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THE MAGAZINE OF
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American Dialogues Orchestras Open Timely Conversations about Music and Social Justice
Women Composers Have Their Say
Orchestras and the LBGTQ+ Community
Achieving Board Diversity
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“A work of rare authenticity and directness” — Los Angeles Times
Peter Boyer’s Grammy-nominated
Ellis Island THE DREAM OF AMERICA
Bows for Ellis Island with Pacific Symphony, Music Director Carl St.Clair and actors; photo by Joshua Sudock, courtesy of Pacific Symphony
“A sweeping opus… Boyer’s masterwork” — The Buffalo News
Celebrating more than 200 performances, and Peter Boyer’s 2019 Ellis Island Medal of Honor Stunning new full-length visuals available through Pacific Symphony As televised nationally on PBS’ Great Performances series Composer Peter Boyer
G. Schirmer & Associated Music Publishers Congratulate
Recipient of the Leagueâ€™s 2019 Gold Baton Award Photo: Bernie Mindich
VO LU M E 70, N U M B E R 3
symphony SU M M E R 2 0 1 9
an music change minds? Can an orchestral score grapple with issues like social justice? Increasingly, orchestras and composers are addressing the fierce urgency of now in the music they play, the programs they present, either directly through explicit programmatic content or more abstractly, with an evocative title or dedication. Context is all. Beethoven originally dedicated his Third Symphony to Napoleon Bonaparte, in tribute to Bonaparte’s soidisant democratic idealism. When Bonaparte declared himself emperor, Beethoven scratched out the inscription and re-dedicated the work to a more generic hero. Same notes, different message. When composer Julia Wolfe started work on her Fire in my mouth for the New York Philharmonic a few years back, no one could have imagined that an oratorio about the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire would be stunningly relevant. But as debates about immigration, foreign workers, and labor seized national headlines this January, suddenly a multimedia score about a workplace tragedy in which more than a hundred workers perished—most of them young, female, and recent immigrants—felt ripped from the latest Facebook feed. This issue of Symphony looks at the recent proliferation of musical works and activities by orchestras that bring forward the often overlooked narratives, identities, and communities that make up America today. As a long-lead publication, many stories in Symphony experience a considerable gestation; articles don’t just happen overnight. Rest assured, no one is looking to ignore tradition and abolish the canon. Rather, orchestras and composers are thinking1 about music the legacy they revere, in new and Akustiks Symphony Ad-2018_Layout 5/8/18the 6:32 PM they Pagelove, 1 different ways, building on a passionate reverence for the music as a point of departure for multiple dialogues.
Thom Mariner about rejuvenated Cincinnati Music Hall Mover & Makers Cincinnati October 8, 2017
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THE MAGAZINE OF THE LEAGUE OF AMERICAN ORCHESTRAS
symphony®, the award-winning quarterly magazine of the League of American Orchestras, discusses issues critical to the orchestra community and communicates to the American public the value and importance of orchestras and the music they perform. EDITOR IN CHIEF Robert Sandla
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THE MAGAZINE OF THE LEAGUE OF AMERICAN ORCHESTRAS
4 Prelude by Robert Sandla 8 The Score Orchestra news, moves, and events 19 Letter to the Editor 20 At the League A roundup of recent activity by the League of American Orchestras.
24 Board Room In a conversation with League President and CEO Jesse Rosen, key figures at North Carolina’s Charlotte Symphony talk about how they are making board diversity a priority—and a reality. 30 Digital Update Advances in technology and recent legislation will affect how orchestras record and disseminate their music. by Michael Bronson and Joe Kluger
Music and Social Justice Orchestras and composers are addressing issues such as gun violence, immigration, and mass incarceration through music and social-impact programs. by James Chute
Work in Progress Is there reason for optimism when it comes to composers and gender equality? Women composers share their thoughts. by Jennifer Gersten
64 Josh Goleman
Instrumental Excursions Fancy the accordion or ukulele? How about the ondes Martenot and the Theremin? Orchestras are exploring these and other intriguing sound combinations. by Clive Paget
Come Out and Play Representation and inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community is on the rise at U.S. orchestras. by Brin Solomon
about the cover
60 Advertiser Index 62 League of American Orchestras Annual Fund 64 Coda Bach-to-bluegrass mandolinist Chris Thile talks about the importance of bringing a wide array of music to audiences. Text marked like this indicates a link to websites and online resources.
The New York Philharmonic and Music Director Jaap van Zweden in the January 2019 world premiere of Julia Wolfe’s multimedia oratorio Fire in my mouth, about the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire. In addition to archival footage, the work featured a chorus of 146 women and girls— the number of workers who died in the fire—from the chamber choir The Crossing and the Young People’s Chorus of New York City. Fire in my mouth was part of Philharmonic events exploring the city’s role as a beacon for immigrants. Photo by Chris Lee. See page 34 for coverage of how orchestras are addressing some of today’s most pressing concerns.
AUGUSTA READ THOMAS
Lars Skaaning Peter Serling
MAJA S. K. RATKJE
KAREN TANAKA Martyn Goddard
SARAH KIRKLAND SNIDER
RACHEL PORTMAN Jeff Gerbec
University of Arkansas
JULIANA HODKINSON Caroline Tompkins
Suzie E Maeder
GABRIELA LENA FRANK Anka Bardeleben
KAIJA SAARIAHO Saga Sigurdardottir
SCORE News, moves, and events in the orchestra industry THE
On April 27, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association and the musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra reached agreement on a new five-year collective bargaining agreement, ending a musicians strike that had begun on March 10. At issue were salary and pensions, and agreement was reached when, following lengthy negotiations, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel stepped in to convene a daylong series of mediated meetings in late April. The new agreement, effective retroactively from September 2018 through September 2023, includes salary increases of 2 percent in the first two years of the contract, 2.5 percent the third year, 3.25 percent the fourth year, and 3.5 percent the fifth year. The musicians’ pension plan Music Director Riccardo Muti conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on May 2, 2019 at the orchestra’s first concert following a seven-week musicians strike. will undergo a phased transition from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan beginning July 1, 2020. All new hires as of July 1, 2020 will go directly into the defined contribution plan. The orchestra’s first performance back at Chicago’s Symphony Center on May 2 started with the “Star Spangled Banner” and featured Bizet’s rarely performed Roma, Berlioz’s The Death of Cleopatra with mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, and Respighi’s Pines of Rome, led by Music Director Riccardo Muti.
Every June since 1974, the Nashville Symphony has performed free community concerts at public parks and green spaces throughout Middle Tennessee. This year is no different, with the first of the Nashville Symphony’s seven outdoor concerts set to take place on June 6 at Nashville’s Centennial Park, during the park’s Musicians Corner series of free events featuring local Nashville performers. The peripatetic orchestra will also perform at Cumberland University (Lebanon, Tenn.), Smith Springs Community Center (Antioch), Two Rivers Mansion (Donelson), Historic Rock Castle (Hendersonville), and Key Park (Lafayette), before concluding on June 26 at the Estate at Cherokee Dock in Lebanon. Assistant Conductor Enrico Lopez-Yañez, shown in photo leading the Nashville Symphony’s 2018 concert in Centennial Park, will conduct all the 2019 community concerts.
Kathleen Munkel/Nashville Symphony
Chicago Symphony Strike Ends with New Musicians Contract Through 2023
OrchKids on the Move
MUSICAL CHAIRS The Kansas City Symphony has selected DANIEL as executive director, effective on July 29. Beckley succeeds Frank Byrne, who has retired.
The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra has named and NORMAN SLONAKER co-chairs of the board of trustees.
The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has appointed as vice president of development.
director of the Chicago Sinfonietta, has been appointed to two additional posts. In September, she becomes principal guest conductor of creation-Grosses Orchester Graz in Austria. She has also been named artistic partner for 2019-20 at River Oaks Chamber Orchestra in Texas.
has been appointed assistant conductor of Canada’s Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, effective in September.
The La Jolla Music Society in California has named president and CEO.
The Tulsa Symphony Orchestra has named KEITH C. ELDER executive director, effective August 5.
has been appointed music director of the Holland Area Youth Orchestra in Michigan, starting in September.
Avery Fisher Career Grants of $25,000 each were awarded this spring to four recipients: pianist Henry Kramer, violinist Angelo Xiang Yu, piano duo Christina and Michelle Naughton, and the JACK Quartet. This year marks the first time a piano duo has been awarded a Fisher career 2019 Avery Fisher Career Grant recipients, left to right: pianist grant. At a ceremony on Henry Kramer, piano duo Christina and Michelle Naughton, March 14 at the Jerome L. violinist Angelo Xiang Yu, and the JACK Quartet Greene Performance Space at New York City’s WQXR classical radio station, the recipients were given their awards and performed; the performance was recorded for a radio broadcast and webstream on WQXR in April. Since 1976, 153 career grants have been awarded through the program. Former recipients include pianists Kirill Gerstein and Yuja Wang; violinists Augustin Hadelich and Hilary Hahn; clarinetist Anthony McGill; and the Dover Quartet. The Avery Fisher Artist Program also awards the annual Avery Fisher Award of $100,000, which went most recently to violinist Leila Josefowicz.
The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has appointed director of communications.
The Amarillo Symphony in Texas has appointed ANDREW HAY executive director.
The Cleveland Orchestra has named JANE HARchief development officer.
The Stamford Symphony in Connecticut has named JANEY CHOI to the new position of director of community engagement and education.
Michael J Lutch
This winter and spring, students from Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s OrchKids program delved into the lives and music of Scott Joplin and Jelly Roll Morton during visits to the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. In January, OrchKids students and teachers visited the Library’s Music Division Reading Room, where they explored musical scores, letters, and other resources. Students used the materials as inspiration to create an original composition. On April 13, students returned to the Library for performances with BSO Music Director Marin Alsop. The OrchKids Jazz Band paid tribute to Jelly Roll Morton, and the OrchKids String Ensemble performed an original composition inspired by Scott Joplin’s opera Treemonisha. The OrchKids Bucket Band and OrchKids Brass Band performed pop-up concerts in the Great Hall of the Thomas Jefferson Building. This was OrchKids’ second collaboration with the Library of Congress; last year’s project focused on Leonard Bernstein. OrchKids, founded by Alsop in 2008, is a year-round music program for Baltimore City students; it provides free music education, instruments, academic instruction, and meals, as well as performance and mentorship opportunities.
MARSHALL HUGHES has been appointed program manager for the Bridge to Equity and Achievement in Music initiative at Boston’s New England Conservatory.
will become presiHughes dent of Young Concert Artists on July 1, 2019, succeeding founder and current director Susan Wadsworth. SAAD HADDAD has been named as the organization’s 2019-21 composer in residence. DANIEL KELLOGG
ENRICO LOPEZ-YAÑEZ has been named principal pops conductor of the Nashville Symphony, effective at the start of the 2019-20 season.
Minnesota’s Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra has appointed SANDRA MADDEN executive director.
The Tucson Symphony Orchestra has named KATHRYN MARTIN interim president and CEO.
ERIC MARSHALL has been named executive director of the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra.
The New York Philharmonic has elected PETER W. MAY and OSCAR L. TANG co-chairs of the board of directors.
Baltimore Symphony Orchestra OrchKids students in Washington, D.C. during a spring visit to the Library of Congress.
JASON CHIN has been appointed general manager for the Hawaii Youth Symphony’s Pacific Music Institute.
MEI-ANN CHEN , music
Many orchestral works pay homage to the earth’s natural wonders, but Lera Auerbach took the unusual step of deploying an actual piece of the natural environment—a block of ice—as part of the percussion section. In March, the National Symphony Orchestra performed the world premiere of Auerbach’s Arctica at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., joined by the Washington Chorus and Auerbach on piano. Conducted by Teddy Abrams, Arctica included sounds of dripping water and cracking ice, with one percussionist hitting the ice with mallets while standing inside a special enclosure. Auerbach’s piece, inspired by her travels to Svalbard, not far from the North Pole, as well as Greenland and Iceland, was co-commissioned with the National Geographic Society. Auerbach and National Geographic marine ecologist Enric Sala are friends, and Auerbach was familiar with Sala’s work to The National Symphony Orchestra performs preserve the last wild places in the ocean. Lera Auerbach’s Arctica at Washington, D.C.’s Auerbach wrote the Arctica libretto, inspired Kennedy Center Concert Hall, conducted by by Inuit folklore and language. The NSO Teddy Abrams with Auerbach on piano. concert—part of the Kennedy Center’s Direct Current Festival this spring—included three other nature-inspired works: Mason Bates’s Sea-Blue Circuitry, Sibelius’s The Oceanides, and Dvořák’s In Nature’s Realm.
HOLLY MULCAHY, the
Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra’s concertmaster, has been appointed to an additional position as concertmaster of the Wichita Symphony in Kansas.
JOHN PALFREY has been named presMulcahy ident of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, effective September 1.
and MARK FISCHER have been appointed acting co-executive directors of Florida’s Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra.
Colorado’s Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra has appointed SARA PARKINSON director of education and community engagement. The Los Angeles Philharmonic has selected violinist for its Resident Fellows Program.
New Music USA has named VANESSA REED president and CEO, starting in August. EVA MARIE RESTEL has been appointed executive director of Wisconsin’s La Crosse Symphony Orchestra.
Bassoonist KAI ROCKE has been named the Minnesota Orchestra’s next Rosemary and David Good Fellow, a two-year appointment effective in September 2019. JO MAY SALONEN has been appointed executive director of Montana’s Missoula Symphony Association, parent organization of the Missoula Symphony and Chorale.
CHRISTOPHER SMITH has been appointed principal trumpet of the San Diego Symphony.
GABRYEL SMITH has been named director, archives and exhibitions, of the New York Philharmonic Archives. He succeeds Barbara Haws, the orchestra’s longtime archivist and historian, who has retired.
The Houston Symphony has named YOOSHIN SONG concertmaster, effective with the 2019-20 season. The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra has appointed ROBERT SPANO principal guest conductor through the 2022-23 season.
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has named MO WILLEMS to the new position of education artist-in-residence. KATHARINA WINCOR has been appointed assistant conductor of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, effective with the 2019-20 season.
The Minnesota Orchestra has appointed IVAN WINvice president of finance and administration.
California’s Berkeley Symphony has named JOSEPH YOUNG music director, effective with the start of the 2019-20 season.
The Philadelphia Orchestra has named ERINA YASHIMA assistant conductor. LINA GONZALEZ-GRANADOS is the orchestra’s new conducting fellow.
It has been a jam-packed year for Barbara Hannigan. This winter, Hannigan—who divides her time between conducting and singing—made her New York podium debut leading the Juilliard Orchestra at Alice Tully Hall (below). The orchestra performed “Salome’s Dance” from Strauss’s Salome; Haydn’s Symphony No. 96; Debussy’s Syrinx with Juilliard flutist Emma Resmini; Sibelius’s Luonnatar, with Juilliard soprano Meghan Kasanders; and Bartók’s Miraculous Mandarin Suite. In February, Hannigan won Denmark’s highest musical honor, the 2020 Léonie Sonning Music Prize, and in March, she picked up a Canadian Juno Award for her vocal recital album Vienna: Fin de siècle with pianist Reinbert de Leeuw. In June, she serves as music director of California’s Ojai Festival, where she will perform and curate multiple programs, including conducting a semi-staged production of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress featuring members of her Equilibrium mentoring initiative for young professional artists. And in 2019-20, she becomes principal guest conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony, the national orchestra of Sweden. All that, and Hannigan continues her career as an in-demand soprano. Rachel Papo
The Cleveland Orchestra has appointed NATHAN SILBERSCHLAG principal horn, effective August 5.
The Little Orchestra Society in New York City has appointed DAVID ALAN MILLER artistic advisor. Miller is music director of the Albany Symphony in New York.
In March, the Seattle Symphony’s new Octave 9: Raisbeck Music Center opened with a bang: a 24hour contemporary music marathon, with Seattle Symphony musicians and guest artists performing works by more than 50 composers, plus an immersive music installation. From March to June, the venue also offered free family open houses and interactive demonstrations of the space. The marathon began with the world premiere of an electronic piece by Melody Parker designed to showcase Octave 9’s sonic range and capabilities; among the composers featured during the marathon were John Luther Adams, Inti Logan Figgis-Vizueta, Jessie Montgomery, Gity Razaz, Alex Temple, and Julia Wolfe. The new space, located within Benaroya Hall, will host chamber concerts, performances, and conversations with artists and composers, and events for families. Features of Octave 9 include a surround-screen with moveable panels, projectors, motion-capture cameras, and an acoustic system with 42 speakers and 30 microphones.
Tech/Music Explosion in Seattle
Composer, clarinetist, and conductor Derek Bermel, the Seattle Symphony’s 2018-19 composer in residence, curated a series of concerts and community experiences in the symphony’s new Octave 9 space.
“As the sounds of delight
For many years, California’s Pacific Symphony and Music Director Carl St.Clair have hosted a popular celebration of Nowruz, the festival marking spring and the beginning of the Iranian new year. This year’s event on March 24, in a sold-out Segerstrom Concert Hall, featured Khachaturian’s Sabre Dance, Dvořák’s Carnival Overture, and the four-movement Dance of Spring by Iranian composer Shardad Rohani, who is music director of the Tehran Symphony and shared conducting duties with St.Clair at the concert. The event incorporated traditional Persian dance and music, with performers including vocalist Homayoun Shajarian and Sohrab PourDancers perform in the lobby of Orange County’s Segerstrom Concert Hall during the Pacific Symphony’s annual concert marking Nowruz, the nazeri on the tanbour Iranian new year, March 24, 2019. and kamancheh. The Pacific Symphony’s Nowruz concert, said St.Clair, aims to “embrace Orange County’s rich and diverse communities through contextual programming” and “build and deepen bridges between cultures through art and music.” americanorchestras.org
and laughter from the audience of over 2000 people filled the hall, I thought to myself, Dan Kamin’s not just a mime, he’s a rock star!” — Don Reinhold, Executive Director, Wichita Symphony Orchestra
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Cleveland Orchestra: Taipei → Beijing and Points Between The Cleveland Orchestra’s March 28 to April 13 tour brought Music Director Franz Welser-Möst and the musicians to seven Asian cities: Taipei, Macao, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Nanjing, Wuhan, and Beijing. It was the orchestra’s seventh visit to Asia and second tour to China, with some performances taking place in concert halls that had not been built during the orchestra’s last China visit 21 years ago, in 1998. The ensemble’s performances in Macao, Shenzhen, Wuhan and Nanjing were their first ever in those cities. The tour launched at Taipei National Concert Hall, where the orchestra performed Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 3 and Strauss’s Ein Heldenleben. Tour repertoire also included Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 (“Emperor”), with pianist Daniil Trifonov, and there were The Cleveland Orchestra and Music Director masterclasses and individual lessons Franz Welser-Möst at China’s Nanjing Poly Grand with students at the Shenzhen Arts Theatre during the ensemble’s Asia tour in March School, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and April. Academy, Wuhan Conservatory, and Beijing’s China Conservatory of Music. Chris Lee
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This spring, composer Gabriela Lena Frank was the focus of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s annual “Music in Color” series of free community and school concerts in all five boroughs of New York City. From March 19 to April 7, Frank curated selections from her own string quartets, as well as a piece by Chou Wen-Chug, whose works have inspired Frank. The Orchestra of St. Luke’s premiered new works it had co-commissioned, composed by Fellows of the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music: Anjna Swaminathan, Matthew Evan Taylor, Marco-Adrián Ramos, Iman Habibi, and Christine Delphine Hedden. Frank, who is also a pianist, performed at the free school concerts Composer Gabriela Lena Frank (center, in red shirt) with students alongside the Orchestra following a “Music in Color” performance at Hostos Center for the Arts and Culture in the Bronx in New York City, March 2019. of St. Luke’s, conducted by Edwin Outwater. The “Music in Color” concert tour, in its third year, highlights the works and lives of classical composers of color. The Orchestra of St. Luke’s education and community engagement programs reach more than 11,000 New York City public school students each year.
9/4/05, 12:21 PM
One of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra’s more important activities doesn’t take place at Powell Hall, the orchestra’s historic concert venue. Through SLSO College Connections, launched in 2018, orchestra musicians give chamber concerts at local colleges to attract music students from middle schools and high schools with limited opportunities to visit campuses. This year, partner colleges and universities included St. Louis College of Pharmacy, Goldfarb
Both Sides Now On opposite banks of the Rio Grande are the cities of Laredo, Texas and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. On April 13, Yo-Yo Ma performed Bach’s Suite No. 1 for Unaccompanied Cello next to one of the bridges connecting them as part of his 36-city Bach Project tour. In addition to his performance at the Juarez-Lincoln International Bridge, Ma met with music students in Nuevo Laredo and performed in Plaza Juarez. In Laredo, Texas he was hosted by the Laredo Philharmonic, participated in a community conversation, and Yo-Yo Ma performs next to the Juarez-Lincoln International ended the day with a music Bridge connecting the cities of Laredo, Texas and Nuevo and dance festival at Tres Laredo, Mexico, April 2019. Laredos Park. Each stop on Ma’s Bach Project tour has included a “day of action,” and Ma had chosen Laredo/ Nuevo Laredo because of its location straddling the U.S.-Mexico border. Brendan Townsend, music director of the Laredo Philharmonic, noted in Texas Monthly that Ma was “most interested in bringing communities together and seeing how they connect with culture. We’re two cities divided by a river, but really, we’re one community.” Rio Grande International Study Center
Bridges to College
From left to right, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra second violinist Andrea Jarrett, cellist Elizabeth Chung, and violist Morris Jacob with students from Jennings Junior High School in St. Louis County, March 2019.
School of Nursing at Barnes Jewish College, University of Missouri–St. Louis, McKendree University, and Harris-Stowe State University. Visits include a tour of the college, lunch, and a one-hour SLSO chamber concert. The program grew out Symphony in Your College, the orchestra’s long-running series of free chamber concerts on college campuses. Maureen Byrne, the St. Louis Symphony’s associate vice president of education and community partnerships, says, “We realized the unique position of the SLSO to serve as a special bridge to connect music students with area colleges. Colleges are very aware that students involved with school music programs are among the most likely to perform well academically in high school and go on to college.” americanorchestras.org
New Bedford Symphony, Learning from “Learning in Concert” In March, the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra in Massachusetts presented results of a recent evaluation of its NBSO Learning in Concert program at the International Symposium on Assessment in Music Education at the University of Florida (in photo, right). The program at elementary schools in Massachusetts and Rhode Island integrates musical concepts alongside other art and academic areas. NBSO Education Director Terry Wolkowicz (center) presented the findings, together with Ronald Sherwin (right), associate professor and chair of the Music Department at UMass Dartmouth College of Visual and Performing Arts, and Lynn Souza (left), director of Fine Arts for New Bedford Public Schools. Initial findings suggest that among the 134 students in the program, less-privileged and under-achieving children demonstrated high academic growth from participating in the program, and average and high-achieving students benefited as well. The assessment project was supported in part by a grant from the American Orchestras’ Futures Fund, a program of the League of American Orchestras made possible by funding from the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.
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The way Yannick Nézet-Séguin sees it, cats and dogs benefit from classical music, just like humans. In April, the Philadelphia Orchestra music director shared a Philadelphia curated playlist for Orchestra Music four-legged friends Director Yannick along with personal Nézet-Séguin and a feline friend at notes related to Pennsylvania Society each piece. The for the Prevention of conductor and his Cruelty to Animals headquarters. partner, violist Pierre Tourville, created the 34-hour, 326-song playlist after noticing how classical music positively impacted the behavior of their three cats. “A Cat’s Music Playlist” now plays on loop at the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals headquarters in an effort to create a soothing environment for the shelter animals, featuring music ranging from Chopin Nocturnes (“ideal for afternoon pet naps”) to Mahler and more. symphony
Music Alive, Coast to Coast
This season, the long-running Music Alive composer residency program brought contemporary music—and contemporary composers—to orchestras across the country. Music Alive is a national, three-year orchestra-composer residency program of the League of American Orchestras and New Music USA. Music Alive embeds composers with orchestras, and the residencies venture beyond the creation of new works to embrace collaborations with community groups, curated concerts and events, explorations of the composers’ existing scores, readings, and more. Composer Theodore Wiprud’s Music Alive residency with the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra included a performance of Wiprud’s Grail with the South Dakota Youth Symphony Orchestra and the world premiere of his Wind of Many Voices, inspired by the South Dakota landscapes. In addition, Wiprud worked with local community groups. With California’s Berkeley Symphony, Anna Clyne was involved with a multimedia version of her Night Ferry and saw her This Midnight Hour interpreted by a modern-dance troupe. In Minnesota, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra gave the world premiere of a new work by Lembit Beecher that included samples of 47 recordings of Twin Cities community members reflecting on what home means to them, along with newly commissioned poetry. In Illinois, the Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra performed Stacy Garrop’s Krakatoa viola concerto and Terra Nostra. Garrop and CUSO Music Director Stephen Alltop hosted a composers institute. Hannibal Lokumbe’s Music Alive residency with the Philadelphia Orchestra culminated in the world premiere of Healing Tones, a large-scale work that pays homage to the composer’s ancestors and focuses on communities that are experiencing trauma, homelessness, and divisiveness. Music Alive is made possible by a lead grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with additional support from The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, the Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trusts, The Amphion Foundation, and The ASCAP Foundation Bart Howard Fund.
Michigan Philharmonic’s “NANiversary” How do you celebrate a music director’s two decades leading an orchestra? If you’re the Michigan Philharmonic, you do it with a series of “Happy 20th NANiversary” concerts for Nan Washburn. The Plymouth-based orchestra opened the season in October with some of Washburn’s favorite music: Berlioz’s Roman Carnival Overture; Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes by Carl Maria von Weber; Wael Binali’s Earth: Plunder, Wound, Renewal, Hope, written for the U.N. Climate Change Conference in 2012; and Barber’s Violin Concerto, Op. 14, with soloist Danielle Belen. The season concluded in April with “PhilPalooza2,” a bursting-atthe-seams concert featuring the orchestra performing side by side with the Michigan Philharmonic Youth Orchestra and guest performers including the Michigan Philharmonic Music Director Nan Washburn leads the orchestra’s “PhilPalooza2,” in celebration of Washburn’s Plymouth Community Band, twenty years with the orchestra. saxophonist Zach Sheman, and composer and bassist Rick Robinson. “PhilPalooza2” took place at a gym in the Plymouth Arts and Recreation Complex—the only space big enough to fit all 150 musicians plus audience.
Maximum Philip Glass In New York City, the New School’s College of Performing Arts has just launched the Philip Glass Institute, with Lisa Bielawa, a longtime member of the Philip Glass Ensemble, as composer-in-residence and chief curator. The idea for the institute originated with Glass and Bielawa, and Richard Kessler, executive dean of the New School’s College of Performing Arts, said he could think of “no better home for the Philip Glass Institute than the New School, which has been a home to John Cage, Henry Cowell, Martha Graham, Aaron Copland, the Fluxus Movement, and scores of trailblazing artists and scholars.” The institute’s first event in January featured a performance by the Philip Glass Ensemble and a discussion with Glass, Bielawa, and Kessler. In April, Bielawa conducted the Mannes String Orchestra in Glass’s Symphony No. 3, her own The Trojan Women, plus world premieres of string-orchestra versions of
The Rogue Valley Symphony is proud to have commissioned seven new works over the last two seasons. We recommend to you for your future programming: “It is my sincere wish to make symphonic music an important voice in the reflection of our own time.” Martin Majkut, Music Director
I’lana Cotton: Cantus notimemusic.com David Ludwig: Concerto for Violin and Orchestra davidludwigmusic.com Tracy Silverman: Love Song to the Sun tracysilverman.com Jonathan Leshnoff: Rogue Sparks jonathanleshnoff.com Ethan Gans-Morse: How Can You Own The Sky? animamundiproductions.com Malek Jandali: Concerto for Viola and Orchestra malekjandali.com Christopher Theofanidis: Piano Concerto #2 theofanidismusic.com
Commissioned artwork by Kamron Coleman
Visit our YouTube channel for exclusive interviews with these composers
Sophia Barkham / The New School
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Lisa Bielawa conducts the Mannes String Orchestra in a program presented by the new Philip Glass Institute at the New School’s College of Performing Arts in New York City.
arias from Bielawa’s online opera Vireo, sung by Rowen Sabala; Jon Gibson’s Chorales for Relative Calm; and David T. Little’s 1986. At the Glass Institute, Bielawa is composing new works, curating concerts, and designing courses for students in the college’s Mannes School of Music, School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, and School of Drama.
South Asian Symphony Foundation
Mumbai, India was the site of a remarkable debut this April: “Chiragh: A Concert Beyond Borders” (below), the first concert by a new orchestra whose musicians come from countries including Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and India, led by American conductor Viswa Subbaraman. The orchestra’s name, Chiragh, means “a little flame that lights the darkness, and it is a metaphor for our quest and passion for peace in our divided region,” says co-founder Nirupama Rao, the former Foreign Secretary of India. The April 26 concert at Mumbai’s National Centre for the Performing Arts came just five days after hundreds were killed in church and hotel bombings in Sri Lanka. The concert opened with Maithreem Bhajata, a Sanskrit invocation, arranged for orchestra. There were two commissioned works: Hamsafar: A Journey through South Asia, by the Afghan National Institute of Music’s Lauren Braithwaite (commissioned by the Eric Daniel Helms New Music Program, of Classical Movements), and Indian-American composer and instrumentalist Kamala Sankaram’s Bhadke, as well as Western repertoire.
Rocking Knoxville Every March, the multi-genre Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee, draws thousands of concertgoers for an eclectic lineup, with the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra frequently among the performers. This year the orchestra’s string section joined British folk-rock artist Richard Thompson for his song cycle K.I.A.: Killed In Action (above), conducted by Peter Askim with the composer on guitar and vocals. K.I.A. was written in commemoration of World War I’s centenary and uses archives, journals, and reflections as basis for the texts. Previous Knoxville Symphony performances at the festival have included Were You There, a collaboration with American Modern Opera Company and baritone Davoné Tines, and music by John Adams, John Luther Adams, and Matthew Aucoin.
D I SP EK ER A RTISTS I N T E R NAT I O NA L CONDUCTORS Daniel Boico Christoph Campestrini Steven Fox Bernard Labadie Mathieu Lussier Gregory Vajda PIANIST S Anderson & Roe Piano Duo Katherine Chi David Kadouch Alexander Korsantia Benedetto Lupo Jorge Federico Osorio Dubravka Tomsic Gilles Vonsattel
VIOLINISTS Timothy Chooi Mayuko Kamio Elina Vähälä FRENCH HORN David Jolley GUITAR Grigoryan Brothers ENSEMBLE S Aeolus Quartet Busch Trio Calefax Reed Quintet Jasper String Quartet Naumburg Trio New York Brass Arts Trio Signum Quartet Trio Valtorna
SPECIAL PROJECTS Acte II Concerto Italiano & Rinaldo Alessandrini Stars of European Ballet Troupe Vertigo Ute Lemper SOPRANOS Hélène Brunet Tracy Dahl Karina Gauvin Kelley Nassief Christina Pier MEZZO-SOPRANOS Abigail Nims Barbara Rearick CONTRALTO Emily Marvosh
195 Chrystie Street, Suite 809J New York, NY 10002 P H O N E 212.421.7676 FA X 212.935.3279
TENORS Frank Kelley Christopher Pfund Steven Tharp Daniel Weeks Lawrence Wiliford BARITONE S Anton Belov Jochen Kupfer Richard Zeller BASS-BARITONE S Stephen Bryant Michael Dean Kevin Deas CHORUS La Chapelle de Québec
D I S P E K E R .C O M
David S. Weiland
This spring, California’s Berkeley Symphony packed the stage of Zellerbach Hall for a classical-meets-jazz program that featured some special guests: the Berkeley High School Jazz Ensemble. Christopher Rountree, founder and conductor of the L.A.-based chamber orchestra wild Up, led the concert, which included the orchestra and jazz ensemble performing together in Duke Ellington’s three-movement Black, Brown and Beige from 1943 and Sofia Gubaidulina’s 1976 Concerto for Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Band. The Berkeley Jazz Ensemble has performed widely for decades, in the U.S. and internationally. The group’s current leader is trombonist Sarah Cline, who has led four tours by Saxophonists from the Berkeley the ensemble to Cuba and High School Jazz Ensemble and the Berkeley Symphony perform music is the founder of the annual by Duke Ellington and Sofia GubaidJazzGirls Day event enulina, conducted by Christopher couraging jazz participation Rountree, March 2019. by young women.
Letter to the Editor Re: “Start Spreading the News,” an article by Susan Elliott in the Spring 2019 issue of Symphony which reported on diminishing arts coverage by traditional media, https://www. americanorchestras.org/SymphonyArtsCoverage: To the Editor: Susan Elliott’s glibly inaccurate description of the Times’ classical coverage is irritating. But using “trans-sexual” as a pejorative? In 2019? That’s why people think classical music is dying. Zachary Woolfe Classical Music Editor The New York Times From the Editor: Zachary Woolfe’s message is a reminder of how, even with the best of intentions, extreme care must be taken to consider how language can offend. We understand that the use of the word trans-sexual in this context offended some, and we apologize. The League staff and board are actively engaged in an organization-wide effort to continually build competency concerning equity, diversity, and inclusion.
“InsideOut Concerts are transforming the traditional concert experience...the seats are with the players themselves, in the thick of the violins or right next to a harp. There’s no separation here, just a mass of pumping hearts in a singular musical communion.” WQXR “I felt every note. I could hear everything and could see the faces of the musicians. It was fantastic!” Andrea Arroyo audience member
“Holy cow... Ligeti’s ‘Atmosphères’ sounds EVEN MORE AMAZING when you’re in among the players.” Steve Smith music critic, commenting as an audience member
Bring an InsideOut Concert Experience to your orchestra or venue, specially targeted for: • Audience expansion • Development / sponsorship • Education events • Outreach • Public awareness Low on cost, high on effectiveness, InsideOut Concerts developed and delivered by David Bernard are the result of intensive testing and development. To book an InsideOut Concert with David Bernard, email bookinginfo@ insideoutconcerts.com @InsideOutConcerts
Supporting Women Composers Now in its fifth year, the League’s A roundup of recent activity at the League of American Women Composers Readings and Orchestras Commissions program continues to be a vital pipeline for new orchestral music in the U.S. Composers Courtney Bryan, Cindy Cox, and Fang Man will each receive Impact of New Tax on Orchestras for the companion bill in the House. Rep. orchestral commisFeatured in Congressional Briefing Michael Conaway (R-TX) and Senators sions of $15,000 The League’s Advocacy team works on Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Jeanne Shaheen as part of the 2018 multiple fronts to help orchestras serve (D-NH) have introduced bills that would Courtney Bryan Women Composers their communities and connect orchesrepeal the transportation fringe benefit tax Readings and Comtras with the larger nonprofit sector. On as well as a provision that would require missions program, which is an initiative March 14, the Richmond Symphony was tax-exempt organizations to separately of the League of American Orchesfeatured at a Capitol Hill brieftras in partnership with American ing to describe the negative impact Composers Orchestra and supof a new tax on nonprofits. The ported by the Virginia B. Toulmin Unrelated Business Income Tax Foundation. Courtney Bryan’s work (UBIT), which was included in the will be premiered by the Louisiana 2018 federal tax reform law, is a 21 Philharmonic Orchestra and Music percent tax on employee commuting Director Carlos Miguel Prieto in the and parking benefits at nonprofits. 2019-20 season. Cindy Cox’s work The tax is an unprecedented new will be premiered by the Saint Paul levy on nonprofit expenses that is Chamber Orchestra in May 2020, heaping significant additional costs and Fang Man’s work will be given on orchestras and other nonprofits. its premiere by the San Francisco The Capitol Hill briefing was hosted Symphony (performance details by Independent Sector and the for the Cox and Man works will be Council on Foundations to focus announced). Looking ahead, the attention on how the new UBIT Scott Dodson (at center), director of advancement and patron Women Composers program has expense diverts nonprofit resources communications at Virginia’s Richmond Symphony, speaks been renewed for 2019, with three away from mission-centered activity. at a Capitol Hill briefing about the effects of the new tax on employee commuting and parking benefits at nonprofits. additional composers to be awarded Momentum is building to repeal commissions next year. the 21 percent tax. At press time “Over the past five years, our Women there were four bills that seek to repeal the calculate UBIT for each trade or business Composers program has significantly tax on transportation fringe benefits for within the organization. Orchestra stakeexpanded the repertoire, resulting in tax-exempt organizations. Senators James holders can take action on this issue by important new works by women being Lankford (R-OK) and Chris Coons (Dvisiting the League’s dedicated Advocacy performed by orchestras across the counDE) have introduced the LIFT for CharCenter at https://www.americanorchestry,” said Jesse Rosen, the League’s presiities Act, with Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) tras.org/advocacy-government/tax-anddent and CEO. “We are grateful for the and Tom Suozzi (D-NY) as the leaders 501-c-3-policy/take-action.html.
Musicians, Composers, Commissions, Advocacy, and More
League Works to Keep Musical Instruments on the Agenda for Treaty Negotiations Musical instruments in use by orchestras and musicians across the globe will be on the agenda for discussion when 182 countries gather to renegotiate the implementation of the Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). As it has for several years, the League of American Orchestras will participate in CITES negotiations, seeking to improve implementation of the Musical Instrument Certificate that touring orchestras must obtain and weighing in on new policies related to rosewood, which is used in a wide array of instruments. Whether musicians are seeking to buy and sell instruments across borders, or simply to travel internationally for performances, CITES sets limitations on this activity and requires permits for americanorchestras.org
Courtesy of Cindy Cox Yi Sun
Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation’s visionary thinking and years of support.” The Women Composers Readings and Commissions program is embedded in EarShot, an Cindy Cox initiative of American Composers Orchestra in collaboration with American Composers Forum, the League of American Orchestras, and New Music USA. Since its inception in 2014, the Women Composers Readings and Commissions program has shown impressive results: thirty-four women composers benefitted from career development via the EarShot Readings and thirteen composers have now received commissions, with five premieres (by Julia Adolphe, Melody Fang Man Eötvös, Chen-Hui Jen, Andreia Pinto Correia, and Andrea Reinkemeyer) completed.
instruments that have historically been made with small bits of material from natural resources that have now come under protected status, such as monitor lizards, sea turtles, and elephant ivory. Though the CITES negotiations that were scheduled to take place in Sri Lanka this May have been postponed due to security concerns, the League remains an active voice in supporting the interests of orchestras and musicians. In April, the League submitted public comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that outline policy actions that can support conservation efforts while also preserving international cultural activity. Visit https://americanorchestras. org/endangeredspecies for information. Five Orchestra Musicians to Receive Ford Musician Awards for Excellence in Community Service Five orchestra musicians will receive Ford Musician Awards for Excellence in Community Service from the League of American Orchestras on June 4 at the League’s 2019 National Conference in Nashville. The awards, supported by Ford Motor Company Fund, celebrate professional orchestra musicians who provide exemplary and meaningful service in their communities and make a significant impact through education and community engagement. This year’s awardees work in partnership with their orchestras on a variety of initiatives that include introducing young children to orchestral instruments; teaching hearing- and speech-impaired children new skills; providing music education and engagement to students from underserved communities; connecting with families in outlying communities; and facilitating the creation of new compositions by high school students. The five award recipients and their orchestras and programs are: • Victoria Griswold, violin, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra: Teddy Bear Series, introducing young children to orchestral instruments through story, live music, and movement • Jeff Handley, principal percussion and education/outreach program director, Chicago Sinfonietta: Audience
Matters and SEED, in-school residency programs for students from underserved communities • Rebecca Patterson, principal cello, New Haven Symphony Orchestra: NHSO Harmony Fellowship Quartet/ Recording Composition Class, for students from underrepresented communities • Donna Parkes, principal trombone, Louisville Orchestra: Teaching children at the Heuser Hearing Institute with hearing and speech impairment such skills as singing, clapping with rhythm, and dancing • Rebecca Young, associate principal viola, New York Philharmonic: Host of the New York Philharmonic’s Very Young People’s Concerts who has expanded the program’s reach Now in its fourth year, the League’s Ford Musician Awards program, made possible by the generous support of Ford Motor Company Fund, honors professional orchestra musicians who employ music for the benefit of the great community. The musicians are selected by a panel of peer professionals through a competitive nomination process to receive the awards, which include a $2,500 grant to each musician, as well as an additional $2,500 grant to the musician’s home orchestra to support professional development focused on community service and engagement for musicians. The five musicians will discuss their work at the Musicians Transforming Communities session at the League Conference on June 4 at 9 a.m., and will receive their awards at the Conference Luncheon on June 4 at 12:45 p.m. Videos of the musicians and their programs will be posted at https://americanorchestras.org/ after the Conference. League’s Volunteer Council Supports Orchestra Volunteers Across the U.S. From coast to coast, associations of volunteers work tirelessly to raise money and offer other forms of support to their local orchestras. Whether they are called a league, a guild, “the friends of,” or another name, these groups help advance orches-
The Volunteer Council gathered at the League of American Orchestras office in March of 2019. Front row, left to right: Tresa A. Radermacher, Northwest Indiana Symphony, IN; Terry Ann White, Amarillo Symphony, TX; Tiffany Ammerman, Marshall Symphony, TX; Becky Odland, Minnesota Orchestra, MN; Linda Stevens, Kansas City Symphony, MO. Back row, left to right: Derek Weagle, League of American Orchestras, NY; Beth Wise, Huntsville Symphony Orchestra, AL; Sheri Gill, Los Angeles Philharmonic, CA; Bruce Colquhoun, Spokane Symphony, WA; Sandy Feldman, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, MD; Camille Williams, Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, AR; Ginny Lundquist, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, MI; Laurie Skjerseth, Quad City Symphony, IA; Sharon Hatchett, Chicago Sinfonietta, IL; Janet Cabot, Madison Symphony, WI; Cindy Kidwell, East Tyler Symphony Orchestra, TX.
tral music in their communities. Made up of representative volunteer leaders from orchestras of all budget sizes, the Volunteer Council of the League of American Orchestras sustains and strengthens volunteer groups across the U.S. by offering national educational and networking opportunities. These include but are not limited to the Volunteer Notes newsletter; the Volunteer Project Database; and programming at the Leagueâ€™s National Conference. The Volunteer Council is a vital resource for the League, providing critical knowledge and tools for cultivating modern and thriving volunteer support. Learn more about the Volunteer Council at https://www.americanorchestras.org/volcouncil. The League Will Be Moving! To strengthen its services to members, the League of American Orchestras is
launched with a lead gift of $400,000 from League Emeritus Director Bruce Clinton of The Clinton Family Fund. The League has a staff of 29, with two government relations personnel in Washington, D.C. It has been at its current location since 1999. As the date of the move draws closer, the League will disseminate change-ofaddress notices. The phone number for the League, 212 262-5161, and email addresses will remain the same, including firstname.lastname@example.org. The Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra’s March 2019 performances of composer Joel Thompson’s Seven Last Words of the Unarmed, a meditation on the lives of black men who were shot by police, drew wide media attention. In March, League of American Orchestras President and CEO Jesse Rosen attended a performance and met with the creative team. From left: Tallahassee Symphony Music Director Darko Butorac, composer Joel Thompson, Rosen, and Tallahassee Symphony CEO Amanda Stringer. See story on page 34 for more on Seven Last Words of the Unarmed.
moving its office this fall to 520 Eighth Avenue, between 36th and 37th streets in New York’s Garment District. The move will allow the League to benefit from a contemporary workspace that promotes collaboration among staff and improved outreach to members through up-to-date videoconferencing and digital learning capabilities. Additionally, with rents steadily increasing at the League’s current location at 33 West 60th Street in the Columbus Circle neighborhood, the move will substantially reduce occupancy costs. “We can better serve orchestras by lowering our
overhead costs and greatly enhancing our communications with members and offering digital learning opportunities,” says League President and CEO Jesse Rosen. “We are very excited by the possibilities offered with this change of address.” The establishment of a new national headquarters is the cornerstone of a major $1.8 million investment in member service including a new website, digital learning capacity, and an information technology ecosystem. A major fundraising campaign is underway with $1 million committed to date. The campaign was
Designer’s rendering of planned interior of new League of American Orchestras offices.
League Webinar Explores Wallace’s Audience-Building Resources More than 100 professionals from orchestras, opera companies, chamber ensembles, presenters, theaters, and dance troupes tuned in to the League’s April 23 webinar, Where to Start in Building Audiences: Unpacking the Many Resources from The Wallace Foundation. The live webinar explored the studies, articles, videos, and other resources that are available free of charge from the Wallace Foundation’s Building Audiences for Sustainability program, which develops insights into how arts groups in multiple genres can achieve and sustain audience gains. Webinar participants discovered which Wallace materials may be best suited for discussion in their own organizations and gained an overview of the audience-building work arts groups have done—and the lessons they’ve learned. The webinar was hosted by John-Morgan Bush, director of Learning and Leadership Programs at the League, and Robert Sandla, editor in chief of Symphony magazine at the League. Featured speakers were Krista Bradley, director of programs and resources, Association of Performing Arts Professionals; Nichole L. Knight, director of Operations, Chamber Music America; and Johanna Tschebull, communications specialist, Dance USA. Visit the Building Arts Audiences section at americanorchestras.org to watch the webinar for free and to take advantage of audience-building resources from the Wallace Foundation.
Everyone agrees that orchestra boards of directors should represent the rich diversity of the communities they serve. But most orchestra boards remain overwhelmingly white. In the last few years, North Carolina’s Charlotte Symphony has aimed for—and achieved—a sharp increase in board diversity. League President and CEO Jesse Rosen interviews the president and a board member of the Charlotte Symphony to learn how they did it.
Toward Genuine Board Diversity
Jesse Rosen, President and CEO, League of American Orchestras
JESSE ROSEN: The boards of American orchestras are predominantly white—92 percent white, in fact. You have achieved a very substantial proportion of nonwhite board members in Charlotte, about 52 percent. What was the impetus for achieving that degree of diversity on your board? MARY DEISSLER: When I arrived we were a typical symphony board, with some diversity but roughly 75 percent white—predominantly older affluent white individuals from one area of town. Two months after I arrived at the Charlotte Symphony in June 2016, the protests erupted after the fatal police shooting of an African American man. It makes you realize that Charlotte is a very segregated town. To demonstrate the value and impact the symphony might have in the wider community, I’ve always believed that you start at the top with your leadership. If we didn’t have voices around the table who are able to reflect the community and their views, we would never change. So I and my great VP of development, Michelle Hamilton, set out to deliberately broaden the board in a number of areas. Raquel Lynch was one of the first people who very kindly, at a time when we were still figuring out our way, agreed to join forces with us, and help lead that charge. ROSEN: Raquel, you were not on the
board at that point. Were you recruited? RAQUEL LYNCH: Correct. The reason I joined—and I am not a typical classical music lover, I am not someone who typically they would have recruited— is because I believe what Mary and what Michelle were telling me, which was that they understood the power of music, and they also recognized the need of the community. That convinced me that this was important. I am really interested in system change, and I come from a social justice lens. I think music should be democrati-
“We had to have different voices around the table or we could not have a chance of figuring out how to connect deeper into the community.” cally accessible to everyone in the community and not something that is for those few who can afford it. I come from Venezuela, where El Sistema proved to the world that music could change the lives of children, in the poorest neighborhoods and countries. This is related to the work that I do daily. At that time, I was working for a nonprofit, where I met Michelle, in which we were helping people avoid homelessness. We were serving those who were the working poor, or those who were about to be evicted.
So to me, it was attractive to partner with people in the arts who understand poverty and also understand the power of art in the lives of people. ROSEN: What were the conversations like with the rest of the board? Did you bring this new direction up in the nominating committee or your governance committee? And did people say, yes, let’s go for it? DEISSLER: We conducted a skills audit of the board when I arrived, and discovered we had a few holes, largely in community representation. The board governance committee allowed me to run with the idea of broadening our base, but I wouldn’t say there was a ringing endorsement initially. Some board members believed it was the right thing to do; other board members are focused on producing the best Mahler performance possible from our fine orchestra. We collectively need to understand that this is part of the future. We are a minority-majority city. If we can’t figure out a way to be relevant to a wider base of the citizenship, the CSO won’t have the support it needs to be strong and resilient into the future. LYNCH: This journey toward inclusion has just started. If we had been working on it for ten years, this would be a very different conversation. But for the past symphony
we can impact the orchestra, as much as we also happen to be Chinese Americans, Venezuelan Americans, young, not so young, or where we live in this community. That is important as you recruit—that there is also a value-add to the board. ROSEN: Did you set out with the goal of 50 percent? Or did that kind of happen? DEISSLER: We didn’t have a target. I knew we had to have different voices around that table or we could not possibly have a chance of figuring out how to connect deeper into the community. ROSEN: Often in board conversations about this topic, I hear people say, “we just don’t know anybody,” meaning that people get stumped when trying to know and engage with people outside their usual circles. What did you do that enabled you to identify candidates and eventual new board members? DEISSLER: I have a great partner in Michelle Hamilton, who spent years in the social service sector. She knew people in the community, including Raquel. Jeff Lee, a Chinese American board member, knew Jalal John Azar, who immigrated from Aleppo when he was ten years old. He loves classical music, so he came on the board. It is almost like a domino effect. When you are serious and intentional about it, it is not all that hard. LYNCH: You have to go beyond your usual circle when thinking of board leadership. Consider who might be in your network you have not thought of who may work with you, or who you see at events. Be willing to say hi and get to know each other. That is how Mary and I got to know each other. I could have made assumptions about Mary solely based on her role with the symphony, but getting to know her, I understood her previous work on poverty internationally, and that shifted my mindset about who she was as a leader. This process is not only from whites dismantling assumptions about people of color or vice-versa; you also have to address the board environment—would other groups feel welcome in an environment that traditionally has been structured by one group—white? Both of those
Mary Deissler is president and CEO of the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra in North Carolina. Previously she worked at Artis— Naples in Florida, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Boston’s Handel & Haydn Society.
are important to address as you start an inclusion strategy. ROSEN: The way that Mary presented herself was an important part of your own calculation about wanting to be part of the Charlotte Symphony board? LYNCH: Yes. I like to be associated with organizations that are willing to understand who they are and transform themselves. That is at the core of how good leaders lead extraordinary organizations. I see that in Mary. She is willing to
two years, the relevance of this conversation is in our face in Charlotte, so it’s not something we could avoid, given the protests and that we are in the national news. That has propelled us into action, not just conversation. When I hear about the conversations Mary is having about race and who should be represented, I think of her courage to bring them up as a white woman. I wonder how much more the board could be doing to support her. She shouldn’t be doing that alone. ROSEN: Charlotte has very substantial African American and Hispanic populations. Were you recruiting for the board for race and ethnicity? Was that something that you articulated clearly? Did you consider age, or other types of diversity? Did you set goals? DEISSLER: All of the above. We needed younger people around the table. The average age of symphony boards is upward of 60. We now have two members in their early thirties on the board. That was very important. They are both young people of color. It is also important to have different geographic representation—not everybody from wealthy South Charlotte. When you are recruiting board members, not everybody is going to be interested, so you look at where you can find pockets of interest. Raquel was wonderful because she was interested in the puzzle. As she said, being from Venezuela, a fan of the El Sistema program, she understood what we were trying to do with our Project Harmony. Then we found another partner, an older Chinese American gentleman who is a lawyer. Once you have a couple of people it’s not that hard to recruit others. The first people are really brave. Over about eighteen months we were able to place six new members on the board. LYNCH: Sometimes when people recruit, they only think about the makeup of the individual, to have optical representation. What I respect from Mary and Michelle is that this is not a tokenism strategy. They recognized us by what we can contribute, they understand us as people and our distinct skills, understanding
Charlotte Symphony Orchestra board member Raquel Lynch is the chief program officer at Goodwill in Charlotte, where she leads workforce programs and talent development efforts. She is a system leader focused on the development and implementation of social sector solutions.
go where it is uncomfortable to transform the organization forward. The world is thinking about transformation, so how do we become part of that transformation? In my view, you have to be vulnerable, invite diverse voices, and think of future generations. ROSEN: In terms of board culture, have you had to learn or do things differently because it is not a homogenous group? DEISSLER: I always struggle with getting board members to actively engage at meetings. Board meetings are not always a welcoming environment to ask a lot of questions and get to know each other and feel comfortable. So we have tried to
break down into smaller groups around some key questions. LYNCH: I want to go back to the earlier conversation about feeling welcome in different environments as a person of color, and who we are in a community. These smaller groups allow us to have more in-depth conversations. Now I know two board members well. I opened up about who I am as an individual and how I see myself on the board, and they opened up as well. Another thing that I liked happened at the onboarding session for new board members. So many of us were starting at the same time, and at face value, you would have seen a room full of men, and from my point of view, a majority of men from corporate America. But after that session, we all had to say a little bit about each other, and we learned that half of us had some relationship with immigration, whether as the children of immigrants or as immigrants ourselves. We didn’t know each other before that. At that moment, we are experiencing the culture that we want to create.
“It is essential to recognize this not only about representation of diversity; it is the culture that allows for diversity to thrive.” Today, the narrative I use to talk about my role with the symphony includes talking about Project Harmony, sharing how we go to schools and help children have access to classical music and have a relationship with an instrument. I have invited immigrant friends to a Charlotte Symphony concert, and having a musician from Spain who had been to our respective countries to play and spoke with us at the end of the concert, was an incredible opportunity for my friends to think differently about the Charlotte Symphony orchestra. Mary has been strategic in bringing composers of color. The orchestra partnered with a composer of color, Nkeiru Okoye, to celebrate the 250th anniver-
sary of Charlotte, and there was a specific song that she rearranged. I remember the audience going crazy for it, and the Latino and international people who were there recognized it. They felt connected and welcome. DEISSLER: All orchestras do education programs in the community, but we have exponentially increased our work in the community in This chart, from Racial/Ethnic and Gender Diversity in the Orchestra the last three years. Field, a 2016 report by the League of American Orchestras, documents I have a presentaracial and ethnic diversity among orchestra board members from 2010 tion that focuses on to 2014. The League began collecting this data in 2010. Since then, the our commitment to percentage of African American, Latino/Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, access, inclusiveness, American Indian/Alaskan Native, and other non-white board members has hovered at just under 8%, including 3-4% African American and and diversity. I talk 1-2% Hispanic/Latino representation. about this aspect of the CSO with public DEISSLER: We don’t have a minimum officials, funders who would have never gift. We used to. But we realized if we looked at us, and community members. truly want voices from the community, we Most of them say, “I had absolutely no need to be flexible. What we say is that idea that the symphony did this kind of we would like the symphony to be one of work.” We’re trying to figure out how your top three philanthropic endeavors, we can be better at getting the message and that you will make a gift to us every out—that while we do great Mahler year, and it will be a stretch gift for you. One’s on the mainstage, we also deWe have a gift range of a few hundred liver wonderful experiences in a number dollars up to $100,000. We ask each of different communities where you person to give what is a significant and wouldn’t expect to see the Charlotte personally important gift, but by setting Symphony. It is starting to change, but minimums you are excluding a swath of we have a long way to go. the population. The exclusion is not just ROSEN: Often when people talk about ethnically. You are excluding younger boards and diversity, you hear things like, people who couldn’t give, say, at the “how are we still going to get people who $25,000 level. We need to find resources meet our required level of support, our elsewhere. But we will be so much richer minimum gift?” When people ask that for those voices around the table, that it is question there is an underlying assumpabsolutely worth that tradeoff. tion—which we all would agree is false— ROSEN: What would you say you that when you recruit for a diverse board, have learned, and what would you want to somehow people who aren’t white don’t pass on to orchestras that want to achieve have money. Have you encountered this greater board diversity? question? Do you have a minimum gift, LYNCH: We have more to learn. As and has that been revisited as you have a person who comes from other types of embarked on this effort to diversify the boards, I had to listen patiently and unboard? symphony
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derstand what board members who have passion for the symphony were coming from as they passionately expressed adherence to the classics. To appreciate their love for the music—you may have people who are particularly all about the music, or people who were impacted by that music as a child. Understanding that will help us have a better conversation as to why we make decisions at the board level. It is essential to recognize this not only about representation of diversity; it
is the culture that allows for diversity to thrive. You may start by bringing in board members from different backgrounds and ages and genders. But the most important thing that any board could do is understand their own culture, to know where you may need to make adjustments to have a welcoming and thriving culture. DEISSLER: You have to be open. You have to listen. As orchestras, as a field, we know how to put on great big concerts and produce exceptional music. We’re not
really that good at listening to voices from different communities. We have to be humble. That is a hard thing. Our field is still predominantly white. I am a white woman, I have all of the privilege that comes with that. I am still trying to learn. So you have to be humble and you have to be willing to open yourself up. You have to be intentional about change, and focused on it for the long haul. LYNCH: I am excited and proud to be part of an organization that allows us to go through this change, and to impact the lives of people who I would never imagine an orchestra could impact. Whether that is someone who is experiencing Alzheimer’s and music brings them back to the present, or a child in a school where that child is holding a violin which no one ever imagined they could play—and play the music that is relevant to their culture. As well to attract an audience who wants to have a live musical experience. All of those things are equally important to me. Music connects us all.
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Digital Update Remember CDs? In the last ten years, the once ubiquitous discs were overtaken by digital downloads. And in the last few years, downloads have given way to streaming. How to keep up? Here’s a look at developments in how consumers listen to recorded music, with insights into the technologies and recent legislation that will affect how orchestras record and disseminate their music. By Michael Bronson and Joe Kluger
n 2011, we wrote an article for Symphony magazine outlining ways in which orchestras could take advantage of digital technology innovations to bring their music to more people—and bring more people to their music. For orchestras to maximize the benefits of these technological advancements, we recommended that they: • Identify strategies to use technology to distribute their recorded music that support clearly defined goals and objectives; • Make electronic media strategies a core part of their mission and budget; and • Take the initiative to make electronic media projects happen, rather than reacting to the initiatives of others. While these key ingredients for success are still valid today, there have been dramatic changes in the last few years in the ways that consumers use technology to listen to music. Those changes are having a profound impact on the digital strategies that orchestras use: • According to data collected by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), there have been seismic shifts in the proportion of U.S. recorded-music revenues generated by various recording formats (see chart): ◊ CDs, which generated $12.9 billion
in 2001 (94% of the total), and had dropped to $3.1 billion in 2011 (43.5% of the total), fell to $700 million (7% of the total) in 2018; ◊ Downloads, which generated $2.6 billion in 2011 (36.6% of the total), fell to $990 million (10.1% of the total) in 2018; and ◊ Streaming, which, in its infancy in 2011 generated $654 million (9.2% of the total), rose to $7.4 billion (75% of the total) in 2018 and now dominates the industry.
Dramatic changes in the last few years in the ways that consumers use technology to listen to music are having a profound impact on the digital strategies that orchestras use.
• PBS now broadcasts only a handful
of orchestral programs nationally each year, many of which—including the pioneering Live from Lincoln Center series—feature orchestras accompanying pop artists; Commercial classical music stations have virtually disappeared from the radio dial, although the audiences for non-commercial, public radio stations (which mostly feature talk shows and
• • •
news) have remained steady; There were more than 3.5 billion Facebook Live broadcasts in the first two years after the technology’s 2016 launch; 1.9 billion logged-in users visit YouTube every month; and Up to 70% of web traffic happens on a mobile device.
Several orchestras have adapted their digital distribution strategies in light of these industry trends: • The Detroit Symphony Orchestra launched its Live from Orchestra Hall webcast series in 2011, making it the first—and so far only—U.S. orchestra to distribute audio-visual recordings of all of its programs annually; • Since 2016, as a result of PBS’s diminishing presentation of classical music, the New York Philharmonic has broadcast four of its concerts on Facebook Live and distributes many concert excerpts and behind-thescenes videos on a wide range of digital and social media platforms; • The low cost of Facebook Live and other streaming platforms, plus the availability of inexpensive but sophisticated technology, has enabled smaller orchestras, among them the Austin Symphony Orchestra, California Symphony, Charleston Symphony Orchestra, and St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, as well as conservatories and music schools, to live-stream some concerts and events; • Several orchestras—including the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the San Francisco Symphony—have been releasing audio recordings on in-house labels, outsourcing distribution of physical CDs and downloads, as well as making the recordings available on Spotify, Apple Music, and other audio streaming platforms; and • Dozens of U.S. orchestras continue to broadcast many of their concerts on local radio stations, all of which routinely simultaneously stream their content on their websites, enabling orchestras symphony
of all budget sizes in every corner of the country to bring their music to worldwide audiences. As orchestras develop their digital music distribution strategies, they should also be aware of several recent and pending relevant legislative policy changes: • The Music Modernization Act (MMA) was signed into law in late 2018 to modernize copyright law relating to audio recordings, arising from new forms of technology like digital streaming. The MMA is a consolidation of three separate bills: ◊ Title I - Music Modernization Act: Creates a new nonprofit entity to collect and distribute compulsory digital mechanical license royalties on behalf of composers and music publishers, and revamps the process by which copyright royalty judges resolve disagreements over royalty rates; ◊ Title II – “CLASSICS” Act: Cre-
ates a U.S. copyright for pre-1972 sound recordings, which existed previously only in some states (“CLASSICS” stands for Compensating Legacy Artists for their Songs, Service, and Important Contributions to Society); and ◊ Title III – Allocation for Music Producers (AMP) Act: Requires SoundExchange (the agency designated by U.S. copyright law to collect non-interactive digital royalties from sound recordings) to distribute a portion of royalties due to featured artists to a producer, mixer, or sound engineer who was part of the creative process that created the sound recording. One proposed component of the MMA that was not included in the final bill, due to pressure on Congress from radio broadcasters, would have created a U.S. copyright for the public performance of sound recordings on analog, terrestrial radio stations. The
intent of the proposed legislation was to fill a gap in U.S. copyright law, which provides royalties to composers and publishers when their music is played on radio stations, but not to the performers and copyright holders of sound recordings. It is unclear whether attitudes in Congress will change enough to permit this change in copyright law, which would benefit orchestras that make audio recordings. ASCAP and BMI, which collect royalties on behalf of music composers and publishers from live, analog, and digital performances, have been governed since 1941 by Department of Justice (DOJ) “Consent Decrees” to reduce anticompetitive tendencies in the publishing sector. Although the MMA requires the DOJ to consult Congress before making any changes to the Consent Decrees, Makan Delrahim, assistant attorney general for the Antitrust Division of the DOJ, has asked publicly whether Consent Decrees are
A chart from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) documents the shifts in the proportion of U.S. recorded-music revenues generated by various recording formats over time.
“still relevant in marketplace.” DOJ’s options for the ASCAP and BMI Consent Decrees include: ◊ Keep them as is, as they may not be perfect, but are functioning effectively for licensors and licensees; ◊ Modify them, so that they are modernized to reflect a rapidly changing digital world; or ◊ Eliminate them, as they do more harm than good, based on the premise that markets should be left to operate freely. Since orchestras rely, directly or indirectly, on ASCAP and BMI blanket license agreements for the performance of music on radio, television, and the internet (as well as live in concert), they could be negatively affected by the elimination of Consent Decrees that balance the bargaining power between the licensors and licensees of copyrighted music.
While the primary mission of a symphony orchestra should continue to be performing great music live for people in a communal setting, we believe that technology should play a central, secondary role for every orchestra, as a means of expanding the audience beyond those who can be physically present to experience the
excitement of the live performance. Realizing this objective and other institutional benefits will come only to those orchestras that develop digital distribution strategies carefully and proactively, and in consideration of the accelerating pace of change in technology and consumer behavior.
JOE KLUGER is a principal of WolfBrown, with over 30 years of experience as a nonprofit executive and consultant in strategic planning, human capital strategies, organizational collaborations, and problem solving for museums, theaters, performing arts centers, opera companies, orchestras, and arts education institutions. MICHAEL BRONSON has over 40 years of experience as an arts administrator, producer of television and radio programs, and arts management consultant to opera companies and orchestras in labor relations and electronic media projects. Bronson and Kluger are recognized experts in the use of technology to accomplish strategic objectives in the arts and are consultants in this area to the League of American Orchestras and OPERA America and their members. Find more information on the League’s Electronic Media Services at https://www.americanorchestras.org/knowledge-research-innovation/electronic-media.html.
H I S TO RY I N T H E M A K I N G
PRESENTS A STUNNING NEW CONCERTO BY CELEBRATED AMERICAN COMPOSER
C H R I S T O P H E R T H E O FA N I D I S : DRUM CIRCLES FOR THE PERCUSSION COLLECTIVE AND ORCHESTRA
“...a phenomenally exciting world premiere performance of Drum Circles...” James Bash, Northwest Reverb March 2019, Carlos Kalmar with The Oregon Symphony
Commissioning consortium: The Oregon Symphony, The Aspen Music Festival and School, The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, The Curtis Institute of Music, The Colorado Symphony, The Hartford Symphony Orchestra. Designed by kjellissey.com
The March 2019 world premiere of Daniel Bernard Roumain’s The Just and the Blind at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall explored fatherhood, race, and the justice system through text, movement, and music. In photo (left to right), spoken-word artist Marc Bamuthi Joseph, dancer/ choreographer Drew Dollaz, and Roumain (with violin).
Music and Social Justice
by James Chute
A recent blossoming of orchestral works is opening conversations about today’s most pressing concerns. Orchestras and music institutions are creating an unprecedented number of programs whose social impact goes well beyond the music itself. symphony
“I dream that, in some way, listening inspires change: examination of biases, commitment to justice and equity, and dialogue with those marginalized,” says composer Joel Thompson. The Tallahassee Symphony’s March 31 “Ode to Understanding” concert, which paired Seven Last Words of the Unarmed with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, did not expect to resolve the larger issue of police shootings of unarmed black men, but it did expect to prompt a discussion, which started months before the performance. “I’m hoping people will see the symphony as trying to build bridges between different members of our community,” says Stringer, who engaged the Atlanta-based Morehouse College Glee Club and the Tallahassee-based Florida A&M Concert Choir to perform in the concert. “I’m hoping people see us as doing things that are innovative and speak to our times.” She emphasized the importance of including all perspectives, including being “sensitive to law enforcement that every single day americanorchestras.org
In Joel Thompson’s Seven Last Words of the Unarmed, performed in March by the Tallahassee Symphony, each of the seven movements represents the last words of seven unarmed black men who were shot by the police:
“Why do you have your guns out?” “What are you following me for?” “Mom, I’m going to college.” “I don’t have a gun. Stop shooting.” “You shot me! You shot me!” “It’s not real.” “I can’t breathe.”
– Kenneth Chamberlain, 66 – Trayvon Martin, 16 – Amadou Diallo, 23 – Michael Brown, 18 – Oscar Grant, 22 – John Crawford, 22 – Eric Garner, 43
to the president’s 2017 travel ban with protects us and insures our safety. I’m hop“Music Beyond Borders: Voices from the ing that the community sees it as a way Seven,” a concert of music by composers of putting themselves in another person’s from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, shoes.” Leading up to the concert, the orSyria and Yemen, the seven countries tarchestra planned multiple meetings and sogeted by the executive order. In El Paso, cial events intended to open up a commuTexas, young musicians banded together nity dialogue, such as a discussion during shortly after the 2017 travel ban with the intermission led by Leon County Sheriff “The Bridge,” joint concerts by the El Paso Walter McNeil, who spoke with ThompYouth Symphony and Mexico’s Esperanza son and Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra Azteca Youth Orchestra that attracted board members Byron Greene and Patrick more than a thousand people at venues in Slevin. each country. In Columbus, Ohio, musiIn the cacophony of shrill, divisive voiccians, many of them students, gathered at es currently comprising our civic conversathe statehouse two months after the 2018 tion, orchestras are increasingly providing a space for community members to consider this country’s most pressing social concerns, whether guns and violence, immigration, racism, or the criminal justice system. In the process, institutions and musicians are connecting with people who might dismiss classical music as irrelevant. Deborah Borda, president and CEO of the New York Philharmonic, says that “in our very unique time” orchestras “need to consider themselves in relationship to their communities and in relationship to certain larger questions.” In 2019, composer Du Yun (right) and filmmaker From coast to coast, orchestras Khaled Jarrar created Where We Lost Our Shadows, are not sitting on the sidelines. In a multimedia work that included footage of a Syrian North Carolina, the Charlotte Sym- family migrating across the Aegean Sea. phony responded to violent protests Parkland, Florida shootings to perform that rocked the city in September 2016 Frank Ticheli’s An American Elegy (writwith “One Charlotte: A Performance for ten in 2008 in response to the Columbine Peace.” The Seattle Symphony reacted
Viktor Erik Emanuel
hen Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra CEO Mandy Stringer first heard Joel Thompson’s Seven Last Words of the Unarmed, she burst into tears. Premiered in its orchestral version in 2017 by the Sphinx Symphony and University of Michigan Men’s Glee Club at Detroit’s Orchestra Hall, Thompson’s work was inspired by Haydn’s Seven Last Words of Christ and images by artist Shirin Barghi that quote seven unarmed AfricanAmerican men who were shot by police. “I went on You Tube, started listening to it, and I’m bawling my eyes out,” says Stringer. Although there have been no comparable police shootings in Tallahassee, guns, violence, race, and public safety are overriding issues in a community that witnessed 50 shootings in 2018. The city made national news late last year when a gunman walked into a Tallahassee yoga studio and shot six people, killing two of them.
education officer and director of Carnseparate the two countries, and egie’s Weill Music Institute. “It gives an having the music transcend orchestra the chance to meet new people, those divisions, was a powerful to meet new partners, to ask lots of quesexperience with cultural and potions, to build an understanding of what litical ramifications impossible the needs are in the community, what the to ignore. resources are, what the assets are, and what It’s not just orchestras pushmight be able to be done collaboratively.” ing the boundaries, but the classical music field more broadly. Institutions such as Carnegie Compassion and Cooperation Hall and the Curtis Institute of Some efforts are limited to a single conIn 2016, North Carolina’s Charlotte Symphony launched Music are also getting involved. cert, like the San Diego Symphony’s in“Listen Up, Charlotte!” community conversations, following With its robust Community clusion of bass-baritone Davóne Tines’s unrest in the city after the police shooting of Keith Lamont Artist Fellowship program and “Were You There” (a “musical mediation” Scott. Above, community members during a “Listen Up” gathering in September 2017. artist-citizen curriculum, Curtis on lives lost due to racial injustice) during students are placed in existing its January 2019 “Hearing the Future” fespartnerships between Curtis and institutival. Others are larger-scale and more amshootings). They performed it 26 times, tions such as schools, hospitals, prisons, bitious, such as the Los Angeles Chamonce for each school shooting beginning and rehabilitation centers. Carnegie Hall ber Orchestra’s January 2017 “Lift Every with the Columbine, Colorado shootnow has an entire department called Social Voice and Sing” festival, the culmination ings in 1999. On January 27, 2018, 58 Impact Programs, which covers a range of of Jeffrey Kahane’s 20-year tenure as the percussionists and two piccolo players on initiatives for incarcerated people, students, orchestra’s music director. The festival was both sides of the U.S./Mexico border perpregnant women and new mothers, and subtitled “a three-week, city-wide series of formed John Luther Adams’s “Inuksuit— others. Arising out that department was a concerts, conversations and community A Border-Crossing Presentation at the InMarch 2019 Create Justice forum, which engagement exploring themes of tolerternational Friendship Park” as part of the kicked off with the world premiere of The ance, compassion, cooperation, creativity San Diego Symphony’s monthlong “It’s and the power of music.” About Time” series, curated “Life Every Voice” included by Steven Schick. a performance of Lost in the Whether it is institutions Stars, Kurt Weill’s musical engaging in social-justice about South African apartinitiatives (as in “One Charheid, and a symposium called lotte”) or composers explor“Championing Civil Rights ing social and political topand Resisting Injustice,” about ics (like Thompson in Seven the careers of civil rights acLast Words of the Unarmed), tivists Rabbi Joachim Prinz the overriding goal is to open and Martin Luther King, Jr. a dialogue, and in the most Kahane began one festival ambitious efforts, to spark performance (which included change. The “Inuksuit—A Bruce Adolphe’s violin conBorder-Crossing Presencerto, “I Will Not Remain tation at the International Silent”) by reading from the Friendship Park” concert United States Constitution. was not intended as a poThat concert took place one litical statement, said Schick, day after the Women’s March the curator and conductor As part of Carnegie Hall’s Musical Connections program, men at Sing Sing in Washington, D.C. of the event, and there was Correctional Facility perform music they created with visiting artists. The Constitution may also no connection between the Just and the Blind, a new work by comhave been on the mind of composer David concert’s setting and President Donald poser, violinist, and pianist Daniel Bernard Lang when he wrote his new opera prisonTrump’s call for a U.S.-Mexico border wall. Roumain and spoken-word artist Marc er of the state. That work will be premiered Rather, “This piece demonstrates that muBamuthi Joseph that explored fatherhood, by the New York Philharmonic in early sic is as alive on the outside of the hall as race, and the justice system through text, June as part of the orchestra’s three-week it is on the inside,” Schick said in the San movement, and music. “Music of Conscience” festival exploring Diego Union-Tribune. But hearing the piece Social engagement work “really needs to how composers have used music to reat Border Field State Park (which incorpobe tailored to the place where you are, and spond to social and political issues of their rates Friendship Park), where the border that’s one of the richest things about it,” times. Inspired by Beethoven’s Fidelio— fence disappears into the Pacific Ocean and says Sarah Johnson, Carnegie Hall’s chief which will also be performed during the where multiple barriers and armed guards
festival and whose hero is a political prisoner—Lang’s opera promises an “exploration of challenging an evil government, putting a fresh lens on the fall of a political tyrant,” a topic that seems especially timely. “Music of Conscience” will also include John Corigliano’s Symphony No. 1, the composer’s “personal response” in 1990 to the AIDS crisis; ancillary activities are planned with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, the International Rescue Committee in New York, and Stonewall 50 Committee. The Philharmonic may have been prescient in programming Julia Wolfe’s new oratorio Fire in my mouth, which deals with immigration and premiered in January. As if anyone needed a reminder of the work’s relevance, the federal government was concluding its longest shutdown in history over the issue of a border wall when Philharmonic was performing the piece. For Philharmonic President and CEO Deborah Borda, programming Fire in my mouth was not only a matter of reaffirming the orchestra’s connection to New York’s immigrant past and present, but also a way to reach new audiences. “One of the ways to do that,” she explained, “is to programmatically underline and actualize these conversations that are happening broadly at this time in society.” Immigration has been the focus of many recent concert programs. In March at Cal Performances, Esa-Pekka Salonen led the London Philharmonia in Peru-born composer Jimmy López’s new Dreamers oratorio, about undocumented immigrants known as “Dreamers,” protected by a federal program known as DACA, the Deferred Action for Childamericanorchestras.org
hood Arrival program. López’s Dreamers explores lives of Bay Area immigrants, and the composer researched the work by interacting with Bay Area and campus immigrant communities. Where We Lost Our Shadows, a brand-new multimedia work with music by Du Yun and film by Khaled Jarrar, also contributes to the immigration conversation. The Aurora Or- In January, the New York Philharmonic premiered Julia Wolfe’s multimedia oratorio Fire in my mouth, with the chestra premiered the piece in orchestra joined by singers from The Crossing ensemble London in January, followed by and Young People’s Chorus of New York City. Wolfe’s piece a U.S. premiere on March 31 by deals with immigration through the history of the 1911 the Peabody Modern Orchestra Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in lower Manhattan. at the Kennedy Center and an an émigré. But she downplays the social April 11 performance by the American justice and political aspects of her eclectic Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. music in favor of what she describes as an Du Yun, who won the 2017 Pulitzer interest in “the human condition.” At the Prize in Music for Angel’s Bone, an opera Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow in March— concerned with human trafficking, was where she had flown to accept a music inspired for Where We Lost Our Shadows award—Yun said, “There are 66 million by Jarrar’s footage of a Syrian family mipeople in displacement worldwide, due to grating across the Aegean Sea. She also wars and losing of homes and countries, incorporates text from the poem “Vehicles and that number is increasing.” in the Dark” by the contemporary Palestinian poet Ghassan Zaqtan; her source material is Sufi devotional music known as Deeper Relationships Qawwali. Immigration is a topic of special, Immigration is a natural concern for claseven personal, importance to the Chinesesical music in the U.S., with its European born composer, as she considers herself roots and the constant influx of musicians
“At best, the symphony orchestra should be a hub for the community it resides in,” says Mary Javian, chair of career studies at the Curtis Institute of Music.
Above, the March 2019 premiere of Hannibal Lokumbe’s oratorio Healing Tones with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Leading up to the performances, composer Lokumbe (wearing cap, to right of Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin, in white jacket) visited community sites including the Broad Street Ministry and the Philadelphia Detention Center.
The Arkansas Symphony’s No Tears Suite premiere “is a real chance for us to connect and build bridges in new ways,” says Arkansas Symphony Orchestra CEO Christina Littlejohn.
based Dream Unfinished Ensemble filled in. Race is a less comfortable issue, given our country’s history of slavery and continuing racial and ethnic inequality. But orchestras are facing that concern as well. For the Tallahassee Symphony’s The Seven Last Words of the Unarmed program, the orchestra engaged with the city’s African American community by setting up pre- and post-concert discussions and a community meal, and inviting singers to join the orchestra for performances of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, performed on the second half of the same program. The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra also incorporated community events for its March 2 premiere of a re-orchestrated (by Rufus Reid) version of Chris Parker and Kelley Hurt’s No Tears Suite, which commemorates the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School more than a half-century ago. With an extensive series of ancillary events—including a panel on social equity moderated by Chris Parker with musicians Rufus Reid and Bobby LaVell, a community conversation about
from every corner of the world. A related issue is border crossings and visas for traveling artists. Recently, not all members of the Netherlands-based Asko/Schoenberg ensemble were able to obtain U.S. visas in time for a January 2019 performance at Brooklyn’s National Sawdust of a piece by Huang Ruo called Resonant Theater: The Sonic Great Wall. Members of the U.S.-
In March, the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra premiered Chris Parker and Kelley Hurt’s No Tears Suite in a new orchestration by Rufus Reid. The work commemorates the 1957 desegregation of the previously all-white Little Rock Central High School. Above: Members of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne division escort students into the school, September 25, 1957.
civil rights, and jazz workshops for high school students—the Arkansas Symphony made sure the piece would prompt reflection and conversation. “This is a real chance for us to connect and build bridges in new
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Richard Lin, Gold Medalist
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when it goes into places like Sing Sing, where there are complex, potentially unsettling power dynamics at play. At first, “We didn’t fully understand the degree to which you need to acknowledge the power dynamics and be aware of all of those things when you are actually doing the work,” says Johnson. “So we started to learn.” Research and evaluation, much of it available on Carnegie Hall’s website, have been vital to Carnegie’s community efforts. For example, the insti- Composer Du Yun and filmmaker Khaled Jarrar’s Where tution discovered to its sur- We Lost Our Shadows is one of several works focusing on prise that the benefits of the contemporary immigration. Above, the Aurora Orchestra’s world premiere at London’s Southbank Centre, January 2019. program at Sing Sing flowed both ways. The program imdifferent experiences, and that includes pacted not just Sing Sing inmates but also people who have never experienced an orCarnegie’s visiting teaching artists and staff chestra. Why is there something lacking in at the correctional facility. Given the recipthem? Maybe the lack is in us.” rocal nature of the experience, Johnson has eliminated the word “outreach” from her and Carnegie’s vocabulary, and is pleading Plan A-Plus for others in the field to do the same. JohnMusic schools are changing with the son says the term “assumes there’s some times, too. It’s no longer a question of lack out there in the world that we’re trychoosing community engagement or ining to help with. And I would say, maybe strumental performance, says Mary Javian, there’s a lack inside here. Maybe we don’t chair of career studies at the Curtis Instihave the benefit of engagement with a retute of Music—and an accomplished doually big, broad, diverse range of people with ble bassist who often subs with the Phila-
ways,” says Arkansas Symphony Orchestra CEO Christina Littlejohn. “We’re hopeful this will be the start of building a deeper relationship with new audiences and new communities.” Engaging with the community is also the intent of the Philadelphia Orchestra’s HEAR initiative, which aims to use music to facilitate “Health, Education, Access and Research,” and encompasses the work of the orchestra’s 2016-19 Music Alive composer-in-residence, Hannibal Lokumbe. Lokumbe’s residency with the Philadelphia Orchestra is part of Music Alive, a national three-year composer-orchestra residency program of the League of American Orchestras and New Music USA. His new piece, Healing Tones, premiered by the orchestra on March 28 at the Kimmel Center, aimed to touch communities experiencing trauma, homelessness, and divisiveness. In the process of composing this “hymn for the city,” Lokumbe visited community sites including the Broad Street Ministry and the Philadelphia Detention Center. The composer added the sounds of a shofar into his composition and asked Audrey Glickman to play it. Glickman was leading morning prayer at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue when the October 2018 mass shootings occurred. Engaging with the homeless and prison populations is a central concern not just for Lokumbe but also at Carnegie Hall. That institution’s Musical Connections program counts men at Sing Sing Correctional Facility among its constituents and collaborators. In the program, men incarcerated at Sing Sing create music with visiting artists. “Some of these men have been participants in the program with us for more than a decade,” says Carnegie Hall’s Johnson. “They talk about what music means in their lives, and how the opportunity to engage in rigorous, sustained music learning has changed them.” Musical Connections is one of an array of community, educational, and social impact programs offered by Carnegie Hall’s Weill Institute, which in its scope, resources (a budget of approximately $12 million), and national and international reach (approximately 600,000 people annually), is a leader in the field. Still, under Johnson and Executive Director Clive Gillinson, Carnegie brings a sense of humility
Terence Blanchard’s Caravan, premiered during the Dallas Symphony’s Soluna Festival in April, tackles racial injustice. In photo, left to right: dancer Kai Rapelyea, bassist Dale Black, drummer Oscar Seaton, and Blanchard (on trumpet).
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best, the symphony orchestra should be a hub for the community it resides in, and its musicians are a collection of artists with a wide degree of ability to engage that community,” Javian says. “Of course you have
market themselves, use social media, assemble a bio, or put together a résumé; it’s about allowing students to learn about collaboration, flexibility, and imagination. The students Javian feels are most successful are able to walk into any space, with any audience, and find a way to engage people with their art, whether they are playing for symphony orchestras or involved in their own community-based projects. “At
delphia Orchestra. She is passionate about the need for musicians to do both. With Curtis’s Community Artist Fellowship program and artist-citizen curriculum, “I’m very careful that I don’t view entrepreneurship or community-based work as something that is your plan B if your plan A didn’t work out. I think it’s plan A-plus,” says Javian. The project-based program at Curtis isn’t about teaching students to
The Dream Unfinished Orchestra performs “Sing Her Name,” a program of music by women and African-American composers, conducted by James Blachly and featuring vocalist Helga Davis, July 2016. The orchestra gives regular concerts on social-justice themes and is the creation of clarinetist Eun Lee.
to select them based on their ability as artists. But so often I see orchestra musicians reaching outside their orchestra to do the project that has that impact that they desire and that keeps them engaged as a musician. I think there should be a way for the orchestra to structure itself to actually embrace those efforts and to use those efforts within the organization.” The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra is one group moving in that direction. For several years, the orchestra has been creating “imperatives,” one of which has been to build a more diverse audience that more closely resembles the people of Arkansas—all the people of Arkansas. So the orchestra was already on the lookout for more community partners and a project that would go beyond its typical group of supporters when the Little Rock-based literary magazine Oxford American suggested they collaborate for a performance of the No Tears Suite. “Little Rock just elected its first AfricanAmerican mayor, Frank Scott, Jr., and he has a message of unity and change,” says the Arkansas Symphony’s Littlejohn. She thought the No Tears project was “the perfect tie-in to our new mayor and his message and what he wants to see happen with Little Rock. Our board is excited, our musicians are excited, everyone is so excited symphony
because it’s time for us to do something different, and it’s important for us to be part of our community. People are thrilled.” Great Expectations
In Tallahassee, it turned out not everyone was initially thrilled about The Seven Last Words of the Unarmed, the piece about shootings of unarmed black men. Although Sheriff Walter McNeil, who is black, participated in a panel discussion, and some of his officers attended in uniform, the white police chief declined an invitation to participate, according to Stringer, the orchestra’s CEO. “I had a blind spot not realizing some people would see this work as an anti-law enforcement effort, and it actually has been pretty controversial,” says Stringer. “That turned into months and months and hundreds of conversations we’re had not only in our board, but with different community stakeholders. We talked to tons of people and finally decided it was the right thing to do.”
“I never want an audience to feel that I’m telling them how they should think or what they should believe,” says Joel Thompson. “This is important to me as a composer who really cares about and writes about social issues.” Some donors were disgruntled, but Stringer was convinced that the music would speak powerfully, and perhaps others would also be moved to tears—or at least moved to consider another perspective. Joel Thompson, Seven Last Words of the Unarmed ’s composer, says, “For some, the concept of my piece is repulsive and yields a violent defensiveness as evidenced by some of the vicious comments and hate mail that some conductors of the work have received. For most, the piece is an opportunity to imagine the grief of Kadiatou Diallo as she heard her son’s last words over the phone, or a chance to reflect upon the cumulative effects of these unjust deaths (and more) upon 12 percent of the U.S. population.” For Thompson, writing the piece was a catharsis, and he’s hopeful it might have the same effect on the audience. “I dream that, americanorchestras.org
in some way, listening inspires change: examination of biases, commitment to justice and equity, and dialogue with those marginalized,” he says. But, he adds, “I never want an audience to feel that I’m telling them how they should think or what they should believe. This is really important to me as a composer who really cares about and writes about social issues. True transformative empathy can never be forced or
manipulated. So, in the end, I yield my expectations to the music itself.” JAMES CHUTE has served as music critic for the Cincinnati Post, Orange County Register, and San Diego Union-Tribune, and is a Pulitzer Prize finalist in criticism for his reviews in the Milwaukee Journal. He has contributed to the New Grove Dictionary of Music, New Grove Dictionary of American Music, and other publications.
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Work in Progress How is the classical music field doing when it comes to women composers? To be sure, there is reason for optimism in the past few years, but what do the composers themselves think? We decided to go straight to the source by asking a small sampling of the many composers active in the field to share their personal perspectives and experiences.
by Jennifer Gersten
hen New York classical music station WQXR hosted a 24-hour marathon of music by more than 60 women composers in celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, 2019, it was welcome news. Still, said the station’s creative director, Clemency BurtonHill, “What I would love is to never hear the phrase ‘woman composer’ ever again. I’d love for us to just talk about composers, but we need to take the steps to get there by making a conscious decision to elevate accomplished composers who happen to be women.” We may not be at that point yet, but there is heightened attention being paid to the problem. And there’s no denying a sharp increase in announcements of upcoming programs featuring music by women composers at orchestras in the U.S. and internationally. Which is why we think it’s a good moment to ask a sampling of today’s composers to share their thoughts about their own experiences, and the context of these changes at orchestras and what they might mean more generally. We asked each composer a few questions:
Do you feel optimistic about the amount of music being programmed at orchestras by women composers, and the pace of change? Why or why not?
What programs or individuals or orchestras have been helpful to you as a composer? Has being a woman composer positively or negatively affected your career so far? Have you had important mentors? Here are their responses.
KATHERINE BALCH I think a lot of orchestras are working really hard to bridge the gender equality gap. It’s attractive for orchestras to program women right now, and it’s low-risk. I only see trends towards greater inclusivity. For example, the Philadelphia Orchestra responded immediately to the criticism it received, intensely and rightly so. I don’t advocate for tokenism. I advocate for the music I love. If the music happens to be by a woman, that’s great! I’m about writing and hearing the best music, and one way to get to know the best music today is to look and listen for voices who have things to say other than the usual suspects. Maybe that takes programmers and curators a little more time and effort, but the reward is bringing art into the world that can offer new perspectives and possibilities to their audiences. Isn’t that what art is supposed to do anyway? When I get asked to recommend music to orchestras and I make a list of composers, I think about what the gender balance is. I also think about who hasn’t yet gotten a chance to write for orchestras, as getting that first step is really important. David Alan Miller, the music director of the Albany Symphony, plus the Minnesota Orchestra composer readings, the American Composers Orchestra’s Underwood and Earshot readings, Young Concert Artists, the California Symphony, every single one of my teachers, and my colleagues. There are people who have helped me that I don’t even know about. That’s how this world keeps itself going—we help each other. VICTORIA BOND There’s such a glaring lack of women and people of color in orchestras around the country. That so much attention has been given to it this year has caused orchestras to really reevaluate the situation, but whether this is just a blip on the screen remains to be seen. Those who lived through women’s liberation remember that this used to be a hot topic, but then it was back to business as usual. There were all these suspicions that americanorchestras.org
women got jobs because they were a token, or they slept with somebody. For my part, I’m very glad that I was able to let negative things roll off my back. My role model has always been Bugs Bunny. He doesn’t take authority that seriously. To people who said you’ll never get into Juilliard, you’ll never be a conductor, I just said, “What’s up, doc?” The teacher who really changed my mind [on going from singing to conducting] was Leonard Slatkin. He was a great teacher, and after him I said, wow—a composer-conductor sounds even better than a composer-singer. So I got switched around. I’m grateful to Juilliard, where I did my master’s and my doctorate; I got the best training I could have gotten anywhere. USC, where I did my undergrad, gave me a great grounding. VALERIE COLEMAN Women composers and their male allies are starting to become more vocal than ever before, and also much more proactive in taking things into their own hands. These people are gaining a voice in how major symphony orchestras handle programming, and some orchestras are becoming really excited about the prospect of commissioning women and people of color. I hate to say that it’s a trend. I think it’s way deeper than that. It’s a recognition that music is being explored by all of these different people, and that those people are going to inform the future of classical music in the world. One of my role models is Tania León, a force of nature who has inspired not only me but so many women composers and composers of color. She’s charged me with the responsibility of recognizing past composers who have paved the way while paying it forward, and making sure that the next generation of composers knows that their success comes from the support of others. She’s really been this sage—kind of a Mr. Miyagi in a way. CHAYA CZERNOWIN We are in the middle of a sea change. It’s an evolution and a revolution, and it’s very important that it continues. Already now there are so many amazing women com-
posers that are impossible to ignore. It will not be possible to hold the dam because the flow of the water is by far too strong. But things will not happen if we are not going to speak about them and make them happen. When, for example, we have a festival dedicated all to women composers’ music, I think in a way that that is counterproductive. I think we need to be accepted as part of mainstream music—we shouldn’t make a parallel women composer genre. There needs to be a normalization. There needs to be a situation where, when Kaija Saariaho comes to have her music played by the Metropolitan Opera, she can talk about her music and not have to answer the 50 percent of questions that get asked pertaining to her being a female composer. She shouldn’t have to pay for her gender by having to talk about it. The LA Philharmonic is really trying to open things up. I went to their Fluxus marathon in November, and I was actually really taken and surprised by the vitality of that scene. They’ve done a lot for progressive causes, not just for women. The same goes for the Seattle Symphony, for which I’ll be writing a piece next year. The New York Philharmonic is also really trying to move things along. MELODY EÖTVÖS There is a big absence of orchestral music by women in global programming by professional orchestras. But we now have everyone watching, and that is largely keeping most organizations accountable for that programming. I feel very optimistic about the pace of change. After my involvement in the Philadelphia Orchestra readings through the American Composers Orchestra last year, I’m feeling more involved in that change and very much look forward to contributing more music to the repertoire. For the first decade I was completely oblivious to the fact that I was a female composer. I was never treated any differently or made to feel that I was missing out on opportunities. When I first received an award for women alone, the Toulmin Foundation commission*, I knew that it
GABRIELA LENA FRANK I am optimistic. Yet, I’m concerned that many women’s initiatives still focus on the voices of white women, and not women of color. Gender and race have a complicated history. When women received the vote in my native country of the U.S., for instance, this right was extended only to white women, separating people of color even more from opportunity. Progress shouldn’t be privileged, and I’d be happy to see orchestras think generously on this point. Fortunately, I have had wonderful composer mentors even though none were women or people of color. This demographic just wasn’t around, and I’m sure this fact was part of the motivation for me to start [the Gabriela Lena Frank Academy of Music], where I offer a readingsto-premieres mentorship and residency program in both chamber and orchestra mediums, partnering with world-class performers and organizations. I’m happy to say that the words of my mentors— primarily [William] Bolcom and [Leslie] Bassett—infuse everything I pass along. David Alan Miller at the Albany Symphony has long been a champion of emerging composers, and he commissioned my first professional symphonic work—which is still frequently performed, twenty years later. Frances Richard, formerly of ASCAP, has long been a fervent champion of composers and she, along with Susan Feder, formerly of G. Schirmer, had a significant impact on moving forward my symphonic life. I’ve also benefited from my symphonic career being stewarded by Katy Tucker, a brilliant former agent at G.
Schirmer, and now currently by the equally brilliant Rachel Sokolow. Currently, I’m thankful to the last three orchestras where I served as composer-in-residence, because I grew enormously from those projects: the Detroit Symphony, the Houston Symphony, and now the Philadelphia Orchestra. I’m very blessed and grateful. VIVIAN FUNG This summer, I will be speaking at a panel at the Association of California Symphony Orchestras Conference about making programming more relevant. I’m also a board member with the American Composers Forum, which is working hard to incorporate DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) more fully into all its endeavors. In December 2018, I wrote “Motherhood and the Creative Process,” an article about my experiences juggling parenthood with composing. Change can be healthy when we include as many different and talented voices as possible at the table and listen to what is possible. I didn’t really have a lot of female mentors. When I was a teenager in Canada, I studied with Violet Archer and then had a few encounters with other female composers. However, what really helped me was meeting musicians who were like-minded. Violinist Kristin Lee was one of my students at Juilliard. I brought along Andrew Cyr, director of Metropolis Ensemble in New York, to one of her concerts, and we were blown away by her playing. I subsequently wrote a violin concerto for her and Metropolis Ensemble that led to a Juno Award, which really set my career in motion. Meeting those musicians was really key. STACY GARROP We are certainly living through an exciting time within the music field, with more and more focus being given to non-traditional composers (women, composers of color, LGBTQ+, and composers of different nationalities). I am cautiously optimistic that we have started a meaningful process of change within orchestral organizations,
was going to give my profile in the American music scene a huge boost, which it did. It led to further opportunities, including the one I now have with Philadelphia. So I’ve only ever experienced the positive in all of this. I haven’t actually had any female mentors yet, but that is luckily getting amended this year as I work with Australian composer Mary Finsterer while writing a piece for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. And I think, without a doubt, that every single workshop, school, and festival has contributed to my knowledge and career as a composer.
but we will need to wait and see if organizations can effectively transform what is happening at this moment into long-term programming strategies. Shulamit Ran was the first and only female composer I studied with throughout my college years. It was a rarity in the 1980s and 1990s to find women serving on composition faculty. Having a female mentor during those years, particularly as Shulamit was in residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Lyric Opera of Chicago during this time, helped me see a future that would hold more and more possibilities for women composers in the field; this vision gave me lots of impetus to keep going on my intended path. Two organizations that have been very beneficial for me and other female composers are the Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Elaine Lebenbom competition for female composers, which gave me my first orchestral commission in 2006, and the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation*, which gave me a commission with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. JENNIFER HIGDON It’s starting to change and I feel hopeful that this change will become permanent. It feels slow, although I can see that some orchestras are making a serious attempt. Some orchestras are better than others— the LA Phil’s upcoming season has a lot of women, as does the Philadelphia Orchestra’s. Oftentimes I’m the only woman on the program in an entire season, which can be discouraging because there are a lot of women composers out there. Audiences notice when half the population isn’t reflected. I received an email from a gradeschool teacher who said her students are depressed because composers are always dead. They learned about me and were super excited. That shows young people that composing is a relevant, living art, and it can be their art too. Joan Tower and Libby Larsen were being recognized when I was coming up, which made me hopeful that I might get something on an orchestra concert. The Philadelphia Orchestra and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra both gave me commissions that helped to develop my voice. symphony
Robert Spano, whom I knew in undergrad, also started putting my work on programs when he was looking to do more American music. ROBIN HOLCOMB I am pleased that composers who are women are at long last getting their works programmed and featured by orchestras. Call me old-fashioned, but I will be very happy when we can get past the “women composers” label and reinvigorate the job description of “composer” to actually include the entire population and equal opportunities to work. Orchestras are stepping up and programming works by a considerably wider pool of composers of all sorts, which is long overdue. Doing right by women feels like a first step in a landscape where many first steps are needed. While I feel that my gender has rarely if ever been a direct hindrance to me professionally, it has, by the same token, rarely felt particularly beneficial. I know that I am fortunate that this has been my experience. The longer, larger history of inequity and inequality is another matter altogether. The American Composers Orchestra and League of American Orchestras continue to be enormously supportive, remarkably so. Both focus not only on extending and expanding professional opportunities but also on building a community of composers. That my first piece for orchestra has led so quickly to two readings by major orchestras and two commissions is crazy. I feel very fortunate. These two organizations have everything to do with that. LAURA KAMINSKY I was the dean of the music conservatory at SUNY Purchase and resigned to become the artistic director of Symphony Space in New York City, but I remained head of the composition department. In the almost fifteen years I’ve been at Purchase, there were from zero to two women at most out of about fifteen to eighteen composers in the program. This year, over 50 percent of the applicants were women. There’s a sense americanorchestras.org
now that they can just write music and that’s okay. I think also as somebody who’s produces a lot of concerts that in the past I was conscious of making them all-women’s, but what’s happens now is that when people program great music it will consist of woman composers. People who have provided me with support and collegiality include composers Tania León and Sheila Silver. I’ve also felt an enormous amount of support from Paul Dunkel—before him, I’d never written for orchestra before. Also, Ursula Oppens, for whom I wrote my piano concerto, and the members of the Cassatt Quartet. You don’t ever do any of this in isolation. JESSIE MONTGOMERY I am noticing that there’s much more awareness of the need for female composers. With all these articles that have come out outing major orchestras for the lack of female composers in their seasons, it seems that there’s been a pretty thoughtful response in some cases. Everyone’s trying to be aware of the environment for the first time and how we can improve the future of orchestral life. There are so many obstacles facing orchestras, and balancing the scale of female and male composers at a time when they’re facing many other challenges is very bold and also visionary. I was the American Composers Orchestra’s Van Lier Fellow in 2011, in which they gave me a small stipend and some staff support to put on my first concert of all of my music. From there, things really started to open up for me. I really feel that that was kind of a shift and a turning point in my outlook as a composer in terms of what I thought was possible. Michael Geller, the ACO’s former executive director, and Derek Bermel, who had just begun his artistic partnership there, were in particular very supportive in figuring out what would be the best thing for me to present. ANDREIA PINTO CORREIA I am delighted that more women have the opportunity to get their pieces performed by orchestras, and I hope this will be even more common in the years to come. When I hear a great work, I hear it inde-
pendently of gender, race, age, or nationality. I was born in Portugal during a dictatorship. Growing up after the revolution, during the transition from fascism to democracy, there was hardly any contemporary music performed. So, when I arrived in the U.S., in my mid-twenties, this was the land of opportunity. I’ve lived through situations that were very uncomfortable—unfortunately, I think this happens to a lot of women composers. My main concern has been always to improve myself both as a composer and a person, and to let my music speak for itself. When I was a student, I was fortunate to have mentors as well as programs that were crucial in molding my craft and in making me a better musician. Among them were composers Bob Brookmeyer, Michael Gandolfi, John Harbison, and Steven Stucky. Some programs were great stepping-stones—the EarShot program, Minnesota Orchestra’s Composer Institute, and the League of American Orchestras—that led to major commissions with the Gulbenkian, Berkeley, São Paulo, and Columbus symphony orchestras, and the American Composers Orchestra, among others. AUGUSTA READ THOMAS I have to confess—I am not a sociologist nor a musicologist nor an ethnomusicologist, and have not made surveys or studies. Rather, I spend every day at my desk writing orchestral music. I’m so engaged in creativity, composing extremely nuanced, clean, intentional scores, which require an enormous amount of time and focus. I devote all my energy to the music itself, which is what music demands and deserves. I’m an extremely positive composer. I have nothing negative to say—it’s just not my way. I’m working 365 days a year, 16 hours a day writing music and significantly supporting other composers with their life’s works—and couldn’t possibly be working harder. I have created a large body of published compositions that are recorded and performed regularly. For ten years I was the composer-in-
residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which is the longest residency a composer has held with the CSO to date. I worked very closely with Daniel Barenboim and Pierre Boulez, symphony musicians and staff, philanthropists, and I was instrumental in creating the MusicNow series, which I programmed, curated, and emceed from the stage for nine years. It was a terrific decade. I’m indebted to the Chicago Symphony for including so much of my music and me in a meaningful, inspired, collaborative, and eloquent manner. ANNA THORVALDSDOTTIR I definitely feel that things are getting better, and I am really hopeful that it will continue to improve. We are already continuously getting more visibility for women composers, and programming of music by women will become more frequent still. We are of course not able to change history, which has been very male-dominated when it comes to celebrating and encouraging composers, so we will probably never be able to even things out with older music. But as we look to more recent history and to the future, I’m optimistic that there will very soon be equal programming of men and women in contemporary orchestral music for orchestra. This may seem rather optimistic, but I sincerely believe that we are heading there. I might mention the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the International Contemporary Ensemble, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Collin Rae [CEO of the record label Sono Luminus]. I could mention many more, but I wouldn’t know where to stop. I want to mention that I am currently composer-in-residence with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, where we have an absolutely fantastic program, Yrkja, geared towards young composers who have recently graduated. They can apply to write a piece for the orchestra under my guidance and have their pieces performed. It’s really encouraging the creation of new orchestral repertoire. JOAN TOWER When I started out—I’m 80 now—all I cared about was whether my piece was strong enough to survive. It took me a
while to see the history, and what a weak history it was. That awareness made me more confident and willing to be an advocate for my peers. Music is always the last art to come along. It’s very stubborn. I’ve been thinking that for a long time. People hold onto dead European males like their treasures. I get that—they are treasures. I’ve even been influenced by one of them all my life: Beethoven, you might of heard of him. What I don’t get is why is there so much resistance to newer music and living composers, who have so much to offer. But things have improved, and living composers—including many outstanding women—are coming forward now. Leonard Slatkin was my biggest champion in the orchestral world. When he asked me to be a composer-in-residence [with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s], I said, I don’t think that’s a good idea—I feel very inadequate. And he said, well, we’re going to help you feel more adequate. That was a risk. He has been like that all his life, actively seeking composers he liked and standing by them. David Alan Miller of the Albany Symphony is like that too. There are others who have been doing it more and more: Esa-Pekka Salonen, Giancarlo Guerrero in Nashville, Marin Alsop, Ludovic Morlot in Seattle, and Jaap van Zweden in New York. MELINDA WAGNER I am optimistic, although I suspect that the practice of commissioning/presenting the music of groups of women will settle down with the passage of time. I think it’s important for programmers to look deeply into the work of all composers before choosing one over the other. The only experience I know is that of being a female, and of being a composer. Who knows what my professional life would have been like had I been born a male? I’d like to think that it doesn’t matter. Certainly it is true that I’ve always been outnumbered, and that has made me pretty tough! I’ve had important mentors for whom I am grateful (Shulamit Ran, Richard
Wernick, Jay Reise). And I am forever indebted to Daniel Barenboim and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for giving me my first big “break,” and for continuing to support my music by commissioning me twice more. I am so very grateful to the New York Philharmonic, not only for this recent commission, but also for giving me the opportunity to compose for Principal Trombone Joseph Alessi and the entire orchestra some years ago. This was among the most thrilling experiences of my life as a composer. CHEN YI I’m optimistic on this subject. Nowadays, there’s so much more freedom and many more voices out there, and more and more women composers are standing up in the field. I belong to many organizations, some of which I work for, that I think are really helping to support women in the long run. I think helping others is all of our responsibility. With the Women’s Philharmonic, I entered data on work by women composers, and I offered that information to organizations that came to ask for recommendations for programming women’s work. This is not just one person’s task— it’s our whole culture’s. Until we bring out many, many voices, we are not there. I’ve had so much support from several major orchestras in the States, including the Cleveland Orchestra, Pacific Symphony, Seattle Symphony, and many university and youth orchestras. I’m also so grateful for Meet the Composer, ASCAP, and JoAnn Falletta, who conducted my first work in the States with the Women’s Philharmonic. (With that group, I wrote my second symphony—and Symphony Magazine reported on it!). We have to work harder for more and more people to be included so that our society’s diversity can be seen. NINA C. YOUNG It appears that there are more orchestral opportunities afforded to composers of my generation than there were to those even a decade older. My peers have had the opportunity symphony
to experiment with the orchestra in a way that was previously off limits to most. But if you look at the demographics, until only very recently these opportunities were awarded to predominantly white male voices. Given our socio-political climate, a conscious effort to diversify is happening across many fields. Institutions are feeling the pressure that is duly awarded, and the orchestra is following suit. The American Composers Orchestra has really helped give me a voice. Ed Yim is just fantastic—he really wants to empower artists. Because of that institution and his efforts, I received a commission for the Philadelphia Orchestra, and I also have a commission for the New York Philharmonic’s Project 19, which I don’t think would have been possible without exposure from this institution. Another individual is my dear childhood friend Tito Muñoz, the director of the Phoenix Symphony. He took a bold risk in the last two seasons and put my work on subscription concerts. This was an incredible opportunity and learning experience, and now he has even taken my orchestra music abroad. Conductor Jeffrey Milarsky has been another strong advocate of my work, and I consider myself very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with him regularly. ELLEN TAAFFE ZWILICH I think the door is opening ever wider, and that’s very good. I have not felt in any way that I was excluded from something because I was female. Nobody ever told me that girls can’t do this. There’s always somebody who’s going to say—you want to be a composer? But for every one of those, there were many others who were very supportive. My feeling is this: I don’t want to be left out of something because I’m female. On the other hand, I don’t want to be included because I’m female. I want it to be about the music. All I want is for the door to be open. My relationships with the soloists I’ve written for have been illuminating to me—I always learn enormous things from them—and I’ve had very good relationships with conductors. I have this idea that the whole world ought to work like chamber music. I listen to you and you listen to americanorchestras.org
me, and together we make something bigger. I’ve also had very nice relationships with universities and conservatories, including the Juilliard School and Florida State University. JENNIFER GERSTEN is a writer and violinist from Queens, New York.
* The League of American Orchestras’ Women Composers Readings and Commissions program is administered with American Composers Orchestra and supported by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation.
Conductors David CHO Music Director, Lubbock Symphony Orchestra
Martin MAJKUT Music Director, Queens Symphony Orchestra (NY)
Rogue Valley Symphony Orchestra (OR)
Charlotte Symphony Orchestra (FL)
Artistic Director & Conductor, Paducah Symphony Orchestra
Conductor Laureate, Wheeling Symphony Orchestra
Music Director, San Luis Obispo Symphony Music Director,
Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra
Music Director Designate,
Celil Refik Kaya Ana Vidovic Fabio Zanon
Native American Flute R. Carlos Nakai
William Chapman-Nyaho John O’Conor Antonio Pompa-Baldi
Western Piedmont Symphony (NC)
Piedmont Wind Symphony (NC)
Oklahoma City Philharmonic
225 E. 36th Street New York, NY 10016 Tel: (212) 213-3430
Courtesy of Bay Area Rainbow Symphony
The Bay Area Rainbow Symphony in performance, led by Music Director Dawn Harms. The San Francisco-based orchestra was founded in 2008.
Come Out and
Representation and inclusion of LGBTQ+ composers, musicians, and audiences is on the rise at U.S. orchestras.
We’re here, we’re queer, and we’re com-
Play by Brin Solomon 48
ing soon to an orchestra near you. While performers and composers who today would fit somewhere under the LGBTQ+ umbrella have been part of classical music for as long as this music has existed, such musicians have recently been gaining levels of acceptance, visibility, and celebration in the U.S. orchestral world that would have been startling even ten years ago. While queerness is far from universally celebrated, there’s no shortage of brilliant figures working to embrace
queer visibility on the orchestral stage. Before diving into the rest of this article, a few quick definitions are probably in order, as the language of queerness is somewhat fluid. Recognizing that the acronym LGBTQ+ (for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer/Questioning, and additional terms) keeps expanding, more and more people are using the reclaimed slur queer as an umbrella term for lives that fall outside cisgender heterosexuality, though it can also function as a specific label for certain individuals. Cisgender, frequently shortened to cis, refers to people who aren’t trans, i.e., people who are the gender everyone assumed they would be when they symphony
Local nonprofit service groups, including Pridelines, a South Florida organization supporting the LGBTQ+ community, were spotlighted at the New World Symphony’s April 2018 Transmuse concert and events. Transmuse was supported in part by a grant from the American Orchestras’ Futures Fund, a program of the League of American Orchestras made possible by funding from the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.
Chrysanthe Tan (to name only three) who are building careers in the classical world while being open about their queer lives. The existence of LGBTQ+ individuals in the classical music field isn’t new in and of itself; what’s new is the explicit prominence of queer identity, however defined. This abundance may seem sudden, but it has deep roots and many causes. The activism of those seeking to destigmatize homosexuality has built a political climate where embracing gays, lesbians, and bisexuals is less and less controversial, though transgender acceptance lags markedly on this front. The existence of online forums and social media For his community project as a Clarinet Fellow at the New World Symphony, Zach Manzi (second from left), worked with local trans groups to produce Transmuse, where trans people could tell their own stories accompanied by music performed by New World Symphony musicians. In photo: Manzi with guests at the April 2018 event.
Courtesy of Bay Area Rainbow Symphony
ner in interviews; the Columbus Symphony Orchestra in Ohio has held an LGBTQ+ career day; the American Composers Orchestra has hired nonbinary musician and writer Aiden Feltkamp as its first director of emerging composers and diversity; the New York–based Luna Bay Area Rainbow Symphony Executive Director Composition Lab Richard Horan and Music Director Dawn Harms gives early training to young female, trans, and nonbinary composers. And this is to were born. Trans people, conversely, aren’t the gender everyone assumed they would While performers and be when they were born. (In this usage, trans includes nonbinary people, who fall composers who fit under outside the Western system of binary genthe LGBTQ+ umbrella have ders; some people prefer to separate out been part of classical music nonbinary identities into a category that is distinct from the cis-trans dichotomy. This for as long as this music has usage, in particular, is very much in flux.) existed, such musicians have The array of initiatives, organizations, recently been gaining levels and individuals tackling LGBTQ+ representation in the classical orchestral scene is of acceptance and visibility at so vibrant that even the most cursory samorchestras that would have pling of groups and figures is breathtaking: been startling even ten years Yannick Nézet-Séguin, who holds two of the most prominent conducting jobs in the ago. U.S. as the music director for the Metrosay nothing of composers and musicians politan Opera and the Philadelphia Orlike inti figgis-vizueta, Alex Temple, and chestra, freely discusses his same-sex part-
“The response from the community was overall very positive,” says Daryn Bauer, community engagement manager at the Florida Orchestra, of the orchestra’s Pride Weekend events in October.
she knows, the only trans orchestral conductor—though she adds, “I would really love to be proven wrong about this!” She believe that visibility is key: “It’s so hard to navigate being trans if you don’t have anyone you can see, and if you search for the words ‘transgender conductor,’ I want people to be able to find me.” This openness can come at a personal cost. “After I started being more vocal,
on board. Other groups, like NYC’s avocational Queer Urban Orchestra (founded in 2009), have had LGBTQ representation at the core of their mission from the beginning and have developed an audience specifically Sara Davis Buechner in a 2017 performance with Canada’s interested in the queer Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. composers and performers they feature. “It’s really a blessing to have the audience we have,” Pianist Sara Davis Buechner Artistic Director Julie Desbordes says, “because they are so enthusiastic about what we do.” Even in ensembles and concerts not built around queerness, growing numbers of artists feel an urge to be open about their identities. Erica Snowden-
Growing numbers of artists feel an urge to be open about their identities. Still, even when they are out, artists may not want to foreground their queerness at all times. and refuse to go back into the closet. Many initiatives for LGBTQ+ visibility are relatively new, like the Florida Orchestra’s Pride Weekend this past October. Featuring the music of Leonard Bernstein with a variety of local LGBTQ+ groups invited to perform and hand out information in the lobby beforehand, it was a decided success. “The response from the community was overall very positive,” says Daryn Bauer, the orchestra’s community engagement manager, and the organization has plans for a similar event in the coming season, this time bringing more LGBTQ health-and-wellness groups
Courtesy of the Florida Orchestra
groups devoted to queer issues has helped many people come to terms with their identity with a speed that would have been impossible in an offline world, and queer people increasingly, though not universally, feel safe and supported being open about their identities in all parts of their lives
In addition to mainstage concerts during the Florida Orchestra’s Pride Weekend last October, community groups including the Tampa Bay Pride Band were invited to perform in the lobby of St. Petersburg’s Mahaffey Theater.
Rodriguez is the principal cellist of the Akron Symphony Orchestra, and she’s recently become more vocal about her queer identity. “If it matters just for one person to see me” as openly queer onstage, Snowden-Rodriguez says, “then I need to be myself, even if it means risking my sense of security.” Alex Enyart, a member of Chicago Sinfonietta’s Project Inclusion Freeman Conducting Fellowship, which is aimed at increasing diversity on the orchestral podium, is, as far as
there were certain people in the orchestra that I felt a change in, in terms of how we related,” Snowden-Rodriguez says, “and that’s something that, as queer people, we unfortunately have to deal with.” Sara Davis Buechner, a multi-award-winning pianist who has been open about being transgender for more than twenty years, alluded to off-color remarks that she’s heard from agents. “Normally, in polite society, people don’t really say things to your face, but every now and again people let their guard symphony
If there are personal challenges to being out yourself, there are also challenges that come from trying to program LGBTQ soloists and composers. You can’t necessarily tell whether someone’s queer just by looking at them, and some people view their sexuality and cis/trans status as private matters that they don’t want to broadcast. Even with the best of intentions, mistaken assumptions sometimes lead to sticky situations. “We had a soloist one time who we thought was gay, but it turned out he wasn’t,” Dawn Harms, the music director of San Fran-
Yannick Nézet-Séguin, music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra (shown here) and the Metropolitan Opera, regularly discusses his same-sex partner in interviews.
cisco’s avocational Bay Area Rainbow Symphony (founded 2008), recalls. She tries to program an LGBTQ+ soloist on every concert, but this time it didn’t work out. “I had to ask him about it and it was very uncomfortable,” Harms says. The Bay Area Rainbow Symphony also once programmed a Brazilian musician who had to stay strictly closeted for fear of violent homophobia in their home country. Desbordes is sensitive to these concerns. “The first thing that the Queer Urban Orchestra is is safe,” she says. “It’s safe for anybody with any form of identity and any form of public expression of that identity.” Even when artists are out, they may not want to foreground their queerness. “It’s
Engaging the LGBTQ+ Community at League’s 2019 Conference At the “Engaging the LGBTQ+ Community” session at the League of American Orchestras’ 2019 National Conference, orchestra professionals and artists discuss events and artistic projects that bring the LGBTQ+ community into focus and welcome their engagement. Examining the successes and challenges of participants’ engagement with the LGBTQ+ community, panelists will lead a conversation on how to respond to the needs of their local communities. Speakers include Daryn Bauer, community engagement manager, the Florida Orchestra; Julie Desbordes, artistic director, Queer Urban Orchestra; Miguel Garcia, marketing and engagement manager, Chicago Sinfonietta; Leo Hurley, composer; Laura Reynolds, vice president of education and community engagement, Seattle Symphony. The “Engaging the LGBTQ+ Community” session takes place on Wednesday, June 5 at the League’s 2019 Conference in Nashville, and is part of the League’s focus on equity, diversity, and inclusion at the Conference. americanorchestras.org
Courtesy of Chicago Sinfonietta
down and you find out what they really think,” she says.
Courtesy of the Florida Orchestra
The Florida Orchestra handed out “pride kazoos” with Florida Orchestra logos as part of its initiatives to connect with community members at the 2017 St. Petersburg Pride celebrations. At the 2018 St. Petersburg Pride, the orchestra distributed flyers about its Pride Weekend events and invited visitors to try musical instruments.
Alex Enyart, a member of Chicago Sinfonietta’s Project Inclusion Freeman Conducting Fellowship, which is aimed at increasing diversity on the orchestral podium. “It’s so hard to navigate being trans if you don’t have anyone you can see,” says Enyart, “and if you search for the words ‘transgender conductor,’ I want people to be able to find me.”
a really personal conversation,” conductor Alex Enyart says, of whether or not to highlight a performer or composer’s LGBTQ+ status. “For a queer soloist, what they want more than anything might be to have a standard orchestral experience without anyone making a big deal about this aspect of who they are.” And indeed, as an orchestral soloist, Buechner has some-
times felt tokenized. The dean of one music school where she once taught would greet her on every occasion by saying how proud he was to have hired a trans pianist. “It was so insulting,” she says. “You’re saying you didn’t hire me because I can play the piano great, or because I’m a fabulous teacher, or because I play chamber music like nobody’s business—you hired me because I look good on your faculty diversity page?” The idea that people are putting per-
sonal identity before artistic quality echoes certain complaints that focusing on issues of underrepresentation bastardizes music by politicizing it. While Harms, Desbordes, and Buechner all point out that there’s plenty of stellar music that’s been excluded from the standard orchestral repertoire—“We live in a world with so much cuisine, why are you always getting a burger and a milkshake?” Buechner quips—no one I spoke to saw politics and music as being at odds. “I’m in a circle where people see art and politics as inseparable,” Zach Manzi says when I asked him about charges of politicizing music by focusing on LGBTQ+ issues. Manzi is a clarinet fellow with the New World Symphony in Miami Beach. Fellows of the New World Symphony develop chamber programs to engage new communities in classical music in new ways, and for his project, Manzi, with the help of local trans groups, organized an evening where trans people could tell their own stories accompanied by music performed by New World Symphony musi-
Courtesy of Akron Symphony Orchestra
Courtesy of Chicago Sinfonietta
Graphic for Chicago Sinfonietta’s 2017 concerts celebrating LGBTQ+ artists and classical music. Conductor Michael Morgan led the orchestra and pianist Sara Davis Buechner, the Allegrezza Singers, and the Musicality choir in works of Bernstein, Rachmaninoff, Barber, Jennifer Higdon, and David Conte.
Erica Snowden-Rodriguez, principal cello of the Akron Symphony Orchestra
cians, followed by a powerful candle-lighting ceremony in honor of those killed by transphobia. Enyart says that she’s gotten to a point where she likewise struggles to disconnect politics from music. “Once you see how meaningful it can be to meld art and politics, it’s hard to want to do it in some other way.” Snowden-Rodriguez is blunter: “Yeah, maybe we are politicizing it, but for me it’s a change to a direction that’s more just.” The push for diversity in orchestral programming extends beyond LGBTQ
or event. “Every city is unique, every community is unique, and every person within those communities is unique,” says the Florida Orchestra’s Daryn Bauer. “Listen to your community.” Zach Manzi emphasizes the need for reciprocity: “When I first started reaching out to the trans community, they said, ‘If you want to do an event “Phenomenal Women,” American Composers Orchestra’s with us, start coming November 2018 concert at Zankel Hall, featured world premieres to our events.’ You can’t by Valerie Coleman (at left in photo) and Alex Temple (center). impose your vision on a Interviewing the composers onstage is ACO President Ed Yim. community, it’s essential to talk to them.” Erica Snowden-RodriJulie Desbordes says, “not just one or two. guez concurs: “Any initiatives to make the We need them all.” orchestral world more diverse need to have people who are part of those groups in on BRIN SOLOMON writes words and music in the conversation, and really leading the various genres and is doing their best to queer conversation.” Those conversations may all of them. Their music journalism has appeared be difficult, but they serve a worthy goal. in VAN, San Francisco Classical Voice, and the “Our flag, the pride flag, is many colors,” National Sawdust Log.
NEW MUSIC FOR AMERICA (A Continuation of Ford Made in America)
Announces: A new commission by Grammy and Pulitzer Prize winning composer
Jennifer Higdon An orchestra suite of music from her opera “Cold Mountain” World Premiere by the Delaware Symphony in fall 2021 Buy-in $1,200 – $2,200 based on League orchestra group size
For more information contact Bob Rosoff
people, of course, and recognizes that queer people may also be targeted by other forms of societal marginalization. “Being both queer and a person of color is a different experience,” Snowden-Rodriguez says. “There’s an extra bridge that you have to cross there.” Those responsible for programming take different approaches to this issue. Desbordes says that for her, “it’s very organic to select who we work with, and it happens to be the case that it’s been intersectional, but that wasn’t intentional.” (Intersectionality can refer to the ways that seemingly different forms of oppression, like sexism and racism, interact in mutually reinforcing ways in the lives of those who experience both.) Harms, on the other hand, carefully ensures that there are composers from specific identity categories on each concert, and will present a concert this coming February exploring the intersection of anti-Semitism and homophobia in the Holocaust. This gets at the larger truth that there is no singular LGBTQ experience that can be adequately represented by one piece
The chamber ensemble Russian Renaissance performs music ranging from tango and folk to classical and jazz. The group comprises balalaika, domra, contrabass balalaika, and accordion.
Instrumental Excursions With orchestras and audiences increasingly open to exploring new combinations of sounds, solo virtuosos are bringing a diverse sonic palette to orchestral stages on instruments ranging from mandolin and harpsichord to accordion, ondes Martenot, and Theremin. by Clive Paget
Ondes Martenot soloist Nathalie Forget demonstrates her instrument before the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s January 2019 performance of Messiaen’s Turangalîla Symphony.
long with the overture and the symphony, the concerto is a muchloved part of the traditional orchestral concert program, an opportunity for a soloist to demonstrate feats of deathdefying virtuosity. Repertoire from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries is weighted heavily toward violin and piano, and today soloists on these instruments still have full careers performing concertos by Beethoven, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, and more. Other instruments get less of a look in—though cello concertos by Dvořák, Haydn, and Saint-Saëns are also favorites, and the flute, oboe, viola, double bass, symphony
Right: In February, Adam Boyles conducted the Hartford Symphony in a program of Copland, Piazzolla, Márquez, and Gabriela Lena Frank, featuring Julien Labro on bandoneon.
and the Chinese pipa, while Chris Thile has given added visibility to the mandolin through his solo and Punch Brothers tours and now as host of National Public Radio’s weekly “Live From Here” program. YouTube has allowed us to check out a whole smorgasbord of unusual instruments. Many of today’s new breed
horn, and so on do get their occasional moments in the sun. But what about soloists who play really unconventional instruments? These days virtuosity is not limited to traditional orchestral instruments, and it’s becoming more common to find programs featuring a mandolinist, accordionist, or even more rarefied instruments like a Theremin or gamelan. Take the ukulele. Hawaii-born Jake Shimabukuro is both ukulele soloist and composer, and if you haven’t heard him yet, you may soon. He plays everything from Hawaiian music
Accordion soloist Hanzhi Wang at a master class during her February 2019 residency with the Tennessee-based IRIS Orchestra (not pictured in photo).
to jazz, blues, bluegrass, folk, and classical music. He’s performed twice—in 2016 and 2019—with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, and has collaborated with the likes of Yo-Yo Ma. And speaking of Ma, this winter he played a new double concerto by Zhao Lin with Chinese pipa superstar Wu Man and the New York Philharmonic. So, how does a harpsichord wind up on a concert program, versus a concerto featuring piano or violin? And how are virtuoso mandolinists or accordionists engineering their way into the concert hall? Recent concert programs include more pieces being written or commissioned for non-Western instruments, in what might be described as the “Silk Road” effect, after two decades of Yo-Yo Ma’s touring Silk Road Ensemble. Those tours gave added prominence to instruments including Galician bagpipes, Japanese shakuhachi, americanorchestras.org
of virtuosos choose to overcome a small existing body of solo works by actively commissioning new ones. For composers always looking for new creative outlets, these new sound worlds are appealing, especially given the astonishing skill sets of this very special group of instrumentalists. With both orchestras and audiences becoming increasingly open to exploring new combinations, it seems like the right moment to look at careers of some of the people who play these less conventional instruments, and the composers creating new repertoire for them. Accordion
Once the preserve of Parisian cafés and Russian folk bands, the accordion is making its way into concert halls, with a whole army of bright young instrumentalists on the scene. In 2017, Hanzhi
Wang, a native of China, became the first accordionist on the Young Concert Artists’ roster in its 57-year history. Although the instrument was not introduced into China until 1926, where it was initially taught by Soviet Russian professors, nowadays the country reportedly boasts more accordionists than in all other countries combined. Wang’s preferred repertoire includes many contemporary composers, including Sofia Gubaidulina’s four concerti for accordion: two solo concerti, including the amazing Fachwerk (2009), a double concerto, and a triple concerto. “Gubaidulina’s very special sound-sphere seems to fit the accordion very well,” Wang says, going on to mention works for the instrument by Giya Kancheli, Krzysztof Penderecki, Darius Milhaud, Luciano Berio, and Per Nørgaard. “Plus, there are concerti from
with Deutsche Grammophon; and Scotland’s James Crabb, who gave the U.S. premiere of Sally Beamish’s double concerto for violin, accordion, and strings with California’s New Century Chamber Orchestra in November. Crabb so impressed composer Brett Dean that he wrote him an onstage accordion part in his 2017 opera Hamlet for the work’s performances at the Metropolitan Opera in the 2021-22 season.
North America by R. Murray Shafer and Alan Hovhaness,” she adds. Michael Stern, music director of the Kansas City Symphony and Tennessee’s IRIS Orchestra, first heard about Wang through Young Concert Artists. In an interview with Memphis’s KWAM Radio earlier this year, he emphasized that Wang’s artistry is “not like a novelty act—no, she is a musician through and through who happens to play this instrument and is elevating it to a different realm.” At her concert with IRIS Or-
A pair of 20th-century electronic innovations are the ondes Martenot and the Theremin. The ondes Martenot was invented in 1928 by Maurice Martenot, whose aim was to replicate the accidental sounds of military radio oscillators in
chestra this February, Wang performed Bach’s Partita No. 2 in C minor, BWV 826, Piazzolla’s La Grand Tango with violin, and Piazzolla’s Ave Maria. Which brings up the topic of transcriptions, also key to Wang’s training and career. “As an accordionist we do not have such a long history in classical music, but still must have the same academic knowledge as any classical musician,” she says. “To play Bach, Tchaikovsky, and Grieg is a very important learning process.” Stern says it was not difficult to attract audiences to hear this music. “First of all, she’s playing Bach and second, it’s such an immersive experience to hear her play.” Other accordionists of note include Bosnian Merima Ključo, who performed her own composition, Sarajevo Haggadah: Music of the Book, with CityMusic Cleveland in 2018; Latvian virtuoso Ksenija Sidorova, who in 2016 became the first accordionist to sign a recording contract
German Thereminist Carolina Eyck, also a composer and singer, has performed with groups ranging from the Apollo Chamber Players in Houston to singer/songwriter David Byrne and other bands. She premiered Eight Seasons, Finnish composer Kalevi Aho’s Concerto for Theremin and Chamber Orchestra, with the Lapland Chamber Orchestra in 2011.
an instrument with the expressivity of the cello. Its eerie tones are created by sliding a metal ring along a wire to create fluctuations in vacuum tubes (or via transistors in later models). Messiaen championed the instrument in his 1949 Turangalîla Symphony, as well as in a number of chamber works, while other composers
The accordion is making its way into concert halls, with a whole army of bright young instrumentalists on the scene.
In November 2018, mandolinist Avi Avital and accordionist Ksenija Sidorova premiered Monomachía, a double concerto by Benjamin Wallfisch, with the conductorless Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.
Ondes Martenot player Cynthia Millar has performed Messiaen’s Turangalîla Symphony hundreds of times—and is heard on the Ghostbusters soundtrack.
who have fallen for the ondes include Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud, Edgard Varèse, Charles Koechlin, and André Jolivet. Its otherworldly sound has entered popular consciousness as a staple of horror and science fiction films, while rock artists like Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood and Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorillaz) have welcomed it into their soundworlds. One of the foremost players of the ondes Martenot is Cynthia Millar, who was first asked to research the instrument by composer Elmer Bernstein, who used it in a number of his film scores, most famously in Ghostbusters, with Millar on ondes. “I was a pianist, and continued to play piano in his film scores when the ondes was not appropriate,” she says. Millar studied Turangalîla under the work’s first ondiste, Jeanne Loriod (1928–2001) , and it’s still the piece she is asked to play most often. She has performed it more than 200 times, most recently this January with both the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Millar played ondes at the Met in 2017 as well. “Thomas Adès wrote the ondes part in The Exterminating Angel with me in mind,” she says. “It is a fabulous exploration of the outer reaches of the instrument.” The public seems to respond positively to its unique voice, especially when combined with pre-concert talks, also a Millar specialty. “It can produce bewitching sounds and audiences like to know how they are made,” she explains.
Harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani performed and conducted at the Seattle Symphony’s “Baroque & Wine” concerts, January 2019.
An even less common instrument is the Theremin, named for its inventor, Soviet scientist Léon Theremin. The Theremin might be the only instrument that is played without physical contact. A pair of antennae respond to the relative position of the thereminist’s hands—which wave about in the air, one controlling frequency, the other volume—and the resulting electric signals are passed to a loudspeaker to create its slippery, ethereal sound. Although less common than the Ondes, composers from Bohuslav Martinů to Fazil Say have
written for it, and most famously Percy Grainger used ensembles of four or six Theremins in his experimental Free Music compositions. A successful recent work is Finnish composer Kalevi Aho’s Concerto
The ondes Martenot, invented in 1928 by Maurice Martenot, aims to replicate the sounds of military radio oscillators with the expressivity of the cello. Messiaen championed the instrument in his 1949 Turangalîla-Symphonie. for Theremin and Chamber Orchestra Eight Seasons, written for German thereminist Carolina Eyck in 2011.
In April, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra performed Amjad Ali Khan’s Samaagam, with the composer and his sarod-playing sons Amaan Ali Bangash and Ayaan Ali Bangash joining him as soloists. americanorchestras.org
The mandolin, the harpsichord, and the recorder may have been upstaged in the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries by their louder cousins the guitar, the piano, and the flute, but all three are making concert hall comebacks of late. In the case of the mandolin, that means coming up with more repertoire than the ubiquitous Vivaldi solo or two-mandolin concerti, and no one has been more tireless in creating new works for his instrument than Israeli mandolinist Avi Avital. “You can count the famous composers who wrote for mandolin
Ukulele soloist Jake Shimabukuro performs with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, led by Associate Conductor Caleb Young, January 2019.
on one hand,” he explains. “Vivaldi wrote a total of four pieces for mandolin—and just
to illustrate, for the bassoon he wrote 36! Something needed to be done to change
the course of history, so I decided to go to composers to convince them, to ask them, and to commission them to write for the mandolin.” To date Avital has been the driving force behind over 100 new works. But for those unfamiliar with the mandolin, Avital usually suggests beginning a concert with Vivaldi to familiarize the audience with the instrument, and then moving on to one of his favorite contemporary works by Avner Dorman or Anna Clyne. “Two big concerti I have coming up are by Giovanni Solima, this year, and by Jennifer Higdon, next year, which will premiere in the States,” he says. “Jennifer was top of my list. I approached her a couple of years ago but the only time we could meet was 20 minutes in a train station in Philadelphia! There, in the station, I played five notes and she said, ‘OK, I have it. I’ll write you a concerto’.” In November, Avital and Latvian accordionist Ksenija Sidorova premiered Monomachía, a double concerto by English composer Benjamin Wallfisch, with
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Orpheus in May, it will be the first time in ten years I have been asked to play it.” Esfahani has eclectic tastes. His favorite work is Czech composer Viktor Kalabis’s 1975 concerto, which he describes as “the single greatest thing written for harpsichord and orchestra,” and his list of must-hears includes concertos by Michael Nyman and Francisco Coll, the latter one of Esfahani’s own commissions, and Pen-
“I decided to go to composers to convince them, ask them, and to commission them to write for the mandolin,” says mandolinist Avi Avital.
derecki’s 1971 Partita, which also features two electric guitars. He’s also helped boost the recorder’s presence in the concert hall, collaborating with celebrated recordist Michala Petri in contemporary repertoire by Axel Borup-Jørgensen and Daniel Kidane. The range and scale of recent concerts featuring unusual instruments would seem to suggest limitless possibilities. In February, Symphony Tacoma performed
Real change means getting at what’s below the surface.
the conductorless Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. “I want to make sure we offer variety, and we wanted to play with Avi, but I thought it might be more interesting to combine him with another incredible soloist,” explains Orpheus Executive Director Alexander Schierle. “After we had put this concert in place, we realized there was literally no repertoire for these two instruments and orchestra.” In Schierle’s view, Carnegie Hall is “a very traditional audience. Most soloists are either pianists or violinists, but we can’t keep doing just that. We have a responsibility for our audiences and other artists,” he says. “And anyway, the audience loved it, so now we have a new piece in the repertoire.” Harpsichord
The harpsichord faces a slightly different dilemma. The meatier tone of 19th-century orchestras increasingly favored the piano, and it wasn’t until the 20th century, when composers like Manuel de Falla and Francis Poulenc took an interest in the instrument, that it started to regain a toehold in the concert hall. American-Iranian harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani leads a new breed of players embracing both ancient and modern, as much in demand for contemporary repertoire as he is for Bach and Rameau. “When people are adventurous enough to program harpsichord, which is itself an issue, they want Brandenburg Five and/or the Poulenc concerto,” he laments. “It’s frustrating, because not only is the repertoire for harpsichord massive, major composers wrote concertos for harpsichord. When I play the Martinů concerto with americanorchestras.org
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G. Schirmer ................................... 2, 7, 16 Greenberg Artists.................................... 3 With her 23-year Density 2036 project, Claire Chase is commissioning a series of works for solo flute—standard flute, plus its rarer cousins the bass flute (in photo) and contrabass flute—each year until the 100th anniversary of Edgard Varèse’s groundbreaking 1936 flute solo, Density 21.5.
Dinuk Sijeratne’s 2011 tabla concerto, with tabla soloist Sandeep Das; the same month, the Symphony Orchestra of India performed tabla master Zakir Hussain’s Peshkar concerto while on tour in London, with the composer as soloist. Sitarist Anoushka Shankar has widely performed four sitar concertos by her father, Ravi
American-Iranian harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani leads a new breed of players embracing both ancient and modern, as much in demand for contemporary repertoire as for Bach and Rameau. Shankar, with orchestras including the London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic, Lucerne Symphony, and Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. In April, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra performed Amjad Ali Khan’s Samaagam: A Concerto for Sarod, Concertante Group, and String Orchestra, with the composer and his sarod-playing sons Amaan Ali Bangash and Ayaan Ali Bangash joining him as soloists. Other non-Western traditional instruments featured in recent or upcoming concerts include the Egyptian oud—Joseph Tawadros will perform his own oud concerto with Australia’s
Sydney Symphony in June 2019—and the Argentinian bandoneón, featured in recent concerts by the Alabama Symphony Orchestra and the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra. Meanwhile, George Friedrich Haas’s Concerto Grosso No. 1, co-commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 2017, features a quartet of alphorns. Concertos even exist for the Indigenous Australian digeridoo, most famously one by composer Sean O’Boyle. The Balinese gamelan has been incorporated into works by Steve Reich, Philip Glass and Lou Harrison, and even Benjamin Franklin’s crazy glass harmonica is getting in on the act, with 20th-century works by Bernd Alois Zimmerman and Heinz Holliger as well as recent pieces by German composer Harald Genzmer and American Garry Eister. And consider the flute, a standard of the modern symphony orchestra. The virtuoso Claire Chase—who also plays the instrument’s far less commonly heard cousins, the bass flute and contrabrass flute—is in the midst of a 23-year project called Density 2036, through which she is commissioning an entirely new body of repertory for solo flute each year until the 100th anniversary of Edgard Varèse’s groundbreaking 1936 flute solo, Density 21.5. CLIVE PAGET is a freelance arts writer and critic, and Editor at Large for Australia’s Limelight magazine.
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that really inspiring as a young musician. Andrew Norman’s Play is a huge one for me. I am desperate to hear his new piece, Sustain, that he wrote for the Los Angeles PhilharChris Thile plays everything from Bach to bluegrass, has been touring since he was a monic in 2018. pre-teen, and in 2012 won a MacArthur “genius” grant—all for playing the mandolin. The mandolin concerto I wrote in Thile is Carnegie Hall’s 2018–19 Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair, and this 2009—parts of it I am happy with. I am March Carnegie Hall hosted an episode of his National Public Radio Live from Here not ruling out writing for orchestra in the show featuring American folk music and music from the British Isles, as part of Carnefuture, but it is not in my wheelhouse the gie’s “Migrations: The Making of America” festival. He’s a musical omnivore with a deep way the string band is. As musicians we’re love of classical music who has hosted chamber ensembles like The Knights and yMusic inclined to fetishize things that come to on the radio show, and has toured and recorded Bach with cellist Yo-Yo Ma and bassist us with difficulty. We put a ton of gas in Edgar Meyer. He brought the mandolin to the orchestra world with a 2009 concerto he a tank that doesn’t really drive our engine. wrote and performed with eight U.S. orchestras. And I want to make sure that while never Here, Thile talks about his many musical obsessions, composing and performing, and coasting on things that come easy to me, I learning about music from a board game. am putting the proper amount of gas into the tank that makes my car go. One thing that scares me about writing orchestral ’m sure I’ve been hearing music is there simply is not orchestral music since I enough rehearsal time for was conceived. I grew up my taste. I am a rehearser. in a public radio family— I love to practice, and the it was always on. My music gets better and better dad is a piano technician, and better. People like Tom and on my mom’s side there Adès, Andrew Norman, and were piano teachers all over Caroline Shaw are not writthe place. I think it was my ing music that is more difstepgrandma, Sal, who gave ficult for orchestras to play us this wonderful board than Stravinsky and Bartók game called Music Maestro. were. Somehow we have to You would listen to these build an appropriate amount musical excerpts on a tape, of rehearsal into the new and you were meant to put music that we are going to a card on a board that was Chris Thile at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall with vocalist Sarah Jarosz, drummer play. There are 80, 100 years the orchestra. I would listen Josh Dion, and bassist Alan Hampton, October 23, 2018. of Stravinsky and Bartók to this tape over and over being in people’s inner ear— again, and follow along that stuff is under the musicians’ fingers. with the cards. I was transfixed. It would have a show with the St. Louis Symphony Invariably one of those pieces that people be another year before I started playing Orchestra on May 25 that I am really exhave been playing since they were little the mandolin. But at that point we had cited about. They’re such a cool American kids sounds more natural, conversational, already become regular attendees of a orchestra. I am a massive fan of theirs. and vernacular. bluegrass night at a pizza place every I have so many favorite composers, I With the radio show, I am a kid in Saturday night. I was just pummeled by don’t even know where to begin. Bach a candy store, week in and week out. I music, and so happy about it. is the way we all shake hands, basically. am enthusiastic about things by nature. The radio program I host is a musical One of the very first full-orchestra pieces And I am always seeking the company of variety show where anything that can be that grabbed my ears and never let it go people who are also enthusiastic. If I can heard is fair game. We often air the show is Beethoven’s Seventh. I went through a do that for other people, if I can point from the Twin Cities, and we haven’t had big Brahms period. A huge lightbulb mothem toward things that might breed the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra or the ment for me early on was Barber’s School enthusiasm in their lives, that would be a Minnesota Orchestra on the show yet, for Scandal overture, in part because he joy for me. but I really hope that happens. We do wrote it when he was so young. I found Fadi Kheir
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