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Tune Memphis UpThe Symphony Reinvents Itself
Examining the Musical Brain How Diverse Are American Orchestras? Turnaround in Saint Louis
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tenors Dominic Armstrong John Daniecki Frank Kelley Tilman Lichdi # Christopher Pfund Daniel Snyder Steven Tharp Daniel Weeks Lawrence Wiliford
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narrator Stefanie Powers
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John Del Carlo alan Held Keith Miller John relyea Christian Van Horn
Jordan Bisch Morris D. robinson arthur Woodley
roberto abbado Edward abrams Marin alsop Matt Catingub James Conlon James DePreist Christoph Eschenbach James Feddeck John Fiore asher Fisch Lawrence Foster Fabien Gabel Giancarlo Guerrero Mariss Jansons Leonidas Kavakos Christian Knapp Courtney Lewis Jahja Ling Jesús López-Cobos Zdenek Macal ingo Metzmacher alexander Mickelthwate
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POPS Jamie Bernstein the Chieftains Forbidden Broadway Here to stay the new Gershwin multimedia show
Eileen ivers Live and Let Die
adele anthony sarah Chang Chee-Yun Kyung-Wha Chung James Ehnes Pamela Frank Miriam Fried ryu Goto Daniel Hope stefan Jackiw Leonidas Kavakos Jennifer Koh Gidon Kremer Cho-Liang Lin Midori tai Murray Nadja salerno-sonnenberg Gil shaham arnaud sussmann Kyoko takezawa Nikolaj Znaider
Emanuel ax Daniel Barenboim inon Barnatan Elena Bashkirova Jonathan Biss rafal Blechacz Yefim Bronfman Bertrand Chamayou Hung-Kuan Chen Jeremy Denk Barry Douglas Christoph Eschenbach Gary Graffman andreas Haefliger angela Hewitt Nicolas Hodges Joseph Kalichstein Zoltán Kocsis Kuok-Wai Lio Nikolai Lugansky radu Lupu anne-Marie McDermott Gabriela Montero Garrick Ohlsson Jon Kimura Parker Peng Peng Orli shaham Lars Vogt Yuja Wang shai Wosner Joyce Yang Krystian Zimerman
a symphonic tribute to the music of Paul McCartney
Patti LuPone Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano PLaY! a Video Game symphony Doc severinsen & El ritmo de la Vida Peter schickele suzanne Vega
OrCheStrAL PrOGrAmS eighth blackbird On a Wire: Jennifer Higdon Concerto
the Planets–an HD Odyssey a new high-definition film presentation to accompany Holst’s masterpiece
FAmILy CONCertS Jamie Bernstein John Lithgow
NArrAtOrS Jamie Bernstein Claire Bloom John Lithgow Christopher Plummer Patrick stewart Eugenia Zukerman
POPS CONDUCtOrS Matt Catingub Doc severinsen Victor Vanacore
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symphony j u ly–au g u st 2 0 1 0
o orchestras need their Glee? The new television series about a high-school “show choir”—an outgrowth of what used to be called glee clubs, but now with snazzy choreography—is making a big splash. Who could have predicted that a dramedy about a wildly mixed bunch of high-school kids obsessed with pop songs and musical theater would be a hit? What makes the show compelling is that the kids in the choir aren’t jocks and cheerleaders; instead, they are the dorky misfits who are somehow different—a subgroup that should be familiar to any youngster who is totally into Beethoven during the era of Jay-Z. What does this have to do with orchestras? Music teachers report that students are turning out in record numbers for choral groups. Sales of sheet music from the show are peaking. Glee is making choirs cool. Imagine what a savvy show about orchestra geeks could do for a symphonic resurgence. We may not be a hit TV series yet, but orchestras are reinventing themselves. This edition of Symphony takes a look at where things stand right now. The musicians at the Memphis Symphony Orchestra are expanding their roles to include the creation, programming, and marketing of nontraditional concerts. The Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra is rebuilding itself after a few scary years. Orchestras of every size are inviting audiences to rehearsals, so that newcomers and connoisseurs can witness the artistic process in progress. We examine diversity, one of the biggest issues orchestras face today—not only onstage, where the low participation rates of minority musicians are most obvious, but offstage as well, in administrative offices and board rooms. And our Coda page catches up with The Knights, an orchestra of recent conservatory graduates who are not much older than those kids in Glee.
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The Magazine of The L e a g u e o f Am e r i c a n O r c h e s t r a s
symphony®, the award-winning, bimonthly
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.
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THE MAGAZINE OF THE LEAGUE OF AMERICAN ORCHESTRAS
4 Prelude by Robert Sandla 13 The Score Orchestra news, moves, and events 22 Critical Questions Summer reading about arts and business, innovation and change. by Jesse Rosen
Team Players The Memphis Symphony is reinventing itself. by Chester Lane
Open House What happens when orchestras invite the public to rehearsals? by Greg Waxberg
Breaking Through How can American orchestras become more diverse? by Susan Elliott
Recovery Act The Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra has stared into the abyss— and survived by charting a new course. by Jeannette Cooperman
Repeat Hearings Ongoing composer-conductor collaborations are bringing new music to the fore. by Laurie Shulman Music on the Brain Scientists ponder the brain’s musical mysteries. by Stuart Isacoff
Randall Goosby, 13, Sphinx Competition Junior Winner, 2010
77 Advertiser Index 78 League of American Orchestras Annual Fund 80 Coda The tale of The Knights chamber orchestra. 82 More Than a Feeling ONLINE ONLY Charles Rosen’s new book, Music and Sentiment, tackles a little-explored area of musical aesthetics. Here, an excerpt from the first chapter. 86 Stat of the Arts ONLINE ONLY Classical music, by the numbers
Throughout this issue, text marked like this indicates a link to websites and online resources.
70 about the cover Memphis Symphony Orchestra musicians like Concertmaster Susanna Perry Gilmore, shown on the cover, are forging stronger ties to the community through business partnerships, student mentoring, and concerts in non-standard venues. For their Opus One series, they select the programs, play without a conductor, and do their own publicity. Cover photo by Wayne Joseph Campbell, Jr.
BARRETT VANTAGE ARTISTS InstrumentalIsts
PIANO Joaquín achÚcarro alessIo bax PhIlIPPe bIanconI mIrIan contI Joel Fan cecIle lIcad FazIl say yevgeny sudbIn Per tengstrand gIlles vonsattel WIllIam WolFram
stePhen lord José-luIs novo ransom WIlson
SOPrANO chrIstIne abraham heather bucK JennIFer casey cabot sarah coburn Karen Foster sarI gruber amanda hall constance hauman sara JaKubIaK Kelly Kaduce audrey elIzabeth luna Kate mangIamelI Kelley nassIeF marIe Plette barbara shIrvIs Kara shay thomson KorlIss uecKer arIanna zuKerman
PIANO DuO anderson & roe PIano duo tengstrand-sun PIano duo VIOlIN vadIm gluzman anI KavaFIan Ida KavaFIan catherIne manouKIan lara st. John dan zhu VIOlA noKuthula ngWenyama CellO colIn carr gary hoFFman Inbal segev Flute ransom WIlson ClArINet alexander FItersteIn FreNCh hOrN davId Jolley GuItAr elIot FIsK
chamber musIc amernet strIng quartet caleFax reed quIntet alexander FItersteIn’s zImro ProJect KavaFIan duo larK quartet neWstead trIo schumann trIo
choral seraPhIc FIre
sPecIal vocal Programs ”amerIcan celebratIon”, “bellIssImo broadWay” & “hearts aFIre” barbara shIrvIs/stePhen PoWell
Jazz & cabaret gerI allen Piano don braden saxoPhone tony desare Piano/Vocal ute lemPer Vocal marK raPP trumPet don braden and marK raPP: the strayhorn Project
bIlly taylor Piano
symPhony PoPs anderson & roe Piano Duo gerI allen Piano don braden saxoPhone tony desare Piano/Vocal mattheW dIbattIsta tenor sarI gruber soPrano ute lemPer Vocal marK raPP trumPet vale rIdeout tenor barbara shIrvIs soPrano stePhen PoWell baritone
www.barrettvantage.com audio/video/press/biographies + more
mezzO-SOPrANO elIzabeth bIshoP catherIne cooK sandra PIques eddy malIn FrItz JosePha gayer theodora hansloWe chrIstIn-marIe hIll abIgaIl nIms laura vlasaK nolen PhyllIs Pancella stacey rIshoI marIetta sImPson KrIsztIna szabó CONtrAltO JennIFer hInes
COuNterteNOr Jason abrams John gaston teNOr John bellemer mattheW dIbattIsta mIchael-Paul KrubItzer scott ramsay vale rIdeout roy cornelIus smIth dInyar vanIa BArItONe eugene brancoveanu PhIlIP cutlIP lee gregory stePhen KechulIus ŽelJKo lučIć sherrIll mIlnes lee PoulIs stePhen PoWell WIllIam sharP mattheW Worth BASS-BArItONe mattheW burns eduardo chama erIc doWns JaKe gardner damIen Pass andreW Wentzel stePhen West BASS gustav andreassen KevIn burdette andreW gangestad dong-JIan gong chrIstoPher temPorellI NArrAtOr sherrIll mIlnes StAGe DIreCtOr elIzabeth bachman sandra bernhard José marIa condemI
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SCORE News, moves, and events in the orchestra industry The
Left to right: Martin Inglis, Columbus Symphony Orchestra board chair; Bill Conner, Columbus Association for the Performing Arts president & CEO; Roland Valliere, CSO president; Michael Petrecca, CAPA board chair
The Virginia Symphony has appointed ERIC BORENSTEIN executive director, effective June 1. EMANUEL BOROK , concertmaster
of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra since 1985, will retire from that post in August. The Elgin (Ill.) Symphony Orchestra has announced the election of JERRY CAIN as president, effective July 1.
KATHLEEN CARROLL has been named president and CEO of the Toledo Symphony, effective July 1. She succeeds ROBERT BELL , who will serve as president emeritus and chief artistic officer through the 2010-11 season.
The ongoing recession has presented many orchestras with substantial financial challenges; the Charleston and Honolulu symphony orchestras recently suspended operations as they regroup and determine how to proceed. Other orchestras are finding creative ways to beat the economy. With a projected $1.5 million deficit for the 2009-10 season, the Columbus (Ohio) Symphony Orchestra on April 5 entered into a five-year management agreement with the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts, a nonprofit organization that owns and/or manages several theaters and performing arts spaces in Columbus. CAPA will oversee the orchestra’s accounting, marketing, advertising, ticketing, and human resources operations. CAPA President and CEO Bill Conner will serve as volunteer managing director and CEO for the orchestra, while CSO President Roland Valliere will add the title of chief creative officer, leading the organization in business development, artistic and creative content, and musician
relations. The arrangement will save the CSO more than $750,000 during the 2010-11 season, while a previous 23 percent pay concession by the musicians saves an additional $1 million. Valliere sees the benefits as threefold: the access to CAPA’s balance sheet and line of credit; opportunity to utilize the organization’s experienced staff; and the cost savings of staff consolidation. Valliere will focus on the creation of a business plan, while Conner manages the financial and administrative sides. Could such a merger work for other orchestras? “Looking at a partnership with another organization that has similar functions is something that could make sense,” Valliere says. “But at least for us it made a lot of sense. We were at a point of crisis organizationally where it had to happen because there wasn’t any alternative. Most orchestras don’t find themselves in that situation, but sometimes it does take a real crisis to facilitate not just incremental but exponential change.”
Throughout this issue, text marked like this indicates a link to websites and online resources. americanorchestras.org
Change in Columbus
Carroll The Van Cliburn Foundation has appointed KARLA DIEBS CROSS director of finance and MAGGIE ESTES director of marketing. has been named vice president of external affairs at the Nashville Symphony.
The Yakima (Wash.) Symphony Orchestra has appointed LAWRENCE GOLAN music director, effective July 1. California’s San Luis Obispo Symphony has named BRIAN HERMANSON executive director.
Golan The Philharmonia of Greater Kansas City has appointed TRAVIS JÜRGENS music director and conductor, effective at the end of the 2009-10 season.
ALLISON KAISER has been named executive director of the Lexington (Ky.) Philharmonic, effective in August.
The Memphis Symphony Orchestra has announced the appointment of STILIAN KIROV as assistant conductor of the MSO and music director of the Memphis Youth Symphony Program.
SASHA MÄKILÄ has been named assistant conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, effective this September.
The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, based in Little Rock, has appointed PHILIP MANN music director, effective in October 2010. TIMOTHY RUSSELL , music
director of the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra in Mann Columbus, Ohio, since its inception in 1978, will step down from that post at the end of the 2012-13 season, when he assumes the title conductor laureate. The Philadelphia Orchestra has appointed ARI SOLOTOFF to the newly created post of chief of staff and director of planning.
has been named principal tuba at the Redlands (Calif.) Symphony.
In April, when ash cloud from the eruptions of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano grounded planes throughout Europe, stranded jet-setting artists struggled to make their way to performances. In a single 24-hour period, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Hartford (Conn.) Symphony Orchestra, Houston Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Utah Symphony, and Ottawa’s National Arts Centre Orchestra, among others, announced last-minute artist substitutions or changes in programming. Carnegie Hall was forced to cancel its April 17 “Making Music: Louis Andriessen” performance when featured artists could not travel from Europe to New York. Polish soprano Aleksandra Kurzak was resourceful: she traveled nineteen hours by cab from Warsaw to London to sing Fiorilla in Rossini’s Il Turco in Italia at the Royal Opera House. The air-traffic stoppage was said to be the largest since 9/11.
Photos: Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art
No Fly Zone
Erard pianoforte, 1840
Instruments as Art
Economics for Orchestras With continued tight budgets at many arts organizations, affordable learning opportunities are more important than ever. In response, the League of American Orchestras and the Nonprofit Finance Fund have formed a partnership to offer practical recession planning for nonprofits. The distancelearning series—offered free to League members—includes seminars, webinars, conference calls, and newsletters that cover topics like accessing and managing credit, cash-flow planning, fundraising, nonprofit financial statements, and financial-planning basics. The series is made possible by a generous grant from MetLife Foundation. For more information, visit the League’s Learning and Leadership area at americanorchestras.org and click on
When you first spot Michele Todini’s harpsichord on display at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the gold filigree is nearly blinding. This spectacular artifact of 17th-century Italy— complete with sculptures depicting the story of Polyphemus and Galatea—is just one of 230 artworks in the museum’s renowned collection of Western musical instruments. The collection reopened to the public in March after an eight-month renovation that includes brighter lighting and in-depth descriptions explaining musical and cultural context. Among the instruments Virginal by the Flemish manufacturer currently on Grouwels, 1600 display are the famed “Batta-Piatigorsky” Stradivarius cello, owned by cellists Alexandre Batta (1816-1902) and Gregor Piatigorsky (1903-1976), and a walking-stick flute/oboe combination commissioned by Frederick the Great. The collection also includes a 1932 Heckel bassoon custommade for Percy W. Gatz, a New York-based bassoonist; the instrument has a complex 40-key hybrid German-French system of fingering, with twelve keys for left thumb alone.
Learning Online. Batta-Piatigorsky cello
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Members of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra perform Nathaniel Stookey’s Junkestra in May 2007 at the San Francisco dump warehouse.
For the San Francisco Symphony’s fifth concert in its 2009-10 chamber music series, musicians from the orchestra performed Nathaniel Stookey’s Junkestra at Davies Symphony Hall on May 9. The work, featuring 30 instruments Stookey created from materials he found at the Recology recycling dump in San Francisco, was first performed by the SFS Youth Orchestra under the direction of Benjamin Schwartz at the dump’s warehouse in May 2007. Stookey composed Junkestra during his four-month artist residency with Recology, which provides artists of all media with materials and work space for creating art out of recycled materials. The piece grew to include pipes, pans, mixing bowls, bottles, server trays, dresser drawers, oil drums, bike wheels, saws, garbage cans, and shopping carts.
Julio Cesar Martinez
Fisher Career Grants Awarded
Four young instrumentalists (below) are the latest recipients of the Avery Fisher Career Grant. Announced at a ceremony and performance on April 28 at New York’s Lincoln Center, the $25,000 grants went to pianist Kirill Gerstein, 30, born in Voronezh, Russia; violist David Aaron Carpenter, 24, a native of Long Island, N.Y.; Beijing-born pianist Yuja Wang, 23; and pianist Joyce Yang, 24, originally from Seoul. All currently reside in New York except Gerstein, who lives in Newton, Mass. First presented in 1976, the Career Grants are awarded to instrumentalists who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the U.S. and are deemed by the Avery Fisher Artist Program’s Recommendation Board and Executive Committee to have exceptional potential for solo careers. Since 2004 consideration has been given to chamber ensembles as well as individual artists. Gerstein Yang
What are the most important challenges facing orchestras? Beginning on May 17 and continuing through June, more than a dozen compelling arts voices—musicians, journalists, educators, composers, arts administrators—have been tackling the topic via blogs at the League’s R/Evolution website. Participating in the wide-ranging discussion are several Symphony contributors, including Mark Clague, Molly Sheridan, Greg Sandow, Kathryn Wyatt, and Eric Booth. Also blogging are composer Nico Muhly, Harlem Quartet violinist Melissa White, New York Philharmonic Director of New Media Vince Ford, and Kelly HallTompkins, a community-minded violinist who founded the Music Kitchen concerts for New York City’s homeless population five years ago. Blogging should be a natural for Hall-Tompkins, a multitasking New York City resident who performs with the Ritz Chamber Players as well as the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra of New York. Hall-Tompkins has been blogging from the road between performances; other bloggers will be contributing entries from Atlanta during the League of Kelly Hall-Tompkins American Orchestras National Conference. Visit R/Evolution to take part in the discussion.
Oh Seuk Hoon
Blogging for Change
Irrelephant? Samuel Jang
Members of California’s Southwest Chamber Music with Vietnamese musicians at the Vietnam National Conservatory of Music during cultural exchange, March 2010
It’s typically the larger U.S. orchestras that go on international tours, but this spring the modest-sized Southwest Chamber Music clocked some impressive frequent-flyer miles. The group, based in Pasadena, California, took nineteen of its musicians to Vietnam in March for the first half of a six-week U.S. State Department-sponsored exchange. The Americans performed with Vietnamese musicians at the Hanoi Opera House and at the major conservatories of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon); repertoire ranged from Messiaen, Takemitsu, and Cage to works by Vietnamese composers Ton That Tiet, Nguyen Thien Dao, and Vu Nhat Tan. On March 19 in Hanoi, members of the exchange performed the world premieres of Pham Minh Thanh’s Thang Long, Kurt Rohde’s Still Distant, Still Here, and Alexandra du Bois’s Within Earth, Wood Grows. The second part of the exchange unfolded in California, where U.S. and Vietnamese musicians presented concerts and took part in cultural leadership workshops, leadership development programs, and side-by-side concerts in schools. The cultural exchange is described as the largest ever between the U.S. and Vietnam.
Higdon Wins Pulitzer
Not according to the toughest critics: “You are the funniest person I have ever seen.” — Kurt, age 10 “I want to come to another concert. This was fun.” — Eric, age 9 “What a talent.” — John, age 6
And he works for peanuts!
or at www.dankamin.com
Comecdeyrtos Con (412)563-0468 email@example.com
See him strut his stuff on YouTube
Composer Jennifer Higdon has been awarded the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Music for her Violin Concerto, which was premiered February 6, 2009, by Hilary Hahn, conductor Mario Venzago, and the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. The work, which the Pulitzer Committee cited for its “flowing lyricism” and “dazzling virtuosity,” was recorded by Hahn, conductor Vasily Petrenko, and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra and is slated for a September 2010 release on Deutsche Grammophon. Higdon, who serves on the League of American Orchestras board, recently composed a concerto for the contemporary chamber group eighth blackbird, which premiered the work with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Music Director Robert Spano on June 3. Eighth blackbird will reprise the work in August at California’s Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music.
Thanks to interactive modules added to the Elgin Symphony Orchestra and Boston Symphony Orchestra websites, concertgoers can discover new pieces and even try a hand at composition—all from their computers. The ESO website’s “Soundtrack of Your Life” project, launched February 11 in partnership with Naxos, allows visitors to link dates from their own lives— birthdays, anniversaries—to events like the premieres of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro or Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. Users click a given day to reveal the matching historical event and listen to a corresponding musical selection. On the BSO website, listeners can turn to the “Classical Music Companion,” which includes a new “Ornamentation Music Lab” launched in conjunction with the orchestra’s January performance of James MacMillan’s St. John Passion. Users provided with a melody from the St. John Passion can click to add ornaments like trills, appoggiaturas, and melismas before playing back their creations and comparing them to MacMillan’s finished phrase. symphony
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In Duluth, MASS Ensemble Artistic Director William Close plays the 100-foot-long earth harp.
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The Duluth Superior Symphony performs Carmina Burana with the MASS Ensemble, including earth harp, aquatar, and percussion.
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The world’s largest harp was the centerpiece of the Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra’s April fundraiser, a collaboration with the MASS Ensemble, whose name stands for Music, Architecture, Sculpture, and Sound. At the performance, the 100-footlong earth harp, developed by MASS Artistic Director William Close, stretched from the stage to the rafters, over the heads of performers The aquatar, a hybrid and audience members. Concertmaster Erin of electric bass, Alridge created an arrangement of Carl Orff’s electric guitar, and sitar Carmina Burana featuring herself on electric violin, the earth harp, and the rest of the MASS Ensemble arsenal: various percussion instruments and the aquatar, which combines electric bass, electric guitar, and sitar. DSSO Music Director Markand Thakar led a program that included excerpts from Stravinsky’s Firebird and solo numbers from MASS Ensemble members. About 450 people attended the event, held at Clyde Iron Works, an abandoned foundry renovated into a restaurant and entertainment venue.
Celebrating the unique in each room, NO and CREDIT giving it voice
The MASS Ensemble’s earth harp, the world’s largest harp
Stanley E. Romanstein, an experienced nonprofit executive, scholar, and educator with extensive training in music, has been named president of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. He succeeds Allison Vulgamore, who stepped down last fall to become president and CEO of The Philadelphia Orchestra. Before beginning his Atlanta duties in early May, Romanstein had spent Stanley E. Romanstein nine years as president and CEO of the Minnesota Humanities Center. Previous posts include director of development at the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis, executive director of the Baltimore School for the Arts, and associate professor of music at St. Lawrence University. Romanstein received early training in music in his native South Carolina and pursued graduate studies at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where he obtained a master’s degree in conducting and a Ph.D. in musicology. americanorchestras.org
Romanstein New Chief at Atlanta Symphony
The world’s largest harp was the centerpiece of the Duluth-Superior Symphony Orchestra’s April fundraiser, a collaboration with the MASS Ensemble whose name stands for Music, Architecture, Sculpture, and Sound. At the performance, the 100-foot long earth harp, developed by MASS Artistic Director William Close, stretched from the stage to the rafters, over the heads of performers and audience members. Concertmaster Erin Alridge created an arrangement of Carl Orff ’s Carmina Burana featuring herself on electric violin, the earth harp, and the rest of the MASS Ensemble arsenal: various percussion instruments and the aquatar, which combines electric bass, electric guitar, and sitar. DSSO Music Director Markand Thakar led a program that included excerpts from Stravinsky’s Firebird and solo numbers from MASS Ensemble members. About 450 people attended the event, held at Clyde Iron Works, an abandoned foundry renovated into a restaurant and entertainment venue. Threshold Acoustics LLC 312.386.1400 www.thresholdacoustics.com
Verdi Among the Vegetables
Midday shoppers at a Baltimore Whole Foods store were treated to a taste of Verdi this past March, thanks to an offbeat marketing move by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Washington National Opera. Wearing the standard Whole Foods employee apron, tenor Jesus Daniel Hernandez (left) juggled a ripe avocado in one hand, tossed a sly glance at soprano Jennifer Waters, standing by the oranges, and broke into the famous “Libiamo” aria from Verdi’s La Traviata. Waters (Violetta) joined him in the duet, and soprano Emily Albrink, mezzo Cynthia Hanna, and baritone Aleksey Bogdanov sang smaller parts. The performance was in anticipation of that weekend’s Baltimore Symphony concerts featuring singers from the Washington Opera’s Young Artists Program. Surprised shoppers stopped to watch in wonder.
1 Week, 8 Composers, 8 Premieres Columbia, Missouri will be a hotspot for new music this summer, with eight American composers participating in the inaugural Mizzou New Music Summer Festival at the University of Missouri-Columbia. Jose Francisco Cortez Alvarez, Christopher Dietz, Paul Dooley, Moon-Young Ha, Edie Hill, Amy Beth Kirsten, Jeremy Podgursky, and Zhou Juan will each provide a new work to be performed on July 18 by the chamber ensemble Alarm Will Sound. Over the course of the weeklong festival, the eight will study with composers Stefan Freund, W. Thomas McKenney, Martin Bresnick, and Derek Bermel. The festival is the first major event of the University of Missouri-Columbia’s Mizzou New Music Initiative, which also includes scholarships, assistantships, and composition prizes at the University of Missouri. The initiative resulted from a $1 million donation by the Missouri-based Sinquefield Charitable Foundation.
In Missouri, Derek Bermel (top photo) and musicians from the new-music ensemble Alarm Will Sound (above) will be among the musicians working with eight composers participating in the inaugural Mizzou New Music Summer Festival in July.
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The HBO series Treme isn’t the only new television show spotlighting New Orleans. Beginning at the end of July, look for Video Games Live, a recently filmed PBS special featuring the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. The performances took place on April 1 at the Kenner Pontchartrain Center, where the LPO was joined by pianist Martin Leung and Laura “Flute Link” Intravia, both frequent performers of video game music. The LPO put together a choir for the event that included college students, professionals, and even LPO staff. Also at the event were 88-year-old Ralph Baer, known as the “father” of video games, and game composers Tommy Tallarico (Earthworm Jim/Advent Rising), Jack Wall (Myst/Mass Effect), and Marty O’Donnell (Halo).
The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra performs music from the God of War video game, as part of a PBS special of Video Games Live airing this summer. Also pictured: vocalist Laura Intravia and a group of singers from New Orleans, put together by the LPO.
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Twenty-eight pianists—aged 4 to 75—answered the Eugene (Ore.) Symphony’s open invitation to perform their favorite Beethoven pieces on the Silva Concert Hall’s stage as part of a piano marathon event in February. Among soloists at the casual afternoon recital were five-year-old Geronimo Truett, who played the opening from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 finale with his grandmother, Eugene Symphony board member Jane Eyre McDonald. The piano marathon was one of several free events presented this season as part of the orchestra’s Beethoven-themed Sound Perspectives series, which included lectures on the composer’s work and performances of three of Beethoven’s piano concertos by the orchestra, with soloists including Angela Hewitt and Garrick At the Eugene (Ore.) Symphony’s recent Beethoven piano marathon, five-year-old Geronimo Truett and his Ohlsson. grandmother, Jane Eyre McDonald, try out Beethoven. americanorchestras.org
The Santa Barbara Symphony followed a fickle boy with a funny name on a musical quest this February, presenting the world premiere of Cody Westheimer’s orchestral adaptation of the children’s book The Remarkable Farkle McBride, written by actor John Lithgow. Music Director Nir Kabaretti led two performances, which were attended by 3,000 schoolchildren as part of the orchestra’s Concerts for Young People. The roles of narrator and Farkle McBride—the young musical genius who cannot decide on a favorite instrument—were played by Dos Pueblos High School students Sarah Lee and Logan Michaels. Westheimer is the composer of Bamboo Leaves for Japanese flute and orchestra (2001); the scores for the films Smile (2006), Cattle Call (2006), and UltraMarathon Man (2008); and the music for the video game The Golden Compass (2007), based on the Philip Pullman novel.
Santa Barbara by the Book
The Santa Barbara Symphony’s world premiere of The Remarkable Farkle McBride featured high school students Sarah Lee (narrator) and Logan Michael (Farkle).
SAM works closely with presenters, orchestras, and festivals to deliver excellent musicianship that meets their programming and budgetary needs. Soloists rieko aizawa
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Biographies of two high-profile conductors lead the latest batch of music-related book releases. Osmo Vänskä: Orchestra Builder (Kirk House Publishers, 2009; 135 pages; $45), by former Star-Tribune music critic Michael Anthony, follows the Minnesota Orchestra music director’s artistic development, from clarinetist to conductor; his work in Minnesota; and his views on music. Thomas D. Saler’s Serving Genius: Carlo Maria Giulini (University of Illinois Press, 2010; 256 pages, 21 photographs, $34.95), meanwhile, chronicles the conductor’s personal life and career, including his appointments at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Vienna Symphony, and Los Angeles Philharmonic. Both books feature an incredible amount of detail—from snippets about Vänskä’s clarinet mouthpieces to Giulini’s exact time of birth—though the large, horizontal orientation and glossy color photographs of the Vänskä volume make it more coffee-table-friendly. Equally eye-catching is Theaters 2: Partnerships in Facility Use, Operations and Management (Images Publishing, 232 pages, $75), which profiles multi-use performance venues at 42 schools and performing arts centers around the country, accompanied by 228 full-color photographs. Another book addressing the prominent role space can play in performance is Kyle Gann’s No Such Thing As Silence: John Cage’s 4’33” (Yale University Press, 2010; 272 pages, $24), about the influences and cultural implications of one of the defining works of indeterminism. symphony
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Summer Brain Food Controversies, research, drama, and strategies: new thinking to help orchestras plan for the future.
or many orchestra people the arrival of summer is synonymous with festivals and outdoor concerts. But we also use this time to reflect on the past season and on what lies ahead. In that spirit, I thought it might be useful to share a few of the books, articles, conversations, studies, and audio programs that have opened new doors for me in understanding how the world is changing for orchestras. I hope they will do the same for you—wherever you spend your summer. I also will be most interested in hearing your reactions. You can reach me at email@example.com.
Most Provocative Public Exchange: Association of British Orchestras Conference Keynote Address by Richard Reeves and Response by Simon Woods The liveliest orchestra moment of the past season for me (not counting concerts) was the keynote address at the Association of British Orchestras Conference this February in Glasgow, Scotland. My counterpart at the ABO, Mark Pemberton, had the wisdom and courage to invite Richard Reeves to open the conference. A public intellectual of sorts, Reeves had recently attacked England’s Arts Council subsidizing orchestras, and the ABO for using taxpayers’ money to lobby the Arts Council to subsidize orchestras. In his speech Reeves reiterated his argument that orchestras serve middle-class people, and that the subsidy steers funds
away from working-class people and their needs. He saw this situation as especially unfair when resources are scarce and there are extraordinary needs for public health and education. You could feel the blood boil in the room, but few were able to muster a clear and cogent response. One effective reply did come from Simon Woods, former president of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and now chief executive of
In his speech at the Association of British Orchestras, Richard Reeves argued that orchestras serve middle-class people, and that public subsidies steer funds away from working-class people and their needs. the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Woods challenged the assumption that working-class people don’t value classical music and argued that subsidy permits relatively low ticket prices, which in turn creates wider access. Research on How Concerts Matter: Assessing the Intrinsic Impact of a Live Performance, by Alan Brown Wherever one comes down in this pointed argument, the ABO concluded—and I totally agree—that orchestras need better arguments for why they matter. Lately orchestras and the League have been
by Jesse Rosen
Jesse Rosen, president and CEO, League of American Orchestras
strengthening the arguments for our “public value,” which includes contributions to education, free concerts, economic impact, and engagement with underserved populations. But surely there must be public value in our core activity: playing concerts! Part of the difficulty lies in describing and measuring that value. Attendance figures indicate demand, but they tell us nothing about the impact of the experience. Three years ago researcher Alan Brown of WolfBrown released a study commissioned by the Major University Presenters (MUP) that goes right to the heart of this challenge: Assessing the Intrinsic Impact of a Live Performance. Brown’s goal was not so much the crafting of messages as it was to find out just what happens to people when they experience a performance. Based on surveys of audience members, the study identifies six critical dimensions of experience: Captivation, Emotional Resonance, Intellectual Stimulation, Spiritual Value, Aesthetic Growth, and Social Bonding. Brown not only describes these qualities in some detail, but goes on to analyze the extent to which these qualities are enhanced by engagement strategies such as pre-concert talks or comments from the stage. There is more work to be done, but these certainly sound like a good starting place for talking about the importance of our concerts. symphony
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Best Drama Around Organizational Change: NUMMI Episode from This American Life, NPR Here’s something totally different. NUMMI (New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc.) was the acronym for a joint Toyota and GM plant launched in 1984 and shut down on April 1, 2010. This story, told on National Public Radio (and available on iTunes) in gripping first-person accounts by union and management speakers against the backdrop of GM’s fall from 50 percent market share down to 20 percent and eventual bankruptcy, is a stunningly vivid depiction of how powerfully organizational culture can resist change. At the NUMMI plant, GM workers so successfully learned from Toyota the values and practices associated with teamwork and continuous improvement that within two years, the plant was transformed. It went from a place that routinely produced cars with engines installed backwards, to one whose productivity and quality matched that of Toyota (before its recent troubles). Costs went down and quality went up. But when GM tried to replicate the lessons from NUMMI, it hit an entrenched bureaucracy that “had learned to live with its culture of dysfunction.” GM executives refused to share parking lots with workers, and workers reported that “continuous improvement made them act like managers and lose sight of the unions’ primary role of protecting them from management.” Lack of committed leadership at the top and a lack of belief in urgency were also cited as barriers to change in GM’s wider system. The rest, as they say, is history. No, orchestras are not automakers. But anyone interested in organizational change in a collective bargaining environment will find lots to reflect on in this ultimately tragic account. Smart Change Strategies: Competing for the Future, by Gary Hamel; The Profit Zone, by Adrian Slywotsky As conversation in orchestras has increasingly focused on the profound changes in
We have strengthened the arguments for our public value, citing education, free concerts, economic impact, and engagement with underserved populations. But surely there must be public value in our core activity: playing concerts! our environment and the need for business models to adapt, I’ve been pleased to discover that there is a significant body of literature on these subjects. Gary Hamel’s Competing for the Future (Harvard Business School Press) says leaders need to ask different kinds of questions when change is rapid: questions like “What new core competencies will we need to build? What new product concepts should we pioneer? What new alliances will we need to form? What nascent development programs should we
protect? What long-term regulatory initiative should we pursue?” He describes the limits of downsizing and restructuring— strategies that are sure to make companies smaller, but will ultimately fail if they do not create the markets of the future. Adrian Slywotsky studies business models. He is a principal at the consulting firm Oliver Wyman, and was kind enough to devote three hours of his time for a meeting with managers of Group 1 orchestras at the League’s Mid-Winter Managers meeting. For Slywotsky, it’s all about “customer-centric business design,” a concept he explores thoroughly in his bestselling book The Profit Zone (Three Rivers Press). “Exactly how is the customer changing?” is the overarching question. Slywotsky says the answer doesn’t come from market research, but rather from onthe-ground conversations with customers, from asking the “questions to which you are afraid to hear the answers.” (Interest-
Freelon Tribute to Ella Fitzgerald (Mike Berkowitz, Conducting; Nelson Riddle Arrangements) From Hollywood to Broadway: The Great American Songbook
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Around The World: Celebrating 80 Years on Planet Earth
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Age Is Beautiful: Celebrating 90 Sheherazade and Rachmaninoff
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Thelonious Monk and All That Jazz
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ingly, he reports that senior executives often find this more difficult as they advance upward from production, where the focus lies in improving the product and increasing revenue.) Slywotsky also recommends collaboration among organizations as a strategy for meeting customer needs. He encouraged the Group 1 orchestra man-
agers to work together on some of their shared challenges. Best Put-Down of Orchestra Rankings: “Battle of the Bands” by Alex Ross, The New Yorker, March 22, 2010 I do of course read about orchestras too, and
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Instrumentalists Piano Cello
TANYA BANNISTER EDUARDUS HALIM YU KOSUGE JOHN O’CONOR ANTONIO POMPA-BALDI BRYAN WALLICK
DENISE DJOKIC WENDY WARNER Guitar
ANA VIDOVIC FABIO ZANON
Clarinet Violin CHARLES NEIDICH DEUTSCH Flute
LINDSAY ILYA KALER CAROL WINCENC RACHEL BARTON PINE ALEXANDER SITKOVETSKY Native American Flute LIVIA SOHN R. CARLOS NAKAI Viola
Conductors Robert Franz Carlo Ponti
Music Director, Music Director, Boise Philharmonic San Bernardino Symphony Associate Conductor, Houston Symphony Peter Rubardt Jorge Mester Music Director, Music Director, Pensacola Symphony Orchestra Louisville Orchestra Naples Philharmonic Orchestra Andrew Sewell Pasadena Symphony Orchestra Music Director, Robert Moody Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra
Music Director, Portland Symphony Orchestra Lawrence Leighton Smith Winston-Salem Symphony Music Director, Artistic Director, Colorado Springs Philharmonic Arizona Musicfest Sunriver Music Festival
was fascinated by Alex Ross’s irresistible and ultimate answer to the “who’s on top” debate. In his New Yorker column “Battle of the Bands, an orchestral marathon at Carnegie Hall,” this brilliant critic astutely yet gently points out the limitations of ranking orchestras. I was struck by another point; Ross seems to long for an end to the age of what our field has called “excellence.” He reports “having the impression of a cultural industry operating in peak condition,” but preferring less polish and more grit. He also wishes for more instances of imaginative programming, like the performances of Magnus Lindberg’s Clarinet Concerto by the New York Philharmonic and the complete Sibelius Kullervo by the Minnesota Orchestra. Note: Alex Ross, New York audiences, and other interested parties will see how imaginatively American orchestras can program when seven American orchestras show off their best programs over the course of nine days at Carnegie Hall during the Spring for Music festival in May 2011. It will be a bona fide U.S. orchestra marathon! Snapshot at the Top: “A New Voice from within the Met” by Michael Kimmelman, New York Times Every so often someone takes over the helm of one of our iconic orchestras. But it took reading this piece (which first appeared on September 10, 2008) about Thomas Campbell’s appointment at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for me to focus on what is at stake in heading up a really big, influential arts organization. Art critic Michael Kimmelman, who began his Times career as a music critic, thoughtfully parses the challenges and asserts his own view of what Campbell and the Met must do. His advice: Stick to what the Met does best. Don’t waste too much time on the new. Contemporary art is only a blip on the time scale for a museum encompassing the whole of human civilization. And finally, he says to Campbell and the Met: “Bringing together cultures of the world for a global public is a moral undertaking and indispensable to civilization; and it must be defended on those grounds.” Whatever one thinks of these views, certainly these are the kinds of issues that orchestra leaders must address. symphony
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Campaign For A New Direction The Campaign for a New Direction is the League of American Orchestras’ $25 million, five-year, comprehensive campaign, which is funding the new and ongoing programs and services set forth in its visionary Strategic Plan. Now in its fourth year, the Campaign has received over $22.5 million – 90% of the Campaign goal. All of us at the League of American Orchestras are extremely grateful to the following individuals for their generous Campaign support: Christopher Seton Abele, on behalf of the Argosy Foundation Douglas W. Adams W. Randolph Adams Nancy & Ellsworth Alvord, Jr., M.D. Alberta Arthurs Brent & Jan Assink Audrey G. Baird Elena Bales & Steven Bronfenbrenner Allison Ball Jennifer B. Barlament Lisa & Miles Barr Cecilia Benner Marie-Hélène Bernard Andrew Berryhill & Melinda Appold William P. Blair III Nancy Blaugrund Richard J. Bogomolny Fred & Liz Bronstein Dr. & Mrs. Malcolm Brown Wayne S. Brown & Brenda E. Kee Trish Bryan Michelle Miller Burns & Gary W. Burns Frank Byrne Catherine M. Cahill Andrew K. Cahoon & Erin R. Freeman John & Janet Canning Katherine Carleton Nicky B. Carpenter Judy Christl Richard & Kay Fredericks Cisek Katy Clark Melanie Clarke
Bruce & Martha Clinton, on behalf of The Clinton Family Fund Robert Conrad Marion Couch Julie F. & Peter D. Cummings Gloria dePasquale Amy & Trey Devey Mr. & Mrs. Richard M. DeVos, on behalf of The Richard & Helen DeVos Foundation Lisa Dixon Samuel C. Dixon Bret Dorhout Darlene A. Dreyer Emma E. Dunch & Elizabeth W. Scott Lois Robinson Duplantier D.M. Edwards Scott Faulkner & Andrea Lenz Aaron Flagg & Cristina Stanescu Flagg Ryan Fleur & Laura Banchero Henry & Frances Fogel Rachel & Terry Ford Michele & John Forsyte Mr. & Mrs. F. Tom Foster, Jr. James M. Franklin Catherine French Karen Gahl-Mills & Laurence Mills-Gahl Mr. Kareem A. George Douglas Gerhart John Gidwitz Ellen & Paul Gignilliat Edward B. Gill Clive Gillinson Alfred R. Glancy III
Joseph B. Glossberg & Madeleine Condit Glossberg Marian A. Godfrey John & Marcia Goldman Foundation Kathie & Ken Goode The Phoebe W. Haas Charitable Trust A as recommended by Carole Haas Gravagno Erica F. Hansen Gary Hanson & Barbara Klante Mark & Christina Hanson Daniel & Barbara Hart Jeffrey P. Haydon Shirley Bush Helzberg Jeanne & Gary Herberger Cristina & Carlos Herrera Jennifer Higdon & Cheryl Lawson Lauri & Paul Hogle Mr. & Mrs. Michael J. Horvitz Holly H. Hudak Mr. & Mrs. A. J. Huss, Jr. Mrs. Martha R. Ingram Kendra Whitlock Ingram James D. Ireland III James M. Johnson Russell Jones Loretta Julian Polly Kahn Atul R. Kanagat The Joseph P. & Nancy F. Keithley Foundation Gloria S. Kim Joseph H. Kluger Catherine & John Koten
Help ensure the future of orchestras by taking action now! Please join us in the Campaign for a New Direction by contacting Caroline Wolf, Interim Vice President for Development, at 646 822 4009 or email@example.com.
Judith Kurnick Anna Kuwabara & Craig S. Edwards Dennis W. LaBarre Michael Lawrence & Rachael Unite David Lebenbom The Lerner Foundation Robert & Emily Levine Jan & Daniel R. Lewis Peter B. Lewis Dr. Virginia M. Lindseth Jim & Kay Mabie Alex Machaskee Annie & William Madonia Eleanor H. Marine Lee R. Marks & Lisl Zach The Steve Mason Family Shirley D. McCrary Judy & Scott McCue Ashleigh Milner McGovern Robert McGrath Paul Meecham Zarin Mehta LaDonna Meinders Stephen Millen Beth E. Mooney Michael Morgan Thomas Morris Diane & Robert Moss Catherine & Peter Moye Emma Murley J.L. Nave III & Paul Cook James B. & Ann V. Nicholson Brenda Nienhouse Carolyn Nishon
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Stephanie Trautwein Rae Wade Trimmier Jeff & Melissa Tsai James Undercofler Lora Unger Alan D. & Connie Linsler Valentine Jamie Broumas van der Vink Dr. Jane Van Dyk Penelope Van Horn Matthew VanBesien & Rosie Jowitt Mr. Brandon VanWaeyenberghe Allison Vulgamore Robert J. Wagner Christina Walker Edward Walker Tina Ward Ms. Ginger B. Warner Dr. Charles H. Webb Mr. & Mrs. Albert K. Webster Sandra Weingarten Franz Welser-MĂśst Melody Welsh-Buchholz Stacey Weston Adair & Dick White Jan Wilson Rebecca & David Worters Kathryn Wyatt The Simon Yates & Kevin Roon Foundation Edward Yim Anonymous (3) â€“ Campaign support as of Apr. 20, 2010
Team by Chester Lane
Ruth Valente Burgess, principal cello in the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and a mentor/ teacher at Soulsville Charter School, with Soulsville seventh-grader Ashley Burkes
From conductorless concerts to partnerships with corporations and schools, the Memphis Symphony Orchestra is aiming to reinvent itself as an indispensable community resource.
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Players Anyone who attended a subscription concert by the Memphis Symphony Orchestra this season is likely to know that 2009-10 was a transitional year for the organization. David Loebel wrapped up his eleven-year tenure as music director at the end of last season, and 2009-10 was planned as a season of guest conductors who would lead concerts pending the installation of his successor. Among the guests was Mei-Ann Chen, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s assistant conductor and League of American Orchestras Conducting Fellow. Chen brought a program of Adams, Beethoven, and Dvorák to Memphis last fall, and in Seated with participants in a Leading from Every Chair workshop held in April 2008, Memphis Symphony Orchestra musicians including Susanna Perry Gilmore (red shirt) listen to directions from the podium.
February of this year was announced as the next music director of the orchestra, effective with the 2010-11 season. But a parade of guest conductors and the selection of a new music director have by no means been the only harbingers of change at the Memphis Symphony. More profound, though perhaps less obvious to the MSO’s immediate circle of subscribers and patrons, are the changes now underway as part of an evolutionary shift in the 58-year-old orchestra’s relationship with its community. Something more unusual than a transition to new artistic leadership has been going on.
For fans of classical music, the most visible manifestation of this is Opus One—a musician-run concert series, spearheaded by MSO Concertmaster Susanna Perry Gilmore, that made its debut this season. Following a test run in December for members of the MSO’s inner circle, the musicians participating in Opus One performed two public concerts sans conductor, in spaces radically different from the Cannon Center, home of the MSO’s main classical season, or its smaller venue in the suburbs, Germantown Performing Arts Centre. On March 4, Opus One offered “Four Bs”—a novel mix of Bach, Beethoven,
Memphis Symphony Orchestra
Wayne Joseph Campbell, Jr.
A participant in the MSO’s April 2008 Leading from Every Chair workshop takes the baton from thenMusic Director David Loebel.
and Big Band—at One Commerce Square, in the grand lobby of a building formerly occupied by SunTrust Bank. The second Opus One concert, on May 20, showcased in turn the strings, winds, and brass—music from Grieg’s Holberg Suite, Richard Strauss’s Wind Serenade, Henri Tomassi’s Fanfares Liturgiques—followed, after the break, with a string quartet performing original charts in collaboration with the noted Memphis soul and folk rock singer-songwriter Susan Marshall. For this program the venue was even more unusual: a downtown performing space known as The Warehouse, frequented by many of the city’s non-classical performers but actually the large living-room of a home owned by businessman and local music promoter Kris Kourdouvelis. In addition to selecting the repertoire and handling all aspects of concert production for Opus One, MSO musicians had studied up on the art of conductorless playing, first as observers at a As President rehearsal of the Orpheus and CEO Chamber Orchestra in Ryan Fleur New York City last Ocsees it, the tober and subsequently MSO’s ability in coaching sessions with to develop individual Orpheus members in Memphis. Tickets programs to the Opus One concerts, that meet priced at an affordable $25 community ($15 for students), were needs is in sold through the MSO part based box office, but marketed on identifying and publicized by orches“hot-button tra members themselves. issues” like A mid-winter press release leadership promoting the March development concert as a “chance to at a big local mingle with the orchestra corporation. in a cocktail party atmosphere” went out jointly “That’s not a from the MSO marketneed that you would normally ing department and from associate with Joseph Salvalaggio—with an orchestra,” no mention of the fact that Salvalaggio was also he says. the MSO’s principal oboe. Opus One was launched with help from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, which in 2007 had selected the Memphis Symphony and three other orchestras to participate in a New Strategies Lab as
Publicity for Opus One included this image of MSO Principal Oboe Joseph Salvalaggio; a release announcing the musician-run concert series listed him as press contact.
part of the Mellon-funded Orchestra Forum. As a concert series that capitalizes on the MSO’s artistic strengths while empowering musicians well beyond the traditional paradigm of a symphony orchestra, it is but one of the many new strategies now playing out at this orchestra. Equally significant are Leading from Every Chair—an innovative workshop and rehearsal-demonstration project that has brought MSO musicians individually and collectively into intimate contact with professionals from the city’s business community—and a teaching/mentoring partnership with Soulsville Charter School, an institution dedicated to steering less privileged members of the city’s young population toward college through a disciplined environment and a curriculum centered on music. The out-of-the-box thinking that lies at the heart of such programs as Opus One, Leading from Every Chair, and the partner-
ship with Soulsville resulted last year in the Memphis Symphony being singled out for one of five case studies to be included in a book that the League of American Orchestras would produce and make available to the orchestra field. Commissioned through a grant from MetLife Foundation, the book is called Fearless Journeys: Innovation in Five American Orchestras. Every League member orchestra is receiving a copy, and the entire book will be posted on the League’s website, americanorchestras.org. As for the innovative nature of Opus One, MSO President and CEO Ryan Fleur says that recent economic conditions had forced the orchestra to make some “drastic decisions. We cut 30 percent of our staff, and a good number of our subscription weeks. From that void we laid the groundwork for innovation. We’ve been able to accelerate the creative possibilities, and Opus One is a great example of that.” But while symphony
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Ears to the Ground
Dan Poag, a prominent real estate developer and immediate past chair of the MSO’s board of directors, says that soon after he joined the board early in Ryan Fleur’s tenure as chief executive, he “got involved in a strategic planning effort that Ryan was leading. I kept listening to the same things that symphony people always talk about when they get together to discuss their
problems. I finally said, ‘Let’s stop for a minute and ask this: why should someone who doesn’t really care about our music care whether our organization lives or dies? If we can’t answer that, then I question whether we deserve to live.’ People started thinking, and that’s what really led to these relationships.” Poag is referring both to Leading from Every Chair, which began as a pilot project with employees from FedEx Corporation, headquartered in Memphis, and to the teaching-mentoring project, which is very much a partnership with the city’s Soulsville Charter School. Lisa Dixon, the MSO’s chief operating officer, says that both relationships began to take shape in 2007 during a week-long retreat in Princeton, New Jersey, funded by the New Strategies Lab grant and facilitated by EMC Arts. Along with Loebel, Fleur, Poag, Dixon, and two musicians from the orchestra, the retreat participants included Marc Willis, then the director of Soulsville Charter School, and Anita Angelacci, a FedEx human resources professional who at that time was responsible for leadership development programs at the company. The retreat became a kind of “incubator for developing relationships,” says Dixon. Essential to that process was learning about the needs of these two very different Memphis-based organizations, and determining what the orchestra could do to help meet those needs.
Memphis Symphony violinist Marisa Polesky with Orpheus Chamber Orchestra musicians Jonathan Spitz and Carl Albach at a coaching session in conductorless orchestral performance last December
“Leadership develop- “I have taken a ment and talent retention very supportive was one of the hot-button role with Opus items that came up as we One,” says learned about the core valMusic Director ues of FedEx,” says Dixon. Designate “We picked that up as a place where we could Mei-Ann Chen. develop a relationship— “I want to give supporting those values musicians the through what the orches- flexibility to be tra inherently had to of- creative, and fer.” As Angelacci explains I think they’ve it, Leading from Every found a neat Chair came about as “a way of building collaboration with every- audiences that one from the symphony, would never including musicians, the come to us in conductor, Ryan and Lisa. a traditional We knew it would be intriguing to see how a sym- setting.” phony works, what makes the team successful, what the leadership is like, and how all this translates to a corporate environment. I brought in people from FedEx for the pilot, then we fine-tuned it and facilitated the program for some of our marketing managers.” This was a day-long seminar that included personal encounters between MSO musicians and the FedEx employees, hands-on experiments in music-making by the latter, and an afternoon rehearsal at the Cannon Center, with participants seated first in the audience and then onstage among the musicians. “We broke up into teams so our people could visit the woodwinds or the brass or the strings,” Angelacci recalls. “Managers asked musicians about their lifestyle—they were intrigued, because it’s so different from what they do every day. Musicians talked about their roles and who the various kinds of leaders were. Then the managers were invited up on stage and embedded themselves in the orchestra. The orchestra would play a little and we’d have more discussion. “It was so eye-opening for the managers. They learned that they don’t have to have all the answers—they can also rely on the people who work for them. I remember one manager talking about how important it was not just to listen to people’s words, but to pay attention to the other ways
budgetary concerns may have been a factor in the establishment of a musician-run concert series, Leading from Every Chair and the Soulsville partnership have been undertaken not as immediate earned-revenue enhancers or audience builders, but in direct response to community needs. And the foundation for all of these innovations was laid as far back as 2003, Fleur’s first year as president, when he and Loebel paid a visit to the mayor of Memphis. As the authors of Fearless Journeys write in their Memphis chapter, Fleur “surprised everyone on that visit. Instead of asking for help from the city, he asked the mayor how the orchestra could help him and the city of Memphis. From that moment, he changed the nature of the MSO’s cultural contract with the city by presenting himself as a different kind of leader, one with a new vision for the orchestra and a unique understanding of its role in Memphis and the Mid-South.”
they’re communicating, so they understand what their employees are actually saying to them. And there were lessons about finding somebody’s talent and capitalizing on it: if you put the right person in the right job and use that talent, the person will be happier and the team more successful. I still get people telling me this was one of the best leadership classes they’d ever taken. What I now admire about the symphony is that they realize they have to be relevant. Mak-
ing beautiful music is certainly important, and that will never go away. But there are other ways to be relevant, and that’s what we were exploring.” Since its debut with FedEx, Leading from Every Chair has been presented for employees of AutoZone Inc.—another large Memphis-based company—and for members of the local chamber of commerce. Gilmore says the seminar is now being adapted for use with a local high school
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as a leadership seminar for young people. As Fleur sees it, the orchestra’s ability to develop programs that meet community needs is in part based on identifying “hotbutton issues” like leadership development at a big local corporation. “That’s not a need that you would normally associate with an orchestra,” he says, “but it’s part of our strategy for survival, and for overall revenue development.” Fleur notes that one of the FedEx managers “was so taken with Leading from Every Chair that he wanted to give back in some way. He offered to help us build a great website for the program. We said ‘that’s wonderful, but you know, our main website is kind of lousy.’ ” The ultimate result of that conversation was not just an online presence for Leading from Every Chair, but a revamped site for the whole orchestra: the re-launch of memphissymphony.org this winter was made possible, says Fleur, through “about $100,000 of in-kind development that cost us about $5,000. It was entirely FedEx’s doing, because of the work we had done with Leading from Every Chair.” Direct revenue from the seminar has been slow in coming, but Dixon says that ideally Leading from Every Chair will become “a for-fee type offering, just like any other leadership development program. It can be repeated as many times as we can find people who want to go through the program. At the time we launched it, the economy was turning upside down and professionaldevelopment budgets were being slashed. But I’m confident that it’s going to take off, especially as things recover.” For the Soulsville partnership, Dixon says that what the orchestra picked up on during the Princeton retreat was the school’s need to “provide strong role models and mentors for their students, on a consistent basis. When we first went to Princeton, Marc [Willis] was kind of skeptical of the whole thing. He was very protective of his students—they have adult figures come in and out of their lives that they can’t depend on, and he wanted to make sure he could trust the symphony to deliver. He said, ‘you can come once a day, once a week, once a month, once a year, but it just needs to be consistent, and we need to be able to count on it.’ We decided that once a week was the right frequency. Our musicians teach them how to play their instruments and they talk about music a lot, but it’s more than that. symphony
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They’ll ask them how school is going, what they did over the holidays. The music is really a means to having our musicians become strong role models for these students.” Now in its third season, the Soulsville project has added one grade each year and currently involves students (mostly string and percussion players) in grades six, seven, and ten. Jennifer Puckett, the MSO’s principal viola and one of about twelve mentors from the orchestra, says that turnover in the school’s music faculty has been dispiriting to some students, and “seeing someone consistently [from the orchestra] is really important to them.” The need for occasional one-on-one counseling sessions with the Soulsville kids regarding personal issues has caused Puckett to draw upon skills beyond those required with her private students. “But I personally love teaching,” she says, “and am enjoying the mentoring program.” Just as with Leading from Every Chair, the Soulsville activities have not been a source of direct revenue for the orchestra. But Fleur says that because of this program, there are two funders—International Paper and a foundation that chooses to remain anonymous—that have become “very substantial backers of the Memphis Symphony, and would not under any other circumstances have supported an arts organization.”
capacity building.” According to Gilmore, for the first year of Opus One there were “about sixteen musicians, or slightly more than half of our full-time core,” who elected to help out with non-musical aspects of the series through the capacity building contract—an option that has also put musicians to work in such areas as grant writing, library research, and web design. Fleur notes that Opus One, in the way that it’s being marketed and presented by
the musicians, “may come across as a vagabond thing with a life of its own. But we’ve been very deliberate about having it not spin off and become its own thing. We’re making sure that it’s truly integrated with all of our concert series while still having its own brand and identity.” The concept of a musician-run series performed without a conductor is wholeheartedly endorsed by the MSO’s incoming music director. Mei-Ann Chen says that
All of these innovative activities now underway at the MSO involve musicians. And a cornerstone of the orchestra’s new paradigm is the flexibility of its contract with those musicians. “It’s different here than anywhere else,” says Dixon. “Each musician has a contract to sign, and they can check three different boxes. One box is just for rehearsals and performances. Another box is called an artistic engagement contract, where they receive additional compensation for projects like Soulsville, or Leading from Every Chair, or other activities in which music and their instrument are integrally involved in what they’re doing as part of a partnership. Putting a concert series together would come under the third box, which we are calling ‘capacity building’ for want of a better term. The rehearsals and performances for Opus One would be covered by the first box, but all the work they do behind the scenes— getting the program together, producing the concerts, generating buzz—falls under americanorchestras.org
when she initially auditioned for the job, “I had to ask them, ‘Are you sure you need a conductor? If you’re looking to be the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, that’s the end of my expertise.’ ” But clearly it was not the MSO’s intention to become a conductorless orchestra. Opus One, says Chen, “is a way to provide the musicians with a chance to play together more often, to strengthen the ensemble. I have taken a very supportive role, and I appreciate that the Opus One musi-
cians are working with me on repertoire. I don’t know exactly how it’s going to work out, but what’s so beautiful is that everybody is willing to work with each other so much. I want to give them the flexibility to be creative, and I think they’ve found a neat way of building audiences that would never come to us in a traditional setting.” As of early April, plans were shaping up for an Opus One concert next winter that would complement Chen’s “Italian Inspirations”
program, one of the five country-themed subscription pairs she will conduct during her debut “Season of Discovery.” A highlight of that season will be the world premiere of a new Osvaldo Golijov work, commissioned by a consortium of more than 30 orchestras in honor of former League of American Orchestras President and CEO Henry Fogel. It’s part of an October 10 “Hope in America!” program that also includes music by Barber, Copland, and Joan Tower. Chen says the Americana theme was something of a personal statement. A native of Taiwan who received a master’s degree in both violin and conducting from New England Conservatory and a doctorate in conducting from the University of Michigan, she notes that “America is a big melting pot. This country has given me a chance to fulfill my dream, and I’m very grateful that a music director with my profile is being accepted in Memphis.” Chen’s resume includes not only extensive string training but also five years as music director of the Portland Youth Philharmonic in Oregon, and she expects to become involved in teaching and mentoring activities at Soulsville. “For me, education is not work: it comes from the heart, because you are making a huge difference in someone else’s life. “One of the things that drew me to this orchestra was its innovative way of thinking. I have artistic vision for the orchestra locally, regionally, and nationally. And I see my role as being the unifying force—galvanizing all of this bubbling energy, taking it in one direction but also having enough flexibility to let the energy continue to flow. We are trying things that many other orchestras might not even dare to talk about. I’m glad to be joining the orchestra at this crucial moment, because I strongly believe that a new era is starting.” CHESTER LANE is senior editor of Symphony.
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the public and allowing the audience to hear a work in progress, and watching the conductor-musician relationship unfold. The ensemble gets valuable audience feedback, hears how different works sound with people in the hall, and presents a more approachable, human image to those in attendance. Audiences benefit, too. An open rehearsal is an opportunity to hear how a conductor and orchestra polish the music for a particular concert. Each rehearsal allows the public to understand the artistic process and the relationship between conductor and orchestra. And a rehearsal is an attractive option for those who cannot afford regularly priced concert tickets, do not want to drive at night, or are not scheduled to hear a particular concert as part of their subscription. “It’s fascinating to watch the rehearsal process,” says Chicago Symphony Orchestra patron Thomas Sinkovic. “Very rarely do you have the experience of seeing what a conductor actually does. Each conductor
here are no tuxedos and no footlights onstage as the sounds of Stravinsky’s The Firebird fill Chicago’s Symphony Hall. Suddenly, conductor Pierre Boulez, dressed in a turtleneck and loosefitting suit, brings the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to a halt and asks the t-shirt-andjeans-clad musicians to make various dynamic markings in their parts. During pauses in the music, Boulez discusses passages with musicians. More unusual, however, is who else is present: for about two and a half hours, scattered audience members sit quietly in attendance, observing how conductor and musicians build a rapport and work out kinks in the performance, searching for the ever-elusive artistic perfection. For the symphony orchestras of Boston, Bremerton (Wash.), Chicago, Cobb County (Ga.), Delaware, and San Diego, there are numerous benefits to opening rehearsals to
Open H by Greg Waxberg
When orchestras invite the
Joe del Tufo
Delaware Symphony Orchestra Music Director David Amado and composer/ mandolinist Chris Thile during an open rehearsal
has his own style and personality, which I have not necessarily been aware of during a formal performance. Some will immediately cut off the orchestra when they hear something they want to call attention to. Some will play through the whole movement and then come back. Almost with photographic memory and no pencils or pens, they can call attention to something, and have the orchestra re-play it.” For many orchestras, there is a strong education and audience-development component to open rehearsals, which represent an excellent opportunity for students to develop an appreciation for what goes into serious music-making. Students and the general public alike, often drawn to open rehearsals
by the reduced or even free admission, see a more accessible, humanized orchestra and may be more inclined to try out one of the orchestra’s regular concerts. Not For Adults Only
Cayenne Harris, director of learning and access initiatives at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, notes that because open rehearsals serve as important access points for students, the CSO’s rehearsals for high school students include question-and-answer sessions with the musicians. Harris says students want to know about things like the audition process, the number of rehearsals for each program, and setup procedures for the stage. They are also curious about the conductor’s symphony
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Chicago Symphony Orchestra open rehearsals feature a question-and-answer session for students.
or guest artist’s favorite composers or pieces. Other questions focus on how extensively the musicians practice, other kinds of music they like, where they attended school, and details about specific works on the program. These experiences give younger music students fresh insights into rehearsal and orchestral repertoire, and music teachers gain ideas for improving their rehearsal techniques. The Boston Symphony Orchestra’s High School Open Rehearsals, tailored for grades 8 to 12, begin at 10:30 a.m. with a pre-rehearsal discussion led by an orchestra musician, featured composer, or conductor. An hour later, students have an insider’s view of a typical rehearsal, where the conductor’s and musicians’ interaction is shown on two americanorchestras.org
large flat-screen televisions that sit on either side of the stage. On occasion, a questionand-answer session with the conductor and/ or guest artist takes place after the rehearsal. “We’ve been extremely impressed by the students’ attentiveness during the rehearsals,” says Steve Lester, a CSO bass player and chairman of the Members Committee. “Their questions afterward reflect that attentiveness, and usually a substantial amount of knowledge.” An enthusiastic supporter of the CSO rehearsals is Dennis Friesen-Carper, Reddel professor of music at Valparaiso University in Indiana and music director of the Valparaisobased American International Youth Symphony Orchestra. Friesen-Carper brings his
public to rehearsals
Guest conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya and cellist Yo-Yo Ma take questions from students following an open rehearsal at Chicago’s Symphony Hall.
Valparaiso students to a rehearsal once each semester. “For performance majors, it’s an inspiration and a reality check,” he says. “For student conductors, it is a revealing contrast to their school and community ensemble experience. For composers and the orchestration class, it’s invaluable to hear such incredible playing and to observe sound-shaping, such as how a conductor solves concerto balance problems with articulation and color, as well as dynamics.” He has also noticed that more students go to concerts after attending open rehearsals. “The CSO is building an audience for this important music through humanizing the experience of going to the symphony,” Friesen-Carper says. At the San Diego Symphony’s open rehearsals for college and high school students, the audience is advised about appropriate behavior before entering the hall. “I’ve never had a musician or conductor complain about students,” says Adrienne Valencia, the orchestra’s director of education In high school, and outreach. She says that “rehearsals Music Director Jahja Ling runs open rehearsals like any gave me other rehearsal, “so the ata window tendees are experiencing the into the real rehearsal just as the musicians working lives of professional would normally experience it. The schools understand symphonic that they are just a ‘fly on the musicians,” wall’ and that they are there San Diego to watch and observe how a Symphony typical rehearsal takes place bassist Jeremy and unfolds.” The musicians Kurtz says, occasionally use part of their “and this breaks to visit with the audiallowed me to ence and answer questions, start imagining which the attendees thormyself in their oughly enjoy. Sometimes, developing shoes.” an audience through open rehearsals begins at an even earlier age. Alan Futterman, music director of the Bremerton Symphony Association in the town of Bremerton, Washington, has seen many families bring young children to his rehearsals, which are open to students and the general public. “I have been asked over the years if children disrupt rehearsals,” says Futterman. “In twenty years, this has never happened. In-
Michael Alexander leads a Cobb Symphony Orchestra rehearsal.
variably, these children sit in rapt attention, completely engaged in the music. We have seen these children grow to become our students. Later, many become our patrons and buy concert tickets, and a few now play in an orchestra professionally.” One such person is Jeremy Kurtz, principal bass in the San Diego Symphony. During high school, he was a member of the National Symphony Orchestra’s Youth Fellowship Program, which required him to attend NSO rehearsals every month. “The rehearsals gave me a window into the real working lives of professional symphonic musicians,” Kurtz says, “and made a much stronger impression on me than simply watching a polished concert. I was able to see what was really involved in the preparation of great performances, and this allowed me to start imagining myself in their shoes. I don’t think I seriously considered a career as an orchestral musician until I began attending those open rehearsals.” Timing is a key factor in allowing students and families to attend. The CSO’s rehearsals for students almost always begin at 10 a.m., a convenient time for high schools. “On occasion, we invite students to an orchestra rehearsal that includes the Chicago Symphony Chorus, and those rehearsals begin at 4:30 p.m.,” the Chicago Symphony’s Cayenne Harris says. “The late start time is much more challenging for school groups. These afternoon rehearsals allow us to broaden the invitation for open rehearsals, and in recent years we have welcomed groups of senior citizens, students from area community music schools and participants in ongoing partnership programs.” At the Boston Symphony, high school
open rehearsals are required to take place at the same time as regular open rehearsals because the rehearsal schedule is a contracted service in the orchestra’s calendar. (Regular open rehearsals take place Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m. or Thursdays at 10:30 a.m., while high school open rehearsals take place on separate Thursdays at 10:30 a.m.) The Bremerton Symphony’s open rehearsals take place in the evening, and there are open dress rehearsals in the mornings. Futterman has noticed that more students attend evening rehearsals, while the morning dress rehearsals attract more families with children who are interested in getting close to the instruments. Breaking the Price Barrier
One question orchestras must face in planning open rehearsals is whether to charge admission. The Boston Symphony’s open rehearsals at Symphony Hall generate approximately $300,000 in revenue each year, an important part of the orchestra’s overall revenue stream, although tickets for the high school open rehearsals are less expensive than tickets for regular rehearsals—$10 versus $19. The net income from open rehearsals at Symphony Hall and Tanglewood benefits the orchestra’s Pension Fund, in accordance with the musicians’ contract. “Open rehearsal tickets are cheaper than a regular seat, but they help to offset the cost of a rehearsal,” says Todd Youngblood, board chair of the Cobb Symphony Orchestra, which performs in the Atlanta suburbs of Kennesaw and Marietta, Georgia. “They also provide an opportunity for those who can’t afford a normal ticket. Ideally, they would be free.” Many students attend the symphony
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Cobb Symphony’s rehearsals, which are open to the general public. Admission helps cover the cost of pizza for attendees, a fun perk for students. Free admission can also make a statement. “My philosophy is to keep the open rehearsals free,” says the Bremerton Symphony’s Futterman. “Allowing the public free access is a great community service and makes for great public relations.” For the Delaware Symphony Orchestra, based in Wilmington, free admission is mandatory. The orchestra’s collective bargaining agreement does not allow open rehearsals to generate any revenue, and the musicians’ labor committee would have to sign a contract waiver to allow more than 100 people in the hall. The DSO offers open rehearsals to students and to donors and subscribers who contribute at a certain level. Donors who attend open rehearsals “feel a closer connection to the orchestra,” says Director of Development Christopher van Bergen, “not only encouraging them to increase their giving, but also become advocates for the orchestra within the community.” Bergen says that Music Director David Amado and musicians of the orchestra understand the value of engaging the members of the DSO’s family of donors as well as presenting their craft to area students. “They do not feel that having an audience during a rehearsal affects the creative process. If anything, they are inspired by it,” he says. Amado makes a point of speaking to donors and students prior to open rehearsals, discussing the pieces that the audience is going to hear, giving his insights into the program, and drawing attention to particular passages that the audience should listen for. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra also opens its rehearsals to patrons who donate at certain levels, and CSO President Deborah Rutter always begins the rehearsal with a special thank you to the patrons. “It makes you feel that the CSO is genuinely appreciative of your support,” says CSO patron Thomas Sinkovic. The CSO’s Harris believes that free admission is appropriate. “Because these are working rehearsals, the educational component has to take a back seat to the primary purpose of the event,” she says, “which is to prepare the orchestra for the concert.” The San Diego Symphony does not charge for its open rehearsals, either. “Even if we did,” Valencia says, “the amount would be so americanorchestras.org
small it wouldn’t really make a difference. Plus, many schools have to secure a bus to attend, so that’s a cost to them.” Up Close and Personal
One benefit of open rehearsals is making orchestras more approachable: the musicians are dressed informally and the setting is more relaxed. Students may see that orchestra members are more like them than they realized before. “The rehearsal allows
students to see that musicians are real people,” says Harris. “They make mistakes, they laugh at jokes, and, most importantly, with the help of the conductor, they focus and come together to achieve the desired result.” General seating adds to that sense of accessibility and offers other benefits, including the chance to sit closer to the stage and hear the music from different vantage points. The closer connection between orchestra (continued on page 42) >>
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(continued from page 39) and audience could raise a concerns about whether it is distracting to have an audience at rehearsals. But orchestras themselves report few problems with audience disruption. “We tell conductors to run a rehearsal as they need to achieve the best musical results,” says Anthony Fogg, artistic administrator of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He notes that the conductor “may welcome everyone and perhaps explain what is going to happen in a rehearsal, such as that a singer may be ‘marking’ or that he or she will be concentrating on certain works or sections of a work. On occasion, I’ve heard a conductor jokingly ask the audience whether a passage should be rehearsed again!” Nancy Saunders, a Delaware Symphony donor and subscriber, attends rehearsals frequently because she likes to see “Audience the concert as a work-in-progmembers ress, and she believes her fellow attendees feel the same way. are much “I can see what [the conduc- more likely tor and musicians are] working to approach toward and, as a result, I enjoy the conductor the concert more,” she says. “I at the end of get the feeling that the audience a rehearsal appreciates what the musicians than after go through and, more than that, a concert,” they appreciate that they’re al- Bremerton lowed to be there to watch this Symphony production be put together.” Music Director Orchestras say they often Alan Futterman benefit from having the people in the hall, inviting feedback says. “Typically from the audience on passages after concerts, in the works being rehearsed. we are elusive “It is one thing to rehearse and figures perfect a work in an empty hall,” dressed in the Bremerton Symphony’s tails who retire Futterman says. “While this al- to the Green lows us to finely hone the tech- Room.” nical aspects of a piece, it does not let us gauge the impact that a movement, a section, or even a single phrase will have on listeners. In rehearsal, we may try performing a phrase with different inflections, different emphasis, or different pacing.” Audiences will voice their approval by clapping, or, if Futterman turns around, a thumbs-up. “I have also observed that the orchestra enjoys playing for an audience and almost always plays its best at the open rehearsal.” symphony
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The BSO’s Fogg also notes the difference in acoustics between an empty hall and one at least partially filled with patrons—80 percent full in most cases. “Open rehearsals provide the conductor and soloist the opportunity to experience a performance under concert conditions,” he says. “The acoustics of Symphony Hall—as great as they are—are a little different when the auditorium is empty versus full. An open rehearsal gives the performers a better approximation of concert conditions, which is especially useful if an artist is performing in Symphony Hall for the first time.” Michael Alexander, music director of the Cobb Symphony Orchestra, describes the atmosphere at open rehearsals as “cordial and intense.” Because the orchestra comes prepared, he says, “it should never be a problem to have people watch it.” Alexander says he speaks to the audience before the rehearsal and chats during breaks, but refrains from doing so during the rehearsal “so they can feel what a normal rehearsal is like.” Futterman says that audiences attending the Bremerton Symphony’s rehearsals are at least as engaged as the orchestra’s concert audiences. “Audience members are much more likely to approach the conductor at the end of a rehearsal than after a concert,” he says, “because the conductor might be standing around the stage in ‘street’ clothes. Typically after concerts, we are elusive figures dressed in tails who retire to the Green Room. This situation does not lead to extensive interaction with the public and is one reason why I have always enjoyed remaining in the hall after the open rehearsal specifically to interact with the public. I have been rewarded with excellent suggestions for future repertoire and future soloists. “Rather than rue the calendar day marked ‘Open Dress,’ I look forward to what I know will be the most enjoyable rehearsal of the week.”
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GREG WAXBERG is a writer and magazine editor for The Pingry School in Martinsville, New Jersey, a freelance writer covering the arts, and a program annotator for opera companies.
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Trumpet and Piano Duo
by Susan Elliott
Breaking Through Inclusiveness is a goal for every American orchestra. Some progress is being made, but true diversity onstage and off remains elusive.
very ten years, the U.S. Government conducts a population census to determine what America looks like. By the middle of this century, the number of “non-Hispanic whites” will comprise a little over half of the total U.S. population; Hispanics and, to a lesser degree, African Americans and Asian Americans, will make up the difference. This year, there will be more “minority” than “majority” births in the U.S. Suddenly, the minority is the majority. We are, to put it mildly, a rapidly shifting paradigm. You wouldn’t know it by looking at American orchestras. The overwhelming majority of their musicians are white, even though many of the cities in which they play are largely black and Hispanic. What’s the problem here? Why don’t American orchestras look like America? According to figures from the League of American Orchestras, in the 1994-95 season, with 189 orchestras reporting, African-American musicians accounted for 1.31 percent of all musicians in orchestras; Latin or Hispanic musicians accounted for 1.6 percent; and Asians accounted for 4.54 percent. The most recent figures, for the 2007-08 season, with 154 orchestras reporting: 1.83 percent African Americans, 2.42 percent Latinos, 7.34 percent Asians. Not much progress. “This is a problem that has literally been talked about since the 1960s,” says Aaron Dworkin, founding president of the fourteen-year-old Sphinx Organization, whose vision is “a world in which classical music reflects cultural diversity and plays a role in the everyday lives of youth.” Successful initiatives like Sphinx, Project Step in Boston, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Young Strings program, Youth Orchestra LA (a
88.41% of players in American orchestras are white 7.34% are Asian
2.42% are Latino
1.83% are African American
program of the Los Angeles Philharmonic), and numerous other laudable efforts by orchestras of every size are making inroads. Minority conductors are a growing presence as music directors and guests on podiums nationwide. The use of “blind” au-
ditions—where musicians perform behind a screen when auditioning for orchestras, so that only their music-making, not their race or gender, is perceived—has long been industry practice. Still, for the most part, the statistics speak for themselves. “There’s symphony
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As Dworkin points out, orchestras lag behind virtually every other profession in hiring minorities. The United States has a black president—admittedly, the first in the country’s 234-year history—while black college presidents, governors, doctors, lawyers, and high-profile entertainers, from comedians to movie stars to rap musicians, are familiar figures. In conversations with musicians, educators, and administrators, the reasons for the dearth of minorities in our orchestras are myriad and complex. The problem has historical precedent, and it is solidly entrenched. It is educational, generational, psychological, practical, and all of the above.
been very little change,” says Dworkin. In other areas, change has occurred: few would question the healthy influx of women in orchestras in the last half-century. AsianAmerican musicians are now represented in orchestras in greater proportions than their percentage of the general U.S. population. All the same, black and Latino representation remains alarmingly low. Changing the face of American orchestras—not to mention their audiences, boards, and staffs—requires vast amounts of time, money, and sweat equity. Allison Vulgamore, president and CEO of The Philadelphia Orchestra and, formerly, of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, believes that unless an orchestra commits to making americanorchestras.org
diversity a priority, it won’t happen. Vulgamore is considered something of an expert on the subject of diversity, having overseen the sixteen-year evolution of the Atlanta Symphony’s Talent Development Program, credited with sending some 88 inner-city high school students to colleges and conservatories, nearly half of them playing in the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra along the way. (For more on the ASO’s Talent Development Program, see sidebar.) “Can we change our orchestra to be 50 percent Latino and African-American tomorrow?” Vulgamore asks. “No. Can we have a longterm objective with milestones and goals to achieve? Absolutely. For right now, let’s just get started better.”
Michael J. Lutch
Cellist Mitzi Okou, with accompanist Sharon Berenson, performs at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s annual Talent Development Program Spring Recital.
Ann Hobson Pilot, recently retired principal harp at the Boston Symphony Orchestra, early in her career (below) with the orchestra; and performing the world premiere (bottom) of John Williams’s On Willows and Birches with Music Director James Levine and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, September 23, 2009.
First-year students at Project Step in Boston
And it’s not necessarily about racism. “We look very little to the past,” says Dworkin. “There’s no overt prejudice out there today.” Ann Hobson Pilot, who was principal harp at the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1969 to 2009, and, as such, a pioneer in the field, points to the educational system. “The issue of minorities in orchestras
has not improved as much as it might have, because there’s so little opportunity for kids to study instruments at an early age,” she says. “I began the harp in 1958 at the [public] Philadelphia High School for Girls, which had an extremely extensive music program. If it hadn’t been for that program, I never would’ve started the harp.”
“Generally speaking, African-American and Latino communities do not value symphony orchestras,” says trumpeter Stanford Thompson, a recent graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music who went through the Atlanta Symphony Talent Development program. “It’s hard to get those students motivated and to keep them engaged.” Thompson recently returned from Venezuela as one of ten musicians in the Abreu Fellows Program, which is based at New England Conservatory. The Fellows were studying El Sistema in its home country in order to develop locally appropriate versions of it in the U.S. Then there is the issue of role models— or lack thereof. Hobson Pilot considers herself lucky to have “fallen in love with the harp,” because going to concerts as a child in Philadelphia, she remembers, “I never saw anyone on stage—or in the audience— who looked like me.” Norman Johns, assistant principal cellist of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, recounts how, as a young musician, he didn’t know there were other black string players until he played a job for Aretha Franklin in the 1970s. Franklin had stipulated that she wouldn’t perform without more blacks in the orchestra; Johns was among those recruited for the gig, from all over the country.
Committed to Change
The Chicago Sinfonietta’s very raison d’être is diversity: in the orchestra, on the board, and in the audience. African Americans and, to a lesser degree, Latinos, comprise over half of the orchestra and board and slightly under half of the staff and audience. The Sinfonietta, a professional freelance ensemble, was founded in 1987 by Paul Freeman, who remains its music director. Its programs promote diversity in schools, one of which, Project Inclusion, provides fellowships for promising musicians to play with the orchestra. The Sinfonietta, which also promotes composers of color, does not use screens in the audition process. Founded in 2004 by Mexican conductor and pianist Alondra
or promising young African-American and Latino student musicians, the Talent Development Program of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra opens the door to opportunity and achievement at the highest level. At the League of American Orchestra’s 2010 National Conference in Atlanta this June, a Perspectives Session provides an overview of the best thinking and practices of this nationally recognized minority talent-development initiative. The session offers an opportunity to learn about this program from those who have experienced it first-hand and think about how to change the face of American orchestras.
de la Parra (who at the time was 23), the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas is a professional New York-based ensemble whose mission is to promote musicians and composers of the Americas. The instrumentalists, mostly age 35 and under, hail from 22 different countries. De la Parra programs repertoire and hires
soloists only from the Americas. No German violinists, Swedish nightingales, or Beethoven symphonies. “Many orchestras will give a chance to a young Russian pianist,” she says, “but not a young Brazilian.” As to living composers, De la Parra’s proudest success is 36-year-old Enrico Chapela, whose music had never been heard outside of Mexico until Alondra de la Parra, founder and artistic director of the Philharmonic the Philharmonic played the North Orchestra of the Americas American premiere of his Inguesu, composed to commemorate a soccer match (!) between Mexico and Brazil. Since then the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has played the work and the Los Angeles Philharmonic has commissioned a new score from him. Chapela has also been signed by music publisher Boosey & Hawkes.
lans. “This is a real community program,” he says. “It puts the resources, the instruments, directly into kids’ hands. They have nothing to lose.” They don’t have to choose between horseback riding lessons and soccer—not when music lessons are free and all their peers are studying music as well. And, Thompson reports, concerts are packed. Reality check: El Sistema Aaron Dworkin, founder and president of the Sphinx is mostly governOrganization, with Sphinx Overture Students in Detroit ment-funded, and the program, which has been in place for As to the psychological aspect, orchesover three decades, encompasses the entire tras’ whiteness begins, and is perhaps most country. crucial, at the top. Conductor Michael “The cultural barrier that surrounds orMorgan, who has served twenty years as chestras is huge,” says Mark Churchill, music director of the Oakland East Bay dean and artistic director of New England Symphony and ten as music director of Conservatory’s Department of Preparatory the Sacramento Philharmonic Orchestra, and Continuing Education, as well as the points out that “When a board of direcdirector of El Sistema USA. “El Sistema tors has to choose someone who will be the has not only broken down those barriers, physical representation of the orchestra, it’s it has turned them inside out.” Venezuelan hard to go out on a limb.” orchestras now look like the populations The overriding obstacle to true diversity they serve. “The orchestras are in their within the American orchestra is cultural— space, they are part of the community,” says what Vulgamore calls “the barrier that’s Churchill. “The affluent kids have to go going to take decades” to remove. Which into the barrios, because that’s where the is why Venezuela’s best instruction is. Until we achieve someEl Sistema program thing like that, where large communities of has been successyoung people of color are really embracful: it gets to the ing classical music and playing orchestral root of the issue by instruments as part of their own cultural using classical muidentity, I don’t think we’re going to turn sic as an agent of around the situation in our orchestras.” change. Thompson reports how, before El Sistema, VenTaking Steps ezuelan orchestras In the meantime, some orchestras and orhired mostly foreign Mark Churchill, dean ganizations like Sphinx are making progplayers because there and artistic director ress. Project Step boasts a high rate of sucwere not enough of New England cess: all of its graduates go on to college, qualified nationals. Conservatory’s and many to conservatory. The program Now the country’s Department of was founded in 1982 by the Boston SymPreparatory and o r c h e s t r a s — a n d Continuing Education, phony’s then-personnel manager, William there are many—are as well as director of Moyer, who had been given a mandate by filled with Venezue- El Sistema USA the administration to find minority musiamericanorchestras.org
cians to audition for the orchestra. That he could find so few led him to bring the BSO, New England Conservatory, and the Boston University School of Music together to create Project Step, which provides musical instruction and mentoring to students from ages five to eighteen. Project Step Executive Director Mary Jaffee reports that twothirds of its graduates make their livings in classical music. One of them, Mariana Green-Hill, who holds a masters degree from The Juilliard School, is now the artistic director of Project Step. Sphinx is the largest and perhaps most visible of programs promoting diversity in classical music. Through its annual competition; its neighborhood, school, and camp programs; instrument loans; the Sphinx Orchestra, and more, the Detroit-based organization is credited with directly reaching 65,000 students in schools, awarding $1.7 million in scholarships, and setting up some 200 performances with major orchestras for its competition winners. Dworkin points with pride to the six competition alumni who are now members of full-season orchestras. “Sphinx is the search engine of the talent we’re looking for,” says Vulgamore, “because orchestras can’t do everything.” Atlanta’s Talent Development Program actually started as a community-engagement initiative and evolved over time into a professional training program for minority music students, using orchestra members as mentors and teachers. Two of its graduates are now playing professionally in orchestras, and all of them have gone on to college or conservatory. The same is true of Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Young Strings, launched in 1992 for minority public-school students: the 90 alumni who made it through the program, which starts in kindergarten and goes through high school, have gone on to college or conservatory, or are there now. “Affirmative action is supposed to repair the ills of the past,” says harpist Ann Hobson Pilot. “And that’s what a lot of these programs are doing. For so many years, blacks didn’t even have the opportunity to go into the orchestra field. Putting instruments in kids’ hands, encouraging them, giving them lessons” are appropriate ways to make up for the past. She says that these methods are more effective than simply “taking a somewhat accomplished player
Widening the Pool
So while the number of minority musicians in orchestras may not have changed significantly in the last 50 years, it’s a safe assumption that the pool of qualified players has increased. Dworkin believes that, these days, the argument that the talent pool isn’t big enough is no longer true. Hobson Pi-
lot, too, sees more young musicians of color coming out of the conservatory. They just don’t necessarily choose to play in orchestras. “The numbers are not improving as far as blacks in orchestras, but the numbers are improving in terms of blacks being excellent players,” she says. Hobson Pilot herself is producing a film on the subject, tentatively titled The Changing Face of Classical Music. “A lot of blacks don’t even want a job
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and putting him into an orchestra chair.”
Michael Morgan in action as music director of the Sacramento Philharmonic Orchestra. He holds the same title at the Oakland East Bay Symphony.
in an orchestra,” she says. “They consider it too restricting.” From where he sits at a major conservatory, Churchill sees the ratio of minority musicians landing orchestral jobs about equal to the ratio of majority musicians landing them. There just aren’t very many positions open. The National Association of Schools of Music reports that, for the 2008-09 academic year, master’s degree graduates broke down as follows: 4.7 percent black or non-Hispanic Latino; 0.2 percent American Indian or Native Alaskan; 1.3 percent Pacific Islander; 5.4 percent Hispanic/Latino; 60.6 percent NonHispanic White; 6.6 percent Asian (5.1 percent were Asian women); 21.2 percent Other/Race Ethnicity Unknown. Of course, the odds of any student of the performing arts actually landing a secure job in his or her chosen field are slim. But for classical musicians of color it’s particularly difficult because there is so little precedent. “In the 30 or 40 years I’ve been involved with music education, I’ve seen extremely talented students of color who certainly had the potential to develop into fine orchestra players,” says Churchill. “But making the choice to go in a direction that is high-risk—we all know the statistics of how many people actually wind up in orchestras—is more difficult for them. The pressure from families in their communities to excel in more mainstream professions is far greater, especially when they have access to medical and legal careers that are crying out for their participation.” Dworkin thinks orchestras should make a recruiting effort at least equal to that made by other professions, by calling conservatories and asking specifically about upcoming students of color who are possible audition candidates. symphony
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time after time. But many of those wells are running dry, particularly in these economic times. So what’s an orchestra to do? “There are no simple solutions,” says Dworkin. “The reality is it’s complicated, and it’s hard.” Perhaps simply acknowledging that there’s a problem—and then setting milestones en route to fixing it—is enough to, as Vulgamore put it, “get started.” “It has to be a priority,” she says. “When you take this on, it has to be from top to bottom. It’s all-consuming. And you can’t fake it.”
“Any self-respecting company located in a city that is 70 percent or 80 percent mi“Access” is a word that comes up repeatedly nority, whose customers represent only 2 in any discussion of diversity. Related to or 3 percent [of that group] would make Churchill’s point, talented young people of it their No. 1 priority” to fix the imbalance, color feel they have access to the legal and says Dworkin. medical professions partly because of outDiversity in an orchestra goes beyond and-out recruitment efforts, but also bethe ensemble and the audience that comes cause they may know doctors and lawyers to hear it. At many orchestras, a large personally. The chances of their rubbing number of board and staff members comelbows with classical musicians are pretty mute to the concert hall from the suburbs slim, unless they or someone they know is to the inner city. Dworkin points out that, in the orchestra field. without the issues of tenure and union Orchestras need to create access to their regulations, creating diversity on the staff musicians, says Vulgamore, not only for is far less complex than it is in the oraspiring young players but also for potenchestra. And yet, he says, “Less than half tial audience members. “You have to let of one percent of executive directors are people know they have access,” she says. black. Less than one percent are Latino. “You have to authentically spend time lisThere are no black or Latino artistic adtening and understanding. You can make a ministrators. Education, outreach, devellot of presumptions, but unless you know opment—3 or 4 percent.” what access really looks like in your comWill a non-minority marketing team munity, you’re not going to be successful.” know how and where to reach a minority In many cases, particularly the South, that audience? Can the development departmeans going into the churches. “You can’t ment approach the black middle class and just hang out a poster and expect everyone win its trust? What is the board make-up? to come visit,” says Vulgamore. “Sometimes LOA_09:Layout 1 4/17/09 10:05 AM Page 1 It’s far easier to turn to the known sources, they need to be invited.” Advertising Access
SUSAN ELLIOTT writes frequently on the arts and is the editor of MusicalAmerica.com. Recent articles have appeared in The New York Times, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and BBC Music.
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How the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra charted a new course
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Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra Music Director David americanorchestras.org Robertson
Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra at home in Powell Hall
In 2001, the SLSO came so close to dyOn April 3, 2009, gales and hailstorms deing that its life since 1880 flashed before its layed flights all over the country. The Saint eyes. This glorious orchestra—famous for Louis Symphony Orchestra was finally in the warmth of its sound and the smooth the air, two hours late, en route to Carninterplay between sections—was broke. egie Hall. Ward Stare, the orchestra’s young Virginia V. Weldon, recently retired resident conductor, was dozing in the jet from the biotech company Monsanto as seengine’s white noise when he was tapped nior vice president of public policy, had just on the shoulder. “You’re conducting Franassumed the board chairmanship when, kenstein!! tonight,” he was informed. “Betearly in the first quarter of 2001, she was ter start learning the score!” SLSO Music informed that the orchestra didn’t have Director David Robertson would still be enough cash left to make its March payroll. conducting Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony, but The SLSO had sailed through the prosperwhen they reached Frankenstein!!, Stare ous ’90s, and only in preparation for Y2K would pick up the baton and Robertson had it updated its opaque accounting syswould pick up, oh, a slide whistle. Or a katem. Now it was fast becoming obvious just zoo. While he sang. where, and how badly, the organization was HK Gruber, the Austrian composer of bleeding. Frankenstein!!, had been scheduled to sing Weldon resigned from her appointment his own musical “pandemonium,” adding as director of the Center for the Study of whimsical musical flourishes as he went. American Business at Washington UniverBut Gruber’s flight had been canceled, so sity and moved into Powell Hall, the orcheshe would not be appearing with the ortra’s home, full time. She sat chestra at Carnegie Hall. in her office making anxious Robertson was already in his In 2001, calls—to bankers, CEOs, New York apartment, cramthe SLSO came board members. When a ming. Stare pulled out the so close to dying banker refused the SLSO a Frankenstein!! score and, in loan and suggested it borthe dim airplane light, bent that its life row from itself, she relayed over it. since 1880 the news to management Due to the storm delay, flashed before and learned it had already the plane landed at 6:08 its eyes. done so; all that was left was p.m. By 8 p.m. the musirestricted endowment, its cians were seated onstage— funds designated for specific projects and still in their street clothes. The New York not the daily operations of the orchestra. Times’s chief music critic, Anthony TomWeldon called one corporation after anmasini, kept asking SLSO Director of other, asking them to unrestrict their gifts. Communications Adam Crane what was “They all did, and that was enough to get going on—did Robertson know this part? us through the next six months,” she recalls. Could he sing? Could Stare conduct it? ���Then I had to go to the board and say, ‘We Crane grinned. “We’ll see.” need to raise $100 million.’ ” Monday morning, Tommasini’s rave reThat May, Weldon called Jack Taylor, view appeared in the Times. He said the founder of Enterprise Rent-a-Car. “He told SLSO had delivered “the most transparent and riveting account of Sibelius’s elusive me he could give me $1 million, but if we Fifth Symphony in memory” and went on could wait, he’d give more,” she says. “I said, to describe, still dazed, Robertson’s “tour de ‘We’ll wait.’ ” In December 2001, the Tayforce of uninhibition” in Gruber’s work: He lor family announced a $40 million matchhad conveyed every nuance of the someing grant to the SLSO. The orchestra had times dark, sometimes silly piece—and three years to match the grant. Galvanized, performed quite creditably on the kazoo. they matched it six months early. The TayStare, too, had risen to the occasion; everylor challenge would take the endowment body had. from $18 million to a peak, just before the The SLSO is nothing if not flexible. 2008 market collapse, of $143 million. (It’s It’s had to be. now $120 million.) Meanwhile, the SLSO
had restructured its board, shortened its season, and radically tightened its budget. By the end of January 2002, everybody was feeling shakily optimistic. Then, on Friday, February 1, in the middle of a performance of Samuel Barber’s Medea’s Meditation and Dance of Vengeance, Music Director Hans Vonk stopped conducting, unable to turn the page. By April, Vonk had resigned due to health concerns. Over the next two seasons, attendance and annual giving spiraled downward. Afraid that even the boost in endowment wouldn’t save the
admired the “sheer cussedness” of musicians who found music important enough to put all their effort into it, no matter what. “The things they went through would have taken down many another group,” Robertson observes. “I’m talking about a situation where you think literally there isn’t another thing that can go wrong, and then your music director is unable to continue conducting in the middle of a concert and, in full view of the public, has to be helped off the stage. And strangely enough, even that didn’t cut the momentum.” By September 2005, when the new sea-
Orchestra, where he was president and CEO from 2002 to 2008, he’d pulled ticket sales out of freefall, increased the endowment, and balanced the budget four years in a row. Recognized for his aptitude in marketing and fundraising, he had an instinct for balanced, imaginative programming that appealed to a wide swath of concertgoers. Word of Bronstein’s move reached Adam Crane, a driven 34-year-old who grew up in St. Louis and earned a degree in music
SLSO violinist Rebecca Boyer Hall
orchestra, the board brought in financial whiz Randy Adams as a consultant, then hired him as executive director and president. He made relentless cost cuts and financial reforms, steering hard to turn the orchestra in the right direction. But when the musicians walked out in January 2005, unable to come to terms with a management that had battened down all hatches, quite a few subscribers left with them. That spring’s labor negotiations were painful all around, but what followed cheered the orchestra. They’d worked valiantly for three years without a music director. Now Adams was offering the role to conductor David Robertson, an American rising star who was music director at the Orchestre National de Lyon and principal guest conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra. The message was clear: The SLSO might be pinching pennies, but it was not going to give up its place as a firsttier orchestra. Robertson says his agent urged him not to accept the position. But the conductor
SLSO cellist Bjorn Ranheim
business at New York University. Crane was director of public relations for the Los Angeles Philharmonic (and if you’ve read or seen The Soloist, you’ll know how effective he was). He decided to move back to his hometown and join the SLSO as director of communications. “I saw what Fred had done in Dallas,” he says simply. In St. Louis, the challenge would be even greater. Since 2002, the size of the audience had shrunk by nearly 25 percent. “This audience thing isn’t a problem,” Bronstein told the board, “it’s a crisis.” The organization was finishing every year in red ink, and annual operating revenues were either declining or stagnant. “That told me we needed to focus on the fundamentals: programming, marketing, sales, communication, annual fundraising, sponsorships,” Bronstein says now. “And the audience was number one, because no matter how much money you raise, audience decline will kill you. “Programming is a delicate balance,” Bronstein continues with a grin. He’s well aware that Robertson is passionate about contemporary music, and he’s thrilled to have a music director who’s comfortable on
son opened, Robertson was on board. He continued conducting the BBC and major orchestras and festivals around the world, but he focused his artistic energy and warm enthusiasm in St. Louis—and the musicians responded. So did the community, and the critics. The SLSO started getting regular invitations to Carnegie Hall again. And on December 5, 2005, The New Yorker published an article by Alex Ross titled “The Evangelist: David Robertson Lifts Up the St. Louis Symphony.” Under New Management
Robertson brought critical acclaim back to the SLSO, but even he couldn’t turn around box-office revenue. So in March 2008, the board recruited a new president and executive director: Fred Bronstein. Trained as a classical pianist, Bronstein understood musicians, but he also understood the business of music-making. At the Dallas Symphony
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and not happy to find that we had some dark Saturday nights,” he recalls. Enter “SLSO Presents,” a nonsubscription series of light-hearted, crowd-pleasing concerts that usually, but not always, involve the orchestra. They needn’t be classical, but they must be of the highest quality—and they must make money. Last season, there were fifteen “SLSO Presents” events; the coming season will have even more. Many pair music with film screenings: at Halloween, SLSO Resident Conductor Ward Stare the orchestra will play Bernard Herrmann’s score for Psycho; in December, they’ll accompany Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights. Powell Hall was originally built as one of the grand movie palaces of the 1920s, so, Bronstein points out, “Watching film here is amazing.” Listening to a full orchestra play the scores, unamplified, makes it even more so. Bronstein says his approach is, “Every single thing we do, we evaluate as a separate event,” and it seems to be working from the standpoint of bringing in new audiences. In the 2008-09 season, more than 53 percent of the “SLSO Presents” audience was new to Powell Hall. And instead of diffusing or ing, sponsorships, etc. Bronstein estimated distracting from the symphony’s core misthat those underdeveloped revenue streams sion, “SLSO Presents” seems to be working would take between five and ten years to as a lure: 40 percent of the single-seat buyreach full potential, so he made sure the ers in the 2008-09 orchestral series were SLSO could fund those gaps until 2014. new, too. The budget was leaner than The upward trend conit had been in years, but he The budget wasn’t about to strip the was leaner than it tinued this year, despite the orchestra’s ability to attract had been in years, recession. By March 1, 2010, the per-concert average for and keep talent, strengthen but Bronstein the orchestral series was up its reputation, and broaden wasn’t about more than 11 percent over its reach. to strip the the March 1, 2009, total, and Once he had that stopgap the per-concert average for funding secured, Bronstein orchestra’s all concerts was up 13.7 perwent looking for a misability to attract cent. Bronstein is convinced sion statement. He found and keep talent, that if the SLSO can keep a handful of longwinded strengthen its drawing people to Powell essays. He and the staff reputation, and Hall for these other concerts, sat down and composed a broaden season-ticket sales to its orsingle sentence: “To enrich chestral series will grow. people’s lives through the its reach. The SLSO’s publicity power of music.” They dereflects some of the orchestra’s new thinkliberately left out the adjective “classical,” ing. During the summer, the SLSO added because the SLSO was going to use all sorts a “Casual Classics” series (Gershwin and of music to reinvent itself. More blockbustmore) to keep the hall active. The marketers from the standard classical repertoire, ing slogan was deliberately casual: “Come yes, but also a Beatles tribute, collaborative as you are. Let your shirt tail out. Tap your art and dance concerts, and visits from the flip flops to the music.” The old Summer Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Pops series had been scrapped years earlier, Bronstein wanted Powell Hall to pulse because it wasn’t drawing enough audience with life. “When I came, I was surprised
SLSO President and Executive Director Fred Bronstein
the cutting edge. Still, he says, “Probably more than 50 percent of our programming was contemporary, and that was too much. We needed to rebalance.” The SLSO also needed to fund its annual budget deficits without accumulating debt or raiding the endowment. By summer 2008, Bronstein had put a “Building Our Business” plan together, hitting hard on marketing and programming. In September 2008, he raised an additional $7.5
million (the donor or donors anonymous) to close deficit gaps for the next six years. “At the same time, we also raised $5 million for audience development initiatives,” he notes, “because that work was the core of our plan.” The basic idea was to steadily close the operating gaps by building the operating revenues from ticket sales, annual givamericanorchestras.org
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SLSO Resident Conductor Ward Stare gives schoolchildren conducting tips.
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Art and Business
GIYA KANCHELI (with chorus)
MIRRORS (piano concerto)
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PRAYER FOR THE INNOCENTS
Keshet Eilon Music Center, Israel
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SYMPHONY IN MEDITATIONS (with chorus)
Seattle Symphony Orchestra
SONGS OF LOVE AND SORROW (baritone soloist) Boston Symphony Orchestra
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SUITE FROM ASHOKA’S DREAM
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NEON REFRACTED SKYLINE DANCES
Aspen Music Festival
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PADDYWAK: A TAP DANCE CONCERTO (with tap dancer, orchestra version)
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or revenue. “We kind of wiped Pops off our map,” recalls SLSO violinist Rebecca Boyer Hall. “It wasn’t satisfying. But Fred brought things like The Lord of the Rings Symphony, and movie scores that are not necessarily easy—they’re technically very difficult— but they keep the balance.” Do musicians worry that their orchestra’s reputation will be trivialized by performing, say, the music of ABBA? “The orchestra is still first and foremost a symphonic organization,” cellist Bjorn Ranheim says. “We’re not trying to be a grunge metal band or anything else. Expanding our horizons doesn’t mean diluting the product. It just makes sure we are able to share it.”
It’s impossible to tell the SLSO’s story as a series of heroic individual acts. Robertson, Bronstein, Weldon, Taylor, and a dozen more all played their part—but what they all emphasize, again and again, is what an extraordinary group of musicians the SLSO is. “They’re not cynical, not jaded,” Bronstein says. “There’s an esprit de corps among them, a sense of commitment to the music itself.” Robertson marvels at the quality each musician maintained in two and a half years without a music director. “It’s very clear that it’s always about the music,” he says. “When people come onstage, the notion of personal ego is left aside, and the notion of the sum being greater than the parts is held up as the ideal.” Ranheim says “there’s a general attitude of good will, not a cancer of negativity.” Hall says that mindset is “highly unusual, and it makes a great difference in the music-making. People are listening to each other.” Others outside the SLSO have been listening, too. Alex Ross put its performance symphony
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SLSO cellist Alvin McCall visiting a classroom
of Messiaen’s Turangalîla Symphony first on The New Yorker’s list of “The 10 Best Classical-Music Performances of 2008.” In July 2009, Nonesuch released a recording of the SLSO’s performance of John Adams’s Doctor Atomic Symphony, and it shot up to number two on Billboard’s Classical chart and was named “Classical Album of the Decade” by The Times of London and “Best Contemporary Classical Album” by iTunes. The orchestra is embracing current technologies. Crane produces a weekly radio show featuring live broadcasts of the Saturday-night concert and comments from the musicians. The broadcasts are streamed
via www.classic99.com and heard all over the world—tweets fly in Tokyo, and live questions pour in. “It keeps the musicians on their toes, and it keeps us relevant,” says Crane. The SLSO can now be downloaded from iTunes; it’s on Facebook and Twitter; it has a widely read blog, thanks to the distinctive voice of Publications Manager Eddie Silva. Crane’s mandate is, as he puts it, to “create buzz.” Some of that news is about corporate sponsorships, which Bronstein has amped up. In 2009, Wells Fargo Advisors sponsored the entire orchestral series, and Scottrade, the online brokerage, chose the SLSO to receive the largest single contribution it had ever made to a nonprofit. The 2008–09 season ended with total attendance of 178,837, up nearly 8 percent from the previous year, and ticket revenue rose 15 percent, to $5.58 million. The annual campaign raised $4.8 million, up 2 percent despite the economic fallout. Halfway through the 2009–10 season, revenues were up almost $1 million over last year’s midpoint. In April, the orchestra flew to California to do its first major tour in a
decade. Community partnerships remain key: SLSO members speak and perform for free more than 250 times a year, in schools, churches, and museums throughout the region. The tension between the musicians and management has faded, thanks in large part to a precedent-setting Joint Labor Management Partnership established in 2005, after the work stoppage. Used in other sectors, the partnership brings top managers and union leaders together regularly, in a spirit of collaboration. “I don’t know of another orchestra that has it,” says Bronstein. “Management and the orchestra leadership can sit and talk about a whole range of issues when they are not at the negotiating table.” As a result, the SLSO signed off on a new three-year labor agreement last July—a year ahead of schedule—promising the musicians a 5.6 percent minimum scale increase over the life of the contract and pension contribution increases from 5 percent in the first year to 7 percent in 2013. There are intangible external benefits: Ranheim, who cochairs the musicians’ council, says “it sends
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JÖRGWIDMANNTOBIASPICKERANDREWNORMAN J O H A N N E S M A R I A S T A U D A LV I N S I N G L E T O N JOSEPHS C H W A N T N E R GEORGFRIEDRICHH A A S LUCIANOBERIOMORTONSUBOTNICKPIERREBOULEZ K A M R A N I N C E G Y Ö R G Y L I G E T I S T E P H E N PA U L U S TORUTAKEMITSUGAVINBRYARSBERNARDRANDS CHRISTIANTJOSTROBERTBEASERHENRIDUTILLEUX THOMASADÈSJONNYGREENWOODHOWARDSHORE OLIVERK N U S S E N BENJAMINB R I T T E N LEEH O I B Y TANSYDAVIESMATTHEWHINDSONDAVIDMATTHEWS MATTHIASPINTSCHERBEATFURRERERNSTKRENEK MANFREDTROJAHNCHARLOTTESEITHERARVOPÄRT JORGELÓPEZDOUGLASJ.CUOMOSTEWARTWALLACE CARLORFFHANSWERNERHENZEPAULHINDEMITH K U R T W E I L L F R A N K Z A P PA G E O R G E G E R S H W I N JOHNDUFFYBRUCEMACCOMBIEGEORGEBENJAMIN 254 West 31 Street | Floor 15 | New York, NY 10001 212 461 6940 | firstname.lastname@example.org americanorchestras.org
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a strong message to the community that we’re all working together here.” The SLSO might have made modest plans for slow growth. But the orchestra plans to double the audience by 2018, double earned revenue by 2020, end deficits (which are only fully funded through 2014), take sponsorships above $1 million, and develop a relationship of some sort with nearly every household in the metro area. These are ambitious goals. Meanwhile, the organization has taken steps to protect the endowment. Adjusted for inflation, the 2010 budget is lower than the 2001 budget. The economy hasn’t loosened enough to let annual gifts pour in. Bronstein is not complacent about the SLSO’s regained stability: “You take your eye off that for one second, and it goes away.” Still, progress is substantial. “When orchestras go through hard times, it makes news,” observes Ranheim. “When the orchestra is perilously on the verge of bankruptcy and the musicians are locked out, that’s what stays on people’s minds. Still, when I’m traveling, people say, ‘Bjorn, how are things going? Are you still holding up?’ And I say, ‘Yeah, we’re actually rocking out!’ ” JEANNETTE COOPERMAN is a staff writer for St. Louis Magazine and St. Louis At Home. She holds a doctorate in American culture studies and has won national awards for her coverage of social issues.
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Among the composers with whom the Los Angeles Philharmonic has built an ongoing relationship is John Adams, seen here with Music Director Gustavo Dudamel and the musicians in 2009.
Repeat by Laurie Shulman
Ongoing collaborations between composers and music directors—some formal residencies, others more casual— are bringing new music to the fore. Last September, Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic launched the season— and Gilbert’s tenure as music director— with the premiere of Magnus Lindberg’s EXPO, a piece commissioned for the occasion. It was a remarkable accomplishment for a composer who, as recently as 1998, was barely a blip on the new-music radar, at least in the United States. A significant factor contributing to Lindberg’s current visibility was the advocacy of EsaPekka Salonen during his tenure as music director at the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Fresco, whose premiere Salonen led in L.A.
in March 1998, was Lindberg’s first commission from a large American orchestra, and the beginning of a collaboration that enhanced his reputation. Now the MarieJosée Kravis Composer-in-Residence with the New York Philharmonic, Lindberg is becoming an established presence in this country. Lindberg was not, of course, the only living composer whose music the Los Angeles Philharmonic was performing. “I would describe our model in L.A. as having a ‘family’ of relatively few composers on whom we lavished great attention,”
Hearings comments Steven Stucky, who served as the orchestra’s resident composer and new-music advisor for two decades. “That includes Magnus and Kaija Saariaho, Thomas Adès, John Adams, Anders Hillborg—a roster of people we believed in deeply. We kept returning to them. Magnus was one from the moment Esa-Pekka arrived as music director.” Stucky, too, was part of this coterie. (The L.A. Philharmonic commissioned his Second Concerto for Orchestra, which won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize.) Salonen led the American premiere of Lindberg’s Cello Concerto in symphony
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On opening night of the New York Philharmonic’s current season, Magnus Lindberg (left), the orchestra’s Marie-Josée Kravis Composer-inResidence, acknowledged applause from the musicians, the audience, and Music Director Alan Gilbert following the world premiere of EXPO, a piece commissioned for the occasion.
1999 with cellist Anssi Karttunen in California. The world premiere of Lindberg’s Sculpture coincided with the 2003 opening of Walt Disney Concert Hall. The American premiere of Parada soon followed, and the buzz about Lindberg grew louder. The Los Angeles Philharmonic’s model of in-depth, long-term composer residencies is increasingly the one in place at American orchestras. Rather than a traditional composer residency or a random sampling of new music by various composers, the acquaintance between orchestra and composer is gradual and repeated. americanorchestras.org
An added benefit of partnerships like the one between Salonen and Lindberg is that they introduce American audiences to non-American composers whose music might otherwise be unknown. With such residencies, an orchestra serves as an advocate for music it believes in, focusing attention over a longer span and making it more likely that other ensembles and musicians will “discover” that composer as well. Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Principal Clarinet Richard Hawley says, “I found out about Magnus Lindberg’s Clar-
inet Concerto because people were talking about him. I had never heard any Lindberg, but the fact that he was being championed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic made me aware that this was somebody of real credibility. I knew he was someone to watch.” At the same time, Hawley and his colleagues were playing a lot of music by another European worth watching: the Estonian Erkki-Sven Tüür. In 2001, during Paavo Järvi’s first season as music director, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra performed Tüür’s Violin Concerto with
Isabelle van Keulen. CSO players soon became accustomed to Tüür’s music in their folders. The next season, Järvi programmed Exodus, a pulsing, energetic work that reflects Tüür’s roots in rock music. In 2003, they played Searching for Roots (Hommage à Sibelius) on subscription concerts. The orchestra included Aditus, a 10-minute opener, on its 2004 European tour repertoire. Since then, Järvi has led performances in Cincinnati of Tüür’s Zeitraum, Insula Deserta for string orchestra, the U.S. premiere of The Path and the Traces, and, last autumn, Symphony No.7. He has also guest-conducted Tüür’s music in Miami, Chicago, and Cleveland, and with many orchestras outside the U.S. Two Tüür compositions have been announced for the CSO’s 2010-11 season. Tüür’s music was virtually unknown in America before Järvi took up the baton in Cincinnati. In Europe, however, he has emerged as one of Estonia’s leading composers, with fourteen CDs of his music in circulation and a growing international reputation. “He is one of the most interesting voices of his generation,” says
The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra has introduced American audiences to several works by composer ErkkiSven Tüür.
Fennica Gehrman/Taavi Kull
Courtesy of Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Music Director Paavo Järvi with the orchestra
Järvi. “His music deserves to be played and heard.” Järvi and Tüür were childhood friends and later played in a rock band together. As Järvi’s conducting career progressed, he followed the lead of his father, Neeme Järvi, in promoting Estonian and Baltic composers. He kept returning to Tüür, whose style—often triadic, with a tinge of minimalism—has resonated with audiences. Hawley soon discerned a common thread among Tüür’s works. “Looking at your part, you have no idea of the magnitude of your role in a piece, even in rehearsal,” Hawley says. “Take his Seventh Symphony, for example. That ranks up there with the hardest clarinet parts I’ve ever played. Playing with the orchestra, I still had no idea what my voice was. I felt like a small dot in a pointillistic painting. Paavo did give me an idea how we’re supposed to fit together, of course; that’s his job. I had a better sense of the piece when I asked people in the audience after the concert and they told me they loved it. They really loved it! Then I listened to a recording, because I was curious. It sounded way different from what I would have thought.” CSO Principal Percussion William Platt agrees. “When you’re in the middle of Tüür’s music, it’s hard to tell what the audience hears,” Platt says. “He writes for things like graduated sets of tom-toms; maybe that comes from his time in a rock band. Sometimes the notes are a bit awkward technically, almost as if a pianist wrote them. But when Tüür was here, he said he wanted them to sound as natural as possible. ‘What I wrote is just an outline of what I want you to play,’ he told me.” Both Platt and Hawley have been pleasantly surprised by audience reactions to Tüür’s music. Platt, who is in his 39th season with the CSO, has a long-range perspective. “Before Jesús López-Cobos, who preceded Paavo as music director, we had Michael Gielen, who heavily favored contemporary German music and Second Viennese School. When Jesús came in, he knew we needed a balance. The new music that Paavo does here is well chosen. It’s generally a good piece and one that he thinks will work in Cincinnati.” Platt considers the Cincinnati audience to be conservative, and points out, “Response to Tüür has been like anywhere else, I guess, about 50/50, but if you have 50 percent symphony
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Courtesy of Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
“What really speaks to me is that, as a composer, Tüür is creating something in a very different way, in his orchestration and texturally,” says Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra Principal Clarinet Richard Hawley.
creating something in a very different way, in his orchestration and texturally. I value that. There’s a purpose and direction to his
Minnesota Orchestra Music Director Osmo Vänskä with the orchestra
who react positively, that’s a good thing.” Cindy Starr, a 30-year CSO patron, has noticed an increased Estonian flavor to the programming. She has confidence in Järvi’s judgment. “We trust Paavo,” she says. “I’m never afraid of hearing something new, because he has vetted it. I don’t get to travel much. When I go to the symphony, I feel as though I’m traveling. You experience different cultures, other parts of the world through new music.” Both Hawley and Platt agree that playing multiple works by Tüür has made the orchestra more comfortable with his music. “He’s growing as a composer, learning how to write better for instruments,” observes Platt. “The parts seem to get more involved, but I hear a lot of sonorities that seem connected, and you think, yeah, this sounds a bit like the last Erkki-Sven Tüür piece we did.” Hawley adds, “What really speaks to me is that he’s
style, a unique way of composing that is very expressive, very individual, very much his own. Clearly in Cincinnati it’s a normal thing to hear his music.” Other orchestras are starting to program Tüür’s music. In addition to Järvi’s brother Kristjan and father, Neeme, the conductors Eri Klas and Mark Shapiro as well as the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra have performed Tüür’s music in recent seasons. Paavo Järvi’s advocacy has clearly had an impact. “Orchestras are gladly accepting my suggestions to perform his music,” he says. “I conduct his music everywhere. As an Estonian, it is logical that I am introducing Estonian music to American musicians and audiences.” “Paavo has done a great job, not only in the U.S. but also in Europe and Japan,” acknowledges Tüür. “He really understands my scores and believes strongly in what I’m doing. Reaching an American audience is very important to me. The repeat exposure to my music in Cincinnati has given the audience a much wider view and better 1:16:47 PM understanding of my oeuvre in general.” Nordic Sounds
At the Minnesota Orchestra, Music Director Osmo Vänskä has been programming the music of Kalevi Aho. Born in 1949, Aho is regarded as perhaps the most important Finnish symphonist since Sibelius. The BBC Philharmonic will premiere his Symphony No. 15 next year in
Manchester, England. He is widely known in Europe and Asia and has an impressive 23 CDs to his credit. In the U.S., performances have been rare. Minneapolis has been a breakout city. Aho and Vänskä met in the 1980s through the Lahti Symphony, when Aho was composer in residence. Vänskä has premiered twenty of Aho’s compositions. “Kalevi has given me a lot of hard times,” Vänskä chuckles. “I like his music, even though it is extremely complicated and it has given me many grey hairs! His works are so powerful. He connects us emotionally. If his music gives an audience member tears—there is something. That something is what I am always looking for when I conduct. I have been championing his music for years. I saw what Esa-Pekka [Salonen] has done for Magnus [Lindberg] and Kaija [Saariaho] and I thought, it is my duty to take care of Kalevi, because I believe in his music. He is such a strong artist. I know too many composers who score a piece to please people. That makes them weak. Kalevi doesn’t want to please anyone. He just writes things he is hearing, and that’s it. And he strikes that emotional resonance. That makes him strong.” Aho is appreciative. “It is a fantastic thing to see Finnish music getting so much international attention,” he declares. “Every audience is important, but the leading American orchestras are so good. To hear one’s music played so well. . .” He
“I could hardly believe it: the audience stood and cheered, immediately, for a contemporary, almost brand-new piece,” says Minnesota Public Radio Senior Producer Brian Newhouse of Kalevi Aho’s Symphony No. 7. jangilbertmusic.com 12910 Hamlet Ave. Apple Valley MN 55124 Three New Works for Young Audiences for Narrator and Orchestra which take children to all parts of the globe Stories from India, Laos, and Alaska
smiles. “Someone told me the audience in Minneapolis was conservative, but there are a lot of new-music performances here. I have had no problems with reception of my pieces.” Reactions have indeed been consistent among both listeners and musicians. Minnesota Public Radio Senior Producer Brian Newhouse, who broadcasts the Minnesota Orchestra’s Friday night subscription concerts, says, “The ‘Insect’ Symphony [No.7] was the first I’d heard of Aho’s music. Here’s this 50-minute long work, and it was so gripping! I could hardly believe it: the audience stood and cheered, immesymphony
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Former Los Angeles Philharmonic Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen worked frequently with contemporary composers.
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diately, for a contemporary, almost brandnew piece.” “He got all our interest there from the beginning, and that of our audience,” says Minnesota Orchestra Principal Cello Anthony Ross. “He deals with broad strokes of color that are very compelling. His works have a very clear structure. Those two qualities anchor his music. You know where the high and low points are, the specific colors he wants to generate. The goals he has set out as a composer are clear to us as players, usually from the start.” It works for the audience, too. According to Brian Newhouse, “Aho has a way of americanorchestras.org
speaking that is completely contemporary, with the complexity of today’s musical language, but he also has a point of entry that makes it accessible, for those who know a lot or very little about classical music. It’s his blend: the magic, the ineffable effect of great music. That is the realm we’re talking about with Aho.” According to Principal Trombone R. Douglas Wright, “Aho writes really good music that is ferociously difficult. I’ve played his Symphony No. 9 twice now. It’s a symphony, but the trombone is the main character. It’s the most difficult undertaking I’ve ever done. It calls for both tenor
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The sheer velocity of the trip carries you along and touches you in the solar plexus.” Vänskä has taken Minea on the road, leading the work at The Philadelphia Orchestra this March. Deeper acquaintance with a living composer’s music clearly gives musicians a greater understanding of his voice. “You hear things that you’ve heard in other pieces,” observes Doug Wright. “Aho’s Flute Concerto is nothing like his Sym-
Aho’s Flute Concerto and three of his symphonies. Most recently, the Minnesota Orchestra commissioned Minea: Concertante Music for Orchestra. Vänskä led the premiere performances in November 2009. “Minea drew lots of cheers and bravos,” says MPR’s Brian Newhouse. “It was a bit like Adams’s Short Ride in a Fast Machine, but eighteen minutes long. Aho’s ride builds, contracts, and goes roaring forward. It’s just visceral music you can enjoy.
Minnesota Orchestra Principal Trombone R. Douglas Wright performs Kalevi Aho’s Symphony No. 9 for Trombone and Orchestra.
trombone and sackbut, so I had to buy a new instrument, learn how to play it, and expand my range. It covered nearly six octaves, which for trombone is quite wide. But you grow as a player when you take on something like that. I definitely did. Aho is challenging and difficult, yet his music has something to say. I appreciate being forced to go through hoops if there is a reason behind it. Then, I find it personally
The Los Angeles Philharmonic’s model of indepth, long-term composer residencies is increasingly the one in place at American orchestras. worthwhile and actually quite gratifying. It can be a moving experience.” Playing several works by Aho has increased the Minnesota Orchestra’s comfort level. “You get to know him much better,” says cellist Marcia Peck. “His ‘Insect’ Symphony and Tenth Symphony were big, difficult works; very hard. Aho’s music takes a while to digest. Playing several of his works helps a lot, even though each piece we’ve done of his has been quite different. I think living with a piece for a while, and hopefully coming back to it after a period of rest, makes a big difference. There is definitely a special relationship with Aho. You hope he feels a special something for us, for our orchestra.” In Minneapolis, Vänskä has programmed americanorchestras.org
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phony No. 10, but the harmonic language is reminiscent. Aspects of his sound transfer from piece to piece.” Such perception requires nourishment. “If an orchestra plays a piece just once, they don’t have enough time to form an opinion about a composer,” says Paavo Järvi. “By playing a composer’s works more often, they get accustomed to the musical language and start to understand the ideas behind the notes. They also see progress from composition to composition. Of course personal contact between the players and the composer is also very useful.” Los Angeles Philharmonic violist Meredith Snow says, “You have these Aha! moments: I see what this composer is trying to do. A composer like Magnus Lindberg notates clearly what he wants technically, but that doesn’t necessarily convey the emotional meaning he’s after. Our role is to express his emotional content. That’s obvious with Brahms or Debussy; performers and audiences share their language in common. Living composers are breaking new ground. Interaction with them, having them tell you what they mean, is a huge benefit.” Musicians in most orchestras practice their part for a new work over several weeks, culminating in an intense few days of rehearsals and performances. Particularly when the composer is present, the process fosters a deeper understanding of that composer’s voice. Audiences generally hear a new piece only once. That is one reason that new music can be a tough sell in many markets. Recordings help, but they are no substitute for live performance. In Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Minneapolis, and elsewhere, repeat performances and multiple works have brought the orchestra musicians on board with these partnerships. Their support is generating its own momentum. Laurie Shulman is a program annotator who specializes in new music.
Got an opinion? Join the discussion! How do you think composers in residence add value to orchestra programs? Does your orchestra have a resident composer or composers? Click on the Discussions tab below to comment.
THE ADRIAN SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA John Thomas Dodson, music director
KENNETH FUCHS ASO Composer in Residence 2009 – 2010 on five world premieres:
• Discover the Wild for orchestra 2009
• American Rhapsody for violin and orchestra 2009
• Concerto Grosso for Strings 2009 • Atlantic Riband for orchestra 2009
• Divinum Mysterium concerto for viola and orchestra 2010
All works published by
E.B. MARKS MUSIC COMPANY aso.org • kennethfuchs.com • ebmarks.com 69
Courtesy Charles Limb:
Music on the
Brain by Stuart Isacoff
Researchers are exploring a rapidly expanding range of topics in musical neuroscience—and advances in technology have made it possible to see our brains at work. Music is a mystery. From Pythagoras to Adorno, great thinkers have tried to parse its powerful effects—linking its potency to everything from a special resonance with our souls to political brainwashing. Today that quest has been combined with probes into the workings of our brains. For the first time in history, we can watch the brain light up, measuring activity and inactivity in its various regions as subjects listen to or perform musical works. Scientists are vigorously working to locate the seats of beauty, creativity, and pleasure in the clusters of cells hidden within our skulls. And the research is coming hot and heavy. Among the many programs exploring such topics is the wide-ranging “Music and the Brain” lecture series sponsored by the
Dana Foundation at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., which has covered music-brain topics on a monthly basis over the past two years. The series, which ended in May, investigated a wide range of topics, from why listeners enjoy music that makes them weep and the phenomenon of synesthesia to what goes on in the heads of improvisers and stage fright and the brain. This past October at Lincoln Center’s Kap lan Penthouse in New York, the Cleveland Clinic Arts & Medicine Institute presented “Music and the Brain,” a daylong symposium that integrated live performances with discussions on a variety of topics, including common disorders of musicians and how music can make the brain younger. The Cleveland Institute program also regularly
brings in local collaborators to perform at its hospital, among them musicians from the Cleveland Orchestra and the Cleveland Music School. Orchestral musicians may soon be the subject of studies focusing on topics like performance anxiety and longevity, about which many musicians express concern. But with all this activity, are we really getting closer to understanding what music is, and how it works its magic on us? While the jury is still out on that larger question, some areas of study show clearer answers. Stroke victims in particular have already benefited greatly from scientists’ ability to “rewire” neural circuitry; musical training has proved useful in treating children with autism and people with language disorders; and musical symphony
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Courtesy Charles Limb: Courtesy Brett Dietz Courtesy Portland Symphony Orchestra
Neurologist Charles Limb of Johns Hopkins University has been studying spontaneous musical creativity with functional MRI scans of brains of musicians as they freely improvised jazz. “JazzImprov” showed increased sensorimotor and medial prefrontal cortex activity (red areas, responsible for introspective, autobiographical memory) and decreased activity (blue areas) in the limbic system (responsible for emotions) and self-monitoring. Contrasting scans from one of the control groups, “ScaleImprov,” were taken while subjects improvised in quarter notes only, selecting notes from within one octave and from the C major scale notes alone.
(inset) In January 2009, the Portland (Maine) Symphony, led by Music Director Robert Moody, performed Brett Dietz’s Headcase, based on the composer’s experience of suffering a stroke at the age of 29. Images of Dietz’s brain scans (purple) were projected during the performance.
Courtesy Cleveland Clinic
The Cleveland Clinic Arts & Medicine Institute has brought in musicians and dancers to perform for patients at the Cleveland Clinic.
practice has been shown to improve certain brain functions. Many of these studies have been made possible with Magnetic Resonance Imaging and other technologies that allow scientists to see brain activity in fascinating new detail. At the Purchase (N.Y.) College Conservatory of Music, where I teach graduate and undergraduate music courses, a December symposium on “Emotion, Music and the Brain” was held in conjunction with the Bronx-based Institute for Music and Neurologic Function. Attendees included neuroscientists, physicians, music therapists, and rehabilitation therapists, who discussed how to apply the latest knowledge about music and the brain to music therapy with adults and special-needs children. I hosted a panel at that symposium, where Purchase faculty member Joel Thome was on hand. Thome is a conductor and composer; he suffered a nearly catastrophic stroke some years ago, initially collapsing on the street in New York. Doctors told his wife he would remain in a vegetative state, but he has slowly made his way back to near normality. He walks with a labored limp, and one hand is still curled into a petrified appendage, but he now teaches, composes, and even conducts again. He made it back with the help of several of the researchers and healers who were in attendance at the conference: Dr. Concetta Tomaino of Beth Abraham Family of Health Services, Dr. Steven Sparr of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Dr. Preeti Raghavan of Mt. Sinai Hospital. One key to Thome’s recovery was the way he developed what Sparr calls “alternative pathways” in the brain through his connection to music. It’s clear that music can reach inside us where other stimuli can’t, explained Sparr, engaging emotions, thoughts, and muscles, allowing us to function in the face
of serious debilitation—even when things seem hopeless. Much of the work being done today is focused on finding just how those pathways can be tapped. A February 22 report in The Wall Street Journal illustrates the potential. At the 2010 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Journal reported, studies revealed that twelve patients whose speech was impaired after a stroke to the left hemisphere of the brain— some couldn’t speak at all—were taught to sing their words and then regained communication skills in a significant way. Dr. Gottfried Schlaug of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School presented the findings at his December lecture at the Library of Congress’s “Music and the Brain” series. Halt or I’ll Play Vivaldi!
The Library of Congress lecture series was developed by Anne McLean, the library’s senior producer for concerts and special projects. The library has produced classicalmusic concerts for 85 years, and its chamber programs are widely esteemed. “We got into the area of music and the brain,” says McLean, “when psychologist Kay Redfield
We keep learning of other programs linking health and music, sometimes well off the beaten path. Vera Brandes, director of the Paracelsus Private Medical University in Salzburg, for example, calls herself the first musical pharmacologist—‘take two sonatas and call me in the morning’! We are not endorsing anything, but simply putting things out there and representing many points of view. It has worked very well. At first, this endeavor was completely separate from our concert activities. But now, we’re finding that the lectures are bringing in new audiences for the concerts.” The Library of Congress presentations have offered surprises, such as “Halt or I’ll Play Vivaldi!” with Jacqueline Helfgott of Seattle University and Norman Middleton of the Library of Congress—which focused on the way we identify socially with particular musical genres; this tendency enabled law enforcement officials to run drug dealers out of a West Palm Beach neighborhood by flooding it with the sound of Beethoven string quartets. Also in the “revelation��� category might be “The Music of Language and the Language of Music” by Aniruddh Patel, who suggested that people with language disorders that render them unable to grasp
Music can reach inside us where other stimuli can’t, says Dr. Steven Sparr of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Much of the work being done today is focused on finding just how these pathways can be tapped. Jamison was invited to give a lecture. We told her we were kicking around the idea of how music was being used as a social control—in Australia, for example, the police were using Barry Manilow songs to keep rowdy kids at bay. She suggested that we contact the Dana Foundation. They discussed the idea with us, and together we became interested in how the brain makes music—and how it grows when you engage in music making. There is proof that it does, especially with keyboard learning. We decided to use only the latest research, and scientists who had a skill for reaching the public. “Interestingly, after I put those programs together I noticed that a number of other big presenters were following suit, and not just with lectures,” McLean says. “At Wigmore Hall in London, chamber players are being sent out to schools and nursing homes. At the Cleveland Institute of Music, a music and wellness program has been established.
grammar and syntax are blocked from processing structure in time, and might therefore be treated with musical training. Dr. Robin Sylvan, founder and director of the Sacred Center in Oakland, California, discussed “Trance Formation” in various kinds of music, including “raves,” where drug use and hypnotic rhythms combine to put listeners into an altered state. The phenomenon is known throughout the developing world, of course, but it probably helps explain the appeal of Western minimalism as well. Sylvan is collaborating with Dr. Petr Janata of the University of California at Davis in a study that indicates that the more one participates in the music—by playing an instrument or engaging in movement—the more intense the experience will be. Janata, who uses scans to view specific areas of the brain in the subjects of his experiments, was another speaker at the Library of Congress this year. His January lecture symphony
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described his work on two aspects of musical neuroscience: how music triggers autobiographical memories, and the ways in which we perceive “tonal space.” Some of his findings may account for musical taste. “The system of 24 major and minor keys in Western tonality is often represented visually by a torus, or bagel shape,” he says (the phenomenon musicians know as the circle of fifths). “Some keys are closely related, others quite far apart on the surface of the torus. Our brains internalize this structure and expect that things will move a certain way within it. Violations engender an emotional reaction, such as discomfort. The most extreme example would be serial music based on tone rows, where there is an explicit attempt to abolish a sense of tonal center. For most listeners, it’s challenging, because we have grown up in a musical system that conforms to common principles of harmony in tonal space.” Yet, there is no ultimate judgment about the effect of atonal music intended in his remarks. “I’m not saying that some types of music are ‘right’ or ‘wrong’—only that our brains strive to understand the probability structure of their environment.” How music spurs memories is a more complex issue. “Imagine you are driving down the road with your car and a song comes on the radio that you haven’t heard in years,” Janata says. “You may find yourself singing along, marveling at the fact that you remember the words. Other images run through your mind, and you may remember particular people. My imaging data shows that a large number of brain regions are involved in this, some of which have been shown to involve autobiographical experiences that are triggered by means other than music, such as smells. Interestingly, one region—the dorsal medial pre-frontal cortex, located right behind our forehead—is involved both in autobiographical memories and in tracking the tonal structure that is evoking those memories.” Thus, music and memory may be intricately linked in the brain’s biological structure. In his December presentation at the Library of Congress on the brain’s “plasticity,” or ability to change, Dr. Gottfried Schlaug pointed out that the brains of musicians do not look like the brains of non-musicians. Are great musicians born to be great musicians? he wondered. That is, are musicians born with atypical brains, or might intensive practice be responsible for the difference?
In 2008, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra presented a “forensic” investigation into Beethoven’s hearing loss and cause of death. The orchestra’s CSI Beethoven team, clockwise from top left: Beethoven scholar William Meredith, Dr. Philip A. Mackowiak, Dr. Charles Limb, script writer Denise Balle, actor Tony Tsendeas, Music Director Marin Alsop.
As it turns out, the brain does change as a result of musical practice, and this becomes more evident as we age. Even in nine- to eleven-year-olds, musicians show more brain activity than non-musicians when performing discrimination tasks, such as recognizing patterns or translating those patterns into
fine-motor movements. In adult musicians there is still more of a difference in brain activity as seen in brain scans. Advanced imaging techniques that examine the corpus collosum—the fiber bundle that connects the two sides of the brain— indicate that its size is larger in professional
Concert Programs and the Brain
everal orchestras have incorporated brain-music and other scientific themes into recent programs. At the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s CSI Beethoven series of concerts two years ago, Dr. Charles Limb, from the department of otolaryngology at Johns Hopkins University Hospital, and forensic scientist Dr. Philip Mackowiac joined BSO Music Director Marin Alsop and Beethoven scholar William Meredith in investigations of why Beethoven lost his hearing and what caused his death. In Maine this past January, the Portland Symphony (in conjunction with the New England Rehabilitation Hospital of Portland) offered a program using the concept “Head and Heart.” It featured Ravel’s Pavane (heart), Mozart’s Symphony No. 25 in G minor (head), and a work by Brett Dietz called Headcase, based on the composer’s experience of suffering a stroke at the age of 29. Images of Dietz’s brain scans were projected during the music. Still to come is a lecture at the Oregon Bach Festival in July featuring Guy Few, the festival’s principal trumpet and a brain-injury survivor, who will join scientists in a discussion of the role of the arts in cognition and brain plasticity. And this fall in New York City, the 92nd Street Y’s concert season includes three Music and the Brain lectures hosted by neuroscientist and author Daniel J. Levitin: “Music and the Mind: From Neurons to Nirvana”; “Music, Inspiration and Creativity: Does Practice Make Perfect?”; and “Personal Stories, Public Performances: Dr. Charles Limb and friend From the Mind to the Microphone.”
musicians who have a regular practice routine. How do these observed changes affect normal life tasks? Mozart Effect, or Rhythmic Raindrops?
Some of the claims previously made by specialists are panning out, and others are not. Take the infamous Mozart Effect, in which listening to that composer’s music allegedly made students smarter. According to Schlaug,
only 50 percent of studies have been able to replicate it. The difference seems to stem from a sort of mental priming that makes us better at visual and spatial tasks after we’ve focused on music. But the effect is not unique to Mozart: “You can get it,” explained Schlaug, “with just rhythmic raindrops.” Music seems to enhance some skills, like the ability to recognize patterns, or to enhance phonemic awareness and memory, which optimizes language skills. But only
Physician-lecturers at the Library of Congress’s two-year “Music and the Brain” series included (clockwise from top) Gottfried Schlaug, Robin Sylvan, and Petr Janata, all active researchers in the area of music-brain research.
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two out of six studies, said Schlaug, show that music study produces any improvement in the ability to do math. Nevertheless, music clearly activates an auditory-motor network that influences core structures of the brain. That is why, he reported in his December lecture, it can provide an alternative entry into a “broken or dysfunctional” brain system, allowing children with autism or adults with Alzheimer’s to make contact with the world around them. He showed a clip of a four-year-old subject who had never spoken a word. Using therapy that engaged both hand movement and singing, the child was coaxed into making vocal sounds for the first time in his life. The change was not instantaneous, but after forty sessions of singing, he could clearly relate, “I am hot!” It seemed something of a miracle. Dr. Charles Limb, a lecturer in the LOC series, is on another kind of brain adventure. He is on the faculty of both the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (where he’s an expert in otolaryngology) and the Peabody Institute of Music, where he teaches seminar courses on how researchers use computers to understand the role of the brain in music perception and production—and he’s also a jazz saxophonist. His presentation last October, “The Brain on Jazz: Neural Substrates of Spontaneous Improvisation,” discussed his use of imaging to tell which brain regions are most active at a given moment by measuring the amount of oxygen in the blood flowing through them. He asked jazz musicians to play while being scanned in an MRI, and discovered that when they were improvising, the regions of symphony
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their brains that self-monitor, censor, and check for social appropriateness shut down. “That is the part of the brain that is inhibitory, that tells you when you are about to do something wrong. Improvising requires that you are free from such inhibiting influences,” he reports. The region that becomes more active, on the other hand, is associated with introspective, autobiographical memory. “Jazz tells a personal story,” he explains. “This part of the brain, as it becomes more active in improvisation, promotes the flow of novel ideas.” Limb was motivated by his love of jazz. “Around the time I started looking into this research,” he reveals, “there were no studies on improvisation for me to lean on. It was unexplored territory. I’m a musician. I often wondered about where music comes from, and what allows us to get into a zone where it pours out of us.” And there were unexpected results. The limbic system—the part of the brain connected to emotions, such as chills and fear— went down in activity when an improvisation was taking place. This is counterintuitive, and it raises a host of questions. Is it possible that a jazz musician must be dispassionate to succeed musically? (It brings to mind what pianist Anton Rubinstein told Tolstoy: that if he is “moved himself by what he is playing, he ceases to move his audience.”) It’s a question worth pursuing, says Limb. Perhaps, he suggests, the dissociated state he sees in his subjects—where autobiographical activity goes up, the filters come down, and the limbic system is put on hold—“is one of the neuro-signatures of spontaneous creativity.” If so, he may be on the track of one of the greatest mysteries of all: where we find the wellsprings of musical imagination. STUART ISACOFF is on the faculty of Purchase College Conservatory of Music (SUNY ) and is author of Temperament: How Music Became a Battleground for the Great Minds of Western Civilization (Knopf/Vintage).
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How a group of recent conservatory grads is expanding the orchestral concert experience: Colin and Eric Jacobsen tell the story behind the chamber orchestra known as The Knights.
Brothers Colin (left) and Eric Jacobsen (right), founders and co-artistic directors of The Knights chamber orchestra
idioms that we may not have learned in greater whole. That gives us tremendous school and are excited to be a part of now. freedom in how we perform together. It We love to collaborate with artists who allows for connections from one side of are not just great musicians, but who look the stage to another; audiences pick up on at music with a wide view of its place this connection. To have a truly personal in the world. They are willing to take experience within an orchestra as well as amazing chances to ensure that something with our audience: this is why we founded magical happens on stage. Right now, we The Knights, and we are fortunate that it are preparing for a fall appearance at the remains at the core of what we do. Caramoor festival with Yo-Yo Ma. Originally, when we were a smaller We plan to continue to explore the ensemble, we didn’t have a conductor. unlimited world of music, and to bring as Now Eric does the conducting, and we broad an audience as possible with us on have a managing director: Vanessa RosePridemore, a fine musician and graduate of the Orchestra Management Fellowship Program of the League of American Orchestras. The members of The Knights still carry out many nutsand-bolts functions such as communications, operations, and fundraising. That hands-on approach, and our The Knights in performance at Le Poisson Rouge, the New York flattened hierarchy, makes nightclub that features eclectic programming us well suited to offbeat our journey. And to keep having fun while collaborations and interesting projects. For we’re doing it. instance, our first album for Sony, with cellist Jan Vogler, paired Shostakovich with Jimi Hendrix. We were worried the Colin Jacobsen and Eric Jacobsen, Hendrix might sound watered-down, brothers, founded The Knights and are cobut we have collaborators whose musical artistic directors of the ensemble. Colin serves lives weave in and out of pop, jazz, folk, as concertmaster (a rotating position) and Eric period-performance, and world music. conducts the group, also occasionally performing They are able to bring the rest of us into in its cello section. Supermarche
he origins of The Knights were about as close to a “garage band” as an orchestra could be. As teenage musicians we would spend all night in our parents’ living room, jamming with our friends. When we were studying at Juilliard we kept doing that and found ourselves with a big circle of people who liked to play, discuss, and interpret music, and experiment with the pieces we were playing. Our informal group started to hold public performances about eight years ago, and it went from being a small group of conservatory students to include composers, arrangers, singers, and people who pursued new directions far afield from their classical training. Now we operate as a per-service orchestra. We have made some exciting recordings and performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Poisson Rouge, the Brooklyn Lyceum, MATA (a festival that promotes the work of young composers), the Dresden Musikfestspiele, and Dublin’s National Gallery. We all believe deeply in dedicating ourselves to whatever music we’re playing, whether it’s by Beethoven, Lisa Bielawa, or one of our own musicians. So we give ourselves unusual amounts of time to rehearse, the way a theater company might approach a great play. One reason for this is our consensus-driven, highly collaborative structure. Everybody in The Knights has a say, and a lot of discussion and exploration goes into figuring out how each musician’s part fits into the
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More Than a Feeling Renowned writer and pianist Charles Rosen’s new book, Music and Sentiment, is an extended essay about the intersection of music and sentiment—a surprisingly little-explored corner of musical aesthetics. The following text is excerpted from Chapter 1, “Fixing the Meaning of Complex Signs.”
he power of music to illustrate sentiment and to awaken emotion in the auditors has been recognized and asserted for centuries, indeed for millennia. In his copy of the 1588 edition of his Essais, Montaigne added the following anecdote: Pythagoras, being in the company of young men, and sensing that, excited by the festivity, they were plotting to violate a respectable house, ordered the band to play in a different mode, and by a heavy, severe and spondaic music [that is, a poetic rhythm in which each single syllable is accented], cast a spell quite sweetly over their ardor and put it to sleep.
We cannot, however, expect music to be always so effective for crowd control. Shakespeare even asserts improbably (The Merchant of Venice, V, 1) that the sound of a trumpet will calm agitated wild
colts. There is, indeed, a long tradition acknowledging the emotional power of music. We should remember, nevertheless, that directly experiencing a sentiment in life is very different from experiencing that sentiment represented by a work of music, as our admiration for the art of the representation will have a distancing effect. Listening to the “Lacrymosa” of the Verdi Requiem, we enjoy our grief. When the represented sentiment or affect—to use the old word—is evident, of course, I shall not deliberately avoid naming it, but in any case the identification of the sentiment is not my essential purpose. What will concern us here is the nature of the representation—whether the sentiment is unified or combined with other opposing sentiments, whether the force of the representation is steady and unchanging, and whether it increases or diminishes symphony
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in intensity as the motif proceeds, and whether this increase is rapid or gradual. It will also be relevant to consider the way that a specific motif representing one sentiment is transformed into the representation of another, and to become aware of the methods of transformation. Naming the sentiments evoked is problematic not only because the evocation clearly defined by the music may be only coarsely and doubtfully translatable into language but also because the representation of sentiment, as the history of music proceeds, often becomes more unstable and dynamic, and, in addition, a motif may carry a different affective meaning depending upon its position in the musical form. In the simplest case, a motif repeated does not have exactly the same meaning the second time, and this will even slightly alter the significance of the first appearance in the listener’s memory. At the heart of the discussion is the radical change in the means of representation of sentiment throughout history. To take one example, the power of Wagner’s music in the representation of erotic passion has been observed (with admiration or horror) from the first appearance of Tristan, but given the example of the duets of Guglielmo and Dorabella in Così fan tutte and of Don Giovanni and Zerlina in Don Giovanni, a lover of Mozart is not disposed to believe that Mozart did not do equally well. Nevertheless, as powerful as it may be, a love duet by Mozart can only last a few minutes, and drawing it out for threequarters of an hour was beyond the musical techniques available to him. Of course, Mozart’s eroticism is rather different from Wagner’s, if no less salacious. It might be reasonably claimed, I suppose, that an erotic sentiment evoked so succinctly and economically is not the same as one that can build up over a long stretch of time, but this, while undoubtedly true, only goes to show the superficiality of trying to deal with the subject simply by putting a name to the emotion illustrated. In opera, of course, a sentiment is given an identity tag by the libretto, but it is a fallacy of opera criticism to consider the
literary text as primary and the music as an illustration or enhancement of the text. By the end of the eighteenth century, after the radical development of operatic style, the more interesting musical theorists, like Wilhelm Heinse, would claim that the music was primary and the words illustrated the music. However, a more sensible approach assumes music and text as an indissoluble whole that must be understood together in a reciprocal relationship. The
At the heart of any discussion of the representation of sentiment in music is the question: “How did the eighteenthcentury listener learn to comprehend this complex system?” The answer is certainly not by studying the theory of music. The system was learned the way children learn language, by listening to their parents and to their older siblings and friends, not by studying grammar and syntax. text is primary only in the sense that it was written first—and sometimes not even that was true, as composers often demanded words for previously composed vocal lines, and also ordered exactly the kind of text that they needed for the music they had in mind. With pure instrumental music, believing that the naming of the sentiment portrayed is an adequate account of the significance of the music only transfers to the instrumental field the difficulties and ambiguities of operatic criticism. In eighteenth-century music, with which we shall begin our discussion, it must be understood from the outset that affective meaning is created by the relation of consonance and dissonance: these
terms do not indicate pleasant and unpleasant musical noises, but are part of the grammar of eighteenth-century tonality. A dissonance is not an ugly sound (some dissonances will seem exquisitely beautiful to any listener) but an interval or chord that must be resolved into a consonance—the basic consonance being the chord of the tonic triad, whose most important intervals are the octave and the fifth (slightly less fundamental are the third and its inversion the sixth, also components of the triad), because they must be present or at least implicit in the last chord of a piece of tonal music of the eighteenth century. Dissonance establishes an increase in tension, and consonance a release. Strictly viewed, everything in a tonal piece is more or less dissonant except for the tonic triad with which the work must end…. We may even conclude that eighteenthcentury tonality was actually more complex than nineteenth-century, as harmonic dissonance was defined more strictly and elaborately. Both were more complex than the neo-tonal music of recent decades, in which any conception of dissonance between harmonic areas has disappeared. The tonal aspect largely consists of an understandable delight in using perfect triads, and all large-scale richness of expressive tension has been drained away, the rich subtlety of eighteenth-century tonality now only a distant memory. At the heart of any discussion of the representation of sentiment in music is the question: “How did the eighteenthcentury listener learn to comprehend this complex system?” The answer is certainly not by studying the theory of music. The system was learned the way children learn language, by listening to their parents and to their older siblings and friends, not by studying grammar and syntax. It is true that a comprehension of how literary style works may benefit from a study of rhetoric, but there is a very high level of understanding our literary culture that can be attained without discussing metaphor, simile, oxymoron or syzygy, and so forth, and we can be deeply affected by our reading without any of that, in much the same
From Music and Sentiment, by Charles Rosen, published by Yale University Press in June 2010. Reproduced by permission. americanorchestras.org
Yale University Press
Any explanation of how a composer can move his listeners that relies upon their having previously learnt some kind of special code is bound to be inadequate or simply wrong. way that the average listener can be deeply moved by Mozart’s representation of sentiment without being able to explain how he does it. I make this very obvious point as the basis for another conclusion. Any explanation of how a composer can move his listeners that relies upon their having previously learnt some kind of special code is bound to be inadequate or simply wrong. The Trouble with Codes
Unfortunately, most discussions of musical sentiment that I have ever seen seek to establish such a code, a symbolic system, even a relatively esoteric one with which listeners in the past were supposed to become acquainted. Indeed, in learning a language we are expected to learn to recognize the traditional meanings of a great many words. However, the trouble is that music is essentially a poor system of communication, precisely because it has a rather weak and
ill-defined vocabulary, although a very rich and powerful grammar and syntax. … Statistics and a pile-up of examples will never be able to establish a tradition for the meaning of a simple eighteenth-century motif. All such motifs (particularly those used for opening a piece, but even subsidiary themes as well) must somehow define a tonic triad. The permutation of the twelve notes of the chromatic scale may provide a huge number of different tunes, but the three notes of the tonic triad will only give a much more modest result, and that is why so many melodies of tonal music necessarily resemble each other in their basic structure, as this structure must be convincingly perceptible in order to provide a proper tonal basis for any work. (This is what makes the popular activity of exposing the fact that composer X borrowed a tune from composer Y or Z so easy, and yet so tiresome and meaningless: every tonal motif automatically resembles hundreds of others.)… There is sometimes a misunderstanding about why we enjoy certain styles of music, a belief that we relish above all the character of the sentiment, the emotional aura of the music. Yet, around 1810, when Beethoven was still very controversial, many were horrified by their first contact with his music and Goethe’s friend and Mendelssohn’s teacher, Georg Zelter, even described the taste for it as something like sexual perversion. After later hearings, as Zelter admitted, the majority of music lovers generally became fanatical devotees of his work. It was not because they enjoyed or approved of the sentiments that they were won over to the style, but the other way round. When they got used to the style, and felt at home with it, they were finally able to enter its emotional world. The history of the reputation of Johann Sebastian Bach may also help us to understand an important aspect of the emotional power of music. The distinction made at first between the technical mastery of counterpoint and the power to awaken sentiment in the listener was not a distinction that stood up to examination as the experience of Bach’s music grew. By 1814, E. T. A. Hoffmann would write: There are moments—above all when I have been reading in the works of the great Sebastian Bach—in which the numerical relations,
yes, the mystical rules of counterpoint, awake an inner terror.
This terror is a form of delight, a physical response to musical relations. It is not a sentiment to which one normally gives a name if one is analysing a response to the experience of music. Nevertheless, admiration of technical virtuosity, either of composition or of performance, is not simply an intellectual reaction but an emotion felt bodily. It took some decades for a famil-
Admiration of technical virtuosity, either of composition or of performance, is not simply an intellectual reaction but an emotion felt bodily. It took some decades for a familiarity and understanding of Bach’s technical mastery to become so widespread that the pathos and the drama of his music were appreciated. iarity and understanding of Bach’s technical mastery to become so widespread that the pathos and the drama of his music were appreciated. A partial grasp, even if unconscious or only partly conscious, of technical ingenuity is a precondition for the comprehension of the affective significance of music. Parsing the Descending Chromatic Fourth
Early in the eighteenth century, there were collections of motifs (defined by rhythms as well as simply by pitches)—above all, that of Thomas Matheson of 1739—that were thought helpful for the rendering of different sentiments. I am not sure if this so-called Affektenlehre really proved useful for many composers, but by the second half of the century, the ambiguity—or, to put it differently, the malleability—of motifs rather than any possibility of even attempting to fix a stable meaning became essential to the latest developments of musical style. Professor Daniel Heartz, however, in a lecture that I heard many years symphony
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ago in San Francisco, wished to claim that a descending bass chromatic fourth in the minor mode, like the one in the Crucifixus of Bach’s Mass in B minor, was a symbol of death throughout the eighteenth century, and produced a variety of examples of a descending chromatic fourth, many of them an ostinato bass, to illustrate his thesis. All these fourths, however, began without exception on the tonic and went to the dominant. The trouble is, there is no possibility of writing an ostinato bass in the eighteenth century that does anything else. So there is nothing particularly significant about the interval of a fourth, or indeed about the procedure of going from tonic to dominant, as almost all music at that time was expected to do. If a short phrase did not have a bass that went down a fourth from tonic to dominant, then it could not be repeated several times to make an ostinato, or the result would have been a monstrosity for the eighteenth-century ear.
Early in the eighteenth century, there were collections of motifs that were thought helpful for the rendering of different sentiments. I am not sure if this so-called Affektenlehre really proved useful for many composers, but by the second half of the century, the malleability of motifs became essential to the latest developments of musical style. The only possible variant is an ostinato like Bach’s Passacaglia that goes immediately up a fifth to the dominant and then back to the tonic, but the ostinato in the Crucifixus is more succinct and economical although not essentially different. It was a useful formula for writing serious music with an ostinato and survived for a long time…. While the formula was a commonplace device for serious music in the minor mode, it is extravagant to believe that a chromatic descent from tonic to dominant had the same fixed symbolic meaning in americanorchestras.org
all cases: it was a useful and even, at times indispensable, tonal procedure. The bass of the main theme of Chopin’s “Revolutionary” Étude op. 10 no. 12 in C minor chromatically descends a fourth from C to G: of course, revolutionaries often kill people, but there is nothing lugubrious or funereal about this piece. Heartz was naturally right about the affective character of several of the pieces he adduced. But in the end his thesis amounts only to a simple claim that slow chromatic music in the minor mode with a repeating bass is very sad or at the very least grave and serious, and that may be musicology, but it is not news.1 Other approaches to affective meaning in music that do not rely upon a code centred on single and simple parameters are far more fruitful, notably the wide-ranging semantic studies of Eero Tarasti, as well as Marta Grabocz’s observations on the use of affective elements in constructing narrative in music, and Robert Hatten’s cogent essays on the gestural aspects of tonal music. These serve as musical analysis. However, my own purpose here is more narrowly historical, to display the radical changes in the methods of representation of sentiment imposed on composers by changes of style over two centuries.
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A more substantial proposal on a related subject is by Ellen Rosand, “The descending Tetrachord: an Emblem of Lament,” in The Musical Quarterly, vol. 65, no. 3, July 1979, pp. 346–59, who examines a series of vocal works from Monteverdi to Cavalli, all on texts of lamentation and using a descending ostinato bass. Rosand has identified and analysed an important and interesting set of works. In one small respect, however, considerations similar to those in the case of Heartz apply. The “tetrachord” (or fourth from the tonic down to the dominant) is not a defining characteristic of these pieces, since once the composers had decided on an ostinato bass, they had no option other than outlining the tetrachord. On the other hand, the descending bass seems, indeed, to be the defining procedure of the genre presented, and Rosand remarks, in fact, on the freedom with which the bass was sometimes treated, occasionally rising rather than falling, although, of course, the latent presence of the tetrachord structure is inevitable throughout the examples, because that was part of the basic musical language of the time.
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