apply for permits the face of this crisis. Heather Noonan, 1976; by 1990, after elephant populations to travel with their instruments, but signifivice president for advocacy at the League, had dropped by 50 percent, elephants were cant difficulties remain, both for non-comassembled a consortium of stakeholders, moved up to Appendix I—the most highly mercial travel and future sale. An additional including the American Federation of Muregulated category complication is that sicians, the Recording Academy, Chamber of protection—and a number of states, Music America, the American Federation On February 25, 2014, commercial imporincluding New York of Violin and Bowmakers, and the Nathe U.S. Fish and Wildlife tation of ivory into and New Jersey, are in tional Association of Music Merchants, and Service issued a near-total the U.S. was banned. the process of enacting brought the concerns of musicians to the ban on the importation Individual countries their own bans on the attention of the Fish and Wildlife Service, of elephant ivory. make their own laws sale of objects containthe Advisory Council on Wildlife TraffickThe upshot: musicians about how to enforce ing ivory within their ing, and other policymakers. Meticulously with instruments containing protection of endanborders. structured testimony pointed out that the even fragments of ivory gered species that are The League, workmusical instruments in question were legally flagged by CITES: in ing with the coalition, crafted, with legally obtained ivory, and that could not take them on the U.S., African elwhich has now grown their transportation across borders had no international tours, ephants were listed as to include sixteen orimpact on elephant poaching. Noonan’s goal since they would be threatened under the ganizations, including was to seek solutions that would promote unable to bring them back Endangered Species the International Conwildlife conservation goals while protectinto the U.S. Act in 1978, and in ference of Symphony ing international musical activity. “We fully 1989, the African Eland Opera Musicians support elephant conservation and antiephant Conservation Act imposed (ICSOM) and the Association of poaching efforts,” she says. Initial meetings a moratorium on the importation Performing Arts Presenters, continarranged by the League bore fruit. In May, of African elephant ivory. (Huntues to lead the effort to address this USFWS revised the order, saying that noning trophies, two tusks per hunter multi-layered and complex issue. In commercial movement of musical instruper year, were exempted, and are recent years, Noonan and her partments “do(es) not contribute to poaching still allowed.) Director’s Order 210, a new ner in the League’s Washington, D.C. ofor illegal trade,” and permitted instruments enforcement mechanism, designed to plug fice, Najean Lee, the League’s government that “had not been placed in commerce afa number of perceived loopholes in the affairs and education advocacy manager, ter February 25, 2014” to be eligible for the law, stated that no ivory-containing object worked successfully on travel solutions for permits necessary to cross borders. that had been purchased after February 26, musicians in the face of new rules on perThe amendment addressed the most im1976, could be imported into the U.S. nambuco, a protected wood species used mediate problem, making it possible for
The impact on musicians was dramatic, since many instruments that were made before the various bans took effect contain small amounts of ivory. Ivory was regularly used to protect the tips of bows and to hold the bow hair in place. Some bows also have ivory frogs. Instruments may also contain ivory: Chisholm’s viola, which was made in Cremona in 1680, has decorative ivory inlays. Small amounts of ivory can also be found in a surprising array of woodwind, brass, and percussion instruments. When raw elephant ivory commerce was banned, makers switched to other materials, such as mastodon ivory and synthetics, which are used for piano keys. However, pre-ban bows with ivory tips are still in circulation, bought, sold, and transported across borders by performers on a regular basis. Yung
policy has far-reaching implications for the future of cultural exchange.” “The increased focus on ivory with the February order put a brighter light on rules that have been on the books for 38 years,” Noonan points out. Permits for objects containing elephant ivory have long been required, but the rules were not enforced. After the 2013 CITES Conference, recognizing that stricter enforcement was on the way, USFWS supported the creation of a musical instrument passport. This document would allow an instrument with permitted ivory or other protected wildlife material to cross borders, with multiple exits and entries, for three years, rather than requiring an individual CITES permit each time. These passports have been available since last year, though relatively few musi-
Gavin Shire / USFWS
Rich Ruggiero, Chief of the Africa Branch of the Division of International Conservation at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is interviewed by reporters as he examines contraband ivory.
Chin, a bowmaker and the president of the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers, estimates that there are “millions.” The Challenges of Compliance
With confusion about the rules and fear that their instruments might be confiscated, the ban “has caused mass hysteria around the world,” for musicians, says Yung Chin. “Musicians are always traveling; their schedules are planned far in advance. One of my customers, a member of one of the most famous European orchestras, says that they are openly talking about whether they want to come to the U.S. This government americanorchestras.org
cians have applied for them, and the official form for applying for a passport was newly minted just this spring. However, as the Pro Arte members discovered, a consistent system for enforcement is not yet in place abroad. Nor is the U.S. system reliably up and running. For example, USFWS has only 120 wildlife inspectors nationwide, so only eighteen ports can even process instruments with wildlife material, and only nine locations have inspectors available to process instruments that contain both plant and animal material, such as ivory and Brazilian rosewood. There are many layers to compliance: not only
must musicians have permits or passports, they must make appointments in advance to have their instruments inspected when they leave and enter the U.S. “If all musicians with protected species material obtain permits and return to travelling with their instruments , the whole system could be paralyzed,” Noonan says. “Inspectors would be overwhelmed with inspecting traveling musicians’ instruments that are simply being taken out of the U.S. for performances and brought back home again.” Further complicating matters, rules for permitted materials vary from country to country, so a bow or instrument that is eligible for a U.S. passport might not be allowed in abroad. Conversely, non-U.S. musicians, who must apply for permits in their own countries (there is no general passport system in Europe as yet), might find that the rules are stricter in the U.S., and their instruments might not be permitted to enter—or could even be confiscated. Inspection appointments add layers of time and effort to their travels. Incomplete attempts at compliance may even backfire. When the Budapest Festival Orchestra arrived to play concerts in the U.S. this spring, the instruments with protected species were declared, but the orchestra did not have all the correct paperwork, according to USFWS. Several bows were held at the airport, and returned to the orchestra, upon payment of fees, when it left the country. And in August, two teenaged bagpipe players, attempting to re-enter the U.S. from Canada, had to surrender the ivory fittings on bagpipes because they had attempted to enter through a border that was not an approved USFWS entry port for ivory. After obtaining the required permit to use a non-designated port, the fittings were returned to the students. The detailed federal regulations that would fully implement the proposed new limits on domestic sale are still to come, but as it stands now, Director’s Order 210 will have a devastating impact on future sales. A bow containing ivory that is bought or sold after February 25, 2014, will not be eligible for an instrument passport to leave and re-enter the U.S., thus slashing the value of something that was once worth tens of thousands of dollars. Bruce Ridge, chairman of ICSOM and a bass player in the North Carolina Symphony, points out, “The majority of musi-
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ing, which has reached a crisis level. “The cians struggle to make a living and pay number of elephants poached annually— their mortgages. These instruments are a between 20,000 and 35,000—is exceeding part of our pension. For example, one of their birth rate,” Henry says. The resulting my antique bass bows has an ivory frog. I population decline is was advised to keep it, catastrophic: Susan as a planned part of Elephant poaching Lieberman, vice presimy retirement. As the is a highly organized and dent for international restrictions stand now, sophisticated operation, policy at the Wildlife that bow is essentially using helicopters and Conservation Society, worthless. It’s imposautomatic weapons; says that the number sible to sell, because poachers are opposed by of forest elephants of anyone buying it can’t rangers who may not central Africa declined travel outside the even be armed. by 75 percent between country with it.” Globally, the illegal 2002 and 2013; TanzaShould a violin bow ivory trade has more than nia, once a prime habicontaining two-tenths doubled since 2007. tat, has lost 60 percent of a gram of ivory of its elephants. that was legally obtained and worked be included in these sweeping new rules? What Poaching, Politics, and Profit is driving the broader move to The massive rise in poaching is furestrict trade in existing African eled by the increased demand for elephant ivory products in the ivory coming from newly wealthy U.S.? Leigh Henry, senior policy consumers in Asia, especially China, advisor for the Wildlife Conservation Prowhere ivory objects are a prized status symgram at the World Wildlife Fund, says bol. At about $10 billion annually, illegal that the new enforcement rules are essenwildlife trafficking as a whole has become tial to halt the scourge of elephant poachone of the most profitable international americanorchestras.org
criminal activities, on a par with arms and drugs. Elephant poaching, once the work of individuals, is now a highly organized and sophisticated operation, using helicopters, night scopes, veterinary tranquilizers, and automatic weapons; poachers are opposed on the ground by a handful of rangers who may not even be armed. Globally, the illegal ivory trade has more than doubled since 2007. “The seizures are no longer a tusk here or there, but large shipments of a ton or two tons,” says Henry. And it’s not just the elephants and the environment that are in danger. “Ivory poaching and smuggling have been linked to terrorist groups like Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram who use it to fund their operations,” Lieberman says. “Poaching is harming communities across Africa. Three things have to happen: stop the poaching, stop the trafficking, and stop the buying.” And the U.S. is a large ivory market. “In the U.S., the complicated legal system, with its exceptions for antique ivory, made it easier for new, poached ivory to be laundered,” Henry says. “The U.S. market was providing cover for illegal trade.” In recent years, there have been a number of large-scale seizures
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel with objects crafted from illegal ivory. On November 14, 2013, FWS destroyed some six tons of elephant ivory seized in violation of U.S. wildlife laws and treaties, which are designed to protect elephants from extinction. Elephant poaching in Africa is at its worst levels in decades.
has been working feverishly to inform musicians and managers about the new rules and requirements, and if necessary, meeting the cargo at the ports to help smooth the way. “The artists want to do the right thing, but it’s challenging to have all the information in this fast-moving environment,” he says. “The biggest challenge among musicians, in addition to lack of information about the rules, is figuring out what species the instruments contain, and getting the document to assess when it was harvested.” The Bavarian Radio Orchestra sent several ivorycontaining bows home before they tried to enter the U.S., but one bow was held back at the border; the orchestra is now negotiating to have it returned. “It’s an extra logistical, administrative, and financial burden, as well as the uncertainty of what could happen, which for a place like this is hair-raising,” says Freudenthal. Karen Kloster, who coordinates tours for Columbia Artists Management, is dealing with a new level of logistics as a result of the ban. For example, how much extra time needs to be built into the schedule for the CITES inspection of a small ensemble that arrives from Europe, is hand-carrying instruments, and needs to make a connection to elsewhere in the U.S.? Fish and Wildlife inspectors work Monday to Friday, 8:30 to 4:30, and many European flights arrive after those hours. Arrangements can be made for overtime—which costs $115— but the inspectors have to be paid by U.S. check. Many of the inspection sites are not actually at the airport—the Newark one is downtown, miles from Newark Liberty Airport.
of a ton or more of smuggled ivory objects, rosewood as well as elephant ivory—and when they were manufactured. “We endisguised as antiques, from dealers in Philacouraged everyone to put these instruments delphia, Chicago, and New York. “One of in cargo, rather than hand-carry them, so the important things in the new law is that that we could do all the burden of proof has The Wildlife Conservation the permits.” Dominbeen shifted to the sellSociety’s Susan Lieberman guez, in constant comer. That’s how clampmunication with the ing down on antiques is sympathetic: “The helps save elephants,” Director’s Order was an effort League and USFWS, Henry adds. The ban to control the ivory trade, not created a spreadsheet Tools of the Trade for all 47 instruments also positions the U.S. Based on her experience, Kloster suggests, to control musicians.” and bows, labeled their to “encourage other “For an individual soloist, I’d say, remove contents with the proper scientific termicountries to take action on illegal ivory,” says any materials, or don’t travel with the innology, and got the CITES permits. Craig Hoover, chief of the Wildlife Trade strument.” She recently helped violinist David Freudenthal, director of governand Conservation Branch of USFWS. Anne-Sophie Mutter through a compliment affairs for Carnegie Hall, says that However, this burden of proof has crecated U.S. entry with a bow permit, and Carnegie, which presents dozens of ensemated a new layer of complications for says, “My feeling is she will not travel with bles and artists from abroad every season, traveling musicians. Boston Symphony any bow that requires it again.” Kloster also Operations Manager Vicky Dominguez estimates that she spent the better part of a Resources month organizing the documentation and The League is continually updating online resources to help musicians and orchestras complying with regulations for the orchesunderstand ongoing policy changes for musical instruments containing protectedtra’s Asia tour last spring. “I have five enorspecies material. Find background, travel tips, and policy updates at the Advocacy mous file folders of documents,” she says. and Government section of the League’s website. First, the players had to determine To learn more about the broader effort to protect African elephant populations, visit whether their instruments contained conthe Wildlife Conservation Society and World Wildlife Fund. trolled wildlife products—tortoise shell and
insists that anyone she works with have complete documentation on their instruments, whether they contain endangered species materials or not, including proof of ownership, when it was purchased, and a letter from the maker or appraiser saying what materials are in it. “Musicians must be knowledgeable,” she says. “They must have the permit, and have the inspector sign it.” Some musicians are opting to remove ivory. “I have changed almost 50 bows since February,” says Yung Chin. “You have to be very skilled to do it, and I can’t tell you that it will have exactly the same sound, or playability—a fraction of a change in height can make a difference. It depends on the musician; they have to decide if they can live with it.” Sally Chisholm has decided to get synthetic ivory for her bow. The inlays on the viola, however, cannot be removed without damaging it. “It is over 300 years old,” she says, “and I don’t have another one.” The emotional attachment of musicians to their instruments adds a layer of anxiety. Violinist Colin Jacobsen says, “For any instrumentalist, the instrument is the voice. It’s an extension of your vocal cords, of your body. You spend years trying to find it. When I don’t have my instrument with me, I feel that I am missing a limb. So at the airport, the idea that someone who knows nothing about the monetary, cultural, and personal value of it could manhandle it is horrible. And what if the inspector says, ‘You tell me that’s mastodon, but it looks like ivory to me’? Could this be the time I come into the country, and my bow is confiscated?” Jacobson, who visited the offices of several policy leaders in Washington, D.C. with Noonan and League President and CEO Jesse Rosen to talk about the effect of the ivory ban, was hopeful that the message got through—especially when a member of New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s staff asked him to play. Indeed, in August, Senator Gillibrand and Louisiana Senator David Vitter, a ranking member of the Environ-
“The majority of musicians struggle to make a living and pay their mortgages. These instruments are a part of our pension,” says Bruce Ridge, chair of the International Conference of Symphony and Orchestra Musicians.
ment and Public Works Committee, sent a detailed letter to USFWS Director Dan Ashe, asking for clarification about how the new and proposed ivory regulations would affect the legal activities of interested parties in their states. Nashville Congressman Jim Cooper convened a discussion in his office this spring among music representatives and Fish and Wildlife staff to seek clarity on the current rules and foster a discussion of the challenges musicians face.
Noonan and her staff are in continual dialogue with USFWS and conservation groups, seeking constructive solutions. Craig Hoover of USFWS says, “We are looking for ways to accommodate certain activities, as we did with the change in the Director’s Order, that will not undermine our anti-poaching goals.” An economic impact study is now underway as part of the process for the proposed new rule to govern domestic sale of ivory; the rule will likely be
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The next level of revisions to how the U.S. implements the CITES treaty is also an opportunity for accommodation. Noonan and her team are working towards getting a “personal effects exemption” for musicians traveling in and out of the U.S. with the tools of their trade. Musicians would still need an instrument passport to accommodate the requirements of Craig Hoover, chief of the Wildlife Trade and Conservation Branch foreign governments, but of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in discussion at a meeting of U.S. inspections would the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of not be required; other Wildlife Fauna and Flora. countries might then follow suit. “A personal effects exemption released for comment early next year. The is allowed in CITES, but the U.S. rule League and its partners in other national is stricter. We don’t allow it in Appendix music organizations are continuing to neI species like the African and Asian elgotiate with the goal of securing some kind ephant,” Hoover says. That could change. of exemption for musical instruments that New draft rules will be proposed later have a de minimis amount of legally harthis year, and finalized in next year’s reguvested ivory and a reasonable process for latory process. documenting the origin of the ivory.
The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Susan Lieberman is sympathetic to the musicians’ situation. “Musicians with teeny bits of old ivory in their bows are not the problem,” she says. “The Director’s Order was an effort to control the ivory trade, not to control musicians. The U.S. government should be able to work out a simple system so that they can leave and return to the country. The issue of sale is more complicated—but musicians should have a clear record of when their instrument was made. Let’s hope that something flexible can be worked out.” Through ongoing dialogue, the League has been tireless in working to find common ground with other organizations for whom ivory is a pressing issue. Like orchestras, the Wildlife Conservation Society is a cultural and educational institution. “We should come together,” Lieberman says. “We are coming from the same place, as cultural institutions, and we should be able to find common cause.” HEIDI WALESON writes about the performing arts and is the opera critic for the Wall Street Journal.
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1 Guest conductor Victor Yampolsky and the New Mexico Philharmonic acknowledge applause at Albuquerque’s Popejoy Hall on February 25, 2012, during the orchestra’s first full season. The NM Phil was formed in the wake of the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra’s demise in May 2011. 2 Members of the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra’s low brass section (from left: Jason Byerlotzer, Michael Maier, Jared Lantzy, T. J. Ricer) perform in the HSO’s “Star Wars and Beyond” pops concert led by Stuart Chafetz last March at Honolulu’s Neal Blaisdell Concert Hall. 3 Symphoria, the new orchestra based in Syracuse, N.Y., presented free concerts in half a dozen Central New York communities last spring and summer prior to launching its second full season. This performance took place at Beard Park in Fayetteville under guest conductor Travis Newton.
Four years ago, bankruptcies shuttered orchestras in Albuquerque, Honolulu, and Syracuse. In all three places the music has returned, affirming the essential demand for symphonic music in American cities.
by Chester Lane
hat happens when a major U.S. city loses its principal orchestra? It’s a difficult question to answer, because one would be hard pressed to find a major city in the nation that has permanently lost one. An observer of U.S. orchestral activity over many decades will find that the flagship orchestras—those bearing the name of a city, state, or region, and serving as the main provider of symphonic music for that population—may stop playing for a period of months due to financial difficulties or a labor impasse. They may regroup or downsize, adjusting to economic realities, the capacity of their communities to support them, or a redefined mission. The organization’s name, and to some extent its geographic identity, may shift from a city (Birmingham, Charleston, Denver, Minneapolis, Muskegon, New Orleans, Oakland) to a state or region (Alabama, West Virginia, Colorado, Minnesota, West Michigan, Louisiana, Oakland East Bay). A restructured “symphony orchestra” may come back as a “philharmonic,” or vice versa. But the music keeps going.
Courtesy Detroit Symphony Orchestra
that organization shut down in 2011. (The orchestra was originally known as the Symphony Civic Orchestra and was founded by the Albuquerque Rotary Club in 1932, during the depths of the Great Depression.) In response to the orchestra’s demise, NMSO musicians and community members formed a new organization called the New Mexico Philharmonic. Two days after the NMSO’s May 2011 bankruptcy filing, according to an account by Winthrop Quigley in the Albuquerque Journal, one of its musicians, cellist Carla Lehmeier-Tatum, paid a visit to Richard Berry, the mayor of Albuquerque. Berry, who had once played the trombone, “told her that a great city simply has to have an orchestra.” The mayor praised the New Mexico Philharmonic’s formation and hosted a black-tie fundraising gala in support. The fledgling organization, Quigley reports, “performed some of the old NMSO’s engagements in its first few months, including a zoo concert that attracted 2,600 people.” For 2011-12, the new orchestra rolled out its own inaugural season. In May of 2014, NM Phil President Maureen R. Baca—a longtime Albuquerque resident and arts donor who heads a consulting firm called The Computing Center—told Symphony that the orchestra was “currently in the process of developing the next stage of our strategy to take the NM Phil into its fourth and fifth successful seasons, 2014 to 2016, with a full professional Players Take the Reins orchestra. The NM Phil will be performAlbuquerque, the capital of New Mexico ing about 50 classical and popular conand its largest city (about 556,000 residents, certs for both regular audiences and public with a metro population of nearly a milschool children.” This season the orchestra lion), had been served by the New Mexico will present twelve Saturday evening conSymphony Orchestra for 79 years when certs (eight classical, four pops) at Popejoy Hall, home of the old NMSO. Albuquerque’s National Hispanic Cultural Center will host four additional concerts on Sunday afternoons (with programming that is not specifically tailored to the Hispanic community). As yet the NM Phil has no music director, but its guest-conductor lineup for 2014-15 includes numerous music directors from other U.S. Marian Tanau, executive director of the New Mexico orchestras, including TedPhilharmonic, is also a violinist with the Detroit Symphony dy Abrams (Louisville), Orchestra. Hand-wringing over the “death of orchestras” was especially noticeable during the 2010-11 season, as the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Louisville Orchestra initiated reorganization plans under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, and three other prominent organizations—the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, based in Albuquerque, and the Honolulu and Syracuse symphony orchestras—filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and ceased operations entirely. In each of these cities where the orchestra actually went away, symphonic music has come back under the aegis of a new organization, with a different operating model and fresh leadership. “The resilience of orchestras cannot be overstated,” says Jesse Rosen, president and CEO of the League of American Orchestras. “Our most recent data from IRS 990 returns shows that over a ten-year period, from 2001 to 2010, the universe of orchestras in America has grown, not shrunk. Through a combination of new orchestras getting started and established ones coming back, the field remains vibrant.” The recent resurgence of orchestral life in Albuquerque, Honolulu, and Syracuse—which has been spearheaded to a large extent by the musicians themselves—is just the latest evidence of the durability of the orchestral institution in America.
Guest conductor Junichi Hirokami led the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra on April 5 and 6 of this year in Strauss’s Till Eulenspiegel and Der Rosenkavalier Suite; the concert’s first half featured Anne Akiko Meyers in Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2.
Grant Cooper (West Virginia), Andrew Grams (Elgin), and Philip Mann (Arkansas). And in the same spirit of collegiality among players that has characterized the NM Phil since its inception, the orchestra’s current executive director is Marian Tanau, a Romanian-born musician who has been a member of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s violin section since 1995. Hawaii 5-0
With the closing of the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra in 2011, the nation lost one of its oldest orchestras—the HSO had been founded in 1900, two years after Hawaii’s annexation by the United States, 59 years before it achieved statehood—and Hawaii was suddenly the only state without a classical symphonic ensemble. (Hawaii’s only other professional orchestra is the Maui Pops, some 70 miles to the north in Kihei, on the island of Maui; also going strong is the Honolulu-based Hawaii symphony
Hawaii Symphony Orchestra Executive Director Jonathan Parrish and conductor JoAnn Falletta, who has served as artistic advisor to the new organization and will lead two HSO concerts in the 2014-15 season
Youth Symphony, which serves 700 students throughout the state.) Prior to the Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing, there had been talk of a less drastic solution, a Chapter 11 reorganization that would allow the HSO to stay in business. With that in mind, a Symphony Exploratory Committee made up of business and community americanorchestras.org
leaders recruited by the musicians contacted veteran manager Steve Monder, who had retired as president of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in 2008 after running it for 37 years. Monder was invited to come out to Hawaii to study the possibilities and recommend solutions. “They were looking for ways to reestablish the orchestra,” he says. “The deadline for submitting a new organizational plan [under Chapter 11] was approaching, and our initial conversation was about that.” Once in Hawaii, Monder says, he “talked to respected and highly visible community leaders about coming up with a plan. By that time the legal issues had changed and the old orchestra was no more.” Among the “respected and visible leaders” Monder spoke with were Vicky Cayetano, who had served as Hawaii’s First Lady from 1994 to 2002 and for a time as a board member of the old Honolulu Symphony; Oswald Stender, a trustee of the state’s Office of Hawaiian Affairs, which handles issues affecting Native Hawaiians; and Paul Kosasa, CEO of Honolulu-based ABC Stores—a convenience-store chain catering to resort trav-
elers—and a leading member of the local resident Japanese-American community. Kosasa recalls that during this period he also spoke with Marsha Schweitzer, a bassoonist from the orchestra. “She called me up and said, ‘As a business person maybe you can help us.’ So I did. As the orchestra entered into bankruptcy, its assets—mostly the library and a couple of pianos—went up for auction. My private foundation, the Kosasa Foundation, was the sole bidder, and we purchased those assets so we could keep them in Hawaii.” In April of 2011 the Symphony Exploratory Committee announced that an agreement had been reached with members of the now-defunct Honolulu Symphony that provided for a new salaried orchestra of 64 musicians. The successor organization, known as the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra, was announced two months later by conductor JoAnn Falletta, whom the committee had engaged as artistic advisor. (Falletta is music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, and appears widely as a guest conductor.) The Hawaii Symphony made its concert debut in March of 2012. Kosasa was subsequently elected chair of the Hawaii Symphony’s board. Monder says that as he looked at what kind of symphonic organization Honolulu could sustain, the question arose: “How is this orchestra going to work better than the old one? We want an orchestra, and this orchestra is very good, but can we afford it?” The Honolulu Symphony had had a 32-week season, including six weeks of Hawaii Opera Theatre services and one for the annual Nutcracker performances with Hawaii State Ballet. “We came up with something that looked a lot different, had a lot more concessions, and a lot fewer weeks for the musicians,” Monder explains. “Everyone understood that the old orchestra had gone away. We had to reestablish confidence in the community that this new orchestra would be an ongoing enterprise that deserved their support.” The sixteen-week inaugural season that began in March 2012 included services for Honolulu’s opera and ballet companies. “We took those out of our contract, and now sub-contract musicians separately from our master agreement—which is a way of being responsible to our supporters;
On July 26, a large crowd attended Symphoria’s concert at Fort Stanwix in Rome, N.Y., part of the city’s annual Honor America Days celebration. On July 24, Symphoria musicians Roy Smith, John Raschella, Ben David Aronson, Christopher Rosmarin, and Matthew Halbert performed with the orchestra in Skaneateles, N.Y.
timately involved with the old orchestra, both as spokesman for the musicians during the bankruptcy proceedings and as a key member of the Symphony Exploratory Committee. Monder, who had recommended Parrish’s appointment as executive director to the board, notes that as a longtime former player he’s “passionate about the orchestra. There aren’t many people on the island”—Oahu, where the city of Honolulu is situated—“who have the kind of experience necessary to run the orchestra, hold it together, deal with all the issues. Honolulu is different than a typical mainland city, and Jonathan understands those differences.” The orchestra has slowly been building professional staff, including the appointment of Julie Montgomery to serve as artistic administrator from her home base in the continental U.S. (“the mainland,” as many Hawaiians call it) where she formerly worked for Monder at the Cincin-
it wasn’t our place to guarantee those opera and ballet weeks. But many musicians can still count on the additional work.” The Hawaii Symphony Orchestra’s guaranteed season is now twelve weeks, with 20 perservice players hired to supplement the salaried core of 64. The new organization took a major step forward last November with the hiring of Jonathan Parrish as executive director. (Monder, who had served as interim president during the startup, stayed on as senior adviser.) Parrish brings a wealth of knowledge to the job, having not only played horn in both the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra and its predecessor but managed a successful concert series, Honolulu’s Chamber Music Hawaii. He had been in-
nati Symphony. Falletta has continued to help the orchestra line up guest artists and conductors, and will lead a concert featuring Beethoven’s Ninth on December 28 as well as the season finale next June, which includes the world premiere of a concerto by Byron Yasui featuring an authentically Hawaiian instrument, the ukulele, with Jake Shimabukuro as soloist. Early in June of this year Parrish was pleased to report that the orchestra had sold dozens of full subscriptions for 201415, even though no repertoire, guest artists, or dates had yet been announced. Another positive sign for the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra is the new two-year contract with its musicians that took effect on July 1 of this year. In announcing it to the press in mid-July, Parrish said the $3.3 million orchestra was expecting to “close the books this season with a balanced budget.” A Regional Embrace
Syracuse, N.Y., with a current population of about 144,000, was relatively late among U.S. cities of its size in acquiring a flagship symphonic ensemble: it was only in 1961 (when city residents numbered symphony
Symphoria son Museum of Art, the first of about 216,000) that the Syracuse SymMusic Director what was to become an innovaphony Orchestra made its debut, as a comDesignate tive series of site-specific conmunity orchestra performing a four-conLawrence Loh certs planned in collaboration cert season at a local high school. By 1966 with the host venue. the SSO was sufficiently established as a Garland says that Musiprofessional organization to qualify for a cal Associates of Central New $1 million grant from the Ford FoundaYork evaluated many differtion, as part of the massive program rolled ent names for the new orgaout by the foundation that year allocating nization, “and used a firm that $80.2 million—the bulk of it endowment helped us derive information support requiring matching funds—to 61 from brainstorming. SymphoU.S. orchestras. Like many such organiria is an experiential name. zations, the Syracuse Symphony suffered It suggests euphoria. There’s growing pains and financial setbacks over something unique and special the years, and its troubles eventually led to about live music, and that’s the orchestra’s Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing one of the things the name atin April of 2011. tempts to capture.” The plan that emerged for reinstating an As a startup enterprise, orchestra in Syracuse came from an orgaSymphoria has a budget of nization called Musical Associates of Cenaround $1.5 million. But with tral New York. Among its key supporters no municipal association to its were Vicki Feldman, who had led fundname—and the acronym for raising efforts for the old Syracuse SymCentral New York in its tagphony Association; James Tapia, director line—Symphoria is evidently of orchestral activities at Syracuse Univeraiming for geographic reach sity and former conductor of the Syracuse beyond the city of Syracuse. Symphony Youth Orchestra; and horn Perhaps the most distinctive player Jon Garland, who had long been a feature of the new organization member of the Syracuse Symphony and, in a variety of different ways. But we’re is that it’s structured as a cooperative. Garlike many of his colleagues, had put down not per-service. Symphoria tries to proland now plays in the orchestra while also roots in the community as an orchesvide some stable and regular compensation performing a variety of staff functions and tra professional and music educator. The to its core employees. And we do provide sitting on the board. “The name that Musical Associates health insurance benefits, because we’re musicians are the members of of Central New York came up “We’re not pertrying to retain people in our community the corporation,” he says. “It’s with for the new organization service,” says as resident professionals, available as a rea core of 52 musicians, about was Symphoria, and the tag Symphoria’s Jon source not just for the orchestra but for 40 of whom were in the old line was “Music in the key of Garland, who our community as a whole.” SSO.” (Extras are hired to CNY.” now plays in the Catherine Underhill, a veteran arts adfill out the instrumentation Symphoria made its deministrator who had spent several years for any given concert.) The but—and revealed its new orchestra while managing the Colorado Music Festival in core musicians, says Garland, name—on December 14, performing a Boulder, was engaged as Symphoria’s man“have a significant role in 2012, at a holiday concert in variety of staff aging director in September of last year. A governance, and also in seSyracuse’s Crouse Hinds The- functions and Syracuse native, she says she “watched the lecting board members. The atre, home of the old SSO. On sitting on the demise of the Syracuse Symphony from the podium was composer- board. “Symphoria plan is to have musicians be a 2,000 miles away. It was really heartbreakminority on the board, but at conductor Sean O’Loughlin, provides ing. And eventually when I was presented the moment it’s almost evenwhose new composition Sym- health benefits with this opportunity I was pleased to do ly split between musicians phoria opened the program. and stable it. This is a professional resident orchestra and community members. Also unveiled that evening compensation that wants to be part of the economic en“The old orchestra paid a was a winter-spring 2013 seato its core gine that’s driving a recovery here in Syrasalary that folks could surson that included three masemployees. cuse.” vive on,” Garland continues. terworks concerts, two pops This summer under her supervision, “Right now the compensaconcerts, and a young people’s We’re trying to numerous communities in Syracuse and tion we’re able to provide is concert; two afternoon Casual maintain people the surrounding area—Cazenovia, HamConcerts at St. Paul’s Epis- in our community such that players really have ilton, Fayetteville, Oswego, Skaneateles, to find additional employcopal Church; and a “Spark as resident Rome—got a taste of Symphoria through ment, and they’re doing that Concert” at Syracuse’s Ever- professionals.” americanorchestras.org
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continued from page 75 a series of programs by the full orchestra and its brass quintet, all presented free of charge through a combination of sponsorships and benefit events. These performances included a July 25 season preview concert at Everson Plaza prior to an outdoor screening in the Everson Museum of Art’s “Film Under the Stars” series. Symphoria will open the season on September 27 with a “Music of Three Centuries” concert (Beethoven, Prokofiev, Torke) led by Lawrence Loh, who has been tapped as music director effective in 2015-16 and is leading Symphoria in four programs this season. Currently resident conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and music director of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic—a post he will retain—Loh plans to relocate to the Syracuse area with his wife and family. CHESTER LANE is senior editor of Symphony.
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Mr. Jay Shah, Chicago, IL Rita Shapiro, Kensington, MD Tom and Dee Stegman, Cincinnati, OH Linda S. Stevens, in honor of Polly Kahn, Seattle, WA + Mr. David Tierno, in honor of Melanie Clarke, Princeton, NJ Mary Lou and John D. Turner, Kansas City, MO Dr. Jane M. Van Dyk, Billings, MT † Matthew VanBesien and Rosie Jowitt, New York, NY • Allison Vulgamore, Philadelphia, PA •† Tina Ward, Saint Louis, MO • Ms. Pam Weaver, Greer, SC † Linda Weisbruch, Charlotte, NC Jane and Dobson West, Minneapolis, MN Paul R. Wiggin, Chicago, IL Sonia Wilson, in honor of Sharon E. Wilson, President of the Wome's Symphony League of Austin Texas, Austin, TX Doug Witte, in honor of Laura Hyde, Mitch Jerico, Mary Padgett, Heather Moore and Helen Shaffer, Tyler, TX Simon Woods and Karin Brookes, Seattle, WA Anonymous (1)
$600 to $999
Ayden Adler, Miami Beach, FL Tiffany Ammerman, Marshall, TX Gene and Mary Arner, Boise, ID Sandra Sue Ashby, Jacksonville, FL Dr. Richard and Mrs. Janet Barb, Indianapolis, IN Ms. Jennifer B. Barlament, Cleveland, OH • Mr. Robert A. Birman, Port Townsend, WA Mr. David Bornemann, Scottsdale, AZ Dr. Misook Yun and Mr. James William Boyd, New Orleans, LA • Wayne S. Brown and Brenda E. Kee, Detroit, MI † Mr. J. Scott Chotin, Lacombe, LA Mrs. Judy Christl, Bonita Springs, FL † Katy Clark, New York, NY • Scott Faulkner and Andrea Lenz, Reno, NV † Dawn Fazli, Indianapolis, IN David Filner, Naples, FL • Firelands Symphony Orchestra Board of Directors, Sandusky, OH Mr. Ryan Fleur, Philadelphia, PA • GE Foundation, Fairfield, CT Mr. Kareem A. George, Franklin, MI • Mr. Bill Gettys, Weaverville, NC Maryellen Gleason, in honor of Polly Kahn, San Marino, CA Gary L. Good, in honor of Rick Lester, Santa Ana, CA Mr. André Gremillet, Melbourne, Australia Carrie Hammond, Hartford, CT Ms. Iris Harvie, Hudson, OH Janice Hay, Philadelphia, PA Marilyn P. and Joseph W. Hirschhorn Fund of The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, Cincinnati, OH Helena Jackson, Duluth, MN Mrs. JoAnne A. Krause, Brookfield, WI † Mr. Andrea Laguni, Los Angeles, CA Carolyn and Wayne Landsverk, Portland, OR David Loebel, Lebanon, NH Ken Meltzer, Decatur, GA Evans Mirageas and Thomas Dreeze, Cincinnati, OH
HELEN M. THOMPSON HERITAGE SOCIETY The League of American Orchestras graciously recognizes those who have remembered the League in their estate plans as members of the Helen M. Thompson Heritage Society. W. Curtis Livingston, co-chair, Nantucket, MA Nina C. Masek, co-chair, Sonoita, AZ Janet F. and Dr. Richard E. Barb Family Foundation, Indianapolis, IN Wayne S. Brown and Brenda E. Kee, Detroit, MI John and Janet Canning, Westport, CT Richard and Kay Fredericks Cisek, North Oaks, MN Martha and Herman Copen Fund of the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, New Haven, CT Myra Janco Daniels, Naples, FL Samuel C. Dixon, Morrow, GA Henry and Frances Fogel, River Forest, IL Susan Harris, Ph.D., Ann Arbor, MI Louise W. Kahn Endowment Fund of The Dallas Foundation, Dallas, TX Steve and Lou Mason, Dayton, OH Lowell and Sonja Noteboom, Minnetonka, MN Charles and Barbara Olton, New York, NY Peter Pastreich, San Francisco, CA † Rodger E. Pitcairn, Rockville, MD Robert and Barbara Rosoff, Glens Falls, NY Robert J. Wagner, Maplewood, NJ Tina Ward, Saint Louis, MO Mr. and Mrs. Albert K. Webster, New York, NY Robert Wood Revocable Trust, Grover Beach, CA Anonymous (1) Mr. Parker E. Monroe, San Francisco, CA J.L. Nave III and Paul Cook, Fort Wayne, IN • Ms. Brenda S. Nienhouse, Spokane, WA • Ms. Becky Odland, Edina, MN Henry Peyrebrune, Cleveland Heights, OH Brian A. Ritter, Houston, TX Dr. Stanley E. Romanstein, Atlanta, GA Richard L. Sias, Oklahoma City, OK † David Snead, New York, NY Barbara J. Smith-Soroca, Stamford, CT Mary Tunstall Staton, Charlotte, NC Melia and Mike Tourangeau, Salt Lake City, UT Mr. Jeff Y. Tsai, Geneva, IL • Gus Vratsinas, Little Rock, AR Mr. Robert J. Wagner, Boonton, NJ Edward Walker, Oklahoma City, OK Clark and Doris Warden, Sausalito, CA † Melinda Whiting Burrows and John Burrows, Riverton, NJ Ms. Camille Williams, Little Rock, AR Mr. Paul R. Winberg, Chicago, IL Rebecca and David Worters, Raleigh, NC •
† Directors Council (former League Board) • Orchestra Management Fellowship Program Alumni + Includes Corporate Matching Gift
Why Pops Matter
glory rather than eight musicians in a pit band, or recreate swing standards from the days of Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra. There’s no other sound like it. On a deeper level, I think pops orchestras are the stewards of the Great American Songbook. The best part is that the Songbook continues to expand. Sometimes we get to re-imagine an artist’s music, which was the case when the National Symphony Orchestra and I teamed up with hip-hop star Nas. These are experiences that you can’t get anywhere but at a pops concert. —Steven Reineke, music director of the New York Pops and principal pops conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra and Toronto Symphony Orchestra
Audiences attend pops concerts because they want to have a particular kind of experience, to be entertained, to hear their favorite Broadway tunes or see their favorite artists. Orchestral pops, when done with quality and integrity, is an art form that deserves to stand on its own.
Approaching it this way allows orchestras to reach more members of the communities they serve. What I find particularly exciting in pops are the intersections with contemporary artists of different genres. The key here is that the orchestra is not just a backup band, but functions as an integral part of the music-making; it’s so important that the talent and scope of the orchestra are fully utilized. I think of artists like Ben Folds and Sting, whose orchestra shows are true reimaginings of their music—a coming-together of different musical approaches that creates something new and thrilling. I firmly believe “pops” (which I find such an awkward term) is a significant part of the offerings of any orchestra—it helps reach more of the community and allows for an expansion in the creative reach of an orchestra. —Sarah Hicks, principal conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra’s Live at Orchestra Hall series My simplest answer as to why pops matters is because it’s fun! When a pops concert is executed at a very high level of artistic integrity, it brings great joy to our audiences and, hopefully, to our musicians as well. The key is to do it to the best of your ability, from creating or discovering great arrangements to hiring guest artists who are worthy of sharing the stage with the orchestra. The sound from a full orchestra is unparalleled. We can bring film scores to life, perform Broadway selections in all of their
More than ever, what we call “pops” at orchestras throughout North America is a living, breathing entity that is constantly evolving to keep pace with a public that has unending options for entertainment. The musical worlds of Hollywood, Broadway, pop music, and the Great American Songbook collide so beautifully with an orchestra that the real challenge is how to program this vast repertoire. I constantly hear from audiences that, even with a star performer gracing the stage, they also want to hear “their orchestra” play on its own. This is a wonderful thing in this day and age! I am very pleased to observe the dedication of musicians everywhere to this repertoire. This was not previously the case. The facet of an orchestra known as “pops” will continue to endure, reinvent, and enhance the musical health and audience enthusiasm for symphony orchestras. —Jack Everly, principal pops conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Naples Philharmonic Orchestra, National Arts Centre Orchestra, and the Symphonic Pops Consortium
Four conductors share their thoughts on why people are passionate about pops
For me pops is the embodiment of the American musical ethos. Think about all the music on a pops program. Broadway: musical theater is an American institution. Jazz: that’s an American art form. Rock and roll started here. Bluegrass, country— all these musical styles are as American as apple pie. Orchestras are expressing that American musical experience bathed in orchestral sound. That’s particularly the case here in Cincinnati, in the middle of the heartland. The riverboats that came from the Appalachians with coal to fuel the Industrial Revolution also brought Celtic and Irish music traditions that blossomed into bluegrass and country. Those same riverboats brought consumer goods from the Deep South, but they also brought blues and jazz. We are blessed that so many orchestra musicians today have experience in pop repertoire as well as classical repertoire. It used to be that only a handful could really swing. But to play swing or in contemporary styles or big band or funk, these are all styles that contemporary musicians are able to perform. The fact of the matter is, from “Beautiful Dreamer” to “Birdland,” this is our music. —John Morris Russell, conductor of the Cincinnati Pops symphony