symphony March /April 2010 n
The Magazine of
The League of American Orchestras
Rock Legend Sting on the Orchestra Stage
Status Update: Orchestras Embrace Social Media CityMusic Clevelandâ€™s Free-for-All Alternative Whatâ€™s in a Name? The Sarasota Orchestra Finds Out
SYMPHONIC VOYAGES Debut Sail ing
Immerse yourself in classical music aboard a luxury Caribbean cruise. January 3-15, 2011 Join a community of music lovers and world-class artists on a unique vacation experience. Attend daily performances by a full symphony orchestra, chamber music concerts, and solo recitals by the artists in residence. Enjoy opportunities to socialize with the professional musicians who will be your fellow passengers.
Featured Artists Cho-Liang Lin, violin • Susan Lorette Dunn, soprano • Larry Rachleff, conductor
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symphony m a r c h / a p r il 2 0 1 0
T h e M a g a z ine of T h e L ea g ue of A me r ican O r c h est r as
4 Prelude by Robert Sandla
7 The Score Orchestra news, moves, and events
Delaware Symphony Orchestra
14 Critical Questions Forward-thinking orchestras are looking beyond the current economy— and finding surprising opportunities. by Jesse Rosen
22 At the League The League’s 2010 Conference will tackle tough issues and give orchestras needed support in difficult times. by Russell Jones
Status Update Orchestras embrace the power of online media. by Rebecca Winzenried
In the Moment For composer Kevin Puts, direct communication with audiences is key. by Ann McCutchan
Neighborhood Watch CityMusic Cleveland has created a niche with its free concerts and education programs. by Donald Rosenberg
More than Meets the Ear From onstage aerialists and synchronized kites to specially created films, orchestras are diving into multimedia performance. by Daniel J. Kushner
Ode to Ludwig Kerry Candaele discusses the global impact of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, the subject of his next documentary film.
Irving Symphony Orchestra
What’s in a Name? How the Florida West Coast Symphony became the Sarasota Orchestra. by Joseph McKenna and Gordon Greenfield
67 Advertiser Index 70 Coda Rock legend Sting talks about his newest passion—the orchestra.
68 League of American Orchestras Annual Fund
about the cover Sting’s career has taken him from rock music to Hollywood to the orchestra stage. He performed in 2009 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, pictured above. Cover photo by Paolo Roversi
Vo lu m e 6 1 , N u m b e r 2
symphony M a r c h / A p r il 2 0 1 0
he economy. That’s the big topic that orchestras—and all the arts—are grappling with right now. Cutbacks, wage freezes, and decimated endowments are much in the headlines. It’s a scary time—though the success stories are out there, too. But even as some orchestras struggle financially, they increasingly see that relevance to community may be one way to get ahead. In his Critical Questions column, League President and CEO Jesse Rosen makes the case that, as difficult as the economy is, orchestras need to connect with communities. One orchestra that engages with multiple constituencies is CityMusic Cleveland, profiled on page 44. When the Florida West Coast Symphony sought to become more relevant to its community, it asked the community what to do—and reinvented itself as the Sarasota Orchestra. The article on page 56 reveals that the new name came directly from audiences themselves. What do you think about these and other trends? Now you can tell us—and share your opinions with each other and the world. This online-only issue of Symphony has a new tool: a discussion forum where readers are invited to comment on every feature article. Look for the box with “Got an opinion? Join the discussion!” at the end of the major stories, which links you to the discussion forum focused on each article. We include a couple of questions related to each story, but they are meant as starting places—suggestions of topics to get the conversation going. We envision this as a place for lively debate and the sharing of ideas, where you weigh in with your thoughts and reactions. Let us know what you think.
T h e M a g a z ine of T h e L ea g ue of A me r ican O r c h est r as
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. editor in chief Robert Sandla
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SCORE News, moves, and events in the orchestra industry The
Musical Chairs The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra has appointed HELANE ANDERSON director of artistic planning. Connecticut’s Hartford Symphony Orchestra has named MATTHEW AUBIN education programs conductor.
Delaware Symphony Orchestra musicians Stephanie Wilson, Kathleen Hastings, Louise Jaffe, and Cheryl Everill perform chamber music for a Haiti benefit at Brew HaHa! coffeehouse in Wilmington.
has been appointed manager of Youth Orchestra Los Angeles, an educational initiative of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
The Cleveland Orchestra has appointed ROSS BINNIE chief marketing officer. has been named director of development at the New York Pops.
Delaware Symphony Orchestra cellist Eugene Klein
The Memphis Symphony Orchestra has named MEI-ANN CHEN music director, effective next season.
has been appointed vice president for audience development and sales at the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
The Austin Symphony Orchestra has named executive director.
U.S. Bancorp CEO RICHARD K. DAVIS has been elected board chair of the Minnesota Orchestral Association.
RENEE ANTHONY DEE has been appointed director of artistic planning at the Akron Symphony.
Arts Consulting Group Inc. has named LAURIE DOWLING senior consultant in the firm’s Los Angeles office.
The Great Lakes Chamber Orchestra (Petoskey, Mich.) has appointed JANET FOWLER executive director.
JACQUELYN K. GROTH has been named vice president of finance and strategic planning at the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.
The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra has announced that PAAVO JÄRVI will step down as music director at the end of the 2010-11 season. VIRGINIA JOHNSTON has been appointed executive director of the Discovery Orchestra, based in Warren, N.J.
The Cleveland Orchestra has named MARK KOSOWER principal cello, effective with the start of the orchestra’s 2010 Blossom Festival.
Lexington (Ky.) Philharmonic Executive Director PETER KUCIRKO has announced his intention to step down from that post July 1, 2010.
After news of the devastating January 12 earthquake in Haiti reached North America, it wasn’t long before orchestras and other classical-music groups responded the best way they knew how: with music. Among the benefit concerts were those by the Cambridge (Mass.), Delaware, Hartford, Louisiana, Louisville, Nashville, National, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Portland (Me.), Portsmouth (N.H.), Saint Louis, San Francisco, Seattle, Tulsa, and Vancouver symphonies, as well as such widespread groups as the Greater New Orleans Youth Orchestra, Green Mountain Mahler Festival, and Princeton University Orchestra. The Cleveland Orchestra and Miami’s New World Symphony produced a benefit in tandem, while the Longwood (Mass.) Symphony Orchestra’s Symphonic Relief for Haiti events also included New England Conservatory, Symphony Pro Musica (Mass.), and Vermont Symphony Orchestra. Haiti’s own musical institutions are still in need of rebuilding. In the days after the disaster, Jean “Rudy” Perrault (above), a Minnesota-based conductor and violinist originally from Port-au-Prince, spoke to Symphony about the devastation. The Holy Trinity Music School in Port-au-Prince, where Perrault had studied and taught, had been demolished, with all instruments inside destroyed. Another Port-au-Prince program for teaching music to young people living in shantytowns—which, Perrault said, was “somewhere the kids could go for escape”—had suffered the same fate. “Once the roads are clear,” Perrault said, “we need to start reintroducing music into the country.” Donations to help Haitian relief may be made through Partners In Health, Doctors Without Borders, or by texting “Yele” by phone to 501501 to automatically donate $5 to the Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund. Redlands (Cal.) Symphony Music Director Jon Robertson and his wife, Dr. Florence Bellande, who is of Haitian descent, also have an organization, Foundation Hope for Haiti, that is accepting donations.
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Orchestras Help Haiti
Spring orchestra assignments for the 2010 Orchestra Management Fellows have been announced by the League of American Orchestras. JAMES BOYD goes to the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, and ELIZABETH SUSTAR to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
SEBASTIAN LANG-LESSING has been appointed music director of the San Antonio Symphony, effective next season.
New England Conservatory has named DAVID LOEBEL associate director of orchestras, effective in September 2010. has been appointed Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
The Florence (S.C.) Symphony has named ROGER general manager.
has joined Target Resource Group as a senior consultant based in the firm’s New York City office.
Brazil’s Orquestra Sinfônica do Estado de São Paulo has appointed ARTHUR NESTROVSKI artistic director. At the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, MARY has been promoted from controller to vice president and chief financial officer.
The Louisville Orchestra has promoted LINDSAY PUMMELL from operations manager to director of operations. TIFFANI SCHMIDT has been named operations manager.
Wisconsin’s Waukesha Symphony Orchestra has promoted ANDREA RINDO from office and database manager to executive director.
has been appointed vice president of marketing at the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra.
The Portland (Me.) Symphony Orchestra has named LEAH ROBERTSON associate director for development and special projects.
New York-based music publisher Boosey & Hawkes Inc. has announced two appointments in its promotion department: DAVID SCHOTZKO, director, and STEVEN LANKENAU, associate director. has been named executive director of Colorado’s Boulder Philharmonic, effective March 2.
The Seattle Symphony has appointed chief financial officer.
has been named assistant principal trumpet in the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Connecticut’s Norwalk Symphony Orchestra has named AUDREY SZYCHULSKI executive director.
The National Repertory Orchestra (Breckenridge, Colo.) has appointed KEN TOLTZ executive director. MARY KATHRYN VAN OSDALE will step down as concertmaster of the Nashville Symphony at the conclusion of the 2009-10 season; she will assume the title concertmaster emerita and continue as a member of the first violin section.
The Opera Orchestra of New York has appointed ALBERTO VERONESI to succeed founding conductor EVE QUELER as music director effective in 2011-12; Queler will assume the title conductor laureate.
(top) Lanier High School gym, filled to capacity with 1,200 students, during an Austin Symphony Orchestra performance (below) Composer Matthew White (left) with Austin Symphony Orchestra guest conductor Raffaele Ponti
Numerologists, take note: this summer’s Ravinia Festival celebrates a multitude of musical milestones. During its annual Ravinia residency, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will mark the 60th birthday of Music Director James Conlon, the 70th birthday of former Music Director Christoph Eschenbach, the 100th anniversary of the birth of Samuel Barber (the Adagio for Strings; Joshua Bell performing the Violin Concerto), and Mahler’s 150th birthday (the Adagio of the composer’s unfinished Tenth Symphony). The festival will salute the 80th birthday of composer/ lyricist Stephen Sondheim with a gala featuring musical-theater stars. The focus remains on Broadway—and birthdays—with a concert staging of Annie Get Your Gun starring Patti LuPone, pegged to Annie Oakley’s 150th birthday. Pianist Garrick Ohlsson will commemorate Chopin’s 200th birthday, and the 200th anniversary of Mexican Independence will be honored James Conlon leads the Chicago with appropriate flair. Symphony Orchestra at Ravinia. symphony
Courtesy Chicago Symphony Orchestra
has been named vice president of development at the Philion Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
SUSAN W. PLAGEMAN
Here’s a debut that might have impressed even the precocious Mendelssohn. During its performances in high school gyms in Austin and Round Rock, the Austin Symphony Orchestra premiered A Recollection of Memories Passed by high school sophomore Matthew White. This is the twelfth work for White, a student at Stony Point High School in Round Rock, but his first for orchestra. White began playing saxophone at age eleven, and wrote his first piece for concert band while in eighth grade. Also featured on the concerts were two Austin Symphony Youth Awards winners: pianist Jessica Hwang and violinist Michelle Suh.
All MIM photos by Holly Metz
Austin Awakens Teen’s Memories
The Seattle Symphony has announced that THOMAS PHILION will step down as president and CEO at the expiration of his contract on June 30, 2010.
Hundreds of instrumentalists came out of the woodwork in February when the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra invited amateur musicians to perform alongside its members in two “Rusty Musicians” concerts. Music Director Marin Alsop led eight groups of amateur musicians and BSO players in the fourth movement of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 and “Nimrod” from Elgar’s Enigma Variations. Each concert evening at the Music Center at Strathmore in Bethesda, Maryland was broken up into separate 40-minute sessions. In casual dress before an audience that paid $10 per ticket, Alsop joked about nerves and gave plenty of “great job!” encouragements to players who ranged from accountants to workers at the National Institutes of Health. On a video posted at the BSO’s website, Alsop and the players talked about the experience. You can read participants’ post-concert comments at a “Rusty Musicians” blog. Baltimore is planning a slightly pricier event for adult amateur musicians: a oneweek summer “camp” in June, at $1,650 per person. Music Director Marin Alsop hugs Max Weiss, a rusty cellist who performed with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in February.
Courtesy Stanford MoPhO
Cell phones took center stage on December 3, when the new Stanford Mobile Phone Orchestra (MoPhO), composed of Stanford University faculty and students, performed pieces like “IntraV” and “Mo So(und) Bo(unce).” Players created sounds using iPhones as instruments and gloves on their hands that acted as speakers, led by Ge Wang, an assistant professor at Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics, who is co-founder of Smule, which markets apps like Leaf Trombone and Sonic Vox. On December 9, students at the University of Michigan Handheld speakers and also played instruments on iPhones—the instruments iPhones—the students were of the new Stanford Mobile members of a class called Phone Orchestra (MoPhO) “Building a Mobile Phone Ensemble,” taught by assistant professor George Essl, one of the developers of the Ocarina iPhone app. Mashable.com posted videos from the California concert. Essl points out in a video posted at YouTube, “it’s difficult to make a comparison between traditional instruments and emerging instruments like the iPhone.”
Courtesy Stanford MoPhO
Play It Again, Baltimore
Lights Down, iPhones On
The Musical Instrument Museum—a project two years in the making—opens on April 24 in Phoenix with a weekend of celebrations and performances. The city’s newest cultural amenity, designed by architect Richard Varda and the firm RSP Architects, comprises 75,000 square feet of exhibition space and a 299-seat Music Theater; multiple galleries; a recording studio and a conservation laboratory; and the inevitable café and museum store. The museum’s founding board chairman is Robert J. Ulrich, who retired as chairman and CEO of the Target Corporation in 2009. MIM’s mission is to “collect and display musical instruments from every country in the world, preserving, protecting, and sharing these gifts with future generations.” Holdings include more than 12,000 instruments; pictured here are a Brazilian agbê (beaded gourd shaker), a Japanese taiko (barrel drum), and a saxophone from Paris.
Members of a new mobile-phone orchestra in performance at Stanford University
Manahan to Lead ACO
Terje Mikkelsen Conducts
Presented under the auspices of
Orchestra Staffers to Attend AmEx Academy Richard Bowditch
The American Composers Orchestra has announced the appointment of George Manahan as music director, effective next season. He will conduct all three of the ACO’s 2010-11 concerts presented by Carnegie Hall in its Zankel Hall venue, while continuing as music director of New York City Opera, where he is now in his twelfth season. Manahan will be only the third artistic leader of the ACO; he was preceded by founding conductor Dennis Russell Davies (1977-2002) and Steven Sloane, the current music director. In addition to his posts at the ACO and New York City Opera, Manahan will join the Manhattan School of Music faculty next fall as director of orchestral studies.
Staffers at seven orchestras have been selected to participate in the American Express Nonprofit Leadership Academy from April 26 to 30, 2010. Run in partnership with the Center for Creative Leadership, the free program immerses participants in sessions with American Express senior executives about career development, business strategy, brand management, and marketing. This year, American Express asked the League of American Orchestras to invite its members to nominate staffers to participate. The class includes Carolyn Nishon, Portland (Me.) Symphony; Nick Adams, Nashua (N.H.) Symphony; Laura Connelly, Los Angeles Philharmonic; David Filner, San Antonio Symphony; Alexis Alfaro, San Diego Youth Symphony; Rika Dixon, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra; and Ahmad Mayes, Youth Orchestras of San Antonio. Participants will receive follow-up support from CCL via online networking tools, telephone coaching sessions, leadership goal checkpoints, and a one-year review.
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Second Helpings Terje Mikkelsen conducts Moscow’s
Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra
in June 2008, at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles Contact me to add a Program by Norwegian Composers to an upcoming season. Request a copy of the Alnaes Symphony #1 and #2 performed by Mr. Mikkelsen and the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra.
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For the second year in a row American orchestras will collect food for their neighbors most in need. The Orchestras Feeding America 2010 food drive will take place throughout the month of March, but some orchestras may be participating earlier or later, depending on their schedules. About 250 orchestras in all 50 states came together for Orchestras Feeding America 2009 to raise slightly more than 200,000 pounds of food—a remarkable example of orchestras helping their communities. As of mid-February, more than 100 orchestras had signed up. For information or to sign up, click on Orchestras Feeding America 2010.
String Time What just turned 40 years old but remains young? The New York String Orchestra, which has been training promising musicians aged 15 to 22 since 1969. The organization was led for many years by violinist and conductor Alexander Schneider (1908-93) and includes among its alumni cellist Yo-Yo Ma; conductors Marin Alsop, Douglas Boyd, and Peter Oundjian; and violinists Gil Shaham, Pamela Frank, and Shlomo Mintz. To celebrate its fortieth anniversary in December, Jaime Laredo, the current artistic director, led the NYSO in two programs at Carnegie Hall.
Courtesy Carnegie Hall Archives
New York String Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, December 2009
Violinist Isaac Stern (left) and flutist JeanPierre Rampal in 1969, the inaugural year of the New York String Orchestra Seminar
This February and March, the Curtis Institute of Music has been celebrating the centenary of Samuel Barber, among the school’s first students and one of its most famous alumni. The Curtis on Tour ensemble—cellist Peter Wiley, pianist Yekwon Sunwoo, violist Hyo Bo Sim, and violinists Ida Kavafian and Benjamin Beilman—takes Barber’s String Quartet to nine cities, with a New York City performance on March 10. On March 9, the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth, Curtis 20/21, the school’s contemporary music ensemble, presents vocal and chamber works by Barber, as well as Barber-inspired works by alumnus Jonathan Holland (’96) and current student Christopher Rogerson. Later in the month, the Curtis Opera Theatre presents Barber’s Antony and Cleopatra at the Kimmel Center’s Perelman Theater.
Curtis Institute of Music Archives
Barber Birthday Bonanza
Above: Samuel Barber (center) with members of the Curtis String Quartet at the Colosseum in Rome during the ensemble’s fall 1936 European tour. The quartet premiered Barber’s String Quartet, Op. 11 and recorded his Dover Beach with the composer singing the baritone solo. Left: The Curtis on Tour ensemble (left to right): Ida Kavafian, violin; Yekwon Sunwoo, piano; Hyo Bi Sim, viola; Peter Wiley, cello; Benjamin Beilman, violin
A Little Help From Their Friends
To help promote its February Classical Mystery Tour Beatlemania concert, members of Colorado’s Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra took a stroll across Rood Avenue in Grand Junction, mimicking the Fab Four’s Abbey Road cover to create an image for GJSO marketing materials. Left to right: Marketing Director Jennifer Schultz (who occasionally plays horn with the orchestra), percussionist Darin Kamstra, violist Heidi Snyder, and trumpeter Judd Berry.
Preventing arts programs from getting cut is an ongoing battle for most public schools. But one California school has just added a baroque ensemble to its existing choir, band, and orchestra offerings. Angelo Moreno, director of Davis High School’s orchestra program, says the new 32-member ensemble—complete with harpsichord—was formed in response to the large number of interested students. The orchestra played its first public concert on December 18, 2009, which included works by Geminiani, Handel, Corelli, Vivaldi, Scarlatti, and Bach. Students perform with Baroque-style bows and had their modern instruments adapted by adding gut strings and tuning them to A=415 pitch. Money for adapting the instruments came primarily from parents and members of the community; the school also shifted its music budget by eliminating a music teacher's aide position and adding a baroque ensemble instructor. The orchestra can be viewed on YouTube.
Shreveport Returns It was a welcome homecoming when Louisiana’s Shreveport Symphony Orchestra returned to the stage for a January 30 concert led by Music Director Michael Butterman (left) and featuring violinist Jennifer Frautschi (right). The orchestra, which had been in a lengthy labor dispute until musicians signed an agreement on November 30, performed an all-Tchaikovsky program for roughly 1,600 people at Riverview Theater in Shreveport. Under the temporary three-concert agreement, the orchestra will also present “Cirque de la Symphonie” on March 5, also at Riverview, and “A Keyboard Extravaganza” on May 15 at First Baptist Church in Shreveport.
Susan Whipple Rogers
Not Broke— Baroque
MARCH – AP r i L 2 0 1 0
Orchestra + Vacant Store = Free Concert The Metropolis Ensemble, a professional chamber orchestra based in New York City, landed an unusual venue on February 1 when it performed Avner Dorman’s Mandolin Concerto at 15 East 4th Street in Manhattan. That address is better known as the former space of Tower Records, which closed in 2006. The event was co-presented with No Longer Empty, a nonprofit that organizes site-specific public art exhibitions in vacated storefronts and properties. The concerto, performed in a string-sextet version with mandolinist Avi Avital, is one of four works on a new all-Dorman CD on the Naxos label. The 7:30 performance was filled to capacity, so the musicians repeated the concerto for a second audience. To hear a sound clip from Dorman’s Mandolin Concerto, go to the SymphonyOnline section of americanorchestras.org and click on Outposts.
A Clean $10K Win
January ushered in a new chapter in social media, when the El Paso Symphony Youth Orchestras won $10,000 in a Facebook contest hosted by none other than Clorox. The orchestra, known as EPSYOs, is a division of the El Paso Symphony in Texas; it was one of five children's nonprofits to receive a $10,000 prize; the five were chosen from 30 finalists by popular vote at Clorox’s contest page on Facebook, with EPSYOs coming in third at 14,305 votes. More than 200 students from the Greater El Paso and Las Cruces region participate in EPSYOs programs; a majority receive financial assistance. Clorox said its contest goal was to help sustain children’s nonprofits during the economic downturn.
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Members of the Metropolis Ensemble performed free at a closed Tower Records in Manhattan on February 1.
Engage one of tomorrow's super stars today!
Artists CHARLIE ALBRIGHT piano
CAROLINE GOULDING violin ALEKSANDR HASKIN flute JENNIFER JOHNSON mezzo-soprano First Prize Winners, 2009 Young Concert Artists International Auditions (212) 307-6657 firstname.lastname@example.org www.yca.org
Ahead of the Curve The economy continues to struggle, but for forwardthinking orchestras there are surprising opportunities.
f you are a first-time Symphony reader, welcome. In this ongoing column I try to raise questions that can offer useful perspectives to those who are concerned about the future of orchestras. One of these is, “What is the biggest challenge for orchestras in the decade ahead?” Hint: It is not the tough economy. If you have seen the newest research from the National Endowment for the Arts, your answer might be “retaining our audiences.” The rate of public attendance at “benchmark” arts activities like jazz, classical music, theater, dance, and other performances— as well as other leisure activities like live sports events—has been dropping since the 1980s, most dramatically since 2002. Those who still think “we don’t have that problem” may want to review the League’s own new Audience Demographic Research Review, or read the “Climate Change” article in the JanuaryFebruary 2010 issue of Symphony. (The League’s Audience Demographic Research Review was made possible in part by a generous grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.) The research shows that something big is changing in the way Americans engage not just with the arts, but with all live activities. Many of our assumptions about what the public wants from orchestras may need to be revisited. These trends are sobering, but they also signal extraordinary opportunity for arts
institutions, educators, business and government leaders, philanthropists, and all who care about the health of our society. Americans are showing a strong appetite for meaningful and exciting artistic experiences. Their interests are bursting the bonds of traditional formats, genres, and habits of mind. And I have seen firsthand that there is an appreciation, in the highest reaches of our government, for the value of maximizing the role of the arts in American culture. In my view, the core issue here is not
by Jesse Rosen
Jesse Rosen, president and CEO, League of American Orchestras
about digging in and retaining our traditional audiences, but about reimagining what public participation in our art form might mean, and expanding the ways orchestras provide communities with live orchestral music. So the big challenge for arts institutions in our time might be: “How can we seize this moment to connect more Americans to our art in a way that strengthens orchestras’ financial health, the cultural landscape, and our communities?” Knoxville Symphony Orchestra violinist Sean Claire performs for very young patients at the University of Tennessee Medical Center as part of the KSO’s Music and Wellness initiative.
Hockey great Wayne Gretzky, when asked how he scored so many goals, famously answered, “I skate to where the puck is going to be.” I want to point out three intriguing places where orchestras might snag that puck. Ravel and Radiohead
a wonderful first gateway for reconsidering orchestral programming. The second opening lies in how we use technology. Electronic and online arts consumption has soared. The fact that 40 million Americans view or listen to classical music electronically or online suggests that people still are hungry for the joy, inspiration, and meaning that this music infuses into human existence. Some may fear that online listening could replace the live concert. That concern was also expressed about the advent of recordings and television (and also about broadcasting home-team sports events), but those media outlets have been shown to build awareness and attendance. It is also possible that we need to look more carefully at how to make our concert experiences more special, and perhaps more consciously “human.” How much can be done americanorchestras.org
to connect the new online communities that are electing presidents and transforming business with the special thrill of live performance? The third opportunity, which was discussed at the NEA gathering, relates to the rise of “do it yourself ” art forms. Both today’s young adults and our enormous population of aging Boomers are active, not passive, participants. More people of all ages are creating original art and playing musical instruments. They are interested in shaping their own artistic experiences and in sharing them with others. What could this mean for orchestras? One idea that comes to mind is that, though fewer of today’s young people have grown up with classical music, many
Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra musicians perform at the French Market in New Orleans’s French Quarter during Holiday Happy Hours.
Live orchestral concerts must remain at the core of what we do. But the cultivation of future audiences with different tastes and preferences requires orchestras to stretch in how they do their work.
Memphis Symphony Orchestra violist Michael Barar, center, is a mentor at Soulsville Charter School in Memphis, where he also teaches students how to play the viola.
At a gathering of arts leaders convened by the NEA on December 10, 2009 to discuss the new findings, American Music Center CEO Joanne Hubbard Cossa told the group that none of her thousands of member composers who write for orchestras and smaller ensembles use the term “classical” when describing their music. Jean Cook, interim executive director of the Future of Music Coalition, reminded us that iPod listeners whose playlists include Ravel next to Radiohead are hardly aware that these composers might represent different genres. The broadening taste of music-minded Americans and the shedding of traditional boundaries present
Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra cellist Bjorn Ranheim demonstrates his instrument to children at the Long Elementary School in Saint Louis.
Memphis Symphony Orchestra musicians Chris Butler, left, contrabass player, and Marisa Polesky, violinist, interact with students and their parents at the Memphis Oral School for the Deaf.
number of school-age children. How can we engage this group, so many of whom currently attend concerts, when they are no longer able to come to us?
more are experienced in working with video and media arts. Could orchestras find ways to engage them through these other media? The article on page 50 reports on how some orchestras are using multimedia and other visuals in their programs. Another ripe opportunity lies in the “creative aging movement.” According to the National Center for Creative Aging, by the year 2040 the number of Americans age 85 and over is projected to be 19.4 million—triple what it was in 2000. That is also more than the projected
A Culture of Experimentation
The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra performs a community concert at the St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, February 2009.
And why stop there? Science is teaching us more every day about the power of music and other arts to develop and heal our minds and bodies. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s incoming music director, Riccardo Muti, has announced plans to bring music to incarcerated prisoners. Why not develop collaborations to fulfill the suggestion of arts advocate Lucia Brawley, that we provide music and art therapy for every soldier returning from Iraq suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder? Orchestras nationwide are taking steps in this direction by venturing outside their
Orchestras are already beginning to experiment with each of these ideas. The San Francisco Symphony and Los Angeles Philharmonic are presenting some concerts that follow the “iPod model” of linking genres and styles. The New York Philharmonic’s iPhone Pass and the Columbus (Ohio) Symphony Orchestra’s plan for a “total-access subscription,” which eventually will include streaming and downloading privileges along with concert tickets, are making music more accessible whenever and wherever people want it. But we are barely scratching the surface in harnessing the potential of new technologies. Seventy years ago, Walt Disney and Leopold Stokowski matched orchestral music with animation and newly invented stereophonic sound in the film Fantasia, which still enchants generations. What new treasures could innovative collaboration produce today? Youth orchestras across the country are teaching young people the rewards of striving together to achieve a great and uplifting goal. More adults also are playing instruments than in recent years. In February, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra invited hundreds of local amateur musicians to perform the fourth movement of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 with it at several special concerts. Are there other new ways for adult orchestras to connect with passionate adult amateurs?
Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra trombonist Gerry Pagano with children at Carver Elementary School in Saint Louis
concert halls. The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra have begun performing regularly in community venues. CityMusic Cleveland, a chamber orchestra founded in 2004, has made its central mission performing free concerts in several northeast Ohio communities; it is the subject of the article on page 44. Many orchestras have ongoing relationships with schools, and others are developing exciting new models for bringing music to youth. But we can also find the Memphis Symphony Orchestra in corporate conference rooms, The Philadelphia Orchestra in nursing homes, the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra in churches, the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra in hospitals. And these are only a few examples. So what about those traditional consymphony
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PHOTO: KINGMOND YOUNG
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certs that musicians love to play and so many patrons love to hear? This is not an either/or proposition. Live orchestral concerts must remain at the core of what we do. But the cultivation of future audiences with demonstrably different tastes and preferences requires orchestras to stretch in how they do their work. This effort is arguably necessary for the evolution of music and the orchestral experience. And when it is done well, it advances orchestras. If all of these new directions sound kind of messy, risky, and uncertain, they are. I find some encouraging parallels, though, in Atul Gawande’s recent New Yorker article recounting the transformation of farming in America. Between 1900 and today the cost of food for an American family dropped from 40 percent of annual income to just 8 percent, due to the remarkable role played by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Gawande observes that the lesson from agriculture is that transformation can be accomplished without a master plan, especially when technical solutions are not adequate. Instead, you foster progress by stimulating many individual experiments, pilots, and lots of information exchange. That’s what the USDA did. Orchestras are playing out their own experiments. We need even more, with all their messiness. Unlike the USDA, the League does not legislate, nor does it have the coffers of a government agency. But the League can help. We are working to get you the information you need to ex-
periment, and to assure that news of your progress is shared across the field. Orchestras have multiple chances to score with new audiences in the decade ahead. You can count on the League for plenty of assists. It will require creativity, commitment, and some sharp skating.
Conductors ROBERT FRANZ
Music Director, Boise Philharmonic Mansfield Symphony Associate Conductor, Houston Symphony
Music Director, Louisville Orchestra Naples Philharmonic Orchestra Pasadena Symphony Orchestra
Music Director, Portland Symphony Orchestra Winston-Salem Symphony Artistic Director, Arizona Musicfest
Music Director, Pensacola Symphony Orchestra
Music Director, Wichita Symphony Orchestra Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra
LAWRENCE LEIGHTON SMITH The League recognizes and thanks the Volunteer Council and Sustainers for their longtime support of the Annual Fund, the Campaign for a New Direction, and National Conference, and in particular, for their countless hours providing assistance to volunteers in the orchestra field. americanorchestras.org
Music Director, Colorado Springs Philharmonic Sunriver Music Festival
There is no time to lose. You can start by sharing your ideas online here.
Got an opinion? Join the discussion!
Click Discussions below to comment.
Piano Tanya Bannister Eduardus Halim Yu Kosuge John O’Conor Antonio Pompa-Baldi Bryan Wallick Violin Lindsay Deutsch Ilya Kaler Rachel Barton Pine Alexander Sitkovetsky Livia Sohn Guitar Ana Vidovic Fábio Zanon Viola Paul Neubauer Cello Wendy Warner Clarinet Charles Neidich Flute Carol Wincenc Native American Flute R. Carlos Nakai (appearances with orchestra only)
Harp Nancy Allen
Building Successful Relationships Between Artists and Presenters
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Learning Online 2010 Accessing and Managing Credit Webinar Coming Spring 2010
Learn how an organization is assessed for credit worthiness and assess your own organization in its ability to qualify for, and access credit. Developed in partnership with the Nonprofit Finance Fund
Artists from Abroad: The Tax Webinar Available on-demand
The U.S. tax requirements for foreign guest artists are vastly different than the laws for U.S. residents. Do you have all the information you need to be in compliance with IRS requirements? Learn the essentials about IRS withholding rules, including insight into tax treaties, the latest news regarding U.S. tax identification numbers, and tips for planning ahead to avoid last-minute tax mishaps. Presenter: Robyn Guillians, attorney
Board Assessment Tool Podcast Coming Spring 2010
Learn how to use the Leagueâ€™s customized online board self-assessment tool created in partnership with BoardSource. This tool is designed to address issues of importance unique to orchestra boards and offers both tangible and intangible benefits to the board, the executive director, the orchestra, and ultimately, the audiences and communities the orchestra serves. Presenter: David Styers, senior governance consultant, BoardSource
Cash Flow Planning Webinar Available on-demand
This timely, practical webinar will provide participants with tips and tools to understand how to appropriately plan and monitor cash needs by analyzing incoming and outgoing cash, including learning to use a monthly cash flow projection. Developed in partnership with the Nonprofit Finance Fund
Critical Elements in Nonprofit Financial Statements Webinar Available on-demand
Increase the comfort of nonprofit managers and board members in reading and interpreting nonprofit financial statements. In this webinar, you will receive a crash course in interpreting financial statements to reveal the business underpinning your programs; follow a real-life nonprofit case study; and review the use of financials in articulating your resource needs to stakeholders. Developed in partnership with the Nonprofit Finance Fund
Electronic Media: A Four-Part Webinar Available on-demand
This multi-part webinar provides a strategic and operational roadmap covering a) an overview of opportunities for orchestras to use electronic media to realize their missions, b) a strategic planning process for setting electronic media goals and identifying activities to help you achieve those goals, c) the practical production, business, and rights clearance issues you will need to address to implement your orchestraâ€™s electronic media activities. Presenters: Michael Bronson, Joe Kluger, electronic media consultants
Learning & Leadership Development
Learning Online 2010
For further details or to register, please visit americanorchestras.org
Endowments & Cash Reserves Webinar Coming Spring 2010
In this webinar, organizations will learn about traditional endowments and cash reserves, including benefits, tradeoffs, and capitalization planning. Participants will review a case study on the role of raising an endowment on organizational operations and examine a 990-based sector analysis of League-member organizations. Developed in partnership with the Nonprofit Finance Fund
Facility Projects Webinars: Planning, Funding and Financing Strategies Coming Spring 2010
This three-part webinar will demystify the fundraising and financing strategies available to pay for a facility project. Study the impact acquisition can have on your organization’s mission, programs, structure, operations, fundraising and financial health. Developed in partnership with the Nonprofit Finance Fund
Sound Financial Planning Webinar Available on-demand
This timely, practical webinar will provide participants with tips and tools to lead their organizations during challenging times and beyond. Learn how to better understand the interplay between financial risk, revenue reliability and fixed costs. We will also discuss how this information can be used to inform planning and decision-making organization-wide. Developed in partnership with the Nonprofit Finance Fund
Volunteer Council Fundraising Webinar Coming Spring 2010
This webinar is designed by volunteers to cover the fundamentals of fundraising for orchestra volunteer organizations regardless of budget size. Topics explored include: the volunteer as fundraiser; the reasons people give; and how to effectively design, implement and evaluate fundraising events. Presenter: Sue Ashby, member, Volunteer Council, League of American Orchestras and volunteer, Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra
Your Orchestra, Your Community: Roadmap to Success (Podcasts, videos, and other resources) Available on-demand Developed with the input of over 100 orchestras, the League’s diagnostic tool is designed to help orchestras think deeply about their role in the community and assess their readiness for growth and improvement. Included with this resource are practical how-to guides in a choice of formats—podcasts, PDFs, and videos. Presenters: Thomas Cabaniss, composer/educator; Jessica Balboni, director, Orchestra Leadership Academy, League of American Orchestras
More Learning Online opportunities are coming in 2010—visit americanorchestras.org for details. Learning Online opportunities are made possible by generous grants from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Argosy Foundation, The Hearst Foundation, Inc., the National Endowment for the Arts, and by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council. Additional support for the Electronic Media Webinar is made possible in part by a generous grant from the Surdna Foundation. Learning Online opportunities in partnership with the Nonprofit Finance Fund are made possible by a generous grant from MetLife Foundation.
Now Is the Time The League’s 2010 National Conference will tackle the tough issues of the present—and look ahead to the future. Russell Jones, vice president for marketing and membership development at the League, explains it all for you.
hen the global economic crisis hit last year, all of us found ourselves in radically different financial circumstances—and orchestras were no exception. Reflecting the impact of the economy, the League’s 2009 National Conference took as its theme The New
Reality: Economics and Public Value. I wish I could say that the theme could be dispatched to Conference history, but, alas, it cannot. This year’s National Conference, taking place from June 15 to 19 in Atlanta, hosted by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, will continue what we started last year. The Conference, entitled
It’s Time to Take on the Future, will be a place for frank, open discussions about the state of the economy, the importance of our communities, and most notably, the future of orchestras. Coming together in Atlanta, we will continue the learning, sharing, and support that only the Conference provides. At the League this year we have been hugely encouraged to see that the work we do remains vital and relevant to our members. We were delighted at the high attendance rates for the Chicago Conference and the 2009 and 2010 Mid-Winter Managers Meetings; we have exceeded our estimates for orchestras renewing their League memberships—in fact, new members are joining; and the success of
The League’s 2010 National Conference, June 15 – 19, will be hosted by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, seen here with Music Director Robert Spano in Symphony Hall at Atlanta’s Woodruff Arts Center.
about our importance and relevance to those who know too little about our work and underestimate our ability to adapt and evolve. We will address this front and center at our opening session as we continue a conversation—both online and in real time— that builds on current reality to imagine a new future for orchestras: one that envisions institutions that are widely believed to be absolutely essential to community, and that are vibrant and sustainable from both an artistic and a business perspective. The opening session, a virtual Town Hall meeting, will be much more than a “one-off ” Conference occurrence. Rather, it is a keystone event in an ongoing debate that will start via digital media this spring,
Conference delegates will hear the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Atlanta Symphony Chorus perform the Verdi Requiem, conducted by ASO Music Director Robert Spano, in an Atlanta Symphony Orchestra “Theater of a Concert” presentation. In photo, the ASO performs a “Theater of a Concert” setting of Stravinsky’s Nightingale.
Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Music Director Robert Spano (left) and ASO Principal Guest Conductor Donald Runnicles in Symphony Hall at the Woodruff Arts Center
So, what’s on the agenda this year, and why should you believe me when I say that coming to the League Conference matters? It seems to me that there are times when our industry is assailed from all sides. I don’t need to revisit the bad news: financial challenges, spiraling costs, falling revenue, and so on. In addition, several reports suggest that our audiences are not just aging but being spirited away by electronic media, price sensitivity, same old marketing, and community engagement that does not extend beyond our ivory towers. The League Conference will demonstrate that none of this is an accurate or uniform assessment of the current state of the American orchestral field. Indeed, I am hard-pressed to think of an industry that has experimented, questioned, and engaged as much as the board members, managers, musicians, and volunteers of America’s orchestras. I hope Atlanta will mark a moment when our industry begins an open and honest debate about these issues and affirms that our destiny lies in our own hands through actions and innovation. Let us not cede the debate Jeff Roffman
monthly conference calls for executive directors and other constituencies gives tangible evidence that the League is providing the support that orchestras need in these difficult times. That is as it should be, and what a service organization does. But it is gratifying to know that members agree this is not the time to be out in the cold, disconnected from colleagues and the wider field. Despite the recession now heading into its second year, with all the stresses and strains of belt-tightening, particularly for learning opportunities and travel, Conference remains a priority for our members. Orchestras set aside funds to attend; individuals make personal contributions to cover costs; and orchestra board members offer sponsorship and air miles so that staff can attend. The League is helping by re-structuring the prices: this year, individual registration rates go down from $635 to $550, the lowest rate for a decade. Some 35 percent of delegates will be attending their first-ever League Conference, a consistent statistic that keeps the event fresh and vibrant. The attractive price tag of $450 for newcomers helps, too!
The League’s National Conference offers unparalleled opportunities for meeting with peers and colleagues from orchestras throughout the country.
play itself out in real time at Conference, and then continue, again via digital media, post-Conference. We’ll launch the online component of this initiative at the League website in April, so be sure to check it out—and participate. Our hope is that this initiative will move the conversation about the future of our art form forward in a provocative, realistic, and proactive way. The silver lining of the recession is that we are in a
At the Conference opening session, Ben Cameron, program director of arts at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, will give a keynote address entitled “Art at the Crossroads” that will challenge us all. Eric Booth, author and teaching artist, and Doug McLennan, arts journalist, critic, and founder and editor of ArtsJournal. com, will help us curate the debate and lead our conversation in Atlanta. Shortly we will be inviting you to think about questions such as:
global climate in which discussions about sustainability, relevance, business models, transparency, and change are not only desirable but essential, and in which the fear of saying difficult things out loud has largely gone away. We will widen our discussion about the future of orchestras in a highly engaging and interactive manner that will see new dialogues started, new ideas tested, and new activity that we can track over time.
As people who care deeply about our orchestras, what is the ideal to which we aspire? Given all we are experiencing in the current environment, how must orchestras adapt to insure their vibrant future? What are the “brutal truths” we must face to insure that our com-
Conference delegates will hear the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Atlanta Symphony Chorus perform the Verdi Requiem, conducted by ASO Music Director Robert Spano, in a “Theater of a Concert” presentation. Pictured here is their “Theater of a Concert” setting of John Adams’s Doctor Atomic.
We encourage orchestras, particularly those with an online presence, to invite their audiences to participate. Now is the time to start having these conversations inside your institutions and with your community partners. SymphonyOnline, the League website, Conference emails, and The Hub are your go-to resources to be a part of the debate. Arts Agenda
As always with the Conference, there is something for everyone—and that includes the popular constituency meetings, which hone in on specific interests, and the inspiring and informative general sessions. But let’s start with the music, one of the most important elements of the Conference. Conference delegates will hear the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the superb Atlanta Symphony Chorus perform the Verdi Requiem, conducted by Music Director Robert Spano, in an Atlanta Symphony Orchestra “Theater of a Concert” presentation. This work is particularly appropriate, as our colleagues from Chorus America will be holding their conference in Atlanta at the same time as ours and will join us for this concert. We will celebrate the “Atlanta School of Composers” with an ASO concert led by Spano that features four of the composers associated with the school—Jennifer Higdon, Christopher Theofanidis, Michael Gandolfi, and Osvaldo Golijov—on Friday, June 18; the concert will be held in conjunction with a Conference plenary session. And we will hear from the talented young musicians of the Greenville County Young Artist Orchestra (South Carolina), so that we never forget to nurture tomorrow’s musicians and audiences. Conference regulars have no doubt been scouring the Conference website pages for the myriad learning opportunities on offer in Atlanta. For those who come early, the Orchestra Leadership Academy seminars on June 15 and 16 are americanorchestras.org
Let us not cede the debate about our importance and relevance to those who know too little about our work and underestimate our ability to adapt and evolve. great value for the money, and this year’s are of particular relevance. Full details can be found here but Orchestra Leadership Academy highlights include:
• • • • •
New Models in an Age of Infinite Choice Executive Director and Board Chair Relationships Women Conductors: Developing Yourself as a Leader Building a Sustainable Business Model Financial Leadership Clinic
As part of the main body of the Conference, on Thursday, June 17 we will collaborate with our Chorus America
munities demand the presence of orchestras? What do we need to learn, and from whom?
The League’s 2010 National Conference, June 15-19, will be held at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta.
partners on an afternoon of shared sessions. This will include a keynote address by Russell Willis Taylor, president and CEO of National Arts Strategies, tackling The Five Questions We Don’t Want to Answer, But Must. An assortment of equally tempting sessions includes:
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Orchestra administrators share successful strategies with colleagues at the Peer-to-Peer Roundtables at the League’s 2009 Conference. The Roundtable sessions at this year’s Conference will address a rich assortment of topics.
A Second Hearing Means A Premiere for Your Audience These works from G. Schirmer are ready for their Second Hearing
harp and orchestra National Symphony Orchestra
Pacific Symphony Orchestra
JOHN CORIGLIANO JAMESTOWN HYMN
SOFIA GUBAIDULINA FROM THE BOOK OF HOURS narrator, chorus, cello, and orchestra Helsinki Philharmonic
JOHN HARBISON SYMPHONY NO. 4 Seattle Symphony Orchestra
Norfolk Symphony Orchestra and Richmond Symphony Orchestra
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ROBERT KAPILOW 03 (THIS NEW, IMMENSE, UNBOUNDED WORLD)
ANTHONY DAVIS AMISTAD SYMPHONY mezzo-soprano and orchestra La Jolla Symphony Orchestra
AVNER DORMAN SAXOPHONE CONCERTO GABRIELA LENA FRANK TWO AMERICAN PORTRAITS Modesto Symphony Orchestra
MICHAEL GORDON REWRITING BEETHOVEN’S SEVENTH SYMPHONY
chorus and orchestra Louisiana Philharmonic
AARON JAY KERNIS CONCERTO WITH ECHOES Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
LEON KIRCHNER THE FORBIDDEN Boston Symphony Orchestra
Bamberg Symphony Orchestra
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ANDRÉ PREVIN CONCERTO FOR VIOLIN, VIOLA, AND ORCHESTRA
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GUNTHER SCHULLER ENCOUNTERS jazz band and orchestra New England Conservatory
clarinet and orchestra New West Symphony Orchestra
NATHANIEL STOOKEY INTO THE BRIGHT LIGHTS mezzo-soprano and orchestra Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony
ceramic percussion and orchestra Tonkünstler-Orchester Niederösterreich
AUGUSTA READ THOMAS ASTRAL CANTICLE flute, violin, and orchestra Chicago Symphony Orchestra
JULIA WOLFE ACCORDION CONCERTO “TRUE LOVE” Gotham Sinfonietta
YEHUDI WYNER TUSCAN TRIPTYCH: ECHOES OF HANNIBAL New England String Ensemble
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Generations: The Challenge of a Lifetime for Your Nonprofit. Peter Brinkerhoff, author and consultant, explores how each of the key age groups—Greatest, Silents, Boomers, GenX, and GenY—affects your orchestra and how you can get ahead of the generation-change curve. The Atlanta Symphony War Room: A New Approach to Collaborative Decision-Making. The artistic-planning and decision-making process at the Atlanta Symphony has been described by many as innovative, non-traditional, and collaborative. Explore this approach to planning from the unique perspectives of music director, marketing/sales, and artistic operations. New Research that Matters for the Arts Sector Overall. In a data-driven environment, arts personnel must understand new research findings that have an impact on our work. In this seminar, you will learn about several significant new studies and explore how their findings relate to changes in the environment overall and to the choral and orchestra worlds in particular. symphony
The League’s Conference—your Conference—is here to help you tackle the challenges our art form and industry face. I hope that the Atlanta Conference will prove to be a watershed in how we address the tough questions, conquer our fear of saying difficult things out loud, and reaffirm our desire to work together as a community of orchestras. By doing so we will ensure that all our communities not only appreciate and cherish the music we provide, but become our most enthusiastic and engaged champions.
Got an opinion? Join the discussion!
The League’s 2010 National Conference, June 15 – 19, will take full advantage of Atlanta’s cultural life.
Among the highlights of the highly interactive Perspectives sessions are the following:
A panel discussion focuses on the League’s forthcoming book Fearless Journeys—Innovation in Five American Orchestras, which examines groundbreaking practices being undertaken by five orchestras: the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Pacific Symphony. Susan Fournier, the branding guru renowned for transforming the image of Harley-Davidson from a motorcycle into a lifestyle, will offer her insights in Getting Brand Loyalty Right. In How Our Orchestras Can Use Social Media, a panel of experts helps us navigate social-networking tools, which are under-utilized in our field. Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Music Director Robert Spano will participate in a discussion with several of the “Atlanta School” composers whose works we will hear on Friday afternoon.
Due to the success of the Solutions for Our Times: Peer-to-Peer Roundtables at last year’s Conference, we will offer a similar session in Atlanta. Orchestra leaders and staff will share successful ideas and strategies with small groups of colleagues; delegates will have time to ask questions and learn how to apply the tactics to their orchestra. Peer-to-Peer Roundtable topics this year will include:
• • • •
Apart from the League Conference, how does your orchestra network and brainstorm? What models from outside the arts do you think can help transform our field? Click Discussions below to comment.
Innovative business and/or artistic models Use of social media Effective community engagement New audience participation models
The Conference concludes on Saturday morning, June 19, with a fascinating masterclass led by ASO Music Director Robert Spano and Director of Choruses Norman Mackenzie. The masterclass, concentrating on the Mozart Requiem, will include four conductors: two from the League’s American Conducting Fellows Program and two from the Chorus America community. To learn more about the League’s 2010 National Conference, click here. To register now, click here.
itâ€™s time to tak on the future
65th National Conference June 15 â€“ 19, 2010 For more details, please visit americanorchestras.org
Courtesy The New York Philharmonic
The Bartlesville Symphony Orchestra’s Twitter page had some 258 followers at press time.
The New York Philharmonic’s iPhone app had been downloaded more than 4,000 times from 60 different countries by the end of 2009.
The DC Youth Orchestra Program’s social network has turned out to be a way for parents to see photos of their children performing music.
Some users of the San Francisco Symphony’s social network have formed their own groups, such as “Area 88” for pianists, and one for fans who use the Smule app to turn their iPhones into musical instruments.
Update by Rebecca Winzenried
In the fast-changing digital landscape, orchestras are embracing online media to build buzz, forge new communities, connect with existing audiences, and even sell some tickets.
Bartlesville Symphony Orchestra
Bartlesville Symphony Orchestra Board President Gary Spears (left) and Music Director Lauren Green sign up for Twitter in the lobby of the Bartlesville Community Center.
Last March, the Bartlesville Symphony Orchestra in Oklahoma launched a rather audacious experiment, actually encouraging audience members to pull out their cell phones during a concert so they could read tidbits about the program sent via Twitter. It was reportedly the first such use of the social networking service by an orchestra in this country, and advance word about the event attracted newcomers like Scott Townsend. The Bartlesville resident had been experimenting with Twitter through his own local business and was curious how it could be applied to the symphony. He never left. Townsend was so taken with the music and the experience that he began volunteering with the orchestra and is now a board member. Such is the power of friendships gained through social media. During the past year, there has been a dizzying array of news stories on how social media are changing the landscape, as updates on everything from parking spots to flight delays can now be instantly relayed via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, text messages, and the untold number of apps available for iPhones. And orchestras large and small have stepped into the fray. Cast-
ing aside past reticence about new-media tools, theyâ€™ve been quicker to recognize social mediaâ€™s potential to not only build buzz and box office, but to engage with a community of like-minded fans and newfound followers. After becoming the first orchestra to launch an iPhone application last June, the New York Philharmonic finished up the year with live blogging from a contemporary-music performance. The San Francisco Symphony forged new communities with its own social network, as did the Aspen Music Festival. The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra joined a holiday shopping trend by alerting Twitter followers to Black Friday and Cyber Monday ticket discounts, boosting concert sales by $7,000 over the Thanksgiving weekend. The Boston Symphony Orchestra reports that 10 percent of its revenue can be attributed to non-conventional online advertising and promotion, the bulk of which is via social networking websites and platforms. There have been learning curves, to be sure. The Bartlesville Symphony continues to use Twitter at its concerts (links here and here) but has been tweaking its tweeting along the way. Whereas messages were previously sent between musical works,
the orchestra decided to confine tweets to pre-performance or intermission. It’s not that New York there were complaints Philharmonic about cell phones in Vice President of the concert hall, says Communications General Manager Lee Eric Latzky says GrothOlson. Rather, eager anticipation of the social media next tweet was keeping “is not just an some people from apadvertising plauding or acknowloutlet. It’s also edging the musicians. something “When someone would we can use to get a tweet, you could talk about our watch the phone pass educational down the aisle, back up activities or even and around, and by that fund-raising time it was time to start the next piece,” she says. activities.” “Those who weren’t near any Twitterers were kind of like, ‘Wait, what did I miss?’ ” Because the orchestra had jumped in with little prior knowledge, GrothOlson welcomed expertise from community members like Townsend, the marketing director for a regional linen-supply company. His firm, United Linen, had gained attention through its use of social media for a somewhat unexpected industry, offering behindthe-scenes stories of the company and its people to connect with current and prospective customers. Townsend saw similar potential in or-
Bartlesville Symphony Orchestra
Bartlesville Symphony Orchestra board member Scott Townsend (left) and BSO General Manager Lee GrothOlson
chestra concerts. As an outsider, he recognized that a lot of things are mysterious to newcomers: “Why does the maestro walk offstage in between musical acts? Why is a particular piece chosen and what is it about this piece that’s interesting, other than just the music itself?” Sending out little nuggets of information, to which audience members can respond, sets up the kind of active participation he believes today’s audiences crave. “That’s what got me hooked,” he says. “Up to this point, it’s been a one-way communication and now it’s a two-way communication.” Social media allow arts groups to not only push out information but to take it in, observing and listening to followers in ways that were never before possible. He and GrothOlson have worked to set some strategic goals for the orchestra’s use of different channels, setting up a regular Twitter feed, upping its presence on Facebook with videos featuring Music Director Lauren Green and musicians in casual conversation (links here and here), and investigating the potential of mobile applications for ticketing. They’ve also addressed ways to track results and budget time for social-media efforts, not inconsiderable issues for an orchestra with only two full-time staffers. There’s hardly an orchestra around that doesn’t have a presence on Facebook and/or MySpace. So the San Francisco Symphony’s decision to launch its own social network last May prompted some head scratching. The SFS was already ensconced on Facebook and had around 2,300 followers on Twitter, plus an ever-expanding menu of videos on its YouTube channel. What was the benefit? The decision wasn’t so much about the orchestra going its own way, says Director of Public Relations Oliver Theil. It was more an opportunity to aggregate all the content the SFS had already been producing—from recordings to the Keeping Score series to behind-the-scenes videos—in a place that could be readily identified with the orchestra’s brand. It was also a way to bring together fans in a truly orchestra-centric social environment. “Anecdotally, there are examples of folks telling us, ‘I’ve never joined a social network, but if you guys are doing it, it must be OK,’ ” says Theil. The San Francisco Symphony Social Network allows visitors to view all content without being restricted to
members-only pages—a key element, according to Theil. Those who do opt to join can post their own content—photos, videos, blog posts, and links to items of interest. Members have offered comments on concerts, but also thoughts on favorite restaurants and lodging near Davies Hall; local critics have posted their reviews. Staff, chorus members, and musicians are on the site, but “they are still being themselves, they are still sharing their opinions,” says Theil. “That’s what makes social networks work, what gives them credibility. They are real people expressing real thoughts.” SFS Social Network membership had climbed to around 1,600 by the end of 2009, with the orchestra tracking 40,000 visits by more than 26,000 unique users. Obviously, the browse-only visitors are still out there, but members have been more forthcoming than expected in sharing personal information, filling out complete profiles with information about favorite composers, musicians, concerts, and how they’re connected to the SFS. Such details certainly help the orchestra’s marketing efforts, with members self-identifying programs of interest. They’ve also spawned a number of minicommunities, some of which the orchestra didn’t even know existed. There’s the Smule Group, for instance, comprising members (144 strong) who use the Smule app to turn their iPhones into musical instruments. Just how many members or subgroups have taken the step from virtual friendships to actual meetings isn’t clear, but SFS-sponsored get-togethers may be in the offing as the social network enters its second year. San Francisco’s Social Network is built on the Ning platform, a service that allows organizations and groups to create their “Folks tell us, own branded networks for ‘I’ve never little or no cost (the free joined a social option includes ads con- network, but if trolled by Ning). The same you guys are platform was used to credoing it, it must ate the Aspen Music Fesbe OK,’ ” says tival and School’s eTent social network last June. San Francisco Aspen’s e-Tent end-of-year Symphony membership, totaling 150, Director perhaps reflects the tighter- of Public knit community of students, Relations musicians, and patrons who Oliver Theil. symphony
frequent the summer festival. Not surprisingly, they’ve peopled the site with discussion about Some performances and phomembers of the tos of the breathtaking Indianapolis mountain scenery, plus shared memories for Symphony the festival’s 60th anOrchestra’s niversary in 2009. Winonline community “are ter months have been a Facebook users time for members to stay in touch and to keep up who don’t want with the new items and to use Flickr, Twitter feeds included and vice versa,” on the main page. says ISO Vice The DC Youth OrPresident of chestra Program also Communications established its own Mark Newman. social network, using Ning, in a low-key “But we’ve got launch last summer. a number who interact through Executive Director Ava Spece investigated the them all.” idea at the suggestion of a board member and set it up herself. Social media outlets make particular sense for a program that involves around 600 students, from pre-K through high school, participating in multiple orchestras, ensembles, and lessons. Spece has discovered that even email has become a slow form of communication for a demographic defined by texting and status updates. “It’s entertaining at times that you can leave a message for someone by email or phone and not necessarily get a timely response,” she says. With Facebook, the responses are almost immediate. The jury is still out on long-term use of the DCYOP social network, but one aim this season has been to encourage more active participation among the program’s instructors. Spece believes the self-contained social network can be a valuable tool in relaying information to a specific set of students. It can also act as a gathering place for alumni, who are the program’s more ardent supporters. Not to mention the power of having a place where parents can find photos of their children making music. “People think of it as only for a bunch of fifteenyear-olds,” says Spece. “But for us, it’s not. It’s the parents.” Laura Smith, Aspen’s director of communications and corporate support, is cautiously optimistic about eTent, predicting americanorchestras.org
that membership will grow exponentially in the coming season as friends draw in other friends. “The people who used it had a blast, and while usage was small this past summer, what was there was rich, varied, and genuine,” she says. Smith equates eTent’s growth to the slow building of relationships with subscribers and donors. The human factor remains key; Twitter, Facebook, or other social networks are just the latest platforms for interaction. Applying the Apps
Indeed, one benefit of the rapidly evolving, Wild West state of Web 2.0 communications is that orchestras can try different tools for different events—a photo contest on the photo-sharing service Flickr, a scavenger hunt for tickets on Twitter—and they don’t have to do all the heavy lifting themselves. Best example: the red-hot market for iPhone apps. When the New York Philharmonic launched its iPhone application last June, it wasn’t as a proprietary development. The app is powered by the San Diego-based firm Instant Encore, which worked with the orchestra to create an iPhone-friendly setup for delivery of concert information, music and videos, blogs, links to ticket purchases, and more. The orchestra is freed to focus on content, not software development. The Instant Encore iPhone template is also used by the Saint Louis, San Diego, Ann Arbor, and Columbus symphonies, the London Philharmonic, the Aspen Music Festival, and the Curtis Institute of Music, and numerous smaller ensembles. There is a certain irony to the country’s oldest orchestra becoming the first to catch the iPhone wave. That made it a particularly compelling and fun project, says New York Philharmonic Vice President of Communications Eric Latzky. “I’m sure it’s generating some degree of sales. But what it’s certainly generating is excitement, a sense of community—a kind of new, semi-secret world in this other realm that I think is very attractive to a large and growing group of people. And that’s probably the most important aspect of it.” The Philharmonic’s app had been downloaded more than 4,000 times from 60 different countries by the end of 2009. For the Indianapolis Symphony, which launched its own iPhone app close on the heels of the New York Philharmonic, the focus has been on music delivery. The orchestra had already been working with Instant
Digital Landscape So much information is flying around the social media universe at any given moment that it can be hard for orchestras to cut through the clutter. Here are a few intriguing ideas for getting the message across: l The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra used Twitter to update patrons about weather conditions for its summer concert series at Oregon Ridge, deliberately choosing it over text messages. Patrons with limited texting plans could sign up and follow the Twitter feed for only the days they needed it, or opt to keep following the orchestra’s tweets. l Best Performance Shot, Best Family/
Friends, Best Fireworks… The New York Philharmonic’s Concert in the Parks Photo Contest welcomed snapshots in these categories and more the past two summers. Photos uploaded to Flickr could be viewed by all; winners received concert tickets and had their images posted on the orchestra’s website. l Blogger nights at the symphony have taken
place in San Francisco, St. Louis, and Baltimore, but the Pittsburgh Symphony website gathers a roster of bloggers from the community under its Outside Perspective blog, such as artist Elizabeth Perry, who has posted sketches of her experiences at Heinz Hall. A parallel Inside Perspective blog is written by musicians and staff. l Subgroups within the San Francisco
Symphony Social Network include piano fans, Clarinet Central, and the Volunteer Council. It’s a good way for any orchestra committee or group of volunteers to connect, share information, and post event photos. l One of the hottest musical iPhone apps of
the year has been the conducting game connected to the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s “Bravo Gustavo” microsite, dedicated to all things Dudamel. The game, which fans have dubbed Conductor Hero, lets users turn their iPhones into a baton to take a crack at conducting excerpts from Symphonie fantastique. The iPhone app had been downloaded 40,000 times by the beginning of this year. Luckily for those without iPhones, it’s also available through the website created by Hello Design.
Courtesy Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra
An example comes from Encore to build a substanthe ISO blog. A ticket contial library (35 recordings at test for a program featuring last count) of digital music Yo-Yo Ma was promoted for streaming and downacross social media channels, load from the company’s but contestants were directwebsite. The iPhone app ed to the orchestra’s blog to has boosted those efforts, as enter. Subsequent postings it’s been downloaded over there by the winner, a young a thousand times in more cellist, drew a following all than 40 countries. Indiatheir own, with about 1,000 napolis Vice President of unique visitors checking in Marketing and Commuto read her thoughts about nications Mark Newman the concert, about meeting envisions users opening Ma, and what his words of the ISO app, discovering inspiration meant to her. a range of recordings they The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s iPhone app Blogs have come to can’t easily find from anseem almost quaint, given other orchestra, and then the excitement over all the newer, shinier returning for more. “I’m seeing it as an autoys that have arrived, like mobile apps dience that craves flexibility, craves freedom, and Twitter. But orchestras are not overthat needs to have our products delivered to looking the blogging community’s power them in a way that matches their lifestyle,” to fuel social media efforts. The New York he says. Philharmonic invited bloggers from a The Indianapolis Symphony story shows variety of music genres to post live comjust how quickly social media efforts can mentary from its Contact! Series concert build. A dedicated social media plan was in December. Only a couple of the fifteen set in motion early in 2009, beginning or so bloggers attending actually took the with Facebook, then adding components orchestra up on the offer, but most wrote at a brisk pace, layering on the orchestra’s about the concert afterward. They specuown mSymphony mobile community (text lated about the event for days in advance, messaging), Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, the and, in their effortless way, embedding iPhone app, and a new ISO blog. links in blogs and sites throughout cyThe strategy is to utilize every social berspace. Some of the blogs are collected media component to promote the others. at the website of classical-music radio “And we have unique members of each station WQXR, which participated in community,” says Newman. “Some who streaming the concert. The buzz was are Facebook users don’t want to use Flickr, built and the Philharmonic added its own and vice versa. But we’ve got a number promo touch by uploading videos to Youwho interact through them all.” Users have Tube, with links from Facebook, of commultiple venues to discuss certain topics or posers represented on its December 2009 to embed comments and links in different and April 2010 new-music concerts. places, forming a network of street-level Tapping into the blogosphere has bepromoters. come essential as traditional news outlets DC Youth Orchestra Program Executive devote less space to arts coverage, and as Director Ava Spece even the seasoned critics once attached has discovered that to newspapers are turning up online. The even email has Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has made become a slow form a concerted effort to reach out to influof communication for a demoential local and regional bloggers on the graphic defined arts scene, as well as those writing in other by texting and genres, such as the “mommy bloggers” who status updates. focus on family issues and the video gamers who helped fill the house for a “Final Fantasy” concert. Baltimore’s public relations and marketing releases are now routinely sent to blog-
gers—by old-fashioned email. Materials are also posted on Facebook and Twitter, if in somewhat altered forms that reflect “It’s not going the more casual tone of the to be long former and 140-character before [an limit of the latter. (The orchestra’s] orchestra also routinely development asks other Baltimore-area department Twitter feeds to pick them might have up.) It’s a nod to today’s their own reality, according to Vice Twitter page,” President of Marketing says Baltimore and Communication EiSymphony leen Andrews Jackson. Like it or not, new ticket Orchestra Vice buyers are probably not President of reading the Baltimore Sun Marketing and print edition, she points Communication out. “What are they read- Eileen Andrews ing? How often are they Jackson, on their Facebook page?” pictured with Jackson adds that as pianist Lang Facebook, et al., become Lang. “That’s as commonplace as email, how people niche pages or communiinteract with cations within social media organizations channels may emerge: “It’s not going to be long before today.” the development department might have their own Twitter page, say for some of their governing members or a donor. That’s how people interact with organizations today.” Some scattered fund-raising appeals have been made via Facebook or Twitter, but an informal survey of orchestras by public-relations specialist Marc van Bree, posted on his Dutch Perspective blog, placed fundraising or development last on the list of possible social-media goals and objectives. Driving traffic to an orchestra’s website and promoting awareness of programming and brand ranked as the highest priorities among fifteen orchestras completing the survey in late 2009. Van Bree, a former publicist for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, suggests the results may reflect the fact that social media currently live under marketing and/or public relations at most organizations. Van Bree conducted the survey to gather some basic data on the largely unreported area of orchestras’ attitude toward social media, and he admits that the findings of the small sampling are limited. symphony
Still, marketing has been a logical place from which to road-test social media, since online traffic and sales can be analyzed for some measure of success. Results remain elusive at even the larger orchestras, as the definition of success remains fuzzy. Should it be measured in ticket sales generated? Fans and followers gained? Levels of participation, postings, and re-tweets? Are short-term tests a good indicator, or will results take longer to emerge? “There’s a lot of testing going on,” says Van Bree. “But we should be ready for the next step, to really start implementing it strategically. That’s the main takeaway.” A more strategic integration of social media efforts across departments is starting to happen in some places. At the New York Philharmonic, a regular committee representing various departments comes together to evaluate content being distributed. “It is not just an advertising outlet. It’s also something we can use to talk about our educational activities or even fund-raising activities. So we’re trying to create a balance,” says Latzky. That includes thinking about how images as
well as text can be used to convey a story. Van Bree believes orchestras are in a unique position to become adept at social media because they do have such interesting content to offer. “I keep thinking about the Churn study,” he says, referring to the 2008 Orchestra Audience Growth Initiative (aka the Churn Report) that explored reasons for audience turnover, or churn. “It really rings true for social media as well. Customers are already being bombarded with messages. So just be helpful to them and be of value to them and you can create a relationship, and that relationship has more chance of them buying tickets.” REBECCA WINZENRIED, a New York-based writer and editor, is the former editor in chief of Symphony.
Got an opinion? Join the discussion! Social media: a valuable means for engaging existing and new audiences, or just a passing fad?
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In the “
I ask myself, ‘How can I make my music more clear and fresh, like Mozart’s? says Kevin Puts. I’m always looking for ways to create that kind of spirit and beauty.
Moment by Ann McCutchan
Eschewing the ivory tower, composer Kevin Puts aims to communicate with performers and audiences— without compromising his individual voice.
“I know there’s still a fear among some of us,” says Kevin Puts, “that trying to hold the audience rapt with attention means you’re selling out, you’re not a real composer. But for me, composing is much more complicated than the communication of an abstract idea. First thing, I’ve got to revel in the kinds of musical language that I care most deeply about, or I can’t write anything convincing; I might as well be dead as try to work within someone else’s aesthetic realm. Second thing— and this is not the primary aim of every composer, but I admit that it is mine—I want to communicate. I want audiences to be held in the moment, and be taken to the next moment. If that’s not happening, I feel like I’m falling short.” Puts (pronounced like its generic namesake, the verb “puts”) undoubtedly speaks for many other composers who never took totally to the ivory tower or the electronic studio basement, who never refrained from writing a distinguishable melody or a gutfelt tonal progression out of fear that it would cramp their careers. Puts, 37, is one of a growing number of composers writing for orchestra today who’ve refused to compromise their unique voices but who remain mindful of the need to communicate, both with fellow artists and with an audience. The evidence lies in his sizable orchestral catalogue, which already includes four americanorchestras.org
commissioned symphonies, plus six concerti for such solo artists as Yo-Yo Ma and Evelyn Glennie. In the case of Glennie, the Percussion Concerto—commissioned by the Utah and Pacific symphony orchestras, and premiered by the latter in 2006—was in part the result of her positive experience with Puts’s Marimba Concerto, which she and the Vermont Symphony Orchestra had premiered in 1997. Puts’s success stems largely from his respect for the social aspects of composition, wherein all sides of the composer-performer-listener triangle are ideally congruent. Often the performer forms the base of that triangle. Glennie, for example, looks for new pieces she personally wants to perform and introduce to others. With Puts’s work, she says, “There’s a harmonic satisfaction that people can relate to. Also, he’s not frightened of writing a melody—and to write a melody is one of the hardest things to do. He taps into a beauty that seems to resonate with audiences. He’s very confident that he has a particular voice, and one he knows he can develop. He’s not trying to sound like another composer, not following trends. He’s completely comfortable with what feels right for him as a composer.” Genesis of an Orchestral Voice
Pinpointing where a composer’s voice originates is hardly a simple matter, but one can
trace influences and proclivities. Puts says that manuscripts he produced during his teens reveal some of the same melodic and harmonic tendencies his music exhibits today. “I can’t really escape them,” he says. “I found I couldn’t develop my voice through a series of intellectual decisions related to style, I could only do it through the actual writing. You start to shed things that don’t interest you, that don’t feel genuine, and hopefully you have a voice at the end of all that.” He cites several composers who have made a big impact on his work, and interestingly, they’re all great orchestrators. Stravinsky is “endlessly fascinating,” he says, and so is John Adams. Puts recalls that when he first heard Adams’s The Chairman Dances, in a performance by a student orchestra at the Eastman School of Music, “I was just floored by it. I went straight to the piano and started improvising in this kind of style. It was minimalism more beautifully orchestrated than what I’d heard—a real dazzling use of the orchestra, like Ravel.” Puts also admires the music of Michael Torke, and was awe-struck when he came across the “Color Music” pieces from early in that composer’s career. Orchestral color, says Puts, is often the generating element in his own music. But Mozart is his key obsession. “I go through times when I ask myself, ‘How can
I make my music more clear and fresh, like Mozart’s?’ It’s not that I want to plagiarize. But I am always looking for ways to create that kind of spirit and beauty, that balance and perfection and leanness of sound—and the instinctual knowledge, upon listening, that everything is there for a reason.” Clarity and balance were foremost in Puts’s mind in April 2009, when clarinetist Bil Jackson and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Music Director Jeffrey Kahane, premiered Puts’s Clarinet Concerto, a work commissioned by new-music philanthropist Kathryn Gould through the nonprofit organization Meet The Composer. It’s scored for chamber orchestra, in this case an ensemble consisting only of strings, harp, percussion, and piano. In rehearsals Puts consulted often with Kahane on the balance between soloist and orchestra. Some players were cut, others were asked to sit out particular passages— typical adjustments made during a work’s first outing. “People were telling me the balance problems were due to the hall,” Puts says, “but that wasn’t it. I’ve found that if you get everything right in a piece, it sounds good in every hall.” A well-crafted piece, he adds, can also hold up well even in a less-thanideal performance. “Mozart, for example, sounds really good even if a youth orchestra plays it. Of course you hear things that are wrong, like intonation, but it still somehow sounds. It works, it’s convincing. So that’s what I try for.” Colorado Symphony musicians report favorably on the Clarinet Concerto. “It’s beautiful—he did a masterful job,” says Peter Cooper, the CSO’s principal oboist (and one of the bench-warmers for this piece). Concertmaster Yumi Hwang-Williams, a musician highly experienced in contemporary repertoire through her other role as concertmaster of the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra in California, calls Puts “a good craftsman, very meticulous. It’s a privilege to work directly with a composer, and I’ve always enjoyed Kevin’s pieces. They’re challenging to play. His voice is lyrical, exciting, and accessible to both the players and the audience. Working on the concerto with him was a wonderful process.” Midwestern Transplant
Kevin Puts was born in St. Louis and grew up in Alma, Michigan, a city of about
With much of Puts’s music, it’s important to understand some of the sociopolitical narratives that have inspired him. Dramatic examples of this would be his two works that arose from the calamity of September 11, 2001.
10,000 in the southcentral part of the state. His father is a mathematics professor at Alma College, and his mother taught high school English until her recent retirement. Puts received his bachelor’s degree from the Eastman School of Music, where his principal teachers were composers Samuel Adler and Joseph Schwantner. He went to Yale for a master’s in composition, and returned to Eastman to pursue a Doctor of Musical Arts degree, studying composition with Christopher Rouse and piano with Nelita True. At Tanglewood he received further guidance in composition from Bernard Rands and William Bolcom. Rouse describes Puts as an artist who possesses “a dazzling array of talents. He’s a profoundly musical composer who has always been open to trying new things rather than getting caught in a rut. What he’s produced is deeply impressive.” In 1996, when he was 24, Puts was named composer-in-residence for both Puts confers with Music Director Marin Alsop during a rehearsal of California’s Cabrillo Festival Orchestra in 2005.
Young Concert Artists and the California Symphony. Over the next three years, that orchestra premiered his orchestral compositions Network, Exalted Virelai (after Guillaume de Machaut), and Symphony No. 1. Network enjoyed subsequent performances by the Baltimore and Cincinnati symphony orchestras. The commissions began to accumulate. Puts accepted a teaching post in composition at the University of Texas in the fall of 1999. He soon realized that the demands of full-time university life were not to his liking, however, and in 2005 he left Austin for New York, the city where he and his wife, New York Philharmonic violinist Lisa GiHae Kim, now make their home. But the insular existence of a fulltime working composer proved to be as unsatisfying as the academic schedule he had maintained in Austin. To restore some balance to his professional life Puts has joined the adjunct faculty of Peabody Institute, commuting to Baltimore two days a week. “I tend to be a hermit in New York,” he says. “I don’t think most people even know I live in New York. I go to concerts and they say, ‘How’s Texas?’ And I say, ‘I haven’t lived there for five years!’ I really should get out more, but I just don’t like to schmooze, and I don’t feel like I fit into the New York new-music scene. I’m not downtown, I’m not uptown—I don’t know where I am!” Puts may not characterize himself as a networker, but he has established a reputa-
Courtesy California Symphony
On display at the California Symphony’s office is this autographed page from the symphony it commissioned from Kevin Puts and premiered during his third year as Young American Composer in Residence.
tion as a composer who’s easy to work with. “He listens to all sorts of ideas,” says Glennie. “You know you’re dealing with someone who is extremely conscientious, who will deliver everything on time. And he allows you access to the emotions that most composers go through when they’re writing a piece of music.” Marin Alsop, whose association with Puts goes back to 2003, when she first programmed his music at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, concurs. Last summer the festival orchestra performed the West Coast premiere of his Two Mountain Scenes—the title reflects its provenance as a joint commission from the New York Philharmonic and Colorado’s Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival—and Alsop has invited Puts to return to Cabrillo this summer to solo in his own Piano Concerto, a 2008 commission from the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. “Kevin is a delight to work with,” she says. “He’s accommodating, while maintaining his own strong opinions; he is appreciative and always approaches things with a self-deprecating sense of humor that endears him to the musicians.” Social Engagement
And what about the third point of the composer-performer-audience triangle? Some americanorchestras.org
observers question the significance of standing ovations, which vary in frequency and meaning depending on the community and the nature of the concert. But orchestras and music directors do respond to feedback from the audience, and because Puts’s works are generally popular with concertgoers they tend to live well beyond their premieres. Critics have offered mixed opinions, some praising the depth and freshness of Puts’s ideas, others deeming his music less innovative than they’d like to hear. The latter sentiment brings out a touch of exasperation in the composer. “Let’s say I have a piece played and the audience really responds to it. My Fourth Symphony, for example, was premiered at Cabrillo in 2007, and I never had a better response than the audience gave to that: a ten-minute standing ovation. Clearly they were very emotional—it was really gratifying to make something that would truly connect. And the critics wrote it off in one sentence. They didn’t discuss the event, how all those people felt. It’s a strange world, but this is what some of us deal with.” Miguel Harth-Bedoya, music director of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, observes that “with a good composer, every work is different”—the implication being that it’s hard to judge anyone on the ba-
sis of a single piece. Like Alsop, Harth-Bedoya has over the years programmed several of Puts’s works, and he chose him as the Fort Worth Symphony’s first composer-in-residence in the 2006-07 season. As part of that residency Puts wrote a violin concerto for FWSO Concertmaster Michael Shih. It’s included on a CD the orchestra released last summer, one that also features two works by Gabriela Lena Frank—Elegia Andina and Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout—as well as Puts’s Symphony No. 3 (“Vespertine”). “The thing I like about his music is that it’s direct,” says Harth-Bedoya. “From the music to the players to the audience, there are no long roads to get the message across. And that means the use of timing. If a composer doesn’t know how to use time well, then you can risk not getting your point across. But with Kevin, it’s very, very clear.” Much of Puts’s music is inspired by socio-political narratives. Dramatic examples of this would be two works that arose out of the calamity of September 11, 2001: his Symphony No. 2 (“Island of Innocence”)— commissioned by the Utah-based Barlow Foundation for the Utah and Cincinnati symphony orchestras, and premiered by the latter in 2002—and Falling Dream, a tone poem commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra/BMI Founda-
Click here to listen to selections from two works by composer Kevin Puts. His Violin Concerto was recorded live by the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, led by Music Director Miguel Harth-Bedoya, in Bass Performance Hall in 2007 with Concertmaster Michael Shih, during Puts’s tenure as the FWSO’s composerin-residence. The Colorado Symphony, led by Music Director Jeffrey Kahane, gave the world premiere of Puts’s Clarinet Concerto on April 10, 2009 with Bil Jackson as soloist.
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tion for premiere in 2002. Falling Dream evokes images of victims leaping from the World Trade Center. Wayne Lee Gay of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram offered a succinct description of the piece: “The music immediately transcends the horror and sorrow of that moment. The concept and explicit structure of Falling Dream are easily grasped: The piece slides generally downward in pitch, creating a sensation of falling for the listener. Subtle shifts of tonality and rhythm stimulate an emotional response in the listener. One senses resignation, acceptance and, finally, a sense of triumph.” Puts’s Clarinet Concerto was a reaction to Section 60, an HBO documentary on the section of Arlington National Cemetery dedicated to fallen soldiers of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. As Puts describes it, the film “shows family members of the deceased, sitting on the graves all day, sleeping at the gravesites. The fact that there was little music in the documentary made me think of music, and then a lonely clarinet. It got me going. And once I get going on anything, I just do what needs to happen musically.” Influences of Copland and Barber can be heard in the lyrical first movement of this concerto, with slices of Messiaen and rolling swaths of Adams-style minimalism in the second. In reviewing Puts’s music, critics have also referenced Bach, Sibelius, Prokofiev, Mahler, and Ives. And at least one recent composition reveals Puts’s openness to contemporary pop: his Third Symphony (“Vespertine”) was inspired by the Icelandic singer Björk. In his own program note for the work, Puts stated that he was “drawn to the dazzling array of sounds supporting her, the stark contrasts between fragile, transparent timbres and rich, lush orchestral and choral textures … I wanted to create an impression of her improvisatory, jazz-induced, and utterly distinctive melodic style as filtered through my own aesthetic.” Despite the purely instrumental scoring, her free-floating voice seems to meander through the work. What Comes Next
Since Kevin Puts’s music is often motivated by dramatic, emotion-packed situations, it’s no surprise that he’s working on his first opera, a commission from the Minnesota Opera scheduled for premiere in November 2011. Based on the 2005 French film Joyeux
Noel, about the legendary 1914 Christmas Eve cease-fire between French, German, and Scottish forces, it’s a perfect emotional fit for this composer. “The story feels orchestral,” Puts says, noting that he admires the lucidity of Benjamin Britten’s operas and will follow that composer’s example by making use of orchestral interludes in Joyeux Noel. “Britten’s orchestration is very clear; he creates a lot of definition through the use of pizzicato and harp, so the orchestra doesn’t get lost down there. I have great respect for what he did, and I hope I can come close.” His next project after Joyeux Noel is a commission from the Houston Symphony and Chorus for premiere in the 2011-12 season. Aurelie Desmarais, the orchestra’s senior director of artistic planning, says the idea of having Puts write a large choral-orchestral work for the Houston Symphony began to evolve after the orchestra performed his Symphony No. 1 in 2007. “From a commissioning organization’s point of view,” says Desmarais, “there is always a desire for connection, relevance, avenues of accessibility—whether it’s in the language or the topic. Kevin’s music is extremely well constructed, and he’s got such a gift for orchestration. But it’s not simplistic music. When he gets around to thinking about a text, we hope to strike some sort of connection to social or time relevance.” Puts is hoping for that as well. And beyond that, he’s thinking he might like to write a film score. “It’s pretty irregular to be ‘found’ by a director with whom your sound resonates,” he says. “But it happened with Corigliano, Golijov, several others. And it’s sort of the ultimate opportunity to communicate with a large audience.” ANN McCUTCHAN is the author of The Muse That Sings: Composers Speak About the Creative Process (Oxford University Press); Marcel Moyse: Voice of the Flute (Amadeus); and Circular Breathing: Meditations From a Musical Life (Sunstone).
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CityMusic Clevelandâ€™s free concerts have become part of the fabric of northeast Ohio. Working with community leaders is just part of this chamber orchestraâ€™s formula for success. 44
ehold a tale of two kitchens and one newfangled orchestra. Amid simmering stews and whistling kettles, Eugenia Strauss and Beverly Simmons teamed up in 2004 to cultivate an organization unlike any they’d ever known. They set out to create a professional chamber orchestra that would perform in small communities for people who may never have stepped into a concert hall or heard a note of classical music. The programs would comprise beloved and contemporary fare and feature admired soloists. Oh, and the concerts would be free. From modest beginnings, CityMusic Cleveland has become a potent force on the artistic scene in northeast Ohio, where it’s in its sixth season. The 40-member enamericanorchestras.org
Members of CityMusic Cleveland and the Pacifica Quartet before the ensemble’s world premiere of Christos Hatzis’s Redemption: Book I in October 2009.
semble presents five programs per season, playing up to six performances of each program per week in churches and civic centers. The players and Music Director James Gaffigan, a 2008 co-recipient of the League of American Orchestras’ Helen M. Thompson Award for emerging music directors, have expanded their concerts into more communities as word has spread about the group’s quality, informality, and terrific admission price. And the organization is starting to make inroads in bringing music education to elementary-school children. Audiences have grown quickly and donors have responded in kind. Over the past three seasons, the orchestra’s budget has more than doubled, to almost $500,000. Foundation and government support also has doubled, corporate contributions have soared, and income from individual donations has gone from $99,000 to a projected $155,000. Simmons wrote the various grants in—where else?—her kitchen. “For us, what’s appealing is that highquality music can be used for community building,” says Jill Paulsen, program director at the Cleveland Foundation, which has awarded CityMusic project grants since 2007. “The real interest is how they’ve tended to build relationships with neighborhoods and civic leaders. Over time, we’d like to get a sense that local neighborhoods feel CityMusic is their own.” CityMusic’s communal approach indeed has found a welcome home in small cities and areas where audience members— including many without the resources or inclination to travel to a concert mecca such as Cleveland’s Severance Hall—have become faithful followers. The musicians look forward to reunions with listeners who’ve discovered the orchestra as a fresh means of social and cultural connection. The impact of the music has been encouraging and surprising. During one program, notes Strauss, people who thought they didn’t like classical music sat raptly through György Ligeti’s challenging Violin Concerto, with Jennifer Koh as eloquent soloist. “Some said it was interesting. Just don’t do it again,” says Strauss, who is proud of the fact that listeners at least gave contemporary music the chance to have its daring say. A spirit of seat-ofthe-pants experi-
mentation and dedication pervades CityMusic Cleveland, which is operated by a largely volunteer board and staff—only Strauss is paid, as executive director, after having donated her services during the first four seasons. None of these supporters had any experience running an orchestra until they decided to test the musical waters. Things occasionally may be chaotic in the scheduling and personnel departments, but the vibrant performances and community enrichment make up for the administrative learning curve happening back in the kitchen. “I didn’t go to any CityMusic concerts until 2007,” says Julie Frazier, a retired social worker who volunteers for the orchestra. “It’s so unique and amazing in its mission. When I first learned about it, I threw myself at Eugenie and said, ‘Take me. I’m yours.’ ” Coming from a historically musical family, Frazier certainly knew that the product was first-rate. Her father, During concert week, musicians are treated to home-cooked meals at Executive Director Eugenia Strauss’s home in Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Below: CityMusic Executive Director Eugenia Strauss with composer Christos Hatzis. CityMusic premiered Hatzis’s Redemption: Book I in October 2009.
More than 1,000 schoolchildren attended CityMusic’s April 2009 performance of Peter and the Wolf at Saint Stanislaus Church in Cleveland’s Slavic Village neighborhood.
Maurice “Mo” Sharp, was principal flute of the Cleveland Orchestra for 50 years. The inspiration for CityMusic was sparked by another distinguished musician, Jeannette Sorrell, music director of the Cleveland-based baroque orchestra Apollo’s Fire. Sorrell initially hoped her own ensemble could help expand audiences for classical music by giving free concerts in underserved communities. She also had other motivations. As she watched a number of Apollo’s Fire players lose jobs in Cleveland ensembles felled by economic woes during the period after 9/11, she concluded that a new kind of orchestra might keep the classical-music flame ablaze. Sorrell also knew that top-flight musicians who had come to town for their spouses to take up positions in the Cleveland Orchestra needed their own musical outlets. Why not create jobs for these players and others, and head to neighborhoods that had little or no access to great music? Inspiration: A Brief History
The moment Sorrell outlined her brainstorm for Simmons, an early-music singer and presenter, and Strauss, an arts activist and former chairman of the board of Pilobolus Dance Theater, the water began to boil. Strauss and husband Ron, an allergist and ardent amateur violinist, put together a board of like-minded individuals. Sorrell, who never intended to be the group’s music director, chose the musicians, conductor (Andrea Raffanini), soloist (violinist Kyung Sun Lee), and repertoire (Mozart
and Gershwin) for CityMusic’s inaugural concert in October 2004—and then went back to her Apollo’s Fire duties. Gaffigan, then an assistant conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, was named music director soon thereafter and immersed himself in CityMusic activities. (He’s on sabbatical this season to fulfill commitments conducting major opera companies and orchestras in the U.S. and Europe.) From the start, the Strausses, Simmons, and board colleagues intended their ensemble to diverge from the usual professional-orchestra modus operandi. CityMusic is a non-union ensemble with a pay scale close to union rates. In an effort to find players who fit the CityMusic mold of cohesion and camaraderie, the organization holds no auditions. Musicians are recommended by an artistic advisory committee and by principal players. Members of City Music must agree to play the entire season, a rule that has caused tension, especially when players are offered more lucrative gigs elsewhere at the last minute. “We’re upfront about the rules we have,” says Eugenia Strauss about severing ties with musicians. “When somebody breaks the rules, you know what will happen. There are no exceptions, even when it breaks my heart.” There can be little argument that the commitment reaps artistic rewards, however rigorous the schedule may be. “We want the music to be well-prepared, so the musicians can really communicate with the audience,” says Simmons, who recently left CityMusic to concentrate on Quire Cleveland, a professional early-music chorus. At CityMusic, “they have time to rehearse thoroughly and perform more than once. The interpretation grows the more you perform it.” Principal
Bassoon George Sakakeeny, a faculty member at Oberlin College, says the orchestra’s excellence is a result of Gaffigan’s leadership and the musicians’ willingness to endure occasionally stressful conditions. “Going to perform six different places in one week is hard,” Sakakeeny says. “The orchestra has to be very, very flexible. The ability to roll with all that stuff is part of the success.” But the musicians benefit in other ways—and here’s where the kitchens partly come in. In addition to running City Music on a computer not far from her gleaming ovens, Strauss and volunteers also cook up culinary storms for the musicians. “I try not to gain weight during the City Music week of rehearsals and concerts,” says Tracy Rowell, the orchestra’s principal bass. There are lots of opportunities to put on the pounds: the musicians take a break from the rehearsals on Mondays and Tuesdays for gourmet dinners at the Strauss abode in Cleveland Heights. Out-of-town musicians are served meals the remaining days of the week at the homes of the trustees with whom they stay. “It’s easy to gain five pounds,” says Rowell, “because [Eugenia’s] cooking is so good and it’s so much fun to hang out with the musicians and guests and members of the board.” And some of the musicians travel far to play in CityMusic. John Boden, who is in his second season as principal horn, lives in Maine, where he taught for decades at the University of Southern Maine while freelancing in period and modern orchestras. Boden says CityMusic has “one of the best wind sections I have ever played with, and that includes the many early-music ensembles with which I’m fortunate to be associated.” Meeting Community Needs
But fine playing and fine dining are only part of the CityMusic experience. The musicians are required to socialize with audience members during intermission to strengthen bonds between orchestra and community. “I’ve been there long enough that I actually start seeing the same familiar faces at the same places,” says Rowell. “They’ll come out and say, ‘Oh, you have a baby.’ ” (Actually, Rowell has six children with husband Henry Peyrebrune, a member of the Cleveland Orchestra’s bass section.) Strauss and her CityMusic kitchen cabinet have nurtured their organization by symphony
reaching out to communities where musical needs exist. They contact political leaders, neighborhood activists, development corporations, civic institutions, elementary schools, and nonprofit organizations “to integrate the orchestra into the fabric of the community,” says Strauss. In other words, they sell the idea to those who can make connections, help with promotion, and provide in-kind services. In Elyria, 30 miles west of Cleveland, Mayor William Grace was ambivalent about Strauss’s CityMusic proposal until he showed her City Hall, which was built as an opera house. “He was proud he had saved it and incorporated it into City Hall,” Strauss says. “He wanted us to perform there. When the chief justice of Elyria came in, he said the mayor’s idea was brilliant. The mayor grew ten inches. He has become one of our biggest supporters in Elyria.” CityMusic’s involvement in other communities garners similar enthusiasm from civic leaders. The adjacent towns of Willoughby and Willoughby Hills—eighteen miles east of Cleveland—share the orchestra, which Willoughby Hills Councilman Kevin Malecek says is bolstering economic development in both cities. “It’s really evolved from a small concert series that we took a chance on to a robust partnership,” says Malecek, director of the evening and Saturday MBA program at Case Western
Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management. “I knew it would probably take off, but it’s been astounding.” Marie Kittredge, executive director of Slavic Village Development Corporation, was no fan of classical music when the orchestra first showed up in her Cleveland neighborhood, home to Czech and Polish immigrants starting in the late nineteenth century, which has recently been challenged by foreclosures and drugs. “I went to a concert,” she says. “Wow! It was fun. It was great.” Kittredge helped CityMusic find advertising and assistance from other organizations. A program for elementary school students at the village’s St. Stanislaus Church last year drew an audience of more than 1,000. Elyria and Slavic Village are the two principal locations where CityMusic involvement goes well beyond concerts. In both communities, orchestra members teach youngsters to read notes, understand rhythms, and play songs on recorders free of charge. The goal is to instruct them on orchestral instruments, though the funds to do so haven’t yet been found. The head of CityMusic’s education program is Rebecca Schweigert, the orchestra’s principal oboe, who played in the Miami Beach-based New World Symphony until she moved to Cleveland with her husband, Michael Mayhew, associate principal horn
To hear sound clips from CityMusic Cleveland’s recent live Mozart CD, go to the SymphonyOnline section of americanorchestras.org and click on Outposts.
of the Cleveland Orchestra. Schweigert has created a curriculum for children in grades two through four. “By fifth grade, they’re so not interested,” she says. “We can get them interested before that. We make it fun and light-hearted.” Schweigert and company have begun modeling their curriculum on El Sistema, the revolutionary Venezuelan music-education program that provides instrumental training for hundreds of thousands of children from poor neighborhoods. In Venezuela, the students have private instruction and play in orchestra after school every day and all day Saturday. With an infusion of money and a bit of serendipity, CityMusic might inch closer to El Sistema. During a concert last year, Schweigert met a woman in the audience, Regina Giraldo, who like Schweigert, is an oboist; she hails from Venezuela, where she taught in El Sistema, and is now pursuing a master’s in education at Cleveland State University. Schweigert is hoping Giraldo will teach in CityMusic’s program, “after her visa is worked out.”
Music Director James Gaffigan speaks to the audience before a CityMusic concert at Cleveland’s Saint Stanislaus Church.
The musical magic also happens with CityMusic itself. In the short space of five years, the orchestra and Gaffigan have put animated and elegant stamps on favorite classics and contemporary scores, including the Ligeti concerto and the 2007 world premiere of Margaret Brouwer’s Concerto for Violin and Chamber Orchestra. They recorded the latter with Michi Wiancko, their concertmaster at the time and a winner of the 2002 Concert Artists Guild International Competition. CityMusic’s allure has proved magnetic to other prominent soloists, such as cellists Edward Arron and Matt Haimovitz. Arron first encountered the organization when he was recommended to be a soloist in Beethoven’s Triple Concerto. He was so taken with the music-making—and became fast friends with his colleagues, violinist Kyung Sun Lee and pianist Daniel Shapiro—that he returned to play the Brahms Double Concerto (with Lee), a program of chamber music, and several benefit concerts in private homes. Arron didn’t want to leave after his first collaboration with CityMusic, which he calls “one of the fullest weeks of my life. At the end of the week, I was completely heartbroken.” As part of a new venue experiment, this February Haimovitz played Vivaldi’s Cello Concerto with CityMusic Oboist Rebecca in a late-night public jam session at Anatolia, a pop- Schweigert, ular Turkish restaurant in head of Cleveland, while in town CityMusic’s to perform three concerts education with the ensemble. Another new CityMu- program, which sic champion is Christos focuses on Hatzis, the Greek-born Canadian composer whom the grades two orchestra commissioned to through four. write a work featuring the “By fifth grade, Pacifica Quartet. The piece, Redemption: Book I, had its they’re so not premiere on October 14, interested,” 2009. Hatzis was intro- she says. “We duced to Strauss by the St. Lawrence String Quartet, can get them which knew her through interested Pilobolus. The St. Lawrence before that. We Quartet sent Strauss a pile of Hatzis’s music, and a re- make it fun and lationship was born. “I was light-hearted.”
Willoughby Hills and Cleveland’s Slavic Village neighborhood are among the Ohio locales where CityMusic Cleveland works closely with community leaders. Top photo (left to right): Willoughby Hills Mayor Robert Weger; Kevin Malecek, president of the city council of Willoughby Hills; and Father George Smiga of St. Noel Church. Bottom photo (left to right): Father Michael Surufka of St. Stanislaus Church; Mary Kittredge, executive director of Slavic Village Development; and Cleveland Councilman Anthony Brancatelli.
from the first time just blown away,” Hatzis says of Strauss. “She was a tour de force. She became a trailblazer for me.” After hearing soloist Jennifer Koh and the ensemble perform the Ligeti concerto, the composer was hooked. “I started understanding how this orchestra was becoming a paradigm of things to come,” he says. Whether that’s true remains to be seen. CityMusic is making a mark through musical intelligence and sheer force of will on the part of its many advocates. “The emergence of a new orchestra is always a cause for celebration,” says Jesse Rosen, president of the League of American Orchestras. “But CityMusic is not only new and going strong, it is also successfully demonstrating a new business model, a new pricing model, and a new relationship to community, all while giving sensational concerts of the highest quality. It may not be the prototype for every community, but every orchestra can learn from the spirit of adventure embodied in CityMusic.” The Strausses so far have lived up to their vow never to run a deficit. But can CityMusic continue to ascend, given the shaky global economy and unorthodox na-
ture of the organization? Eugenia Strauss is optimistic that CityMusic will continue to forge an independent path and gain the support of individual, foundation, and corporate donors. The orchestra is doing so this season despite the absence of Gaffigan, its galvanizing musical force. While he is gone, CityMusic is being led by guest conductors David Alan Miller, Joel Smirnoff (former first violinist of the Juilliard String Quartet and now president of the Cleveland Institute of Music), Danail Rachev, Gregory Vajda, and Damon Gupton. Although his international schedule is likely to expand, Gaffigan still hopes to return to his Cleveland ensemble next season. “I love coming to CityMusic,” he says. “I know these people. I don’t have to edit myself. I can be myself. The more I travel, the more I realize Eugenie really has it. She goes by her instinct.” Gaffigan says Strauss has never nixed even the most radical programming idea he’s proposed. For the Ligeti concerto, he started rehearsals six months ahead of time
with the winds and strings—in the Strausses’ living room. Earlier, he had balked at the orchestra’s exacting schedule of up to six concerts on consecutive days. “I said it’s too much for me and the musicians, but it’s not,” he says. “Every night, it’s a different group of people [in the audience]. Every night, you have to give 100 percent.” And what about the future of a group such as CityMusic Cleveland? “I used to say this should be a prototype for every city,” Gaffigan says. “Now I don’t know, but it works in Cleveland.” DONALD ROSENBERG writes about music and dance for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland. He is author of The Cleveland Orchestra Story: “Second to None” and president of the Music Critics Association of North America.
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More than Meets the Ear by Daniel J. Kushner
Orchestras dive into the wide, wide world of
Led by Music Director Christopher Wilkins on November 1, 2008, the Orlando Philharmonic celebrated the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth by premiering “The Eternal Struggle,” a performance of Copland’s Lincoln Portrait employing “photochoreography” by James Westwater. The production was commissioned by the Orlando Philharmonic and the Akron Symphony.
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Irving Symphony Orchestra
ost often we experience art in isolation,” observes Tracy J. Boyd, president of the Irving Symphony Orchestra in Texas. He’s thinking specifically about the orchestral art, and about how that art is traditionally experienced in a live setting—that is, with no visual context for the music, and with little in the way of visual stimulation other than the moving arms of the conductor and at least some of the musicians onstage. Recently his orchestra has taken bold steps to change that experience. The Irving Symphony is devoting its entire 2009-10 season to what Boyd calls “interdisciplinary” symphonic performances. The orchestra’s four classical concerts are being presented as “Sonic Flight,” “Sonic Visions,” “Sonic Dreams,” and “Sonic Boom,” each featuring onstage activities or special lighting effects. “While preserving the fidelity of the world’s most enduring music,” says Boyd, “the ISO is staging productions in highly signature formats. Our whole mantra is to create opportunities that you can’t get anywhere else. Collectively as maestro, board of directors, and staff, we see ourselves as progenitors of a new paradigm.” “Sonic Flight,” presented last October, was a program of works by De Falla, Stravinsky, Ponchielli, Bach, Piazzolla, Grieg, Dvorák, Liszt, Rossini, Kabalevsky, and Brahms, accompanied by performances from four master aerialists. “Sonic Boom,” the April 10 offering, will consist of Felipe Espinoza Tanaka’s Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s Concertino for Harp—the latter work compleAcrobatics enhanced the mented by the choreographed Irving (Texas) Symphony’s “Sonic Flight” program last flight of Asian kites. Specially October. designed to operate indoors without artificial wind, these kites will be flown onstage in front of a full orchestra, their movements synchronized to the music by a duo of experts. (The ISO sent the kite flyers a recording of the eighteen-minute work several months before the performance so they could
begin learning the ropes.) “When art forms are combined in an artistically appropriate and collaborative experience,” Boyd says, “art can inform art.” Whether or not the Irving Symphony’s “Sonic” concerts represent, as he suggests, a “new paradigm” for orchestras is an open question. They stem from the ISO’s threeyear strategic plan, and according to Boyd they represent his orchestra’s conscious effort to “deconstruct the standard/traditional symphony experience model and reenvision it for the next generation of music lovers. From this point forward, this is who we are. This is our ethos.” Boyd says that the orchestra’s decision to expand its reach in this way was in part due to its need to differentiate itself from the numerous other orchestras in the Dallas-Fort Worth region. And he has noticed more variance in his audience’s age, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status since the program changes were made. The idea of an orchestra as purveyor of culture raises questions of the ensemble’s relevance to the community at large. In a society addicted to visual entertainment and electronic technology, how can orchestras attract new audiences for its essential product, live performance of music? In recent years, composers, artists, and orchestras have all employed multimedia— blends of music, visual art, film, computer technology, architecture, dance, poetry, and theater—that allow them to approach their respective crafts in new and distinctive ways. For some audience members, multimedia can enhance the experience of new
Dino Anagnost led the Little Orchestra Society at New York’s Avery Fisher Hall in a February 2009 children’s concert titled “Honest Abe: Four Scores and More.” Employing visual effects by Elliott Forrest and narration by James Earl Jones, the program consisted of works by Copland, Morton Gould, and Mark O’Connor.
an emotional concert-ending experience. In this case a multimedia presentation—music plus theater—generated what Brubeck calls “a physiological process of you making the picture in your brain, with the music and the words feeding it. That’s more powerful and involving than just having the music coming at you.” Brubeck’s exploration of multimedia has continued with Ansel Adams: America, an orchestral work co-written with his father, the legendary jazz pianist Dave Brubeck, and incorporating video projections of Adams’s famous nature photographs. Premiered by California’s Stockton Symphony in April 2009, the work was co-commissioned by that orchestra and the orchestras of Abilene, Baltimore, Fresno, Monterey,
With its “multidisciplinary” performances, the Irving Symphony Orchestra in Texas hopes to “deconstruct the standard symphony experience model and re-envision it for the next generation of music lovers,” says ISO President Tracy J. Boyd. orchestral compositions, or add resonance to familiar ones. In 2007, composer and multi-instrumentalist Chris Brubeck saw the premiere of his Quiet Heroes: A Symphonic Salute to the Flagraisers at Iwo Jima. The piece was performed by the Fox Valley Symphony in Appleton, Wisconsin, with narration by actor Wilford Brimley, and it attracted several generations of American war veterans, who were acknowledged from the stage in
Sacramento, and Temple University. Noting that Ansel Adams was himself a classically trained pianist, Chris Brubeck sees a synergy between music and photography: “When they both happen simultaneously—the perfect tempo, a good orchestra in tune, and that picture—it leaps, you know? It’s something greater than one plus one.” In Ansel Adams: America, the Brubecks were creating an original composition to match the grandeur of a landscape pho-
tographer’s iconic images. James Westwater approaches the synergy of music and photography from the opposite direction. Since 1973 he has been creating what he calls “photochoreography” for orchestral concerts featuring standard repertoire, and has now worked with more than 150 U.S. orchestras. “My performances consist of giant-screen, multiple-image photographic essays that I have choreographed to existing pieces of classical music,” he says. “You’re not seeing a film to which an orchestra is performing music. My situation is much closer to a conventional concerto performance, because I am literally performing the photography to the performance of the music—not the reverse.” The topics Westwater explores in his photochoreography reflect his belief that the orchestra should be of service to its community. One notable example is “A Love for the Land,” set to Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring. In November 2005 the Springfield (Ohio) Symphony Orchestra presented this as part of a concert devoted to the topic of agriculture and rural life, with active support from such groups as 4H, Future Farmers of America, and the Farm Bureau. In addition to the Westwater-enhanced Appalachian Spring, the concert included a suite of additional Copland works photochoreographed by Westwater using images taken by local residents. Westwater’s “The Eternal Struggle” was set to Copland’s Lincoln Portrait. Commemorating the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth and the 100th anniversary symphony
The American Composers Orchestra has embraced the role of multimedia in its “Orchestra Underground” series, which began in 2004, and in “Playing It Unsafe,” initiated in 2008. Making multimedia effective, says ACO Executive Director Michael Geller, is “all about delivering the exact experience that the user wants at the exact moment. I think we would be unwise to ignore that big societal trend. The question for an orchestra is, ‘What do you do with that trend, about people wanting to absorb experiences in that way?’ ” The ACO’s answers to this have been intriguing. Performances are often experimental, such as Charles Mason’s 2008 work Additions—for which electronics and digital sound were used in the lobby and restrooms, as well as the auditorium— and Jason Freeman’s Glimmer: Concerto for Chamber Orchestra and Audience, a work dating from 2004. At the ACO premiere of Glimmer, audience members wielded different colored light sticks; information from the sticks was recorded by live video cameras and transmitted to colored lights on the music stands, and the players would then perform the music as influenced by those directions. Such works do not merely coax the audience to engage. They demand active participation. But the ACO seems wary of misusing multimedia. “The more media you use, the more chance there is for the audience to be either doubly engaged or doubly distracted,” says ACO Creative Advisor Derek Bermel. “If somebody says that they want to use video but they don’t have a real reason for using video, a red flag might go up.” For americanorchestras.org
composer’s brother, the writer, director, and actor Colin Gee. The work places Erin Gee’s signature Mouthpiece style—wordless, non-semantic vocals in which various hums, blips, whistles, and syllables are rendered ethereal yet somehow visceral—within a narrative framework. The storyline is a fictional take on the medieval Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci and his use of the Memory Palace technique, which he developed to access his memories and effectively function in fourteenth-century China. The vocals are supplemented with video and live acting by Colin Gee, whose minute fragments of physical movement mirror the musical ges-
Using narration, dramatic readings, and projected visuals, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Beyond the Score series has provided in-depth explorations of masterworks by such composers as Bartók (top) and Shostakovich.
New Sights and Sounds
the ACO, the motivation for utilizing multimedia comes not from a desire to break ties with the great orchestral repertoire, but instead to continue in its tradition of innovation. “When the great composers— Mozart, Brahms—wrote their orchestral music, they were on the cutting edge,” says Bermel. “But sometimes it’s hard to listen to their music with the same spirit today. What the ACO is hoping to do is keep that cutting edge alive.” One of the orchestra’s latest performances was the November 30, 2009 premiere of Erin Gee’s Mouthpiece XIII: Mathilde of Loci, Part I, a collaborative effort with the
of the NAACP, it was co-commissioned by the Akron Symphony Orchestra and the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, and premiered by the latter in November 2008. Westwater acknowledges that his approach has not always been welcomed by orchestras. “I do run into the attitude from time to time that music is everything,” he says, “that anything else done during a performance is in some way a distraction or inhibits the audience’s ability to experience music as it should be experienced. Although there is a place for that attitude, I think it has unfortunately stifled the ability of orchestras to reach today’s audience and tomorrow’s audience.”
mental performers. “This isn’t an opera; we are inhabitants of a concert space; we are nested in the orchestra. However, we are telling this story like an opera, structured with these narrative elements that are important to us.” In Mouthpiece XIII the video depicts a stone structure with cathedral-like archways and is used to further accentuate the narrative. “The storyline is all about architecture and where we place things in architecture;”
Götterdämmerung for the Los Angeles Philharmonic as part of its “Wagner at the Hollywood Bowl” series. The goal was simple but challenging, says Forrest: “With no sets, no costumes, no props, can you make it theatrical in any way?” For the climax of the piece, Forrest elected to signal Valhalla’s fiery doom not just with pyrotechnics but by having searchlights, representing the glory of the great fortress, suddenly fall. A more recent Forrest production used visuals to
Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra
Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra
Subject matter for orchestral multimedia works ranges widely. The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra’s Caminos del Inkas features projected photos of the landscape and culture of the Inca Trail, a subject of special interest to Music Director Miguel Harth-Bedoya.
The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra’s Caminos del Inka: A Musical Journey explored three centuries of music influenced by the Incas, using images of Andean life.
tures of the singer and the orchestra. In performance, each component of Mouthpiece XIII—music, physical movement, video—is integrated into one fluid form. “We don’t want to be autonomous,” says Colin Gee of the work’s non-instru-
Erin Gee elaborates. “It’s sort of a mental architecture, or a mentally created architectural space, so the video helps to fortify that aspect of the raw performance.” Colin Gee sees the video as a reference point for understanding the musical drama. “All I want it to do is create that sense of space; then you know where you are, and you go from that to attending to the performers. This work isn’t about creating theatrical spaces, it’s about providing a narrative threshold to deliver musical information.” Evoking History and Legend
While artists like the Gees have chosen to develop new works of art to flesh out a desired narrative, others, like producer/ director and classical radio announcer Elliott Forrest, have created theatrical elements for existing musical works. In 2005 Forrest and producer Don Frantz directed and produced Act III of Richard Wagner’s
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enhance concerts by New York City’s Little Orchestra Society honoring the 2009 Lincoln bicentennial, which the orchestra presented in two versions, one for adults and one for children. The latter, performed at Avery Fisher Hall, featured large-scale projections, video, special lighting effects, and narration by James Earl Jones on a program that included works by Copland, Morton Gould, and Mark O’Connor. Forrest does not see multimedia as a necessity for orchestras, but he does emphasize orchestras’ need to be conscious of prospective audiences—people who may not have sufficient background in the music to fully appreciate it on its own. The Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra has embraced visual enhancements with a project highlighting repertoire of special interest to its Peruvian-born music director, Miguel Harth-Bedoya. In 2007 the orchestra premiered Caminos del Inka: A Musical Journey, an exploration of three centuries of music influenced by the Incas. Caminos is performed with a backdrop of projected photos depicting the landscape and culture of the Inca Trail, a series of pathways built by the Inca Empire that now connects six modern-day South American countries. Caminos has since been performed by several other orchestras. Orchestral works from the European canon are provided with deep societal context by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra through its Beyond the Score series, launched in November 2005. Each concert is a two-part event. The first half of the symphony
evening consists of backstory to the work being performed, much of it brought to life through projected images such as historical photos, letters, and samples of musical notation. Gerard McBurney, creative director for the series, delivers the narration, often with assistance from actors to voice the words of the composers. Musical excerpts are performed live by the orchestra. The second half is a presentation of the work in its entirety. Martha Gilmer, the CSO’s vice president for artistic planning and audience development, says the orchestra’s objective in creating Beyond the Score was to “come up with a way in which people could experience a piece of music, its composer, the time it was created in, its musical language, and its place in society, in a relevant and dynamic way that capitalizes on the blend of various art forms. The one thing that Gerard insists on is that each piece must dictate a certain aesthetic. And each one is very different.” For its January 2006 exploration of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 4, Beyond the Score used film as a medium to illustrate that aspect of Shostakovich’s career: the composer worked as a pianist in silent films as a young man, and eventually wrote film music himself. Gilmer notes that the Shostakovich presentation includes sixteen musical excerpts accompanied by silent film footage from Stalinist Russia never before seen in the Western world. CSO statistics point to the value of this approach in engaging audiences: Beyond the Score has attracted more than 1,300 new concertgoers to the orchestra, and 37 percent of those patrons have subsequently bought tickets to other CSO concerts. As Gilmer sees it, active engagement with the audience is critical to the success of this program. “Orchestras can’t play in isolation,” she says. “They can play great music, but if there’s no one there to listen, then the reverberation between audience and orchestra ends.” So what do orchestra patrons seek when they attend these multimedia events? What makes them different from the traditional
presentation of oft-performed, beloved repertoire? Ultimately, multimedia is simply one vital way that musical institutions can adapt to the needs of their constituencies. Harth-Bedoya sees parallels between multimedia and society’s use of such technologies as the iPhone and BlackBerry. “Maybe the printed program book is not the best way into the music,” he says. “People don’t go to paper anymore. It actually has been proven not to be the most efficient way of
conveying to people the concept of what they are going to hear.” Multimedia, he thinks, is a means of “basically moving that same concept into the times we’re in now. I’m surprised that it’s actually so late in coming.” A recent graduate of the Goldring Arts Journalism Program at Syracuse University, DANIEL J. KUSHNER is a freelance writer living in New York City.
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Recent photography of the musicians of the Sarasota Orchestra and Artistic Director Leif Bjaland (second from right foreground) exhibits the organizationâ€™s new spirit.
Name? A 60-year-old orchestra sought new audiences—and found a new identity. Two administrators who led the effort explain how the Florida West Coast Symphony became the Sarasota Orchestra. by Joseph McKenna, president & CEO, and Gordon Greenfield, chief marketing officer, Sarasota Orchestra
All photos courtesy of Sarasota Orchestra
What’s in a
but a recent $250,000 grant by the KaiserIn 1948, a small group of residents in man Foundation means that the Sarasota Florida’s Sarasota and Manatee counties, Music Festival will return this spring—and home to about 60,000 people, formed a that, for the first time in the festival’s 46community orchestra called the Florida year history, the professional orchestra will West Coast Symphony. For six decades, perform with the students. the orchestra seemed impervious to the However, starting in the 2000-01 season, state’s boom and bust cycles as it grew into a disturbing trend became apparent. Even a professional regional orchestra that now as the population and personal wealth of serves a population of 600,000. Among the local residents grew with the real estate-innoteworthy statistics were ticket revenues fused economy, subscription and ticket sales last season of more than $2 million for 79 declined. From 2000 to 2007, subscriptions concerts. The orchestra also does 35 to 40 to the masterworks series alone witnessed a concerts for community engagement and 27 percent decline. Yet newspaper reviews collaboration. With 41 core salaried musiand subscriber surveys proclaimed that the cians and 35 contracted per-service players, orchestra had never performed at a higher the orchestra performs at four venues withlevel. in the Sarasota and Manatee county area. To address this puzzling situation, the Additional activities include an educamanagement team of the Florida West tion program with five youth orchestras serving 200 young people, Joseph McKenna (left), president & Coast Symphony, with a summer music camp, and CEO, and Gordon Greenfield, chief support from the board of directors, impleprofessional performances for marketing officer mented a research inimore than 10,000 fourth and tiative to explore causes fifth graders. The organizafor declining ticket tion also hosts and operates sales. The eighteenthe Sarasota Music Festival, month project, initiatwhich attracts aspiring proed in late 2006, became fessional musicians and facthe foundation for a ulty from around the world to rebranding campaign mentor and perform chamber to reinvigorate the ormusic for three weeks each ganization and attract June. For a while, it appeared new audiences. that the festival would take Joseph McKenna a one-year hiatus due joined the Florida West to financial challenges,
Coast Symphony as president and CEO in 2001. He earned bachelor’s degrees in music education and in trombone performance from New England Conservatory of Music before pursuing a career in music education and arts administration. Some of his accomplishments over the last nine years with the orchestra include adding $10 million to the endowment, creating the organization’s first formal pops series, doubling the base salary for core orchestra musicians, and transforming the organization’s governance structure. In order to completely understand our organization and its audiences, McKenna and the board ascertained that an objective investigation was required—one that would benefit from external assistance. The goal was to challenge long-held assumptions, many of which were developed through formal music education, immersion in the classical-music community, and the traditions we value. Funded through a bequest, the organization retained an outside firm to oversee the research process and develop a revitalized brand identity with corresponding logo. We chose the Sarasota office of Eric Mower and Associates, a marketing As part of the rebranding, photographs of Sarasota Orchestra musicians including Abe Feder (below) and Chung-Yon Hong (opposite page) have a casual energy that is consistent with brand identity.
diences that were declining primarily due and communications agency with eight ofto age-related issues. So we turned our refices nationwide. The agency has extensive search and attention to attracting new audiexperience researching and developing camences from the Baby Boomer demographic. paigns for the Baby Boomer psychographic. This is where the requirements for a new Simultaneously, a new chief marketing brand strategy began to coalesce. officer was hired to manage the rebrandThe research project developed two new ing process, serve as internal brand steward, goals: and plan and execute new marketing and audience development programs. Gordon 1. Identify why younger audiences were Greenfield was selected in 2007 from outnot attending Florida West Coast side the orchestra field based on his expeSymphony concerts; rience managing major rebranding cam2. Provide the basis for developing a paigns in the private sector, his marketing brand aimed at attracting younger MBA and journalism degrees, and consultaudiences. ing experience in customer acquisition and The next research step involved personal, market analysis. in-depth interviews with a What we With this team in place, sampling of mature subscribwe began to identify the core ers, defined as those born learned from factors necessary for attractprior to or during WWII. our research ing new audiences while Five subscribers from this resulted in a overcoming the hesitancy age demographic were rantop-to-bottom about change that is natural domly recruited as a baseline re-invention for a 60-year-old institution. for filling out the profile of of the What we learned resulted our loyal core of subscribers. in a top-to-bottom re-inThe participants met with organization’s vention of the organization’s an agency research associbrand. brand. ate in the agency’s offices for The first step in the research project was 45-minute interviews (these were recorded to call lapsed subscribers and find out why so that orchestra management could rethey cancelled. We also undertook a mail view them later). These longtime subscribsurvey of all current subscribers to find out ers talked about a childhood infused with how they felt about the orchestra. Many of classical music. Following is a sampling of our long-term subscribers either didn’t have comments: email addresses or preferred not to pro“I’ve been attending symphonies since vide them, limiting this survey to mail. We elementary school.” were pleased to discover that our audiences “I grew up in a family that enjoyed playloved the Florida West Coast Symphony. ing classical music.” More than 50 percent of the surveys were “At age twelve, I went to my first opera. completed and returned—an astounding I was hooked.” figure in and of itself. Of current subscribIn each case, we heard that our subscribers, 84 percent were “very satisfied” and ers’ love for attending classical music con14.5 percent were “satisfied.” The “neutral,” certs didn’t magically appear at retirement. “somewhat dissatisfied,” and “not satisIt began and was nurtured in their youth. fied” categories together made up only 1.5 Nostalgic feelings for attending performing percent. We also documented the proverarts events were ingrained in them and part bial “graying of the audience” in its starkest of a lifetime of experiences. tones: 74 percent of the respondents were Following these interviews, a set of ten over age 70, and more than 60 percent had additional interviews was performed with subscribed for more than seven years. And potential Baby Boomer audiences. Five sinof those who had not renewed their subgle-ticket buyers were randomly selected by scriptions, the top four reasons were health, orchestra management. Another five were moving and transportation issues, schedule selected by the agency and had no expericonflicts, and death. We learned that prices, ence with our orchestra, but stated an interprogramming, and competing cultural purest in cultural activities. For further insight suits had little to do with non-renewals. into the Boomer demographic, both the The challenge before us was that there agency and the orchestra independently wasn’t anything we could do to retain auconducted a series of focus groups of Baby symphony
Boomers meeting similar parameters as the individual-interview participants. These focus groups were one hour in length; half were held off-site and were conducted by the agency, and half were facilitated by Gordon Greenfield at the orchestra’s building. To complement these efforts, the agency undertook a secondary research program by contacting eleven other orchestras that were attempting to attract younger audiences; this would help us evaluate trends and best practices. Some of the ideas from others that we adopted included the Houston Symphony’s use of live video during performances, the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s casual-dress concerts, and the Wichita Symphony Orchestra’s program that allows audience members to select repertoire. Boomers as Consumers
The comments from those in the Baby Boomer generation were strikingly similar to each other, yet starkly different from the previously interviewed mature, long-term subscribers. Instead of fond memories of symphony concerts as their nostalgia, Baby Boomers talked about the impact of television on their lives, MTV in particular, and discussed an exceptionally broad interest in music that included classical as well as jazz, classic rock, popular, etc. We heard comments like the following from Boomers: “Classical music was in my home growing up, but it was my parents’ music, not my music. I listen to it, but going to a classical music concert doesn’t hold special meaning to me.” “I listen to classical music on the radio, but I’m looking for more excitement in a night out.” “I’ve known about the symphony here for fifteen years, and I’d like to experience classical music now, but it just seems like it would be a boring night out with old people.” We identified a significant consumer segment of the Baby Boomers our agency called “Young at Heart”—those who enjoy culture and are active, educated, and affluent. But many of these consumers reject the formality and traditions of what they understand to be the “stodginess” of the symphony hall experience. They told us that they see going out as a social experience with friends and peers and that they perceive going to the symphony as a night out with people from an older generation. “Energy” and “excitement” were their key americanorchestras.org
descriptors of an ideal night out. They said they have many “cultural entertainment” options and prefer shorter, higher-stimulation “shows” with visual components and narration to describe, inform, and enhance their experiences. While they challenged the concert hall experience, the Young at Heart focus groups embraced the inspiring and enriching value of classical music. Even those with limited experience in classical music expressed interest in hearing a Beethoven symphony, a Mozart piano concerto, or the ubiquitous “1812” Overture. They talked about listening to classical music on satellite radio or as part of their CD collection or iPod downloads at home. So, how do we link their appreciation of classical music with an experience that would attract them to our concerts? Here were the Baby Boomers’ suggestions:
Make programs interactive. The tradition of the conductor leading the works without comment, and holding applause between movements, seemed unnatural to them. Provide a wider range of musical experiences. While Baby Boomers expressed an interest in new experiences, they said what would attract them to the concert hall are recognizable classical works or “popular” music performed by an orchestra. Change our image. Instead of traditional elegance, the symphonic experience should be marketed as exhilarating and exciting. Make concerts more accessible, less formal. A little bit of dress-up is nice, but the Baby Boomers want to know they will be comfortable and the evening won’t be stodgy.
Before developing and implementing our rebranding plan, we worked to create broad organizational support for the goals of the initiative. We presented the research and historical ticket sales data to the board and artistic leadership team. This involved many presentations and meetings, as well as collaboration throughout the process. Communicating with the musicians and reporting on our progress was an essential aspect of the program. Our belief was that all parts of our organization needed to support the rebranding for it to succeed. While
we knew that we would not all agree on every element of the rebranding campaign, we recognized that if we did not embrace the plan as a team, we would fail. That is why we employed the message “80 percent agreement = 100 percent commitment.” The first step for the execution phase of the rebranding initiative was redesigning program elements to embrace suggestions from the Baby Boomers. In collaboration with Artistic Director and Conductor Leif Bjaland, we agreed upon a dual strategy that honored our traditions for our mature audiences while providing new and innovative programs to attract younger patrons. Central to this approach was the creation of our Journeys to Genius series, which launched in October 2008. Developed by Bjaland, and created in collaboration with Gordon Greenfield and Patricia Joslyn, our director of operations and artistic planning, the series was intended to be a vibrant, “Ken Burns-like” experience featuring iconic classical works. The first 30 minutes tells the story of the composer by employing video clips, images, musical excerpts, narration by Bjaland, and actors reading from letters by the composer. In the second half, the selected work is performed in its entirety, but with cameras projecting live close-ups of the conductor and individual musicians and sections. In a nod to the informal preferences of younger audiences, Bjaland asked
tural brand of Sarasota provided the adthe audience to suspend the tradition of not ditional benefits of describing where we clapping between movements. perform most of our concerts and shortSo far, Bjaland and our internal team ening our name to make it easier to rehave developed three Journeys to Genius member and search for on the Web. Plus, concerts: Beethoven: The Angry Revolutionresearch indicated that the Sarasota area ary; Dvorák: Lost in America; and Mozart: was selected by a majority of retirees as a Touched by the Gods. All three have been preferred place to move largely because of early sell-outs and have attracted substanits active arts community. Our hypothesis tially younger audiences. In its review of the at this point was that “Sarasota Symphony” inaugural concert, the Sarasota Herald Triwould be our first choice for a name, with bune commented, “The audience was justi“Sarasota Symphony Orchestra” our second fied in its overwhelming ovation. Perhaps it choice. The name “Sarasota Orchestra” was had heard Beethoven with new ears and a included as a control, for testing purposes. new understanding of his music’s meaning in our own lives.” The second part of the rebranding rollout Rebranding was exploring new vehicles for marketing. What we found in the research surprised Elements included a completely revamped us, changed our decision, and illustrated website, the use of social media, and colwhy research is essential. Instead of being laborations with other arts organizations. attracted to the alliteration of “Sarasota While there is nothing innovative about Symphony,” the Young at Heart Boomers orchestras employing digital media, our told us that they thought “symphony” was premise was that their effectiveness would formal, stodgy, and restrictive. They rejectbe dependent on featuring new multimedia ed “Sarasota Symphony Orchestra” as beprograms, as well as revitalized identity and ing redundant and too formal. messaging. The excitement of potential audiences Which brings us to our name change. over “Sarasota Orchestra” was palpable. Our initial goal was not to change our name. They found “orchestra” to be a less formal, The mission was to figure more inviting, and less reout how to present ourselves strictive name. While our The comments to attract new audiences. traditional, long-term audifrom the Baby Repeatedly in the reences preferred “symphony,” search, we heard that our Boomer generation we knew from the research name—Florida West Coast that they would continue to were strikingly Symphony—was long, diffiattend our concerts no matter similar to each cult to remember, and nebuwhat we called the organizaother, yet starkly lous. “Where is Florida’s tion because their attachment west coast?” was a question was at such a deep emotional different from we heard from many focusand experiential level. But those from the group participants new to we also knew that new audiour organization. Tampa, mature, long-term ences, less familiar with us— Fort Myers, and Naples all the very segment we needed subscribers. have symphonies and are all to attract for our future sucon the west coast of Florida. Based on this cess—preferred “Sarasota Orchestra.” research, our board unanimously endorsed Management recommended the name the decision to change our name; making “Sarasota Orchestra,” explaining the raSarasota part of the name seemed natural. tionale, the research, and the goals of the Sarasota has a reputation within Florida for rebranding to the board, which unaniits outstanding arts community. The Saramously approved the new name. When we sota Opera attracts opera enthusiasts from met with our agency partner to create the around the world, the Sarasota Ballet has logo and brand identity, we agreed that we been reviewed by The New York Times, and would position ourselves as “live cultural two professional theater companies fill out entertainment.” The filter for evaluating the the lively performing arts scene. A worldmany logo alternatives was judged on the class fine arts museum and aquarium are following factors: vibrant color, informal, unparalleled for a city the size of Sarasota. youthful, and energetic. The logo was not Identifying our orchestra with the cula “gut” selection by a small committee of
interested parties. It was based on a process founded on research and tested with focus groups. Combined with the new name and logo, we employed a new tagline that captured the essence of our rebranding goal: “Come as you are. Leave different.” The result of our rebranding? In our 60th anniversary, in a traditional, conservative community, our new brand was broadly supported. The final name and logo were kept under wraps, and when they were unveiled to musicians and staff just prior to the September 2008 launch, there was an enthusiastic ovation. Our artistic leadership and board championed the new identity. And the Sarasota Herald Tribune recognized the practical aspects of the rebranding in an editorial: “The official name change should help the organization gain wider recognition and distinguish itself, geographically speaking, from other orchestras on Florida’s West Coast. The change, part of a rebranding strategy designed to broaden the orchestra’s audience—by offering new forms of programming while maintaining traditional presentations—is constructive.” Perhaps most importantly, we reversed the decline in ticket sales. Last season they actually increased by 5 percent, even in economically challenged Sarasota, with new, younger audiences comprising the bulk of the growth. In this economic environment, the fundamental challenge facing our organization is balancing the goal of brand development with current financial limitations. In December of 2009, after four months of operating under an implemented final offer, the Sarasota Orchestra reached agreement with the musicians for a two-year contract that included a 2.5 percent pay reduction. Rebranding isn’t a one-time activity or a change of name and logo. Our brand vision is to generate excitement, exploration, and innovative programming year after year. We hope to encourage new audiences to view the Sarasota Orchestra as a forwardthinking arts organization, while honoring our traditional art form.
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Ludwig Ode to
My obsession with Beethoven’s Ninth led to an expedition—and a film tracking the symphony’s profound global presence. By Kerry Candaele 62
Nick Higgins Rohan Chitrikar
I am in Vienna, on the final trip for a documentary film I am making about the global impact of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, called Following the Ninth: In the Footsteps of Beethoven’s Final Symphony. I began the journey over three years ago and now, having traversed five continents, from China to Chile, from Japan to Great Britain, from Capetown to Manhattan, I sit in the Café Hawelka near Der Graben (“The Trench”), a once and still fashionable promenade where Beethoven enjoyed watching members of the haute monde present themselves to their fellow Viennese during the years when he retreated into deafness and isolation.
In Tokyo, the New Japan Philharmonic was part of a 5,000-person performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in Tokyo in 2008. Performing the work is an annual December ritual in Japan known as Daiku or “The Great Nine.”
A modern sketch of Beethoven by Charles Krenner, a violist with CityMusic Cleveland
Filmmaker Kerry Candaele came across this sign while in Valparaiso, Chile, for his Beethoven documentary.
The day is cold and wet and, for a Californian, somewhat intimidating as I have not, sartorially speaking, been properly acclimated. But I have already made my morning pilgrimage to the Burggarten, a park near Vienna’s center where Beethoven enjoyed an occasional stroll. The trees are ablaze in tones of crimson, the yellow, orange, and red leaves brushed and pushed by shifting winds and rain in dramatic
counterpoise to the stately Habsburg-era palaces that serve as the park’s border. I imagine Beethoven meandering through the park as seen by Johann Peter Lyser in his now famous sketch, the composer’s hands folded behind him, black trench coat and top hat, hunched upper body leaning into life. The year is 1823, November—only six months before the Kärntnertortheater premiere of what will become the most heralded symphony in our history. I conjure my Beethoven to suit my obsession. Oblivious to the storm around him, Ludwig was hearing the full blossoming of the third movement of the Ninth, a music so eerie and serene, so stunningly sad in its longing in those brief few minutes before the sky is lit up in the race to the glorious choral end, the “Ode to Joy.” It was the third movement of Beethoven’s final symphony that drew me into his world many years ago when I heard the Ninth for the first time. As I drove alone up the central California coast in the late afternoon light, I found in the Adagio and Finale a staggering revelation: here was music as moving as my beloved rock and soul, as powerful as The Who’s “Baba O’Riley,” as tender and touching as Otis Redding’s “These Arms of Mine.” I had found another beautiful reason to feel fully alive. The third movement seemed to me at the time, and still today, less a peace-
Near the ocean in Valparaíso, Chile, cinematographer Rohan Chitrikar (left) films two friends dancing the Chilean cueca, for the soundtrack of Kerry Candaele’s film about Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
bend and crush me comfully idyllic retreat than pletely.” Shall not “crush a yearning “heavenly me completely.” We have melancholy,” as one early critic had it. Here I found Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” is known not had many such testaments to heroism—a an artist who captured in as “Himno a la alegría” in Chile, near-defeated warrior music the full measure where protesters would sing it whose spirit is almost of our predicament as outside prison walls to dissidents during the Pinochet regime. spent, and yet remains human beings: all of us dedicated to creation inmust ultimately confront stead of destruction. the unavoidable fact that we will remain On that languorous afternoon drive up incomplete, fragmented, often existing the California coast, Beethoven had reached in chaotic and inscrutable surroundings, me where it hurt. So I listened—piano sobut with a desire to coherence, transcennatas, violin sonatas, cello sonatas, string dence even, and constantly on the move quartets, concertos, string trios, and the toward that inviting and deceptive home rest—and read Maynard Solomon, Lewis that recedes as we approach. In the Ninth, Lockwood, Esteban Buch on the politics of Beethoven mixes strong accents of despair the Ninth, Beethoven’s letters, reminiscencand disillusionment, even outright terror, es and sketches by friends, even wandering and balances these emotions with musiinto the weeds of formalist music criticism, cal acts of overcoming, noble and life-afwhere a musical savage like myself, a man firming artistic creation, and, at times, joy. who cannot read the music for “Hey, Jude” Within the anguish of his life and music much less the “Jupiter” Symphony, should there is Beethoven’s amor fati, the love not tread. As I say, Beethoven got me where of one’s fate—the love of his fate—and a it hurt. I had to find out more. And then I stoicism that accompanies acceptance. For had to make a film. example, when he played his own witness to the cosmic joke that was his increasing deafness, Beethoven wrote in his famous Global Impact 1802 Heiligenstdat Testament, “Perhaps I As I studied the Ninth and Beethoven shall get better, perhaps not; I am ready.” himself, I found that the symphony has And in the midst of this crisis he wrote had a profound global presence in the to Franz Gerhard Wegeler, “I will seize 186 years since its first performance, in Fate by the throat; it shall certainly not 1824. At Tiananmen Square in 1989, for
At Tiananmen Square in 1989, students played the Ninth over makeshift loudspeakers as troops came in to crush their democratic movement. 64
hundreds of times in December, sometimes with 10,000 people in the chorus. And Tokyo is the only city I know of where the Ninth can be chosen in a karaoke room. Akira Takauchi, a businessman, arranged for me to film a 5,000-performer Ninth at the Ryogoku Kokugikan Sumo Hall in Tokyo, with the New Japan Philharmonic. Amateur singers from every social stratum and of every age practice with senseis (master teachers) for six months before tackling Schiller’s German in a public sing-a-long. They stand together, united in their egalitarian sameness: a love for the Ninth. Singers carry photos of family members who have died during the year, or a list of commitments for the following twelve months. There is a mystery in the Japanese Daiku that I am trying to unravel
example, students played the Ninth over makeshift loudspeakers as the troops came in to crush their democratic movement. Feng Congde, one of the leaders, told me how he and his fellow protestors wanted the world to hear their message of hope for China, and how the Ninth summed up that hope. Congde borrowed car batteries from supporters who lived in the neighborhoods near the square, and powered up a pirate radio system to counter the droning music and speeches of the Chinese Communist Party. For dictatorships, the drone is the chosen timbre, at all times, under all circumstances. The Ninth in Japan is a rather different affair. Both a lucrative business and a seasonal celebration, the Ninth—known as Daiku or the Great Nine—is performed
In Valparaiso, Chile, a classically trained trumpet player from Cuba plays part of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony outside a restaurant/club.
in my work, and earnestness in its presentation that I have seen nowhere else. In Chile the “Ode to Joy” was used by women who sang the “Himno a la Alegria” (Hymn to Happiness) in the streets during the Pinochet years, sometimes marching to the walls of torture prisons where those trapped inside heard the music. The Chilean poet and musician Isabel Lipthay took us on a 2,000-mile journey down the coast of Chile to the Island of Chiloe. Unlike the films that most of us see in theaters, documentary films are generally not scripted, and therefore are full of surprises. A left turn instead of a right on a dirt road led us to the boat-building village of San Juan, a collection of two hundred residents where we met musicians who played traditional songs of the Chilean south. They were practicing for a town celebration the next morning, but joined us in a rousing version of the “Ode” with accordion, guitar, and drums. Every generation needs its own version of the Ninth. But who would have imagined that the British folk/punk singer Billy Bragg would provide a Ninth for our time? Asked to write a new libretto in English, and risking the wrath of the purists, Billy responded with typical élan, true to the sentiments of Schiller’s and Beethoven’s words but revised for a new century. The London Philharmonic performed the Beethoven Bragg Ninth, with Her Majesty the Queen in attendance, in 2008. Billy’s mum, even after 25 years still unsure about his line of Visit
http://www.followingtheninth.com Kerry Candaele (left) with cinematographer Nick Higgins, filming Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze in Vienna’s Secession Museum.
to see a clip from Kerry Candaele’s film Following the Ninth.
I don’t care if Beethoven was a virtuous man, did or did not frequent brothels, cheated his publishers, or mocked his colleagues.
work, let him know that she now viewed his career choice as honorable. She stood with pride and watched her son shake the hand of Queen Elizabeth II. Billy responded to the occasion with an arresting article for The Mail two days later: “How The Queen Charmed the Pants Off Me.” But I could see that Billy Bragg charmed the Queen as well. I was in the audience in London at the world premiere of what has come to be called the BBB9 (Beethoven Billy Bragg Ninth). I sat about twenty feet from the Royal Box. I couldn’t tell if she was tapping her foot, and she certainly was not rattling her jewelry in time. But I did notice Queen Elizabeth digging into the new libretto, her eyeglasses held steady with one hand as she read Billy’s English words in the tune of the “Ode”:
At Beethoven’s grave in Vienna (left to right): Chilean poet and musician Isabel Lipthay, filmmaker Kerry Candaele, and cinematographer Nick Higgins
What’s to be then, O my brother? Sister, what is in your heart? Tell me now the hopes you harbour What’s the task, and where to start? Though now speak ten million voices Every word is understood: Furnish every heart with joy and Banish all hatred for good!
She looked up from her program and nodded in the direction of the chorus. After the show she requested that Billy Bragg sign the new Ninth libretto. The world, it seemed for a moment, had turned upside down. In 2009 I arranged for the BBB9 to come to Los Angeles for its stateside debut. On an evening during which seven musical groups from across the ethnic and musical spectrum of the city performed their version of the Ninth, the Asia America Youth Orchestra played the BBB9 with chorus, and four cameras were there to capture the event. Not only had I followed the Ninth, I had brought it home. In documentary research, I traveled online as well, having numerous conversations, and a polemical exchange or two, with individuals from across the globe, most of them belonging to online classical or Beethoven chat groups. Many of these Beethoven fans are ambivalent about a project such as mine. Some insist that only a recorded or full live version of the Ninth is worthy of their time, and that paying attention to lesser orchestras, choruses, and soloists, as I have, is to neglect the important matter of listening to, and then putting in order, the top ten best performances and conductors. And not surprisingly, the divisions that we face in society at large show up among those who have embraced “the M a s t e r, ” as he is referred to often enough by online aficionados. Many of my
interlocutors want a Christian Ninth, and emphasize his (always non-denominational) glorification of God or the “almighty,” in the libretto or in letters to various individuals throughout his life. Others prefer a revolutionary Ninth, as if Beethoven were a premature Marxist. They note that the composer both supported the French Revolution and pushed against the reactionaries of the Habsburg monarchy, while at the same moment accepting aristocrats’ patronage, which created irresolvable psychological tensions, as one of his biographers has argued. Beethoven Unmasked
I have no singular, uncomplicated Beethoven or a singular, uncomplicated Ninth. I don’t care if he was a virtuous man, did or did not frequent brothels, cheated his publishers, or mocked his colleagues. I will never be convinced by Hitler’s view that the Ninth expressed some kind of Aryan or ultra-nationalist German genius (the Führer had the Ninth performed on his birthday). And I don’t believe that the apartheid regime of Ian Smith discovered the deeper meaning of Alle Menschen Werden Bruder (“All men will be brothers”) when it turned the “Ode to Joy” into the Rhodesian national anthem in 1974. (“Rise o Voices of Rhodesia.” Sure.) But I hold no brief for Beethoven as political revolutionary. That he believed in human connection across all borders—that the Ninth represents a utopian call to brotherhood, a belief in human progress, and perhaps even a nod to democracy during a time of political reaction—is fine enough for me. Beethoven had no use for bloated ideologies, strict programs for art or behavior, and no ethical fatwas blinded him to the messy reality of life. Beethoven was human—all too human. Artistic honesty was his ultimate commitment, music that embodied “a full and unfalsified history of humanity, fantastic yet real, splendid yet terrible,” as Austrian novelist Thomas Bernhard described intellectual freedom in his 1986 novel Extinction. I love Beethoven for his artistic honesty, for asserting that the heart and brain that created the world’s most profound music symphony
KERRY CANDAELE’s documentary Following the Ninth is scheduled for release in 2010. Among the documentaries he has produced are Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price (2005) and Iraq for Sale (2006).
Got an opinion? Join the discussion! What does Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony mean to you? Are audiences equally attracted by its message and its music?
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was not for sale. His patrons would pay, but Beethoven called the tune. Late in life Beethoven, even more intently than in the early and mid-period works, insisted on following his own commands, into a musical world of sublime tension and angular catharsis. Especially in his late string quartets and piano sonatas, one hears the fine lineaments of his distress, the quivering hand of a worker in music, tired but not worried by the fact that his strength is leaving him near the end of his days—the “governance of flesh by the spirit” breaking down, as French writer Romain Rolland described the process. I imagine him writing quickly because he knows his life’s time has drifted off tempo, allegro agitato, then to finale. As I sit in the Hawelka, I imagine Beethoven’s hands. Not those of Raphael, a loving display of long and tapered fingers, knowing in their crenellated age. Beethoven’s thick hands were made to scrawl, to be as erratic as his music was to the ears of some of his early critics. His hands were in rebellion against the precious musical world he had inherited, as rude and common as his clothes, impassioned and wild as he scribbled mysterious runes that would be deciphered for centuries to come. Tomorrow I will film Gustav Klimt’s Beethoven Ninth Frieze at Vienna’s Secession Museum. The next day I and Isabel Lipthay, the Chilean poet and musician, and our cinematographer, Nick Higgins, will visit Beethoven’s grave. I don’t think he will offer his blessing for the film. Nor do I think he will give me a wink about my endeavor, or pronounce on the best recording of the Ninth to date. I expect to hear nothing from him, for I have already heard everything from him.
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Patron ($600 – $999) AT&T Foundation, New York, NY Lois H. Allen, Columbus, OH Ms. Sandra Ashby, Jacksonville, FL Dr. Richard & Janet Barb, Indianapolis, IN Marie-Hélène Bernard, Boston, MA º§ Mr. Robert A. Birman, San Francisco, CA Nancy Blaugrund, Albuquerque, NM § John Burrows & Melinda Whiting Burrows, Philadelphia, PA Mr. Frank Byrne, Kansas City, MO § Mr. Chuck Cagle, Franklin, TN Katherine Carleton, Toronto, ON, CANADA § Ms. Katy Clark, New York, NY º§ Margarita L. Contreni, Brookston, IN Amy & Trey Devey º§ Susan Feder & Todd Gordon, New York, NY Robert Fitzpatrick, Philadelphia, PA Ryan Fleur & Laura Banchero, Memphis, TN †º§ Karen Gahl-Mills & Laurence Mills-Gahl, Syracuse, NY § The GE Foundation, Fairfield, CT Michael Gehret, Lawrenceville, NJ Mr. Kareem A. George, Detroit, MI º§ Maryellen Gleason & Kim Ohlemeyer, Phoenix, AZ Kathie & Ken Goode, Cincinnati, OH § Richard Gray, Chicago, IL Mr. André Gremillet, Newark, NJ Howard Herring, Miami Beach, FL Mr. Robert E. Hoelscher, Cedar City, UT Lauri & Paul Hogle, Atlanta, GA § Holly H. Hudak, Chicago, IL § Mrs. Laura Hyde, Tyler, TX Kendra Whitlock Ingram, Baltimore, MD § Ms. Helena Jackson, Duluth, MN James M. Johnson, New York, NY § Wendy Kelman Beverly Hills, CA Peter Kjome, Grand Rapids, MI JoAnne & Don Krause, Brookfield, WI Andrea Laguni & Dan Read, Los Angeles, CA David Loebel, Memphis, TN Hampton Mallory, Glenshaw, PA † Ms. Nancy March, Tucson, AZ Fred & Lois Margolin, Des Moines, IA † Virginia Cretella Mars, McLean, VA † Terri McDowell, Lookout Mountain, TN Mrs. Charlotte W. McNeel, Jackson, MS Steven Monder, Cincinnati, OH † Heather Moore, Dallas, TX J.L. Nave, III & Paul Cook, Fort Wayne, IN º§ Brenda Nienhouse, Spokane, WA º§ Brian A. Ritter, Rockford, IL William A. Ryberg, Zionsville, IN Roger Saydack & Elaine Bernat, Eugene, OR † Jo Ellen Saylor, Edina, MN Mr. Louis Scaglione, Philadelphia, PA § Grace & Jim Seitz, Naples, FL + Ms. Rita Shapiro, Washington, D.C. R. L. Sias, Oklahoma City, OK † Mr. Ari Solotoff, Portland, ME º§ Barbara J. Soroca, Stamford, CT § Ms. Nancy Stevens, Estes Park, CO Mrs. Melia P. Tourangeau, Grand Rapids, MI Jeff & Melissa Tsai, Pittsburgh, PA º§ Robert J. Wagner, Maplewood, NJ § Edward Walker, Oklahoma City, OK § Pamela J. Weaver, Greer, SC Gary & Diane West, Cincinnati, OH Paul R. Winberg, Eugene, OR Karen E. Wix, York, PA Carol Sue Wooten, Fort Smith, AR † Rebecca & David Worters, Raleigh, NC § Edward C. Yim, New York, NY º§ Anonymous (1) * Charter Member † Directors Council (former League Board) º Orchestra Management Fellowship Program Alumni • Donald Thulean Fund for Artistic Excellence + Includes Corporate Matching Gift ‡ In-Kind Donation § Includes Campaign Gift
helen m. thompson heritage society W. Curtis Livingston, co-chair, Nantucket, MA Nina C. Masek, co-chair, Sonoita, AZ Janet F. & Dr. Richard E. Barb Family Foundation, Indianapolis, IN Wayne S. Brown & Brenda E. Kee, Washington, DC John & Janet Canning, Westport, CT Richard & Kay Fredericks Cisek, North Oaks, MN Martha and Herman Copen Fund, Mt. Carmel, CT Myra Janco Daniels, Naples, FL Henry & Frances Fogel, Chicago, IL Susan Harris, Ph.D., Ann Arbor, MI Steve & Lou Mason, Dayton, OH Shirley D. McCrary, Mooresville, AL Lowell & Sonja Noteboom, Minnetonka, MN Charles & Barbara Olton, New York, NY Peter Pastreich, San Francisco, CA Rodger E. Pitcairn, Rockville, MD Robert & Barbara Rosoff, Glens Falls, NY Robert J. Wagner, Maplewood, NJ Tina Ward, Saint Louis, MO Mr. & Mrs. Albert K. Webster, New York, NY Anonymous (1)
national council The League of American Orchestras is grateful to its National Council members for their generous support. Dr. & Mrs. Malcolm McDougal Brown, co-chair, Winston-Salem, NC Richard & Kay Fredericks Cisek, co-chair, North Oaks, MN Nancy & Ellsworth Alvord, Jr., M.D., Seattle, WA Mr. David Bohnett, Beverly Hills, CA Mr. & Mrs. William G. Brown, Lake Forest, IL Trish Bryan, Cincinnati, OH John & Janet Canning, Westport, CT Nicky B. Carpenter, Wayzata, MN Melanie Clarke, Princeton, NJ Melissa Sage Fadim, Flossmoor, IL Henry & Frances Fogel, Chicago, IL John Gidwitz, New York, NY Ellen & Paul Gignilliat, Chicago, IL The Phoebe W. Haas Charitable Trust A as recommended by Carole Haas Gravagno, Philadelphia, PA Mrs. Joan W. Harris, Chicago, IL Mr. Cannon Y. Harvey, Denver, CO Mrs. Barnett C. Helzberg, Jr., Shawnee Mission, KS Atul R. Kanagat, Summit, NJ Catherine & John Koten, Barrington Hills, IL Lee Lamont, Longmont, CO The Lerner Foundation, Highland Heights, OH Peter B. Lewis, Coconut Grove, FL W. Curtis Livingston, Nantucket, MA Jim & Kay Mabie, Northfield, IL Lee R. Marks & Lisl Zach, Philadelphia, PA Shirley D. McCrary, Mooresville, AL Catherine & Peter Moye, Spokane, WA James B. & Ann V. Nicholson, Detroit, MI Lowell & Sonja Noteboom, Minnetonka, MN Charles & Barbara Olton, New York, NY Cathy & Bill Osborn, Chicago, IL Peter Pastreich, San Francisco, CA The Albert B. & Audrey G. Ratner Family Foundation, Lyndhurst, OH Patricia A. Richards, Salt Lake City, UT Mr. David Rockefeller, New York, NY Drs. John & Helen Schaefer, Tucson, AZ Connie Steensma & Rick Prins, New York, NY Mr. Mike S. Stude, Houston, TX Ms. Ginger B. Warner, Cincinnati, OH Mr. & Mrs. Albert K. Webster, New York, NY Adair & Dick White, Atlanta, GA Mr. Simon Yates, New York, NY
was brought up in the ’50s, when there was only one radio station, really—BBC Radio—so you could hear everything, from Beethoven’s Fifth to music hall to the Beatles. So I grew up with the taste that music was universal and not necessarily this ghettoized … this tribal ghetto. Although there are qualitative differences between music forms, and certainly skill differences, it’s basically the same building blocks. And so I approach music that way. I have a great deal of respect for classical music—and awe, sometimes. Nonetheless I see it as a language that I can communicate in, and certainly be reached by. I had a great experience last May when I worked with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and we put together a concert of my own compositions for orchestra. And we tried as far as possible to use the orchestra to its strengths, rather than, you know, what happens when pop singers work with orchestras—they just play whole notes behind ballads, and it’s
Ryan Donnell/Philadelphia Orchestra Association
Sting’s musical curiosity has led him to Dowland, Schumann, Schubert, and Bach. Here, the rock legend talks about one of his newest passions: the orchestra.
Sting performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra in January at the Academy of Music (Concertmaster David Kim is pictured at right).
kind of boring. The Chicago Symphony is a very rhythmic orchestra, so we wrote arrangements that we hope were challenging and fun for them to play. They certainly had a great time. I had a ball, standing in front of that band. Boy, can they blow! That experience really inspired me. In January with the Philadelphia Orchestra, I played more or less the same program. It’s a very exciting adventure for me. But I think it is a two-way commerce—that an orchestra exposed to my music may have an effect, but me being exposed to an orchestra may have an effect on the way I compose. I like playing with musicians who can improvise, but who can also—if it’s a classical player—be dyed-in-the-wool classicists. More and more classical players are familiar with pop music. They are familiar with its limitations, but also
sometimes pop music is quite sublime. They don’t have a prejudiced view about it. They are open to it. So I am always looking for people with flexible and open minds about music, because that’s what I think it should be, that’s where we have growth. For one of the songs on my 2009 recording If on a Winter’s Night, I chose a fairly simple Schubert song—“Der Leiermann” from Winterreise—and I interpreted it in my own way. I think it is important for me to say to the classical world that my job is not to impersonate a classical performer or a classical singer. It’s to interpret. I read music fairly well, I know what a C-sharp is, and I can read the value of the note. But I will not interpret that note the same way a trained, operatic bel canto tenor would. My technique is different. My emotional take on it is different. So, it’s not an impersonation. Hopefully, it’s a respectful interpretation. I enjoy performing in football stadiums as much as I enjoy performing in small clubs. I think there are different skill sets that are required. Your job in a large place is to make it an intimate event, so that the person at the top of the bleachers has some sort of connection with what you’re doing. In a small club, your intention is to make a memorable event out of something that is small and intimate. They involve different ways of looking at and presenting music, different ways of singing, different gestures, perhaps. But I like the challenge. For me, success is having the freedom to explore new territory and making that territory, as far as possible, my own. But that involves in the first instance putting yourself out of your comfort zone. So I’m certainly outside of my comfort zone with classical music, but I’m here to learn. To hear sound clips from Sting’s If on a Winter’s Night and Songs from the Labyrinth albums, go to the SymphonyOnline section of americanorchestras.org and click on Outposts. symphony
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