symphony September/October 2010 n
The Magazine of
The League of American Orchestras
Behind the Scenes with World Premieres, Co-Commissions, and Contemporary Classics Do Performing Arts Centers Matter? Mahler: Our Contemporary DIY Composing Experiments
CONCERT MUSIC… AND THE CHANCE TO SEE A CHAPLIN CLASSIC Join the symphony orchestras worldwide who have already discovered the hilarious box office hit a Chaplin film plus a Chaplin score can be... ...if Chicago, San Francisco, Baltimore, St Louis, Moscow, London and Kyoto can do it, then so can you ! “ I tried to compose elegant and romantic music to frame my comedies in contrast to the tramp character ” Charles Chaplin “ Like his famous character, his scores employ a perfect balance of comedy, pathos and skill ” Timothy Brock
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remiere-itis. That’s the term for what happens when artistic works are commissioned and produced with great fanfare—and then vanish. It’s not just an orchestral phenomenon: playwrights complain that the only thing harder than getting a first production of a new play is getting a second production. That’s certainly something composers are familiar with. Sure, not all new works are destined for immortality, but we won’t know that without a few hearings, perhaps a cycle of “premiere, perform, repeat.” This issue of Symphony looks at some of the ways new music is getting heard. In sometimes surprising collaborations, orchestras as well as classical-music fans are banding together to jointly commission new scores. A small number of recent works have made their way into the standard orchestral repertoire—what accounts for their popularity? And does popularity diminish artistic quality? Composer Jason Freeman writes about inviting the public into his creative process—an experiment in high-art crowd sourcing. (Regarding our coverline: yes, we’re aware that there are estimable programs called “wet ink” that promote the creation of new music. But the phrase was too good to pass up.) Hard to believe: there once was a time when performing arts centers didn’t exist. But the opening of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts 50 years ago not only catalyzed the economic growth and redevelopment of its Manhattan neighborhood, it sparked the creation of similar complexes nationwide. In a wide-ranging survey, Rebecca Winzenried examines the changing paradigm for performing arts centers—home to myriad orchestras—as they shift from sometimes isolated cynosures to community gathering places.
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T h e M a g a z i n e o f T h e L e a g u e o f Am e r i c a n O r c h e s t r a s
2 Prelude by Robert Sandla 6 The Score Orchestra news, moves, and events
18 In Memoriam Los Angeles Philharmonic impresario Ernest Fleischmann remembered 24 Currents Composer Jason Freeman on democratizing the creative process
Strength in Numbers Group commissions are bringing new music to the fore. by Chester Lane
14 At the League Jessica Balboni reports on a recent El Sistema symposium in Los Angeles.
Maximum Exposure How a handful of recent works have made their way into standard orchestral repertoire. by Ian VanderMeulen
Impact Statements As Lincoln Center celebrates its 50th anniversary, Rebecca Winzenried examines the way performing arts centers have shaped our cultural landscape.
Mahlerâ€™s Moment Happy Birthday, Gus! The Austrian composerâ€™s enduring legacy, a century and a half after his birth. by Paul Horsley
The Family Business Members of several prominent musical families weigh in on changes in the classical music industry. by Eileen Reynolds
63 Advertiser Index 66 Coda Christoph Eschenbach arrives at the National Symphony Orchestra. 2010 Premieres Listing Read our comprehensive list of World, U.S., and Canadian premieres.
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Throughout this issue, text marked like this indicates a link to websites and online resources.
With the ink still drying on recent commissions, composers and orchestra administrators seek ways to make sure that new works live on past their premieres. Cover image by Ashley Jouhar/Getty Images
SCORE News, moves, and events in the orchestra industry
Jeff Roffman Photography
Above: Performers At the League of American Orchestras’ National Conference, “It’s bow following the Time to Take on the Future,” held from June 15 to 19 in Atlanta Atlanta Symphony and hosted by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, more than Orchestra’s concert 1,000 professionals and volunteers from across the orchestra field of Verdi’s Requiem at discussed how orchestras need to change in the 21st century. This the League’s National year the stage was set by the May launch of Orchestra R/Evolution, Conference. Left: Doug McLennan the League’s new website made possible by the John S. and James moderates the L. Knight Foundation, which invited online discussion around the interactive opening key challenges and opportunities facing orchestras today. session of the “There was a different kind League’s Conference, a town hall-style of energy at Conference this meeting. year,” wrote League President and CEO Jesse Rosen on June 29 at Orchestra R/Evolution. “I was heartened by the readiness to engage with some of the really tough issues that would have been taboo only a few years ago. It was as if people’s experience has caught up with the messages about the need for change that have been in our system for a while.” In a Conference first, the opening session—an interactive town hall meeting in which the audience determined the agenda—was video-streamed live. The audience was doubled by online participation: on that day the R/Evolution blog site peaked at 1,580 visits, with as many people participating online as were present in the room. Before and during Conference, Orchestra R/Evolution registered 16,954 visits and 42,670 page views, with a total of 96 blog posts and 490 comments. Keynote speaker Ben Cameron, program director for the arts at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, challenged the field to define the unique values that orchestras provide to their communities; Russell Willis Taylor, president and CEO of National Arts Strategies, spoke
Jeff Roffman Photography
Jeff Roffman Photography
League President and CEO Jesse Rosen
about the many opportunities available to organizations that use today’s challenging economic environment to find a new way forward. Jesse Rosen noted that orchestras must go beyond the business of producing concerts to identify the impacts they create on audiences and communities. Musical highlights included a powerful rendition of the Verdi Requiem by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, led by Music Director Robert Spano; a concert featuring music by the Atlanta School of Composers; and an engaging performance by the Greenville County Young Artist Orchestra, led by Dr. Gary A. Robinson. Spano and ASO Director of Choruses Norman Mackenzie coled a conducting masterclass focusing on Mozart’s Requiem, with the ASO musicians and the lauded Atlanta Symphony Chamber Choir; Mackenzie also led other events with Chorus America, which held its own conference in Atlanta at the same time as the League Conference. The Gold Baton, the League’s highest honor, was presented to Ford Motor Company Fund and America’s smallerbudget orchestras for their vision and leadership in creating the Ford Made in America commissioning project. The Helen M. Thompson Award went to Joana Carneiro, music director of the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, in recognition of her commitment to expanding the orchestra’s community base and furthering its commitment to new music. ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming were presented to 27 orchestras for programs that challenge audiences, build repertoire, and increase interest in contemporary music. The League was also inducted into the 2009 American Classical Music Hall of Fame. To access video or transcripts of speeches, or to listen to audio transcripts of selected Conference sessions, go to www. americanorchestras.org/conference_2010. symphony
High Exchange Rates
Recent months have seen a flurry of American orchestra tours abroad and unusual visits to the U.S. by foreign orchestras. In April and May, the Philadelphia Orchestra took its first trip abroad under Chief Conductor Charles Dutoit, stopping in Korea, Japan, and Shanghai. The Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Long Yu, completed that exchange in July, joining the New York Philharmonic for one of its free NYC parks concerts. The Cleveland Orchestra and San Francisco Symphony were among the orchestras selected to appear at the Lucerne Festival in Switzerland, on August 26 and 28 and September 11 and 13, respectively. Looking ahead, the Philharmonic’s European tour in October also includes its first-ever trip to Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. And the storied Staatskapelle Dresden led by Daniel Harding will pay a rare visit to the United States in October and November, stopping in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., and the California cities of Davis, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Costa Mesa, and San Diego.
The American Composers Orchestra has announced the election of ASTRID BAUMGARDNER and ANNETTE McEVOY as co-chairs of its board of directors. Youth Orchestra of the Rockies (Fort Collins, Colo.) has appointed THOMAS BLOMSTER music director. has been appointed executive director of the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra in Sioux Falls, S.D.
JENNIFER L. BOOMGAARDEN
The Wenatchee Valley Symphony in central Washington State has named NIKOLAS CAOILE music director and conductor.
Florida’s Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra has announced the election of CANDICE J. CRAWFORD as board president. The Melrose (Mass.) Symphony Orchestra has appointed JESSI EISDORFER general manager. KATHY RADLEY is the orchestra’s new board president, and DEBI WALSH will serve as treasurer. RICHARD FRESHWATER has been named vice president and chief financial officer at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.
The New World Symphony (Miami Beach, Fla.) has appointed MICHAEL FRISCO director of marketing.
TOMASZ GOLKA has been appointed music director of California’s Riverside County Philharmonic.
Philadelphia Orchestra President and CEO Allison Vulgamore greets schoolchildren prior to an orchestra brass ensemble performance at America’s Square at the World Expo in Shanghai.
Spirit of 1810
Mexico celebrates the bicentennial of its independence this September, and to mark the occasion in August the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas has released its first commercial recording, Mi Alma Mexicana (“My Mexican Soul”). The two-CD set on the Sony label features POA Artistic Director Alondra de la Parra, a native of Mexico, leading the orchestra in a program performed earlier this year at New York’s Alice Tully Hall and Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. americanorchestras.org
Charleston Looks Ahead As South Carolina’s Charleston Symphony Orchestra prepares to rebuild after a difficult year in which it was forced to suspend operations, its community has devised an innovative way to gather input and advice on how best to move forward. From June 16 to 22, the College of Charleston, the Charleston Regional Alliance for the Arts, and the Coastal Community Foundation hosted community forums to discuss the orchestra’s future, and an online survey conducted from June 28 to July 15 allowed Charleston residents to weigh in on how to build a sustainable orchestra. In August, a steering committee made up of community leaders met to analyze the results and draft recommendations for the Charleston Symphony. A final version of the report will be available on the CSO’s website in September, and the orchestra will base its restructuring plan upon the community’s recommendations.
The Greater Akron Musical Association, parent organization of the Akron (Ohio) Symphony, has announced the election of TED GOOD as president. MARIA SENSI SELLNER has been named director of the Akron Symphony Chorus, and LEVI HAMMER assistant conductor of the Akron Symphony and music director of its affiliated youth group, the Akron Youth Symphony. The Philadelphia Orchestra has appointed JANICE senior director of marketing.
has been named executive vice president of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra has appointed MARCELO LEHNINGER and SEAN NEWHOUSE assistant conductors, effective with the 2010-11 season.
Pianist ANNE-MARIE McDERMOTT has been named to succeed EUGENIA ZUKERMAN as artistic director of Colorado’s Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival beginning with the 2011 season.
ALBERT MOEHRING has been named executive director of the Imperial Symphony Orchestra, based in Lakeland, Fla.
The Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra has appointed DAVID NISCHWITZ marketing manager. has been named vice president of sales and marketing at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.
The Acadiana Symphony Orchestra (Lafayette, La.) has named JENNY PAULSON-KRUEGER executive director. VIRGINIA STULLER is the orchestra’s new president. JEAN-JÉRÔME PEYTAVI has been appointed executive director of the New York City-based Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas.
Performers from a variety of cultural backgrounds, including First Nation, were featured in the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s Indigenous Festival, June 21-24.
Musical Chairs North Dakota’s Greater Grand Forks Symphony Orchestra has named ALEXANDER PLATT music director. has been appointed artistic director and conductor of the Paducah (Ky.) Symphony Orchestra, effective this fall.
The Lake Charles (La.) Symphony has appointed music director and conductor.
SCOTT REED has been named president of Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, Cal.
BENJAMIN ROUS has been appointed associate conductor of the Virginia Symphony, headquartered in Hampton Roads, Va.
The Cobb Symphony Orchestra (Kennesaw, Ga.) has named BOB SANNA executive director.
Keith Levit Photography
The Bangor Symphony Orchestra in Maine has appointed LUCAS RICHMAN music director and conductor.
The global village got a little bit closer in June when Canada’s Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra presented its second annual Indigenous Festival. The wide-ranging celebration included music and dance from First Nation performers, a WSO concert including Chinese composer and erhu virtuoso George Gao, intertribal drum songs by the traditional drum group Spirit Rising, Japanese and East Indian dancers, and more. “We’re merging Western, First National, and world cultures and instruments to create something new, something bigger,” says WSO Music Director Alexander Mickelthwate. The WSO gave the world premiere of Cree composer Andrew Balfour’s Manitou Sky, and opening night offered a cross-cultural interpretation of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring with dancers from Winnipeg’s Contemporary School of Dance and the Manitoba Aboriginal School of Dance.
has been named assistant conductor of the Harrisburg (Pa.) Symphony Orchestra and music director of the Harrisburg Youth Symphony. TARA SIMONCIC
The Ann Arbor (Mich.) Symphony Orchestra has appointed WENDY SMITH marketing director.
GEORGE STELLUTO has been named music director of the Peoria (Ill.) Symphony Orchestra.
TOM STITES has been appointed associate conductor of the Owensboro (Ky.) Symphony Orchestra and conductor of the Owensboro Symphony Youth Orchestra.
The Reading (Pa.) Symphony Orchestra has appointed JOE TACKETT executive director.
NYC Leadership Express
Ontario’s Niagara Symphony has named BRADLEY THACHUK music director designate and principal conductor, effective with the 2010-11 season. Symphony in C, based in Haddonfield, N.J., has appointed KRISHNA THIAGARAJAN president. DAVID A. TIERNO has been elected president of the Princeton (N.J.) Symphony Orchestra.
The Utah Symphony has named ANTHONY “TOBY” TOLOKAN vice president of artistic planning.
MATTHEW THOMAS TROY has been appointed education conductor for the Oklahoma City Philharmonic’s Discovery Family Series and Youth Educational Concert Series.
Soprano DAWN UPSHAW has been named music director of the 2011 Ojai Music Festival.
has been appointed dean of the School of Music at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.
The New West Symphony Association (Thousand Oaks, Cal.) has announced the appointment of JENNIFER ZOBELEIN as board president.
The Atlantic Symphony Orchestra, based in Hingham, Mass., has appointed RONALD G. VIGUE executive director. WADE WEAST
Aspiring leaders from eight orchestras flew to New York City this spring to participate in this year’s American Express Nonprofit Leadership Academy. Launched in 2008, the academy is a free week-long training program for 48 emerging leaders from community, environmental, international relief, and cultural organizations. Run in partnership with the Center for Creative Leadership, the program was opened for the first time this year to orchestras after Clockwise from left, aspiring orchestra American Express leaders Maylian Pak, Nick Adams, Rika asked the League of Dixon, Ahmad Mayes, Carolyn Nishon, and Alexis Alfaro, with Polly Kahn (second from American Orchestras to invite its members left) and Allison Ball (second from right) from the League of American Orchestras. to nominate staffers. symphony
Performances of brandnew works are often among the highlights of an orchestra season. Symphony surveyed ensembles of all sizes across the country and put together a list of world, U.S., and Canadian premieres taking place during the 2010-11 season. The complete list can be found under Symphony at americanorchestras. org. Listings for the six previous seasons are archived along with the current season, and all are searchable by both composer and orchestra name. Be sure to check out this important resource!
The New York Philharmonic’s spring performances of Le Grand Macabre, György Ligeti’s satirical “anti-opera opera,” were one of the 2009-10 season’s highlights, and not just for the music. In the week leading up to the three performances, the Philharmonic’s public relations department created short, humorous YouTube videos featuring Music Director Alan Gilbert and Nekrotzar, a mysterious figure in black (above). Other multimedia efforts included informal flip-cam interviews with performers and backstage crew and interviews with director Douglas Fitch and producer Edouard Getaz. In all, the Philharmonic produced three short YouTube episodes featuring Gilbert and the hooded figure (portrayed by a game but unnamed Philharmonic staffer). Episodes included “The Maestro,” “The Hero,” and “The Ice Cream Man”—the last with Gilbert’s hilarious, deadpan reaction to melted ice cream dribbling down Nekrotzar’s black cape.
You’re wrong about
Philadelphia Orchestra Signs Nézet-Séguin Conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin, a 35-year-old native of Montreal, has been tapped as the next music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, effective in the 2012-13 season. His seven-year contract calls for two subscription weeks as music director designate in 2010-11 and five in 2011-12, with increasing commitments culminating in a sixteenweek schedule during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons. Charles Dutoit will continue as chief conductor through 2011-12, then assume the title conductor laureate. Nézet-Séguin, who made his Philadelphia Orchestra debut in 2008 and led the Philadelphians again last December, was praised by President & CEO Allison Vulgamore for his “exceptional artistry and strong connection with our musicians.” Nézet-Séguin will continue to serve as music director of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, principal guest conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and artistic director of Montreal’s Orchestre Métropolitain.
Philadelphia Orchestra Music Director Designate Yannick NézetSéguin
Should human musicians be on the lookout for androids in their midst? In May, robot musicians took to the stage at the Walt Disney Modular Theater in Los Angeles with a performance by the California Institute of the Arts’ KarmetiK Machine Orchestra. Ajay Kapur, CalArts professor and director of music technology, created the ensemble by assembling modified versions of traditional “MahaDeviBot,” Indian instruments and robots programmed one of the KarmetiK to improvise along with humans. Kapur isn’t Machine Orchestra’s the only musician experimenting with artificial robot percussionists intelligence: on September 24, Tod Machover’s new opera Death and the Powers will receive its world premiere at l’Opéra de Monte-Carlo in Monaco. Solo singers will be accompanied by a chorus of “operabots,” an animated set made up of “Mei-Mei Bots”—pieces of furniture that morph and move—and a musical chandelier controlled remotely by electromagnets. Gil Rose will lead the Boston Modern Orchestra Project at the premiere; additional performances are set for Opera Boston at American Repertory Theater (Cambridge, Mass.) in March and by Chicago Opera Theater in April.
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Cleveland Women, 75 and Counting
Following a successful anniversary celebration, the Cleveland Women’s Orchestra looks ahead to another packed season. The ensemble, founded in 1935 by Cleveland Orchestra member Hyman Schandler, celebrated its 75th in April with a concert featuring the world premiere of Margaret Brouwer’s new Violin Concerto, with Jinjoo Cho as soloist and Music Director Robert L. Conquist conducting. The orchestra will open its 2010-11 season with an October 24 program at Cleveland’s historic Bohemian National Hall, performing a new work by Czech composer Edward Kresja featuring cellist Hannah Thomas-Hollands; the premiere of another Brouwer work, Path at Sunrise, Masses of Flowers; and music by Delibes, Dvorák, and Richard Strauss. Cleveland Women’s Orchestra Music Director Robert L. Conquist with composer Margaret Brouwer following the orchestra’s premiere of her Violin Concerto.
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Shoring up Schermerhorn
In May, torrential rains made the Nashville Symphony the orchestra world’s latest natural disaster victim. Flood waters rose to within six inches of Schermerhorn Symphony Center’s concert-hall floor, ruining two pianos and an organ console on the lower level, as well as electrical systems. The rebuilding process is now well underway. Assistance from FEMA and some $10 million in flood insurance will cover much of the estimated $42 million in repairs, but will leave the organization with a $10 million gap that must be filled through fundraising. Proceeds from the June 15 Naxos release Help Nashville Symphony Rebuild Its Home, featuring Michael Daugherty’s Metropolis Symphony and the Nashville Symphony led by Music Director Giancarlo Guerrero, will go toward reconstruction efforts. The orchestra has set alternate venues for its fall 2010 programs and plans to return to the Schermerhorn in January 2011.
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The organ console was one casualty of flooding at Schermerhorn Symphony Center in May.
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Morlot to Seattle in 2011-12 The Seattle Symphony has named French conductor Ludovic Morlot as music director to succeed Gerard Schwarz beginning in the 2011-12 season. His initial contract is for six years, with a minimum of eight weeks of concerts Ludovic Morlot in 2011-12 and at least thirteen in each of the remaining seasons. Schwarz, who has led the orchestra since 1985, will become conductor laureate after his final season in 2010-11. Morlot has conducted widely in Europe and the U.S., including recent engagements at the New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Tonhalle Orchestra, and Dresden Staatskapelle. From 2004 to 2007 he served as assistant conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and had previously spent two years with David Robertson as conductor in residence with France’s Orchestre National de Lyon. He and his family reside in Lyon and will make their future home in Seattle. symphony
Audition Dates for 2011 admission: November 12, 2010 February 4, 2011 February 18, 2011 March 4, 2011* * Scholarship deadline music.wayne.edu
Serge De Gracia
As part of New York City’s daylong Make Music New York festival, percussionist Doug Perkins performs Xenakis’s Perephassa as the audience listens from rowboats in Central Park’s lake.
Movable Music Feast
New Yorkers welcomed summer this year with some unusual outdoor performances: not just in parks, but in the streets and even floating on a lake. On June 21, six percussionists stationed on platforms around the lake in Central Park performed Iannis Xenakis’s Persephassa (1969) while audience members listened from rowboats in the center of the lake. The performance was part of the fourth annual Make Music New York festival, a daylong event that features nearly 1,000 free outdoor concerts throughout the city’s five boroughs. On the same day, Sing for Hope, a public-service organization founded by singers Camille Zamora and Monica Yunus, installed 60 “street pianos” in the city’s parks and public spaces as part of Play Me, I’m Yours, a worldwide public art project. Each piano was decorated and cared for by a “piano buddy” from one of 60 local organizations that received a donated piano at the conclusion of the two-week project.
Decorated upright pianos, like these on Lincoln Center’s plaza, were placed in all five boroughs of New York City this summer as part of Play Me, I’m Yours, a worldwide public art project.
American Conducting Fellows Step Out
Paying It Forward at 80
For his 80th birthday in May, Clifford Chapman of Shell Beach, California, chose to celebrate by asking friends to donate to the San Luis Obispo Symphony, of which he has been a subscriber and donor nearly as long as the orchestra has been in existence. (San Luis Obispo celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2010-11.) Donations as of mid-summer were $8,000, and money will support the orchestra’s Everyday Etudes educational program, which brings orchestra musicians into schools such as the C.L. Smith School, a Title I elementary school in San Luis Obispo. Pictured above: San Luis Obispo Symphony Music Education Director Andrea Stoner at a musical instrument petting zoo for kindergarteners at the C.L. Smith School. Below: Birthday benefactor Clifford Chapman (right), with partner Don Shidler, in front of their home in Shell Beach.
As the League of American Orchestras’ American Conducting Fellows Program comes to a close, recent participants step into new roles. Beginning music director posts this fall are Mei-Ann Chen at the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, Philip Mann at the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, and Brett Mitchell at Michigan’s Saginaw Bay Symphony Orchestra. Chen, who was recently named to a second music directorship at the Chicago Sinfonietta effective in 2011-12, served as American Conducting Fellow and assistant conductor at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in 2009-10 and with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra for the two previous seasons; Mann and Mitchell each spent three seasons as ACF/assistant conductor at the San Diego and Houston symphonies, respectively. Joseph F. Young starts this season as assistant conductor of the Phoenix Symphony after working as ACF at the Buffalo Philharmonic. At press time Tito Muñoz, the Cleveland Orchestra’s ACF/assistant conductor, was a finalist for music director posts at the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and Orchestre Symphonique et Lyrique de Nancy. The American Conducting Fellows Program is made possible by major grants from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Argosy Foundation, The Bruno Walter Memorial Foundation, Gabilan Foundation, and by the support of host orchestras. Chen
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The League of American Orchestras invites you to become a member of the Helen M. Thompson Heritage Society and join others in helping to ensure the future of America’s orchestras by making a legacy gift to the League. To learn more, call 646 822 4025 or visit americanorchestras.org. Helen M. Thompson (1908 – 1974), a passionate advocate for symphonic music and American orchestras, was the League’s first executive director. americanorchestras.org
El Sistema Looks North In May, the Los Angeles Philharmonic hosted Composing Change: YOLA and the El Sistema Movement, a national symposium held in partnership with El Sistema USA and the League of American Orchestras. Jessica Balboni, director of the League’s Orchestra Leadership Academy, reports from the front lines about the movement whose mission is social change through music education.
tart small, and work with a dedicated group of teachers,” said José Antonio Abreu, the founder of El Sistema. And start small he did, with a group of eleven students in a garage in Caracas in 1976. This is the story of how Abreu, visionary founder of Venezuela’s El Sistema music program for young people, began what has become the largest and most successful musiceducation program in history, serving more than a quarter million children in Venezuela each year. El Sistema’s origins were humble—but it blossomed into a musical and social phenomenon that has spread across the globe and is now inspiring the hearts and minds of Americans. Indeed, a number of programs directly inspired by El Sistema have started in several U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, Baltimore, Chicago, New York, and San Antonio, with more programs being created each year. There was a palpable feeling of excitement and curiosity as more than 200 music educators and leaders, representing 27 states and six countries, met in Frank Gehry’s beautifully designed Walt Disney Concert Hall on the first day of the national Composing Change symposium in Los Angeles, held from May 6 to 8. They had traveled many miles to explore what El Sistema might mean in their own communities and organizations. The
symposium was designed to celebrate the budding El Sistema movement in the U.S. and to provide participants with information on how to effectively adapt and apply El Sistema’s philosophy and practices to
There was a palpable feeling of excitement and curiosity as more than 200 music educators and leaders, representing 27 states and six countries, met on the first day of the symposium in Los Angeles. They had traveled many miles to explore what El Sistema might mean in their own communities and organizations. America’s cities. The event was hosted by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, in partnership with the League of American Orchestras and El Sistema USA (a support and advocacy network for people and organizations inspired by Venezuela’s music-education program, under the aegis of New England Conservatory). As Tony Brown, executive director of Heart of Los Angeles—an organization that provides underserved youth with programs in academics, arts, and athletics—said during the conference, “To see what is possible through El Sistema was so powerful. I’ve
gained even more passion for the movement. I came away understanding how much bigger the movement really is, and I see how powerful a group of educators can become in making life better for underserved youth and society as a whole.” The symposium featured a living case study of the LA Phil’s El Sistemainspired program called Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA), a major initiative to establish youth orchestra programs in underserved communities of LA; presentations by the inaugural class of Abreu Fellows (a one-year postgraduate certificate program at New England Conservatory for gifted musicians and educators interested in creating social change through music); panel sessions on such topics as musicians as educators, and the ways in which El Sistema is influencing youth orchestras in America; and roundtable discussions by local and national El Sistema leaders. Gustavo Dudamel, music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and an alumnus of the El Sistema program in his native Venezuela, conducted an open rehearsal with students of the YOLA EXPO Center Youth Orchestra on the stage of Walt Disney Concert Hall. One full day of the symposium took place at the EXPO Center, a beautiful stateof-the-art recreation and parks facility in South LA. The EXPO Center and The Harmony Project—an LA-based program that provides year-round music lessons and orchestra participation for at-risk youth—are partners with the LA Phil in the YOLA EXPO Center Youth Orchestra program. As one participant, Tanya Derksen, Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s director of education and outreach, said, “The symposium had a good mix of both the practical and philosophic. There was time devoted to exploring both the mechanics symphony
Sistema in another country. El Sistema at its core, writes Booth, “feels more like an inquiry than an institution,” and “a spirit of exploration appears in everything they do.” Booth writes:
Conductor Bruce Kiesling working with YOLA musicians at the Composing Change symposium in Los Angeles, May 2010
of El Sistema—its pedagogy, curriculum, and structure—as well as its core values and philosophy.” Eric Booth, senior advisor for El Sistema USA, walked participants through an important document called “The Fundamental Elements of El Sistema Venezuela Which Inform and Distinguish El Sistema-related Programs in the USA” (click here to read the document). This “white paper,” created by El Sistema USA, represents the synthesis to-date of a large number of observations of the workings of El Sistema in Venezuela. The document articulates some of the core values that infuse El Sistema, including:
• • •
Every human being has the right to a life of dignity and contribution. Every child can learn to experience and express music deeply and receive its many benefits. Overcoming poverty and adversity is best done by first strengthening the spirit, creating, as Abreu puts it, “an affluence of the spirit.” Effective education is based on love, approval, joy, and experience within a high-functioning, aspiring, nurturing community. Every child has limitless possibilities and the ability to strive for excellence. “Trust the young” informs every aspect of the work. Learning organizations never arrive but are always becoming—striving to
One of the symposium’s clear messages, articulated powerfully by Eric Booth in his article “El Sistema’s Open Secrets” (click here for the complete article), is that El Sistema is predicated on a set of ideals, and that any attempt to simply copy its pedagogy and curriculum—to focus solely on its mechanics—will not produce the transformative power of El
Answering this call, the LA Phil transformed its program into a laboratory throughout the symposium by featuring YOLA as a living case study, and by asking its partners and stakeholders to speak candidly about their experiences in creating a youth-orchestra program for underserved children in LA. As Timothy Gaffga, a music teacher at Mt. Vernon High School in the Fairfax County (Virginia) public school district, remarked, “YOLA—although in many ways in an ideal situation with access to facilities like the EXPO Center, the Disney Hall, and Gustavo Dudamel—had countless
Two preschool children from YOLA’s basic music program in a demonstration at the Composing Change symposium in Los Angeles, May 2010
include more students, greater musical excellence, better teaching. Thus, flexibility, experimentation, and risk-taking are inherent and desirable aspects of every program.
Your goal is not to create a program; your program is the laboratory in which everyone involved learns how to get better and accomplish the vision and mission in ever better ways. Every site is a lab in the U.S., and we must become effective as a network of learners if the inquiry is going to fulfill its potential as a movement. Similarly, professional development is not a special occasion for your faculty; if you wish to learn from the Venezuelan model, your entire organization is an embodiment of yearning to transform the lives of needy kids. Every class, every conversation, is a chance to learn.
Mathew Imaging Mathew Imaging
Gustavo Dudamel in rehearsal with Youth Orchestra Los Angeles at the Composing Change symposium, May 2010
Susan Siman—one of Gustavo Dudamel’s first teachers in Venezuela—coaches YOLA musicians at the Composing Change symposium.
challenges to overcome. To see the panel members express those conflicts in ideas and organizational trials, and to express their satisfaction in overcoming them, is a reminder that a successful program is the result of a tremendous struggle.” Other YOLA-related sessions introduced participants to musicians who teach in the program. One teaching artist, Ken Fisher, commented, “I learned that if you take away the obstacle of paying for an instrument and lesson, anyone can do it. It’s a right, not a privilege.” A panel of parents discussed what this program has meant to their children and families, and master teacher Susan Siman of Venezuela coached the violin section of the orchestra in preparation for their rehearsal with Gustavo Dudamel the next day. One panel session was devoted to examining lessons learned by the LA Phil and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra with their respective El Sistema-inspired programs, YOLA and OrchKids. The LA Phil’s Gretchen Nielsen (director of educational initiatives) and Daniel Berkowitz (manager, YOLA), and Dan Trahey, director of the BSO’s OrchKids, spoke about the specific challenges of expanding their work at new sites. They were joined by Tony Brown, executive director of Heart of Los Angeles, an organization partnering with the LA Phil to begin another youth orchestra in Lafayette Park. Other highlights included a session featuring the ten Abreu Fellows from the inaugural class of 2009-10, who provided moving and personal testimonies about their recent two-month residency in Venezuela that included study, observations, and teaching in núcleos (music centers) throughout the country. As Marcus Patteson, director of the U.K.-based community-arts program In Harmony Norwich, noted, “The presentation by the Abreu Fellows will stand out in my memory. Even though I was aware of El Sistema, the depth of study, the stories, the examples, and the passion, were all very moving, informative, and inspiring.” Another panel featured the executive directors and a music director from three youth orchestras that have either created
Abreu Fellows David Malek and Lorrie Heagy address symposium participants.
Links to Change Among many related articles and multimedia items of interest about El Sistema and the Composing Change symposium are the following:
an El Sistema-inspired program or are in the process of doing so—Verdugo Young Musicians Association (California), Youth Orchestras of San Antonio, and the San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory. Panelists talked about the ways in which these programs were helping to change their organizational missions and relationships to their communities. They reflected on how the values of both excellence and access had become more fully manifest in their orchestras as a result of their new programs. At a series of roundtable discussions on adapting El Sistema practices and philosophy in the U.S., participants talked about pedagogy; identifying and measuring social and musical outcomes; exploring the relationship between in- and after-school programs; communities and partnerships; and on-the-ground, nittygritty details of doing El Sistema-inspired work. Click here to read detailed notes from each session. A working dinner session hosted by El Sistema USA provided an opportunity to learn more about the history and current work of the organization; participants at the dinner were asked to respond to some proposed strategic goals and priorities for the coming years. Click here to read a summary of El Sistema USA’s strategic goals. The symposium ended with Gustavo Dudamel using humor and a light touch as he conducted and coached the children of YOLA EXPO Center Youth Orchestra on the Walt Disney Concert Hall stage before an invited audience of 2,000, which included many proud families of the children. The orchestra performed difficult excerpts from Mahler’s First Symphony, as well as a number of other pieces, and they ended with a joyous rendition of Chamambo, an El Sistema teaching-repertoire piece, performed in the quintessential tradition of the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, with the string players up on their feet, doing that swing! (Click here to see video of this performance.)
60 Minutes segment, May 16, 2010 Two-part article in Symphony by Abreu Fellows Katie Wyatt and Rebecca Levi. Read part one here and part two here. Ann Drinan’s four blog posts (here, here, here, and here) on the May 2010 “Composing Change” symposium in Los Angeles and her article on Baltimore’s OrchKids Program An article about the symposium in the May 21 Los Angeles Times
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Remembering Ernest Fleischmann
s American orchestras flourished and grew more complex in the last quarter of the 20th century, Ernest Fleischmann had his eyes firmly fixed on the music. Music was at the absolute center. Conversations with Ernest always began with “Have you heard so-and-so?” or “Wasn’t that the most magnificent performance you ever heard?” His musical knowledge was vast and deep, and his appetite for continued learning was boundless. His nose for young talent was legendary. But make no mistake: Ernest did not live in the art-for-arts-sake camp. He saw music in a dynamic relationship with community and society. He pioneered residencies, which he envisioned as both an instrument of community engagement and as a platform for artists to stretch their creativity. His festivals with the LA Phil forged lasting partnerships, created context for our art form, and introduced brilliant new artists and repertoire—20 years ahead of the field. And who but Ernest could charge architect Frank Gehry with the powerful, populist imperative to “democratize the concert experience” by building Disney Hall? Ernest believed in the community of orchestras and was active with the League throughout his career. He chaired the League’s standing committee on artistic affairs, a body that gave rise to an array of programs supporting conductors and composers, ensuring that the League nurtured the creative side of orchestras along with the managerial. americanorchestras.org
Ernest will be deeply missed. But his vision continues to shape orchestras in countless ways. I am grateful to the colleagues whose reminiscences below chronicle his role in their lives and help to convey the remarkable contributions he made to the growth of our field. —Jesse Rosen, president and CEO, League of American Orchestras He was a lion. He could roar. He could purr. He was my friend. The unique and blessed musical landscape we inhabit in 21st-century Los Angeles is in no small part made possible by this cultural giant of the 20th. His vision and impact extended with global embrace. From the day I arrived here in 1999, I have always maintained we stand upon his shoulders. His accomplishments and gifts will be celebrated far into the future. Ernest was my friend but he was much more. Together we were members of a very small club, a fellowship if you will—the handful of individuals who run the major symphony orchestras of the world. On countless days it was really only Ernest who could understand what the daily fates threw before me. It is probably just as well for both of us that those many conversations weren’t recorded. He was unfailingly supportive, generous, and dare I say, even proud of me. I was the fledgling 27-year-old artistic administrator of the San Francisco Symphony when my first EF encounter took place. The phone rang and there was the already legendary Fleischmann at the other end of the line. How flattering that
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Colleagues recall the towering impresario who led the Los Angeles Philharmonic from 1969 to 1998.
Ernest Fleischmann and Deborah Borda, former and current heads of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, at the orchestra’s October 2000 gala
he had called me directly! He wanted to change a tour program. I didn’t want to. When I didn’t soon acquiesce he growled something unrepeatable and hung up on me. Actually, it was the start of a beautiful relationship. Over the years that followed, whether I was in New York or Los Angeles, we spent hours dining, talking, and drinking wine, bonded by our passion for music and inventing its future, not to mention the crazy profession that the two of us live and breathe 24/7. It was “our” way of life. In the coming years so much about Ernest will be said, left unsaid, thought, imagined. Here is my imagining. He was the Prospero of our lives. A wizard, a sorcerer for music who had learned the magic of the art and used his great powers to protect, terrify, control, and shape. When cast adrift on the remote island of Los Angeles he built a kingdom. He ruled, he loved, he controlled, he inspired—he was the magician. But now the time has come, as it did for Prospero, for him to drown his books and remove his magical presence. In his final speech Prospero de-
scribes the loss of his magic and his hopes for the future. I end my tribute to Ernest with Prospero’s words: But release me from my bands With the help of your good hands: Gentle breath of yours my sails Must fill, or else my project fails, Which was to please. Now I want Spirits to enforce, art to enchant….
Bon voyage, Ernest… —Deborah Borda, President and CEO, Los Angeles Philharmonic [excerpted from remarks delivered at Walt Disney Concert Hall on June 24]
It’s hard to imagine the League or American orchestras without Ernest Fleischmann as a major player over the past 40 years. His impact on Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Philharmonic was staggering, but his ideas, based in an immeasurable love of music, influenced orchestras everywhere. Thankfully, American orchestras will continue to be guided by the generations of gifted musicians and managers he inspired and mentored along the way. I first heard about Ernest from Helen Thompson, who led the League from its inception until 1970. A new orchestra manager, I had gone to see Helen before heading off to my first League conference. She told me to pay attention to Ernest. Ernest had already made his mark, calling for a revolution in American orchestras that would cause boards to vest professional managers with full authority and responsibility for their orchestras’ success. A decade later, when I was CEO of the League, Ernest was still promoting revolution, declaring the symphony orchestra dead and calling for a new structure to support a community of musicians. During his years as a member of the League’s board, Ernest questioned and challenged and sometimes harrumphed, but once he signed on to an idea he became its strongest supporter. He was a great leader for the League’s artistic programs, a master of public advocacy, and a visionary who raised the level of any discussion in which he took part. I am especially grateful to Ernest for
During a session at a League of American Orchestras Conference, Ernest Fleischmann speaks with composer John Adams.
connecting the League to an international community of orchestras. In the early 1980s, defying a rule that limited the number of concerts by non-European Union orchestras in central London, Ernest started a controversy that happily if not deliberately led to the formation of the International Alliance of Orchestra Associations. Ernest talked about deriving profound joy and life-enhancing satisfaction from his life in music. That joy, that sheer delight in his work, is what I will always remember. —Catherine French, principal of the Catherine French Group in Washington, D.C., was president and CEO of the American Symphony Orchestra League (now the League of American Orchestras) from 1980 to 1996.
I met Ernest Fleischmann in 1969 when he arrived from England to become executive director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He invited me to dinner at his house and asked me to consider designing a new shell for the Hollywood Bowl. As we all knew, the existing rainbow shape was functionally a disaster: while it was iconic and wellknown, it focused the sound on stage and made it impossible for the musicians to hear each other. It was early in my career and I said I would love to do it. I inquired about what kind of financial arrangements
we could make. He said there were no financial arrangements and that there was no money to hire me, but it would be a great honor for me to do it. I remember saying to him that this was all very wonderful, but perhaps there are practicing architects in Los Angeles who are already involved with the cultural institutions and who have benefited from work from those institutions, and maybe they would be willing or able to do this project pro bono, and I left. I was disappointed. This was in September. In November, Ernest called me and said he had talked to all the other architects and they weren’t interested in this project, so he suggested we get together and talk about what I would need to do it. That was in November, so we had lost a couple of months and the building was to open in May. That was my introduction to Ernest. We did a very inexpensive design that worked, using cardboard tubes, and it created a buzz. From then on, Ernest consulted with me on all the iterations of the Bowl. During that period he invited me to meet all the musicians who came to Los Angeles. In hindsight, he was teaching me about music: how to appreciate it, how to understand it, and as an architect, how to make places for it. So in a way, he was preparing me for the big one—the Walt Disney Concert Hall—even though none of us had any premonitions that anything symphony
like that was going to happen. The Ernest I knew and loved was cantankerous, sometimes difficult, and very demanding. I loved him a lot and miss him very much. —Frank Gehry, architect, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles
I first became aware of Ernest Fleischmann in 1966 in Istanbul, where I was a staff member on tour with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. It was my first orchestra job and our concert promoter was full of stories about this brilliant, visionary, capable, and difficult manager of the London Symphony Orchestra, which had just been in Istanbul. When Ernest was hired in 1969 as manager of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, I recall hearing exactly the same descriptions about him. Over the next 35 years, our paths crossed frequently and I saw firsthand that
Ernest lived up completely to his reputation. It also became crystal clear that he was deeply fond of and knowledgeable about music. Our best discussions were about music, conductors, orchestras, composers, and artists. We dissected programs, debated individual pieces, and sparred over the future of orchestras. But beneath it all, Ernest understood that for an orchestra to be successful, music had to be at the very center of its psyche. And Ernest practiced supremely what he preached. The results are widely evident in the renown of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the success of the Hollywood Bowl, the impact of Disney Hall, the brilliance of choices in music directors—Esa-Pekka Salonen, as well as Gustavo Dudamel, whom he encouraged Deborah Borda to pursue as Salonen’s successor—and the ongoing tradition of the Ojai Music Festival, where he was artistic director from 1998 to 2003.
Ernest Fleischmann was quite simply a force for music. He fought for institutions he believed in; he worked tirelessly; he cajoled; he lectured; he charmed; he bullied; he traveled; he loved great wine and wonderful food. But no matter what relationship one had with him—and we all experienced an amazing range of relationships—at his core, he believed fervently in music, and everything he did was centered around that purpose. For that profound lesson, I am deeply and lovingly in his debt. —Thomas W. Morris, artistic director, Ojai Music Festival and Spring for Music Festival; former executive director, Cleveland Orchestra (1987-2004)
How is it that the author of the famous 1987 speech “The Orchestra is Dead” managed the liveliest orchestra in America? Ernest Fleischmann was inimitable in the true sense of the word—
January 5–14, 2011 New York City
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—Peter Pastreich, executive director, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra; former executive director, San Francisco Symphony (1978-99)
Ernest came backstage after I conducted a performance of Mahler’s Third Symphony in London 27 years ago. Everyone was making this big deal about this Ernest Fleischmann, whom I had never heard of. He walked up to me and didn’t mince words. He offered me
the job at the Los Angeles Philharmonic, without authorization from the board or anything. It was incredible. I think Ernest Fleischmann was one of the most visionary thinkers, by any standards, of the postwar era. It will take many years for us to truly assess his importance. The Los Angeles Philharmonic as an Peter Pastreich and Ernest Fleischmann in Hannover, Germany, institution would not be 2004 what it is now without him acting as a catalyst, provocateur, impresario, and unerring I first met Ernest in 1965 when he was radar of new talent. And the fact that European director of CBS Masterworks Disney Hall is there is because of Ernest. and I a young assistant manager of the This utopian idea of having a concert hall New York Philharmonic. The Philhardowntown was not exactly practical, but monic was on tour with Leonard Bernby combining pure fantasy with his vistein—who, like the Philharmonic, had sion, Ernest proved that poetic ideas have an exclusive recording contract with CBS. more potential than practical ones. DurOn behalf of “his” two artists, Ernest was ing the darkest days, when everyone said indefatigable, creating reams of publicity the hall was dead in the water, against all for his clients and his company. logic and probability, he just stubbornly We became professional colleagues pressed on. during his tenure as leader of the Los When I was music director of the LA Angeles Philharmonic and I of the New Phil, I told the Los Angeles Times that York Philharmonic. I recall one occasion people confused Ernest’s passion with where a group of orchestra managers met egomania. But he was more interested in for dinner in the Napa Valley. The debate music than himself. over the choice of wines between Ernest —Esa-Pekka Salonen, former music and Peter Pastreich, then manager of the director, Los Angeles Philharmonic (1992San Francisco Symphony, was like a medieval jousting match and it brought tears 2009) [excerpted from Claudia Luther’s of laughter to our eyes. June 15 obituary and Mark Swed’s June 17 Ernest’s absolute certainty was his interview with Salonen, both published in hallmark, a trait that made him a fearthe Los Angeles Times] less advocate and a supremely effective booster. Perhaps it was his training as a To say Ernest was larger conductor; these masters of the podium than life is the grossest of understateuniverse don’t lack in self-confidence and ments! their opinions rarely brook dispute. In He was possessed by a maniacal devoErnest, this trait pervaded his every uttertion to “his” artists: conductors, soloists, ance, to the powerful benefit of all those composers, orchestras, and their musihe smiled upon. cians and concert halls. If he felt that a particular music director, performer, —Albert K. “Nick” Webster, board ensemble, or venue was first-class, he member, League of American Orchestras; assumed complete consensus. After all, it consultant; former managing director was his opinion, and often just by voicing and executive vice president, it forcefully he made it so. New York Philharmonic (1978-91) Photo courtesy of Peter Pastreich
unique, and too complicated to be imitated. I would start my description of his approach to orchestra management with the warning, “Don’t try this at home.” He could read scores, speak numerous languages, and recognize musical talent instantly. He knew European and American music, literature, and wine, and counted great musicians, artists, architects, acousticians, chefs, and movie stars among his friends. At ease with the rich and famous, he said what he thought without worrying about whom he might offend. He was a visionary and a provocateur— incredibly tenacious when he wanted something for his orchestra—and he said the most outrageous things with utmost conviction. He was sometimes wrong, but he was always right about the things that counted. Being a star, as Ernest was, is not the most likely route to success as an American orchestra manager—we generally expect the conductor, the musicians, the soloists, and board leadership to be the stars of our shows. Ernest’s enormous success came not only because Los Angeles, more than any other city, loves stars, but because he delivered the goods. The Los Angeles Philharmonic was transformed by Ernest Fleischmann, and stands today as a model for American orchestras. That transformation was an inspiration to me, as were his unfailingly high standards, his total commitment to his orchestra, his passion for music, and his love of those who composed and performed it to his very high standards. His passing leaves an enormous empty space in my world, one that is not likely ever to be filled.
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DIY Scores What happens when you issue an open invitation to audiences to collaborate on a musical composition? by Jason Freeman
s a composer, I not only think about the content of my music; I also think about its context. In particular, I am concerned that so few of us share in the experience of creating music. According to a recent National Endowment for the Arts survey, only 12.6 percent of American adults play a musical instrument even once per year. I suspect that the percentage who compose is even smaller. In more popular musical genres, technology is already starting to blur the divide between consumers and creators with things like hip-hop remix contests, shared playlists at social-media sites, mobilephone apps, and rock-band videogames. These applications have all been successful because they invite anyone, regardless of their background in music, to socially engage with it and, in various ways, to be musically creative. Classical music—even contemporary and experimental classical music—has not embraced these collaborative technologies as much as many other genres. There are good reasons for this, including limited budgets, niche audiences, and centuriesold music and instruments that are tricky to adapt to new contexts. Yet as classical music ensembles struggle to attract a new generation of concertgoers, these kinds of techniques seem to me an important strategy for reaching younger audiences and inviting them to engage intensely with classical music on their own terms. In many of my recent works, I have explored collaborative, creative environ-
ments in the context of classical music, utilizing new technologies to invite audiences to help shape a musical performance. For example, in Glimmer (2005), a commission for the American Composers Orchestra, the audience waves light sticks back and forth to influence the music in real time during each performance. Their movements are tracked by video cameras and computer vision software. The soft-
I wanted to extend the creative decision-making process to everyone. I wanted to show audiences how the music was constructed, to invite them to explore the work’s structure and content. ware, in turn, changes the colors of special music-stand lights to tell each musician which notes to play. The audience and the orchestra are divided into groups that compete throughout the performance for influence over the music. In concert, audiences get creative, gesturing and talking to each other to coordinate their movements, and they get excited, screaming and shouting as they see the results of the group competition. The Project
Following from my experiences with Glimmer and other participatory works, I wrote Piano Etudes (2009) for New York pianist Jenny Lin, exploring how to engage audiences on the internet and to incorporate their online activities into performance. The four short piano etudes
borrow from the idea of “open form” scores, in which a series of pre-composed musical fragments are rearranged in each performance. When composers such as Earle Brown and Karlheinz Stockhausen used this concept, performers or conductors chose the order of the fragments, and the process remained a mystery to most of the audience. In Piano Etudes, I wanted to extend the creative decision-making process to everyone. I wanted to show audiences how the piece was constructed, to invite them to explore the work’s structure and content, to use their ideas in live performances of the work, and by doing so, to encourage them to listen closely and think about the music differently. I notated each etude as a set of musical fragments connected by arrows. The structure is reminiscent of a choose-yourown-adventure novel, of a flow chart, or of the hyperlinked structure of the internet. Each version of the piece simply follows the arrows to create a unique path through the score. The possibilities are almost infinite. The project’s website, which I developed in collaboration with my student Akito Van Troyer, presents the fragments in graphical notation and invites anyone to remix them. Web visitors can then symphony
My initial post on The Score provoked a heated debate among readers of the blog. Several readers fiercely criticized the project for creating a dumbed-down, overly restrictive “paint by numbers” approach to music that made it impossible for participants to take risks, face challenges, express themselves, and truly compose. Some readers further argued that the experience gave the false illusion that no study or talent was necessary in order to be a composer. Simply calling this exercise an act of composition, they argued, was insulting to real composers. Other readers responded to these criticisms by focusing on the project’s intent to “open ears and imaginations” through the experience of composing, not to disamericanorchestras.org
Courtesy Jason Freeman
download their unique versions as audio files or printable musical scores, share them on social networks, and submit them to an online gallery. In ten concert performances of the piece, pianists have adopted a variety of performance strategies. Some have created a version of the piece live on stage, navigating the open score as they perform. Others have used the website to create and print their own version in advance. And some have performed versions from the online gallery created by website visitors. In April 2010, The New York Times invited me to incorporate Piano Etudes into a special series for The Score, its blog on contemporary music. I invited readers to create and submit their own remixes of the etudes. I then selected my favorite versions to be recorded by Jenny Lin. The recordings, along with comments from myself and from the co-composers, were subsequently posted to the blog. The series was an opportunity to reach (and collaborate with) new audiences on a scale that would have been difficult otherwise. The posts drew substantial traffic to the project website, and hundreds of readers shared their own versions online. I was interested to see who would participate, what they would create, and how they would respond to this unusual context for experiencing classical music.
Jason Freeman’s flowchart for “Chasing Squirrels,” a movement from his Piano Etudes, shows routes to a do-it-yourself composition meant to be written by amateurs.
cover the next great composer. The point, they argued, was not to make everyone a composer but to give everyone the experience of composing, and through that, to develop a new audience of “producerconsumers” who respect the craft of composition all the more for having glimpsed it firsthand. Many readers also noted that some of the strongest criticisms came from established musicians, who,
My initial post on The Score provoked a heated debate among readers of the blog. Simply calling this exercise an act of composition, some readers argued, was insulting to real composers. they argued, had the most to fear by any democratization of music-making. These discussions ultimately came down to broader, more fundamental questions about music and composition in our culture. Debates about the degree to which a new musical composition may incorporate existing material point to larger discussions about the aesthetic implications of sampling, mash-up, and DJ techniques. Questions about musical tools for nonexperts lead to broader explorations of the democratization of music composition, production, and dissemination through technology, and of the relationship between these new tools and traditional music education. And disagreements over the relative importance of a musical prod-
uct and the process by which it is created connect to long-running conversations about many experimental genres of music and art. The passion readers expressed about these topics surprised me, as I had not realized that the issues remained so controversial. As a professor in the School of Music at Georgia Tech, I usually work with students from engineering and computer science. Their musical background is often informal: they may play guitar, for instance, but they may not read music notation. In many of the courses I teach, technology serves as a pathway to musical creativity, and pre-existing material serves as a useful launching point. Every year, I see students without a traditional training in composition and theory create compelling music. The Results
While the reader comments to my blog posts were fascinating, I was ultimately most interested in the music those readers created through the website. I enjoyed listening to many of the submissions, particularly to those that organized the fragments in ways I found surprising and unexpected. One of my favorites, created by Evan Hill, made extensive use of rests in the pianist’s left hand, beginning with silence, then short bursts of notes, and finally a continuous line as the music approached its climax. This approach was different from all of the other remixes of this etude I had heard and from anything I had imagined. I also found it quite musically effective.
While the collaborative process of my Piano Etudes may seem quite distant from the world of orchestras, I think it raises important questions for them, particularly with how orchestras engage audiences online. I would challenge orchestras to open up their artistic processes to audiences. By inviting audiences to contribute artistically, orchestras give their audiences a more personal stake in their activities. music on my own, but it does seem like it’s akin to my own songs somehow.” As I listened to all of the reader submissions, I did notice a trend: brevity. Most of the submissions were a minute or less in length. In contrast, when pianists create their own versions of the etudes in performance, these tend to be three or four minutes each. I suspect two reasons behind such short submissions. First, the web-based editing interface is limited; it lacks even copyand-paste functionality. It can be tedious and time-consuming to create longer remixes without such features. Second, attention spans on the internet tend to be short, and most participants are unlikely to spend more than a few minutes building their version (though some told me they spent hours). Reconciling the short
Courtesy Jason Freeman
In my email correspondence with Hill, I learned that he was a songwriter and played in a band. It made sense to me that one of my favorite submissions came from an experienced musician, and that his experience writing music likely played a role in the success of his remix. But I was perplexed as to why a musician who already writes his own music would want to participate in this project at all. Hill explained that he was interested in exploring an unfamiliar musical genre. He wrote: “I never would have created this piece of
Readers of “The Score,” a New York Times blog, were invited to use interactive flowcharts at a specially constructed website (right) to compose a movement from Jason Freeman’s Piano Etudes.
time scale of internet-based experiences with the longer time scale of most classical music experiences is an ongoing challenge. Looking back over both the reader comments and the musical results, I also question the wisdom of the contest-style format for involving readers. (The contest format was not originally a part of the design of Piano Etudes.) The format was successful in motivating readers to create and share remixes, and it provided a useful structure through which to connect reader contributions to the work of a professional pianist and to document the results on the blog. But the contest format placed greater emphasis on the products readers created and less on their experience in creating them. The fact that some of the “winners” turned out to be trained musicians may also discourage those with less experience from participating in the future. Based on these and other experiences, I continue to evaluate the relative merits of several frameworks through which to incorporate online contributions into performances by professional musicians. Final Thoughts
Each time I invite audiences to collaborate to create music with me, I am amazed and surprised by what transpires. Every moment of music may not be perfect, but that is not the point. It is fun and interesting to create, and much of it inspires me, taking musical ideas in directions I had never considered and renewing my own creativity and energy. While Piano Etudes may seem quite distant from the world of orchestras, I do think it raises important questions for them, particularly with how orchestras engage their audiences online. As
I peruse orchestra websites, Twitter accounts, and Facebook pages, I see a wealth of information: audio and video clips, program notes, press releases, activity updates. I do not, however, see many opportunities for audiences to interact meaningfully with orchestras. People can often post comments or enter contests, but these are typically fielded by administrative rather than artistic staff. In a way, this online experience mimics the classical music concert itself, where music flows from the orchestra out to the audience but little flows back in the other direction. Just as I have opened up my compositional process to others in Piano Etudes, I would challenge orchestras to open up their artistic processes to audiences. Soliciting input on programming decisions is an easy first step, and there are many recent examples: the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra’s Project 440 invites open comments on nominees for new commissions; the YouTube Symphony Orchestra used web-based voting to help select its members; and at outdoor summer concerts, many orchestras select their encores via a text-message vote. By inviting audiences to contribute and demonstrating that their contributions are valued, orchestras give their audiences a more personal stake in their activities—and through that stake, perhaps greater incentive to attend concerts and support the ensemble. JASON FREEMAN has written music for the American Composers Orchestra and created internet art for Rhizome and Turbulence, and he recently completed a Music Alive residency with the South Florida Youth Symphony. He lives in Atlanta, where he is an assistant professor at the Center for Music Technology at Georgia Tech. His website is jasonfreeman.net.
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Numbe Collaborative commissioning projects are bringing new music 28
Robert Spano conducts the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and eighth blackbird in Jennifer Higdon’s On a Wire at the 2010 League of American Orchestras Conference. The work was commissioned by an eight-orchestra consortium led by the ASO, which premiered it on June 3, 2010.
by Chester Lane
to the fore in communities large and small. americanorchestras.org
ast June at the Robert W. Woodruff Arts Center, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra subscribers heard the first performances of On a Wire, an extraordinary new concerto by Jennifer Higdon featuring the six-member instrumental ensemble known as eighth blackbird. Repeated two weeks later at the League of American Orchestras National Conference, as part of a special concert featuring Higdon and three other “Atlanta School” composers, On a Wire had been commissioned jointly by the ASO and multiple partners: the Cleveland Orchestra; the Akron, Cincinnati, Toronto, and West Michigan symphony orchestras; the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts with the Vermont Symphony Orchestra; and California’s Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music. Cabrillo introduced the work to its audience on August 6, and in the coming months On a Wire will enjoy first performances by the other members of this broad consortium of new-music commissioners. Also in June, New York City Ballet audiences at Lincoln Center had the unusual experience of hearing a violin concerto performed in the pit. Suspended above the dancers in Mirage, a new piece of choreography by NYCB Ballet Master in Chief Peter Martins, was a graceful, continually morphing trussed structure designed by architect Santiago Calatrava. Accompany
Michael J. Lutch
Featuring the ensemble Time for Three, Chris Brubeck’s Travels in Time for Three was commissioned by a consortium led by Ohio’s Youngstown Symphony Orchestra, which premiered the work last March. Time for Three is pictured here with the Boston Pops, which gave the second performance on June 17.
ing this visual spectacle was Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Violin Concerto, with Salonen on the podium and violinist Leila Josefo wicz reprising a work they’d premiered with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in April 2009 as part of Salonen’s farewell concerts as that orchestra’s music director. Martins had requested a new piece from Salonen for his company’s “Architecture of Dance” festival. Learning that Salonen was already at work on a violin concerto commissioned by the LA Phil and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Martins signed up NYCB as a third commissioner, then fitted his choreography to a recording of the work made at the time of the world premiere. The Chicago Symphony’s first performances of the Violin Concerto, again with Josefowicz as soloist and Salonen conducting, are scheduled for this season, on February 23, 24 and 26, 2011. A third new concerto resulting from a collaborative commission is Chris Brubeck’s Travels in Time for Three. Aptly named for the peripatetic ensemble that inspired it, Time for Three (violinists
The Higdon, Salonen, and Brubeck Nicolas Kendall and Zach DePue, bassconcertos are all the result of musical orist Ranaan Meyer), Travels is the product ganizations banding together to pool their of an eight-way consortium no less geofinancial resources and ensure perforgraphically broad and eclectic than the one mances in multiple venues. Collectively that commissioned Higdon’s On a Wire. they are bringing new music to nineteen The Brubeck work originated with Ohio’s different North AmeriYoungstown Symph can communities, each ony Orchestra, as the As a cooperative performance a “prebrainchild of YSO venture in the miere” in its own right. Music Director Rancommissioning, But collaborative comdall Craig Fleischer, performance, and missioning isn’t just and had its world prepromotion of new music, happening as an act of miere in Youngstown Ford Made in America teamwork among oron March 20 of this was an invaluable chestras. It’s also allowyear. As the lead orcheslearning experience ing individual orchestras tra in the consortium, for small-budget to fund new music from Youngstown brought orchestras. sources within their own together the Anchorfamily of subscribers and age Symphony (where single-ticket buyers. Significantly, two Fleischer holds another music directorof the smaller-budget orchestras in the ship), the Boston Pops, the Colorado Muconsortium that commissioned Brubeck’s sic Festival, the Indianapolis Symphony Travels—Anchorage ($1.2 million) and Orchestra, Tennessee’s IRIS Orchestra, Youngstown ($2.5 million)—had collected the Portland Symphony Orchestra in their share of the funds through “consorMaine, and the Wichita Symphony Ortia” of their own: commissioning clubs chestra in Kansas. symphony
that allow audience members to invest in the creation of new music by contributing modest amounts from their personal pocketbooks. Collaboratively commissioned works that appear in Symphony’s 2010-11 list of world, U.S., and Canadian premieres— now online—include a multi-orchestra tribute to former League of American Orchestras President and CEO Henry Fogel by Osvaldo Golijov (world premiere by the Memphis Symphony Orchestra on October 16); a work by British composer Thomas Adès (first performance scheduled for January 26 by the New World Symphony); works by Lowell Liebermann and Avner Dorman commissioned through Magnum Opus—a project administered by Meet The Composer—that are scheduled for November premieres by the Virginia Symphony Orchestra and California’s Marin Symphony, respectively; Higdon’s On a Wire, whose Canadian premiere will be presented on March 10 by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra; and, on May 14, the world premiere of a work for Brazilian vocalist Luciana Souza and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra by LACO Composer in Residence Derek Bermel—the tenth annual commission to be funded by the orchestra’s Sound Investment commissioning club.
for the Arts, The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trusts, The Amphion Foundation, JPMorgan Chase, and Argosy Foundation Contemporary Music Fund. Nearly all of the Round II orchestras have now performed the Schwantner work, many of them surrounding the event with educational and community engagement activities built into the program. Still to come are performances by Kentucky’s Paducah Symphony Orchestra (October 2) and the Pioneer Valley Symphony in western Massachusetts (October 23). Ford Made in America allowed orchestras with limited financial resources to bring to their communities new music by internationally recognized composers that would otherwise have been beyond
their reach. As a cooperative venture in the commissioning, performance, and promotion of new music, it was also an invaluable learning experience for these orchestras. For the new Golijov work honoring Henry Fogel (see box, page 33), the cooperation extends to a widely divergent group of co-commissioners: 35 organizations ranging from educational institutions (New England Conservatory, Curtis Institute of Music) and small-budget orchestras—including New York’s Glens Falls Symphony Orchestra and Nevada’s Reno Chamber Orchestra, the lead commissioners for Rounds I and II, respectively, of Ford Made in America—to such large organizations as the Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, National, Pittsburgh, and Saint Louis symphony orchestras.
Esa-Pekka Salonen premieres his Violin Concerto with Leila Josefowicz and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, April 9, 2009. The LA Phil had co-commissioned the work with New York City Ballet, which choreographed it for a June 2010 dance performance, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which will bring it to Symphony Center next February.
The largest commissioning consortia ever established in the orchestra field were put together under the auspices of Ford Made in America, a partnership program of the League of American Orchestras and Meet The Composer. Round I of the program brought Joan Tower’s Made in America to all 50 states, in performances by 64 small-budget orchestras beginning with a world premiere on October 2, 2005. For Round II, a consortium of 58 smallbudget orchestras—including 24 that had not participated in the Tower commission—joined in commissioning Joseph Schwantner’s Chasing Light…, which saw its world premiere on September 20, 2008. Specifically designed to give small-budget orchestras an opportunity to commission music from major composers by pooling their resources, the program was made possible through a major grant from Ford Motor Company Fund, with additional assistance from the National Endowment americanorchestras.org
Anchorage Symphony Orchestra
Using funds from the commissioning club Musica Nova, Anchorage Symphony Orchestra Music Director Randall Craig Fleischer (center) commissioned Chris Brubeck (left) to write Spontaneous Combustion. The ASO and violinist Nicolas Kendall (right) premiered the work in October 2007.
done this twice now, you know what to do, The idea of commissioning a piece to now go do it.’ ” honor Henry Fogel, president and CEO Memphis Symphony President and of the League of American Orchestras CEO Ryan Fleur volunteered to coordifrom 2003 to 2008 and now dean of the nate the consortium and present the world Chicago College of Performing Arts at premiere. With the League gift in hand, Roosevelt University, originated with the and with large and mid-sized orchestras League board. A multi-orchestra commisjoining the consortium along with smaller sion, they felt, was an appropriate way to ones, Fleur says he “realized that we could salute Fogel for his service as League presvery quickly put a sum ident and his innumertogether to commission able consulting visits to “Consortium a substantial composer. a broad range of orchescommissioning We drew up our dream tras. Jesse Rosen, Fogel’s is something that successor at the League, orchestras ought to be list, put some feelers out, and our first choice was says that he “suggested able to do on their own,” Golijov.” Fleur notes to the board that the way says League President that Fogel had no say to implement the com& CEO Jesse Rosen. in the selection, but was mission was to invite the group of orchestras The new work honoring “absolutely blown away” Henry Fogel involves a to learn that it was that had participated in widely divergent group Golijov—whose music Ford Made in America of co-commissioners. he’d become familiar to design and run a large with through recordings orchestra consortium. and performances, and whom he had met Consortium commissioning is something about two years ago when he interviewed that orchestras ought to be able to do on the composer at an event sponsored by their own, and the concept was really to the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies in wean them from the infrastructure that Chicago. The consortium’s steering comMeet The Composer had provided with mittee, says Fleur, “sent an email to every Ford Made in America. It wasn’t like goorchestra that Henry had visited during ing cold turkey, because a $50,000 gift his tenure as president of the League, to from the League board was directed to the give them ‘first dibs’ [on joining the conconsortium so they would have a leg up. sortium]. Our specific instruction to GoliBut they had to pick the composer, schedjov was that this be a work in honor of ule the commission, sign a contract. We Henry, but more than that, a tribute to the handed over the money and said, ‘you’ve
vibrancy of the American orchestra.” Participating orchestras have contributed varying amounts based on their budget size and other factors (including the right to a premiere), but Fleur says that no orchestra had to put more than $5,000 toward the commission. “There was a very high demand for joining the consortium. We had hoped to go beyond the initial 35 orchestras, but Golijov wanted to limit the number so there would be a life for the work afterwards from orchestras that might not have participated in the consortium.” Fleur says that the co-commissioning orchestras have a two-year window for performances, and that European and South American premieres are in the works. Another highly in-demand composer, Thomas Adès, has been commissioned by a multinational consortium headed by the New World Symphony for a work to christen its new Frank Gehry-designed concert hall in Miami Beach on January 26, 2011. NWS President Howard Herring says that Adès was invited by Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas to “write this piece for the opening of our new campus. Tom has been here both as a conductor and as a composer. He knows our commitment to preparing new work and is aware of the unique nature of the performance space we’re creating.” The January 26 performance of Adès’s new work will hardly be a one-off event. Partnering with NWS in the commission are the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic, the San Francisco Symphony, the Barbican in London, Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, and the Gulbenkian Orchestra of Lisbon. Los Angeles and San Francisco have joined NWS in commissioning a work of video art by filmmaker Tal Rosner to accompany the new composition, which Herring describes as a tone poem twelve to fifteen minutes in length. Rosner will create visuals based on the Adès work, and his creation will exploit the possibilities of Gehry’s hall design, featuring walls that serve as nearly 360-degree projection surfaces. The Adès consortium was put together by his London-based publisher, Faber Music Ltd. Sally Cavender, the company’s vice-chairman and director of performance music, says that bringing many co-commissioners into the project “makes a huge amount of sense. These days Tom
The Fogel Consortium Orchestras Honor Former League Chief with Multi-Orchestra Commission A 35-orchestra consortium, inspired by the landmark Ford Made in America program for small-budget orchestras but now embracing a more diverse group of organizations, has commissioned a work from Osvaldo Golijov honoring former League of American Orchestras President & CEO Henry Fogel and “the vitality of the American orchestra.” For the initial round of performances in 2010-11 and 2011-12, the new work will be heard in nineteen states of the U.S., one Canadian province (Ontario), and the District of Columbia. Here’s the list. Amarillo Symphony Orchestra, Texas Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Georgia Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Maryland Bangor Symphony Orchestra, Maine Curtis Institute of Music, Pennsylvania Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Michigan Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra, Minnesota Eugene Symphony Orchestra, Oregon Florida Orchestra Fort Wayne Philharmonic, Indiana Glens Falls Symphony Orchestra, New York Kansas City Symphony, Missouri Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony Orchestra, Ontario** Longwood Symphony Orchestra, Massachusetts Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, California Memphis Symphony Orchestra, Tennessee* Nashville Symphony, Tennessee National Symphony Orchestra, District of Columbia New England Conservatory, Massachusetts Pacific Symphony, California Paducah Symphony Orchestra, Kentucky Pensacola Symphony Orchestra, Florida Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas, New York Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Pennsylvania Plymouth Philharmonic Orchestra, Massachusetts Portland Symphony Orchestra, Maine Reading Symphony Orchestra, Pennsylvania Reno Chamber Orchestra, Nevada Santa Barbara Symphony Orchestra, California South Carolina Philharmonic Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, Missouri Stockton Symphony Orchestra, California Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, New York Vermont Symphony Orchestra
* World premiere October 16, 2010 ** Canadian premiere April 28, 2011 Osvaldo Golijov
33 Tanit Sakakini
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needs to be paid properly, and he’s putting this ahead of other things in order to get it done. He’s one of the most famous and sought-after composers in the world and is not writing particularly fast. He loved the idea of the Frank Gehry hall and got rather talked into writing a new piece by Michael Tilson Thomas. But we’ve got to make it worth his while, because he’s had to change his whole schedule. There were other people queuing up [for a new Adès piece] who would probably be ahead of the Frank Gehry people, if there was such a thing as a queue. One likes to be fair, and to maximize the number of performances the new piece will get.” Organizations joining NWS in the consortium lined up for various reasons: Tilson Thomas’s other music directorship at the San Francisco Symphony; Adès residencies or mini-festivals in 2010-11 or 201112 at the LA Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic, the Concertgebouw, and the Gulbenkian Orchestra; a planned visit to the Barbican by the New York Philharmonic. But not all venues will present the work with video as in the January 26 premiere. “Tal Rosner was commissioned to do visuals for that occasion,” says Cavender, “but in other places it won’t happen.” As for what non-musical elements may inspire the new composition, Cavender says, “All I know about the piece so far is that it will be influenced in some way by water or sea. Tom often takes inspiration from a visual source.” Household Investors
The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra has a longstanding commitment to generating new music. And for the past decade, funding that activity through a commissioning club has provided LACO ticket-buyers and donors with an opportunity to literally buy into the creative process. LACO’s Sound Investment program, launched in 2001 with a membership of 25 households and now including about 60, allows “investors,” for a minimum of $300 per household, to become co-commissioners. Some of the new pieces, like the one by Derek Bermel that’s scheduled for premiere next May, are by the orchestra’s composer in residence—the post has been a regular fixture at LACO for more than 20 years— while others are the work of composers selected by Music Director Jeffrey Kahane. symphony
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Christopher Theofanidis talks to Sound Investment club members at the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra about his work Radiant Mind, the orchestra’s 2009 commission.
“The main strategy behind Sound Investment,” says LACO Executive Director Andrea Laguni, “is to sustain a stream of commissions. But the other goal is to change the attitude towards new music among our audience, from board members down to the single-ticket buyer of the very inexpensive ticket. New music is not just the vegetables you eat because the doctor says they are good for you. It’s really part of the omnivorous diet that we try to foster and encourage.” Michelle Weger, LACO’s director of institutional giving, says that Sound Investment is promoted as “a special group of which you can be a member. Most of the time it’s a couple making the contribution.” Depending on who the composer is and the scope of the work, LACO commissions range from about $8,000 to $25,000. “We have a large enough group now that what we collect generally sustains at least the commissioning cost,” says Weger. “If we raise extra money it goes toward the cost of the premiere—musicians’ fees, hiring the hall, all of the costs of putting on the concerts.” Kerry and Bob Shuman have been LACO subscribers for more than a decade, and as Sound Investment members they have been helping to underwrite new works for about four years. “We get to meet three or four times a year with the composer,” says Kerry Shuman. “At the first meeting, usually in November, we learn about his composing style, what he americanorchestras.org
likes to do, what his inspirations are for the piece. And we hear some of his already composed music. The next two meetings are basically progress reports: we hear what the composer has done so far, usually with small groups of orchestra members. The last meeting is the dress rehearsal. There’s always a question-and-answer session, and occasionally the group takes the composer out to dinner. I like Sound Investment because in classical music you’ve heard the major pieces a lot of times. I like new things, I like to take the risk. I may not like the piece, but I know that somebody else will.” Members of the Musica Nova commissioning club in Anchorage contribute individually rather than as couples, and the minimum is $500 per person. “We typically raise $10,000 to $15,000, depending on what kind of commission it is,” says Anchorage Symphony Orchestra Executive Director Sherri Reddick. (Matching funds may be sought, as with the 200708 commission Spontaneous Combustion by Chris Brubeck, a 30-minute violin concerto that Reddick says was priced at about $1,000 per minute and partially underwritten by the Alaska-based Rasmuson Foundation.) As with Youngstown’s Nouvelle Music and LACO’s Sound Investment, the Musica Nova members feel invested in the new work even though they have not selected the composer themselves or weighed in as to what type of work will be created. The commissioning club, says
Reddick, “is really about access to the artists. [Commissioners] enjoy the explanations, enjoy understanding the music in a different way.” Nouvelle Music, established at the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra soon after Randall Craig Fleischer came to the orchestra as music director in the 200708 season, collects a minimum of $600 per member for each commission. “We envisioned this as something one person could belong to,” says YSO Executive Director Pat Syak. “Members contribute as individuals, but couples have so much fun doing this that it turns out to be almost like a couples club. We offer opportunities for them to attend rehearsals and talk to the guest artist if there is one, opportunities to meet the composer. Most of these people are just delighted to be part of the process.” As the latest recipient of a Sound Investment commission from LACO, Derek Bermel says he’s writing for people who “vouch for it with their pocketbooks. That doesn’t affect my creative process, but it gives me a chance to share it with those people. It’s illuminating to me as a composer to stop and say, ‘Where am I in the process? What can I tell people about it?’ ” Acceptance of new music at LACO, says Andrea Laguni, is partly due to the “reputation and trust” that Music Director Jeffrey Kahane has established with his audience. But the orchestra’s grassroots approach to commissioning is also a factor in this acceptance, he believes. “When you see ‘commissioned by so-and-so individual’ you can dismiss it easily and say ‘that’s not for me, I’m not in that league.’ But when you see a bunch of people who are more or less your fellow subscribers, people you know because you’ve chatted with them, you pause. And even if you’re not inclined to join the club you think, ‘OK, maybe I need to listen to this with an open mind.’ ” CHESTER LANE is senior editor of Symphony.
Got an opinion? Join the discussion! Has your orchestra joined with other orchestras to commission new works? Do you think commissioning clubs are an effective way to fund new music?
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Maximu Jennifer Higdon
Exposu Christopher Rouse
by Ian VanderMeulen
How a handful of recent works by living
Festival de Saint-Denis – Sébastien Chambert
Aaron Jay Kernis
n the night of April 24, 2010, the stars aligned for classical music in a curious way. Around 8 p.m. audience members sat down inside Ohio’s Schuster Center to hear John Demian lead the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra in a tuneful, expansive work for full orchestra. At nearly the exact same time and 650 miles due east, New York’s Stony Brook Symphony Orchestra opened a Rossen Milanov-led program with the same piece. Roughly two hours later and two time zones west, the Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra would give the work its third performance of the evening. Probably a Beethoven symphony, right? Or a Brahms concerto. One of those “Bs,” or some European who died in the 1900s. Wrong! The composer is 42-year-old Christopher Theofanidis, and the decade-old work is his Rainbow Body, which in the 2009-10 season alone received performances at fifteen different orchestras, according to the composer’s website.
composers are becoming orchestral standards americanorchestras.org
It would be difficult to spend any time in the orchestra world—or the world of classical music at large—without coming across a recurring problem in new music. All too often, works get commissioned with great fanfare and premiered as a highlight of the orchestra’s season, only to be promptly shelved. These works are lucky to get a second performance, let alone a fourth or fifth. But Rainbow Body, along with Peter Boyer’s Ellis Island, Osvaldo Golijov’s Last Round, Jennifer Higdon’s blue cathedral, Aaron Jay Kernis’s Musica Celestis, and Christopher Rouse’s Rapture—which range in age from eight to twenty years old—have all defied that trend, building an impressive list of performances in their comparatively short lives. “It hasn’t slowed,” says Higdon of the pace of performances of blue cathedral. That work has received more than 200 performances since its premiere in March 2000. “Every year I keep thinking, this will be the year it slows. But it hasn’t slowed at all.” Given the niche these works have carved in the orchestral canon, their creators can offer important perspective on how to help increase the lifespan of new compositions. Good archival recordings, the advocacy of prominent conductors, and practical programming considerations for orchestras are all important factors. However, paradoxes abound: accessibility seems to be a boon, but composers also warn against compromising artistic integrity. And the one factor referenced often by composers and conductors alike may be the most difficult to define: quality. “I get the question often from students— what tips would I give for how to make it in the biz,” Rouse says. “I say, well, the most important thing is to write good music. That actually is not self-evident to a lot of them. Good music can be complex and perhaps difficult to fathom, but I don’t think accessibility is inherently bad either.” Hit-makers
Creativity can be a mysterious thing. For Christopher Theofanidis, inspiration for Rainbow Body came from two disparate sources. In the late 1990s, when he first received the commission from the Houston Symphony—which would premiere the piece in 2000—there had been an abundance of performances and recordings of the music of Medieval composer Hildegard
von Bingen to celebrate the 900th anniversary of her birth. Drawn to von Bingen’s use of melody, Theofanidis crafted Rainbow Body around a soaring melodic statement that gets stronger with every recurrence, while employing a textural technique he calls “orchestra with the pedal down”— strings moving in staggered fashion, producing a reverberant sound not unlike being inside a cathedral. The title of the work, meanwhile, arose out of Theofanidis’s encounter with the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. In Tibetan Buddhism, an enlightened person’s physical body gets reabsorbed into the universe’s energy at death, thus becoming a “rainbow body.” “Sometimes things are kind of floating around in your field of vision at the same time,” Theofanidis says, “and part of the compositional process is discovering what that is, why those things are resonating together.” Jennifer Higdon’s blue cathedral arose from a more personal place. The piece had been commissioned by the Curtis Institute of Music, Higdon’s alma mater, to celebrate its 75th anniversary, and Higdon had recently experienced the death of her brother. “I probably had, that year, about thirteen or fourteen commissions,” she says, “so I was literally just moving from one to the other.
Jennifer Higdon and Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Music Director Robert Spano look over a score.
And I think because I was dealing with of happened,” he says. The St. Lawrence grief I’m not sure I was cognizant of much String Quartet performed the work sevof anything, only the fact that I wanted eral times, but kept urging the composer to to write something that sounded true.” add a faster movement. When Golijov got The Curtis orchestra gave the premiere in the commission in 1996 from Sir Simon March 2000 under the direction of HigRattle and the Birmingham Contemporary don’s mentor Robert Spano. Music Group, he decided to do just that— “What strikes me most about blue careversing the “prolonged exhalation” feel thedral,” says Miguel Harth-Bedoya, muof the adagio movement, creating a fast, sic director of the Fort Worth Symphony tango-inflected movement beginning with Orchestra, where Higdon a “violent compression,” and served as composer-inexpanding the instrumentaresidence for the 2009-10 tion to two string quartets Careful season, “is how original it with double bass. consideration sounds, how unique, and the Theofanidis, Higdon, and of how the degree of the unexpected. Golijov—along with commusic connects The way compositions pace poser Michael Gandolfi— to audiences themselves is often the most form the “Atlanta School,” is a hallmark difficult task, and the way a group of composers with of Higdon’s she paces is quite powerful.” whom the Atlanta Symapproach. Osvaldo Golijov’s Last phony Orchestra and Music Round was inspired by the Director Spano have formed death of Argentinean mua fruitful creative partnersical luminary Astor Piazzolla, a very imship. Having recorded both blue cathedral portant figure to Golijov not just artistically and Rainbow Body with the Atlanta Symbut personally as well. Golijov first wrote a phony on the Telarc label, Spano notes how single elegiac movement for string quartet the two works foreshadow later developupon hearing of Piazzolla’s stroke in 1992. ments for their composers. “I just listened “It was one of the few times in my life when to Rainbow Body back-to-back with Chris’s the stereotype of the composer sitting at the most recent symphony, which we commispiano and the piece just coming out sort sioned from him,” he says. “And it was so fantastic to hear both a kind of continuity and identifiability of voice, and at the same time an expansion of vocabulary and expressive range.” In early June, Higdon was in Atlanta for the premiere of On a Wire, her concerto for eighth blackbird commissioned by the orchestra. “We were all reacting to how many new things there seemed to be in her vocabulary,” Spano says. “And then I realized—Oh, but there are seeds of that in blue cathedral. Certain gestures and colors and effects are already there.” In contrast, Aaron Jay Kernis saw the composition of Musica Celestis as an opportunity to try something new. The 1990 piece, also drawing melodic inspiration from Hildegard von Bingen, was, Kernis points out, his first serious attempt at composing something in a standard sonata structure. And like Last Round, the work also began life as a string quartet. Kernis had been approached by the Lark Quartet to compose a work that they would premiere at New York’s Alice Tully Hall. At the time, it was one of Kernis’s first big commissions and a career opportunity that
Maine’s Portland Symphony Orchestra performs Peter Boyer’s Ellis Island: The Dream of America.
couldn’t be passed up. “But in the back of my mind,” he recalls, “I was already imagining bigger textures.” When flutist and conductor Ransom Wilson asked Kernis if he’d be interested in arranging the work for string orchestra, Kernis jumped at the chance, and the first performance of the new arrangement was given in March 1992 by Sinfonia San Francisco under Wilson’s direction. Christopher Rouse’s Rapture was also born out of a dramatic—and deliberate— style shift. Rouse, known for thorny writing that often stretches the abilities of performers, notes that every five years or so, he re-evaluates his recent work and considers heading in a different stylistic direction. In the mid-1990s he’d written a series of “death pieces,” and after finishing the series with a work dedicated to the memory of his mother, Rouse “made a conscious effort to start writing music that by and large would be more optimistic or light-filled.” A request by Mariss Jansons, then-music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, for a fifteen-minute work to help the Pittsburgh ensemble celebrate the new millennium, offered Rouse the perfect opportunity to put that aesthetic to work. The composer describes the work as beginning “in a state of quiet, contented blissfulness americanorchestras.org
and then gradually becoming more active and excited, so that it ends in this almost Dionysian rush of ecstasy.” The Road to Longevity
That Rapture is one of Rouse’s more tuneful and accessible works is likely a significant part of its popularity. While the composer stresses that writing a piece that “audiences are going to love” wasn’t his initial intention, he says that he does try to imagine himself “as a ‘typical audience member.’ And [with Rapture] I did think, ‘Well, if I do my job correctly, people will probably tend to like this,’ ” he says. Careful consideration of how the music connects to audiences is a hallmark of Higdon’s approach as well. Whenever she attends musical events, the composer says, she tries to analyze the effectiveness of the music in engaging the audience, and apply what she learns to her own creations. But equally important is making sure that her works recognize constraints of the orchestras that present them. “You know, it costs to hire extra players. When I had decided to use those bells,” she says, referring to a set of special Chinese bells that add significant texture to the blue cathedral score, “I had never thought about the piece being done again. As a consequence I felt it was
my responsibility to get bells to the players. So I have about 200 boxes of those bells, because there’s an orchestra somewhere every week doing it.” Practicality is a theme that comes up again and again. Higdon, Kernis, and Theofanidis all point out that their works are a good length to put at the start of the program. Golijov goes so far as to suggest that one of the reasons for the popularity of Last Round—first performed in the U.S. by Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 2000—is due in part to the fact that many of his other works involve unusual instruments, and that as his stature has grown, Last Round has remained one of his easier works to present. Higdon has noted in the past that she is often on programs with some of the most loved works in the orchestral canon. “This year it’s been a lot of Dvořák Nine,” she says. “I must have been on 50 different concerts with Beethoven pieces.” This may make her music more attractive to those in charge of programming. “If someone’s looking at a program and they’ve got a standard concerto and a symphony on the second half and the pieces fit, they figure, Oh, we can put this on.” Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. Peter Boyer’s Ellis Island: The
Top Sellers Besides the six pieces mentioned in this article, many other recent works receive multiple performances year after year. Below are twenty works from the last 25 years that received the most performances during 2008-09, according to the League of American Orchestras Repertoire Report. Composer
The Chairman Dances: Foxtrot for Orchestra
Violin Concerto (“Concentric Paths”)
Aaron Jay Kernis
Concerto No. 1 for Double Bass and Orchestra
Valentino Dances: Suite for Orchestra from The Dream of Valentino
Danzón No. 2
Short Ride in a Fast Machine
Powder Her Face: Overture, Waltz, and Finale
Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra (“Conjurer”)
Gabriela Lena Frank
Illapa: Tone Poem for Flute and Orchestra
Percussion Concerto “Veni, Veni, Emmanuel”
Flying to Kahani: Concert Piece for Piano and Orchestra
Dream of America, commissioned by Connecticut’s Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, is a 45-minute work featuring photo montages and actors reciting a Boyer-penned script based on seven personal accounts from the Ellis Island Oral History Project. In other words, “it’s big and it’s complicated to put on,” the composer admits. “One can’t necessarily say it makes a great opener, because it’s half a program.”
Nonetheless, the work has received some 107 performances since its April 2002 premiere by the Hartford Symphony Orchestra at the Bushnell Center. One reason for the piece’s popularity may be the personal connection audiences feel to the subject matter. “There are many, many Americans who can trace an ancestor to Ellis Island,” Boyer says. “So there’s a very broad appeal. And maybe even univer-
sal appeal because of the fact that, as clichéd as it sounds, America is a nation of immigrants. Among the most gratifying experiences I’ve had have been reactions from audience members who come up to me to say this was my mother’s story, or this was my father’s story, or this was my grandmother’s story or grandfather’s story.” Orchestras performing Ellis Island also have an opportunity to interact with their communities. The historical elements in the work reflect public school curricula, and as a result the piece has been popular on education programs. Boyer mentions that in January 2008 the Amarillo Symphony in northwest Texas did six performances of Ellis Island for some 15,000 children, and received so many requests from parents and teachers that they did it again in 2010 and plan to bring it back every two years. HarthBedoya has programmed Ellis Island in a similar way at the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, which will give five performances of the piece in March 2011—three on a subscription program and two educational performances. Versatility has been a key factor in Ellis Island ’s reception. Boyer points out that many orchestras program it on both classics concerts and education concerts in the same weekend, and that it has even found a home on many pops programs, something that surprises the composer given the piece’s length. Boyer also notes that orchestras large and small have been equally likely to perform the piece. And once a piece starts being played by smaller-budget orchestras, there are many more that may be encouraged to present the work. “I remember there was a point a few years ago,” Kernis says, “when Musica Celestis started to be done in more regional orchestras and youth orchestras. And that was a very exciting moment, because I really thought the piece was starting to move—it was into the next circle of orchestras.” Survival of the Fittest
What can orchestras do to help ensure that new works have a life post-premiere? Composers agree that advocacy and commitment from conductors like Harth-Bedoya and Spano can be a galvanizing force. A jet-set conductor with an international reputation can really help by programming a piece at multiple orchestras in distant cities. But there are other factors as well, not symphony
new work. I haven’t seen that done in rush the least of which is a good recording. “If hour, in those shorter formats, but that the composer doesn’t have a good archival would be perfect.” recording you can kiss the piece goodbye,” Nonetheless, establishing new works in says Higdon. the orchestral canon may simply be a proKernis and Rouse suggest that alternacess that takes time, even involving a certain tive programming models may also be element of natural selection. worth considering. Rapture “I keep asking people if they fits as a concert opener— can name 25 other composDavid Robertson and the Establishing ers who lived around MoSaint Louis Symphony Ornew works in zart’s time,” Harth-Bedoya chestra used it as an opener the orchestral says. “They all say Salieri. for their California tour in canon may Okay, 24 more. In order to May—but Rouse says he’s simply be a get to one or two names, seen it just about anywhere process that history has told us that on a program. Nonetheless, takes time, there’s a process that takes he notes “a certain cynieven involving a care of itself.” Boyer concurs. cism about people who just certain element “I suppose in some sense the kind of write zippy concert of natural odds are always going to be openers to fill that specific selection. against new work,” he says. niche.” Kernis, too, finds the “Look at all of the work that common opener-concertowas composed in Beethoven’s time—how symphony format to be limiting, and sees much of it do we still play? Maybe it’s not an opportunity in the early-evening, hourrealistic to expect a huge percentage of the long “rush hour” format that many orchesworks that are commissioned to continue tras have tried. These types of events, he on. But that doesn’t deny the validity of says, “would best be served by having the how important it is to commission new composer there and focusing on one big
work.” The continued performance of recent works and the commissioning of new pieces can also operate in a positive cycle. “I can tell you that a lot of orchestras have done blue cathedral first and then they come back and ask what else I have,” Higdon says. Many other composers attest to similar experiences. But it doesn’t have to stop with a single composer. Says Kernis, “I certainly hope that the success of Musica Celestis will lead some of these orchestras to look at newer pieces—other pieces of mine and other contemporary pieces.” IAN VANDERMEULEN is assistant editor of Symphony.
Got an opinion? Join the discussion! Are there other recent works that deserve to be performed more? How does your orchestra try to balance commissioning of new works with performances of other recent works?
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Statements by Rebecca Winzenried
More than just homes for orchestras, performing arts centers can energize entire cities. But expectations for performing arts centers are changing.
Lincoln Center Mark Bussell Bob Serating/Lincoln Center
Inset above: Lincoln Center’s original main entry privileged cars over pedestrians: after climbing the steps, visitors then had to cross a three-lane roadway. The roadway has now been sunk below the stairs. Among the most visible parts of the $1.2 billion renovation: new stairs make pedestrian entry safer and more accessible; LED signage welcomes visitors in many languages; the Revson Fountain now features playful water effects. Below: President Dwight D. Eisenhower took part in the 1959 groundbreaking for Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. The complex radically changed its Manhattan neighborhood and became the model for a generation of performing arts centers.
itting on the plaza on a warm evening, catching some spray from the fountain and watching as clusters of people meet, greet, and disperse to their respective music, dance, or theater performances, it’s hard to imagine New York City without Lincoln Center. The architecture, the resident companies, the concerts and broadcasts emanating from this place are so woven into the fabric of the city that it’s easy to forget how radical the idea of bringing multiple arts organizations together in a single location once was. A performing arts center? No one contemplated such a thing 50 years ago, when construction on Philharmonic Hall (now Avery Fisher Hall) was just getting underway and the Upper West Side of Manhattan—with its scruffy storefronts, rundown tenements, and street crime—wasn’t considered a particularly enticing destination. Lincoln Center rose on a sixteen-acre site that had A question, been razed by the city’s and at times Slum Clearance Com- criticism, mittee as an antidote has always to the class, ethnic, and been: Who are racial clashes that had performing inspired West Side Story. arts centers But the idea of a single really for? arts destination, even as Wealthy arts part of larger urban repatrons? development plans, was still a gamble. Other cit- Workaday ies around the country locals? had their own symphony Corporate halls and opera houses, sponsors? typically downtown, but Tourists? little thought was devoted to how different art forms might work together (if they would even be willing to do so) or about their cumulative impact on the neighborhood. A different story has played out over the ensuing decades, of course. Lincoln Center, largely finished by 1966 with the opening of the Metropolitan Opera House, became a linchpin of Upper West Side revitalization and a model of the arts as economic engine. Its architecture became a prototype for the monumental, marble-clad, vaguely classical style of performing arts center, a theme followed by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Los Angeles Music Center, where the Dorothy Chand
Los Angeles Philharmonic
The Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Walt Disney Concert Hall proposed a new model of concert hall as a cultural landmark designed by a “starchitect,” in this case Frank Gehry, and like Lincoln Center helped revitalize its neighborhood.
ler Pavilion (former home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic) is grouped with other halls on an open plaza. The range of offerings by Lincoln Center resident companies—New York Philharmonic, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, New York City Ballet, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, among several
others—raised the bar for programming, performances, and education, forging a template of the performing arts center as a catalyst for cultural advancement, but also community building. Following Lincoln Center’s example, as cities large and small began to lay out their own urban redevelopment plans, a central gathering place for the performing arts became essential, a declaration that “yes, we’ve arrived.” Much has changed in the 50 years since Lincoln Center was built: city-planning concepts have been reevaluated (would anyone admit to thinking about a “Slum Clearance Committee”?); preferences for urban vs. suburban development have
shifted, and shifted again; so has the role of arts groups in the community. The grande dame herself marked the Big 5-0 with a $1 billion-plus facelift, transforming Lincoln Center into a cultural destination that has literally shed its skin and opened its arms to embrace the neighborhood. Changes are evident from the moment of arrival. The main staircase to Josie Robertson Plaza has been extended out to the street, creating the feel of a grand, processional ascent uninterrupted by car traffic. (A roadway that used to bring vehicles up to the plaza has been dropped underneath the stairs.) Passersby who used to hurry along the concrete paths now stop to linger on the steps or take a seat on the grandstand outside Alice Tully Hall, which has thrown off its cloak of travertine marble for glass walls that allow a glimpse into the new lobby, box office, and café open to the public. A formerly dismal public atrium down the block, once the domain of homeless people, has been revamped. The message is clear: this performing arts
Smith Center for the Performing Arts
Designed by Moshe Safdie, the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City, Missouri is slated to open in fall 2011 and will include a concert hall for the Kansas City Symphony.
Opening in 2012, the Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas stands in stark contrast to the glitz and neon of the city; the center will be home to the Las Vegas Philharmonic.
nals timelessness, strength, and stability for current and future generations of Las Vegans. “This city does a wonderful job of treating tourists really well and giving them doses of entertainment,” he says. “This city has also grown so quickly that we’ve not kept up with the demands of those of us who live here and our kids.” If the Smith Center serves as a symbol of Las Vegas’s maturation as a city, not just a tourist destination, it also reflects the growing aspirations of the Las Vegas Philhar-
Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
center belongs to the community, the entire community. For a question, and at times criticism, has always been: Who are performing arts centers really for? Wealthy arts patrons? Workaday locals? Corporate sponsors? Tourists? Cities from Las Vegas to Dallas and Kansas City to Appleton, Wisconsin, are facing these questions in a variety of ways, as they build and expand operations of their performing arts centers. Surprisingly, the most emphatic answer in favor of locals has come from Las Vegas. The city’s multipurpose Smith Center for the Performing Arts is scheduled to open in 2012, as home to the Las Vegas Philharmonic and Nevada Ballet Theatre. It will also host touring productions and include a separate education center. With a solidly traditional design incorporating Art Deco touches, an Indiana limestone exterior, and a sixteen-story carillon tower, the Smith Center stands as a polar opposite to the glitzy architecture associated with Las Vegas. “There’s no neon in sight,” jokes Smith Center President and CEO Myron Martin of the facility designed by architect David M. Schwarz, whose portfolio includes the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville and Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth. Martin confirms that the design intentionally sig-
monic. The twelve-year old orchestra has been playing in the 1,832-seat Ham Concert Hall at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas since its founding. While serviceable, it is not an optimal venue for If the Smith encouraging the artistic or operational growth of an organi- Center serves zation that has sold out its last as a symbol of Las Vegas’s three seasons. Las Vegas Philharmonic maturation President Jeri Crawford has as a city, not already been fielding calls just a tourist from potential guest artists destination, it interested in appearing at the also reflects Smith Center, and the orches- the growing tra is gearing up in preparaaspirations of tion. “We know the world is the Las Vegas watching,” she says. Martin adds that having a hall with Philharmonic. symphonic-level acoustics (designed by the Connecticut-based firm Akustiks) will put Las Vegas on the radar for major orchestra tours. “We’re a big enough city now that people deserve to have that kind of experience,” he says. Like many performing arts centers, the Smith Center came together as civic and business leaders were looking to revitalize the downtown area, which had been neglected in favor of the Las Vegas Strip. Funding for the $470 million project is split between private and public sources. The Smith Center was designed as part of the larger Symphony Park, which includes office, medical and retail space, residential units, and hotels. “This is an organization that, fortunately, looked at this as
a business enterprise and studied it from all angles, as if we were opening a business,” says Martin. Anyone developing a center purely as an arts project today, he says, “is leaving a lot on the table—and certainly being more open to failure.”
While there was no certainty in the 1950s and ’60s that residents and businesses would be drawn to the neighborhood surrounding Lincoln Center, today the economic impact of performing arts centers is well documented. Real estate listings for the Lincoln Square neighborhood, from which Lincoln Center takes its name, now boast some of New York’s most stratospheric prices, and the area has become a magnet for shopping, dining, and entertainment. A 2004 study on the impact of Lincoln Center showed that Lincoln Square property values had soared an astounding 2,608 percent since 1963, and that the nearly five million visitors drawn to the performing arts center in 2003 had a total impact of $427 million in business sales for the city. Elsewhere, planners for new projects come armed with data on local, regional, and national trends regarding not only ticket sales but jobs growth, business development, property values, and tourism. Eight states have created specific policies regarding the development of cultural districts, with the idea of certifying them, offering technical assistance, and providing tax incentives. Dallas leaders had particular reason to celebrate last fall with the opening of the AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House and the Dee and Charles Wylie Theater. The buildings are stunning: the opera house (designed by Norman Foster) has a glasswalled lobby encasing a saucy lipstick-red interior drum, while the Wylie (by Rem Koolhaas and Joshua Prince-Ramus) is an austere vertical cube that looks as if it has been dropped by an alien ship. Their opening marked the culmination of the city’s 30-year plan to develop a destination arts district downtown. The Dallas Symphony Orchestra was the first performing arts organization to take up residence, moving into Meyerson Symphony Center in 1989. By coincidence, the Meyerson’s 20th anniversary in September 2009 coincided with the opening of the new venues nearby. The orchestra
Arts in the Big D
The Meyerson Symphony Center is home to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and cornerstone of the downtown Dallas Arts District. The recent opening of an architecturally distinguished opera house and theater nearby has energized the neighborhood.
performed Beethoven’s Ninth as part of community-wide celebrations, and DSO President and CEO Doug Adams recalls looking out the lobby windows to see something new: lots of pedestrian activity, with people strolling in the park areas and children playing in the fountains. Dallas is famously a non-walking town, and until now, few people walked around the Meyerson grounds. “I saw a glimpse of Dallas in a way that I’ve never seen it before, and I’m from here,” he says. “It looked to me like a transformative moment for the city and its character.” That thought was sealed a couple of months later, when Adams came across a pickup football game on the lawn between the Winspear and the Meyerson. “So it’s a place for people to hang out now in a way that it never has been, and there hasn’t been a place like that downtown.” Beyond the district’s obvious cultural impact, Adams says, “It also has an impact that spills over into the livability factor on a daily basis, and that’s very exciting.” According to the nonprofit Downtown Dallas, Inc., the number of residents in the urban core has grown from less than 200 in 1996 to nearly 50,000 today, and some 14,000 housing units have been added. The renewed energy has gotten the DSO to thinking about its place in the Dallas
landscape. “When you have this kind of investment, a hall that’s one of the best in the world, the city really should demand that its orchestra be one of the best in the world,” says Adams. “So we have taken this as an opportunity and obligation and challenge to be all we can be.” The DSO had already been invigorated by the positive response to Music Director Jaap van Zweden, who came on board in 2008. It’s also been cause to rediscover the orchestra’s home, as the I.M. Pei-designed Meyerson compared faPhrases like vorably to its new neighbors in art and architecture “world-class,” reviews. The city-owned “international building required little destination,” more than a power wash- and “cultural ing and some lightweight tourism” were maintenance to be camera- sprinkled ready for its 20th anniver- throughout sary. “Sometimes when coverage of the you’re around something latest Dallas all the time you begin to Arts District take it for granted. This openings. was an opportunity to remind ourselves, and the city certainly, about what a treasure we have here,” says Adams. Phrases like “world-class,” “international destination,” and “cultural tourism” were sprinkled throughout coverage of the latest Dallas Arts District openings. Whether symphony
hether it means restoring a chandelier, improving concert hall acoustics, or building a whole new performing arts center, orchestras across the country are taking steps to create performance spaces that are welcoming to musicians and audiences alike. Investing in top-notch facilities has remained a priority for many groups, even as the economic downturn has slowed progress. Here are just a few of the construction and renovation projects recently completed or currently underway. l Carmel, Indiana’s new Center for the Performing Arts will be home to the Carmel Symphony Orchestra as well as theater and dance troupes, and will host touring shows and presentations. Slated to open in January 2011 and designed by David M. Schwarz, the Center boasts a 1,600-seat concert hall, with acoustics by Artec Consultants, as well as a 500-seat proscenium theater and a 200-seat studio theater. The performing arts complex is the cornerstone Carmel City Center, a $300 million mixed-use redevelopment envisioned as a pedestrian-oriented city-within-the-city. l The New World Symphony in Miami Beach opens a new, 106,350-square-foot campus in January 2011. Designed by architect Frank Gehry, the new facility includes practice and rehearsal rooms, technology suites, a concert hall, and public parks. l The Philadelphia Orchestra chose Threshold Acoustics, a Chicago-based firm, to remedy acoustical problems with its Verizon Hall that have been observed since the Kimmel Center for Performing Arts opened in 2002. l Oberlin College unveiled its new 37,000-square-foot, $24-million Bertram A model of the New World Symphony’s Frank Gehryand Judith Kohl Building for jazz studies designed hall in Miami Beach, set to open in January on May 1. l In April, the Minnesota Orchestra announced plans for a $40 million renovation and expansion of its 36-year-old Orchestra Hall. The orchestra chose Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects (KPMB) as designers, and the Target Corporation gave $5 million toward the project. l The Brooklyn Philharmonic plans to convert the former Engine Company 204 Firehouse in Brooklyn, New York into a community center and arts school, tentatively set to open in 2012. The firehouse will also include performance and rehearsal venues, as well as administrative offices. The design group HOK NY is working on the center as a pro bono project.
an arts district can be an international draw unto itself in all but a handful of locations is debatable, but performances, exhibitions, and events certainly encourage outof-towners to extend their stays and spread more dollars around.
The recession has pushed back construction of the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando; the three planned halls, including one for the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, will open in phases.
Dr. Phillips Center for the Perfoming Arts
In Missouri, cultural tourism is very much on the mind of Kansas City Symphony Executive Director Frank Byrne. His orchestra is barreling through a multi-year plan to prepare for the fall 2011 opening of its new home at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, which will also be home to the Lyric Opera and Kansas City Ballet. The Kauffman Center is certain to gain national, if not international, attention thanks to the design team behind it. Architect Moshe Safdie created a shell-shaped structure, clad in stainless steel, that encompasses two performance spaces: a proscenium theater and a vineyard-style orchestra hall, with seats encircling the stage. The visual and sonic experience will likely be new to most local orchestra patrons, while curious music industry insiders will be eager to experience the latest effort by acoustician Yasuhisa Toyota. Byrne anticipates that once word spreads about the unusual concert hall, and how different the energy can be when musicians and audiences are in close proximity, everyone will want to see and hear it for themselves. “Nothing we do will be business as usual,” says Byrne. “Everything will be transformed by this new environment.” The Kauffman Center sits on an undeveloped hilltop smack in the middle of downtown redevelopment, with the new Power and Light entertainment district and Sprint Center arena on one side and the Crossroads Arts District, with its galleries and restaurants, on the other. Scattered around are factory loft conversions that attract urban dwellers, and the city’s convention center lies immediately to the north. All of which presents a perfect opportunity for the Kauffman Center to connect with its surroundings, just as Kansas Citians are getting reacquainted with downtown. As with many cities, Kansas City’s once-thriving downtown business and retail core began to lose favor to suburban malls and office parks in the 1960s and ’70s. The turnaround now finds a major company like H&R Block choosing to build its world
New World Symphony
Fox Cities PAC
headquarters downtown. Kauffman Center President and CEO Jane Chu has had ongoing discussions with area businesses about boosting street-level activity among the various destinations. “The key to these relationships is for the Kauffman Center to be a good listener,” she says. “Find out what means the most to each constituent, so that the programs and activities we offer are relevant.” Chu meets regularly with the resident companies to plot out logistical issues. While many performing arts center openings involve a getting-to-know-you-period, the Kauffman resident companies are already family. They’ve long shared a common home at the Lyric Theatre, a 1920sera music hall, and draw from the same pool of musicians. That’s made things both easier and more difficult, says Byrne. “You’ve heard the story about how a fish never grows larger than the fishbowl it’s in, and the Lyric Theatre is our fishbowl. It has become our environment, in which we have had to find ways to work and cooperate, and we’re very grateful for it.” At the same time, he says, organizational mindsets tend to be defined by the confines of those four walls. “Now we’re going in to something that’s not only dramatically different, but we have two halls.” Expanded schedules for all three resident companies, for example, will require a rethinking of calendars and performances for the musicians the companies share. “That requires us to think very differently about how we do what we do.
And the level of cooperation, if anything, will become higher, not less.” Fox Valley Spreads Its Wings
Moving into a performing arts center alters the world view of any resident company. That can be especially true for smaller organizations like the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra. The $1.3 million budget orchestra has played at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center in Appleton, Wis., since that facility opened in 2002. The performing arts center was developed as part of a concerted effort to transform downtown Appleton from a faltering shopping area into a thriving, walkable arts district. (With a population of 73,000, Appleton is the largest of sixteen municipalities in the Fox River Valley, about 100 miles north of Milwaukee.) A combination of savvy design decisions—the center has the second-largest stage house in Wisconsin—and strong management has made it a powerful regional draw, able to nab Broadway tours like Wicked and The Lion King. Several arts groups perform at the center, but the Fox Valley Symphony is the largest and the only resident company. As such, the orchestra has scheduling priority and is able to negotiate a comfortable rental rate. The center provides marketing and advertising support without charge, as well as box-office services. Symphony Executive Director Marta Weldon says the arrangement has caused confusion at times, with people who either aren’t aware that the or-
chestra is a separate entity or who want to know if she can get them Lion King tickets. “But that’s okay,” she says, “as long as they know that’s where we perform.” Performing at the center has allowed the orchestra to stretch its wings beyond what was possible when the part-time musicians played at nearby Lawrence University and local high schools. “It made a huge difference. Suddenly the artistic level is rising,” Weldon points out. “Immediately the symphony was able to attract world-class artists who would never have looked at this orchestra before.” Guests have included Joshua Bell, David Shifrin, James Galway, and Garrison Keillor, and in 2007 the orchestra presented the world premiere of Chris Brubeck’s Quiet Heroes (A Symphonic Salute to the Flag Raisers at Iwo Jima). “So it’s the entire experience of the way we can present the orchestra proThe Fox Cities fessionally,” says Weldon. Performing A 2007 study by AmeriArts Center cans for the Arts found that the Fox Cities Performing (left) was Arts Center has an annual developed economic impact of $14.27 as part of a million, with $1.76 mil- concerted lion in state and local tax effort to revenues. According to a transform city report, property values downtown downtown had risen 32 Appleton, Wis., percent since 2003, and re- from a faltering gional businesses had startshopping area ed including visits to the into a thriving, performing arts center in walkable arts their courtship of potential employees, as an example district. of the Fox Cities quality of life. Expectations and Realities
Not every story has a happy ending, of course. Performing arts centers are such high-profile, decades-long, multi-milliondollar endeavors, weighted with expectations from political leaders, communities, and artists, that disappointments are inevitable. Yes, if you build it, they will come. But maybe not in large enough numbers to keep that fabulous new facility from becoming a burden on local coffers. Or to insure that resident companies will be able to deal with increased rent and operational costs. Or that the facility can meet expectations for public amenities and acoustics. Or even, as we’ve learned lately, that the economy will cooperate. Groundbreaksymphony
ing for the Dr. P. Phillips Performing Arts Center in downtown Orlando, slated to house the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra and other groups, was pushed back from spring to fall of this year; construction on its three halls will proceed in phases. Orlando’s tourism industry has been hit hard by the recession; funders and planners have reined in spending. But then, even Lincoln Center, the original model, hasn’t always lived up to expectations. New York’s cultural campus has been the scene of battles between resident companies; its buildings by worldrenowned architects have displayed design faults and disrepair; and the very layout of the campus has been held up as a prime example of the elitist, temple-on-the-hill design that turns inward from the surrounding neighborhood, and turns off potential audiences. That last argument still dogs contemporaries like the Kennedy Center, which has been characterized as a beautiful but remote classical island on the Potomac, with the only easy access by car. It haunts the original buildings of the Los Angeles
All in all, this 50-year-old is displaying an ability to evolve and attract new, even unexpected, audiences and opportunities, without disrespecting what has come before. The big white tents scheduled to go up in Damrosch Park next to the Met this September will usher in the season with a whole new set of glitterati, as New York Fashion Week sets up at Lincoln Center for the first time. The performing arts center readies for its second act.
Music Center, which are literally set on a hilltop, their main facades oriented toward the interior plaza. Results of the Lincoln Center renovation project, which have been gradually unveiled over recent months, don’t address every such ill, but they do demonstrate how shifts in thinking about urban planning, demographics, arts operations, audience habits, technology, and more have been absorbed. The emphasis on car culture, so prevalent in 20th-century America, has taken a backseat to pedestrian traffic; subway entrances are no longer hidden. The city dweller’s need for green space has been addressed in the rooftop lawn of a new restaurant, which slopes down to the plaza level so that visitors can dig their toes in the grass. Glass exterior walls of The Juilliard School now let passersby glance in or see what’s happening in a studio of public television station Thirteen/WNET, erasing the sense of forbidding institutions masked in stone. Even the beloved Revson Fountain has a more playful attitude, rejuvenated by “dancing waters” technology straight out of Vegas.
REBECCA WINZENRIED, a New York-based writer and editor, is the former editor in chief of Symphony.
Got an opinion? Join the discussion! Has the presence—or absence—of a performing arts center made a difference in the life of your orchestra, or your community? How might performing arts centers reinvent themselves for greater relevance today?
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Rice University The Shepherd School of Music
offers pre-professional training for musicians, combining the intensity of a conservatory experience with the educational excellence of a renowned private university. Our illustrious faculty of artist-teachers dedicate themselves to cultivating the special talents and skills of each individual student. VIOLIN Kenneth Goldsmith Cho-Liang Lin Sergiu Luca Kathleen Winkler
CLARINET Michael Webster
VIOLA James Dunham Ivo-Jan van der Werff
TRUMPET Marie Speziale
CELLO Norman Fischer Desmond Hoebig Brinton Averil Smith DOUBLE BASS Paul Ellison Timothy Pitts FLUTE Leone Buyse OBOE Robert Atherholt
BASSOON Benjamin Kamins
HORN William VerMeulen TROMBONE David Waters TUBA David Kirk PERCUSSION Richard Brown HARP Paula Page
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COMPOSITION & THEORY Karim Al-Zand Anthony Brandt Shih-Hui Chen Arthur Gottschalk Pierre Jalbert Richard Lavenda Kurt Stallmann MUSICOLOGY Walter Bailey Gregory Barnett Marcia Citron David Ferris Rice University Peter Loewen The Shepherd School of Music Director of Music Admissions P.O. Box 1892 Houston, Texas 77251 713.348.4854 http://music.rice.edu Rice University is committed to affirmative action and equal opportunity in education and employment. Rice does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national or ethnic origin, age, disability or veteran status.
Campaign For A New Direction The Campaign for a New Direction is the League of American Orchestras’ $25 million, five-year, comprehensive campaign, which is funding the new and ongoing programs and services set forth in its visionary Strategic Plan. In four years, the Campaign has raised over $22.7 million – over 90% of the Campaign goal. All of us at the League of American Orchestras are extremely grateful to the following individuals for their generous Campaign support: Christopher Seton Abele, on behalf of the Argosy Foundation Douglas W. Adams W. Randolph Adams Nancy & Ellsworth Alvord, Jr., M.D. Alberta Arthurs Brent & Jan Assink Audrey G. Baird Elena Bales & Steven Bronfenbrenner Allison Ball Jennifer B. Barlament Lisa & Miles Barr Cecilia Benner Marie-Hélène Bernard Andrew Berryhill & Melinda Appold William P. Blair III Nancy Blaugrund Richard J. Bogomolny Fred & Liz Bronstein Steven R. Brosvik Dr. & Mrs. Malcolm Brown Wayne S. Brown & Brenda E. Kee Trish Bryan Michelle Miller Burns & Gary W. Burns Frank Byrne Catherine M. Cahill Andrew K. Cahoon & Erin R. Freeman John & Janet Canning Katherine Carleton Nicky B. Carpenter Judy Christl Richard & Kay Fredericks Cisek Katy Clark Melanie Clarke Bruce & Martha Clinton, on behalf of The Clinton Family Fund Edward and Nancy Conner Fund
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Help ensure the future of orchestras by taking action now! Please join us in the Campaign for a New Direction by contacting Caroline Wolf, Interim Vice President for Development, at 646 822 4009 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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by Paul Horsley
Moment A century after his death and 150 years since his birth, Mahler speaks directly to us.
Leonard Bernstein wears a favorite sweatshirt while rehearsing the New York Philharmonic, 1967.
Don Hunstein/Sony, NY Philharmonic Archives
40 or 50 years,” Gustav Mahler predicted a century ago, “they will play my symphonies at orchestral concerts as they now play Beethoven’s.” The composer may have been a bit off with his chronology, but 100 years after Mahler’s death we find that his music dominates symphonic life as never before. And as the world looks to the dual celebrations during the 2010-11 season—the sesquicentennial of his birth in 1860 and the centennial of the death in 1911—we find ourselves living in a very different world than that of the centennial in 1960, when Leonard Bernstein said to a New York Philharmonic Young People’s Concert audience: “Who is this Mahler? Has any one of you ever heard of him? I’ll bet not, or only very few of you. You see, Mahler isn’t one of those big popular names like Beethoven or Gershwin or Ravel.” Fifty years later, Mahler is everywhere. Today his symphonies and songs are cornerstones of the orchestral canon—resuscitated, unequivocally, from a period of neglect dating back to the Nazi era. The initial resurgence of interest in his music in the 1960s spurred a series of popculture boosts, from Stephen Sondheim’s mention of him in Company (where fashionable ladies take in “a matinee, a Pinter play, perhaps a piece of Mahler’s”) to Ken Russell’s oddball film version of his life and (odder still) Luchino Visconti’s Mahlerian Gustav Aschenbach in his film Death in Venice—the latter with its famous over-use of the Adagietto from the Fifth Symphony. For Bernstein and others in the 1960s, Mahler had been an artist with one foot in the 19th and the other in the 20th century—and one who foretold the wars and terrors and holocausts of the 20th century “like a camera that has caught Western society in the moment of its incipient decay,” as Bernstein wrote in High Fidelity in 1967 (“Mahler: His Time Has Come”). Today we are more likely to see Mahler
San Francisco Symphony
Above: Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony perform Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 and Kindertotenlieder with mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung. Below: Tilson Thomas, producer Andreas Neubronner, soprano Laura Claycomb, and Musical Assistant to the Music Director Peter Gurnberg look over the score while recording Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 with the San Francisco Symphony.
San Francisco Symphony
not just as a summing-up of the AustroGerman tonal tradition, but as a composer who speaks with a voice that is our voice. Today his angst is our angst, his tormented extremes and breathless beauties reflect perfectly the dizzying complexity and shrill clamor of the 21st century. The composer who said that a symphony should encompass the whole universe seems a natural for a globally connected generation with the vastness of all knowledge available at the click of a mouse. “In a funny way Mahler has become the great iconic classical composer of our age,” says New Yorker music critic Alex Ross, noting that in some recent New York seasons, audiences have had the opportunity to hear more Mahler than Beethoven. “Almost every week at Carnegie Hall someone is showing up with Mahler, making “If you me feel a little fatigued perform even in advance of the Mahler year.” Mahler’s During the 2010-11 music in the season, Mahler’s mustudio, there’s sic will be the center of one important celebrations internationally and, just to name a element that’s few U.S. cities, in New missing,” says York, Chicago, and San Francisco. But it’s also a John Kieser, testament to the ubiqdirector of uity of Mahler’s music, operations perhaps, that some orand electronic chestras are not celebrating excessively during media at the the Mahler year, or are San Francisco at least spreading things out. The New York PhilSymphony. harmonic, whose Mahler “How the legacy dates back to the composer’s own presence audience at its helm in 1909-11, is is reacting stretching the music over is a crucial multiple seasons. The Ravinia Festival and the part of the performance.” Chicago Symphony Orchestra have chosen 2010 to conclude their cycle— with the Adagio from the Tenth Symphony— after having programmed two Mahler symphonies per summer for several
seasons, all of them led by Ravinia Music Director James Conlon. They learned, during a well-remembered season in 1979, when James Levine programmed the CSO to perform all the symphonies in a single summer, that one can have too
much of a good thing. “People look back longingly and say, what a great thing that was for Ravinia,” says Festival President and CEO Welz Kauffman, adding with a laugh: “But nobody went. It’s one of those ideas that look better on paper.” And the symphony
San Francisco Symphony’s Mahler celebration marks the completion of Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas’s nineyear, Grammy Award-winning project to record the entire Mahler output—just the most recent of the more than twenty available Mahler cycles on disc today. Mahler also is the focus of intense scholarly activity. He now holds the distinction of being the subject of the largest composer biography in history, Henry-Louis De La Grange’s 4,000-page Gustav Mahler, whose fourth and final volume, A New Life Cut Short 1907-1911, was published in 2008. (The set now awaits De La Grange’s extensive overhaul of Vol. 1, originally published in 1973.) The interest in Mahler has had a wide reach: Chicago-based musicologist Susan M. Filler has been invited to China twice, in 2001 and 2006, to lecture on the composer’s music at conservatories there. “The students are definitely interested, in increasing numbers,” says Filler, the author of Gustav and Alma Mahler: A Research and Information Guide. Students everywhere appear to connect with Mahler. Christopher H. Gibbs, professor of music history at Bard College,
garity.” And the impact has continued to the present day; many young composers view Mahler’s works as near-sacred icons. But Filler says there is still work to do in understanding Mahler more completely— not just the relationship of his conducting career to his music, but also the impact his music had on subsequent 20th-century and 21st-century music. Mahler, Our Contemporary
How did Mahler become so central to our everyday lives, and what explains his ongoing relevance? Certainly the championing of his music by conductors like Bernstein, Bruno Walter, James Levine, Boulez, Georg Solti, Claudio Abbado, and Bernard Haitink has played a role— though performing histories of American orchestras indicate that Mahler has always had a place in the schedules of the major ensembles. It’s only natural that such a revolution should be conductor-driven, says Robert Olson, who founded the Colorado Mahlerfest in Boulder in 1988, an annual all-volunteer festival currently in its third traversal of the complete Mahler canon. “It is the repertoire that conductors feel the
says that undergraduates indifferent to, say, Brahms are fascinated with Mahler. “Students get into Mahler’s music,” Gibbs says. “The imagination and the drama in the music are incredibly enticing.” Still, understanding Mahler more fully takes work. “We recognize that Mahler is part of the continuum,” says Filler. “We understand that there were composers who came before him who influenced him: Bach, Beethoven, Bruckner. On the other hand, what has not been so well accepted is how he, in turn, influenced those who came after.” Mahler’s impact began shortly after his death, many say, with the works of the Second Viennese School. Chicago Symphony Orchestra Conductor Emeritus Pierre Boulez once said in an interview, “I could understand [Berg’s opera] Wozzeck better when I knew Mahler, especially the military march and so on, and all the vulamericanorchestras.org
Jim Steere/Ravinia Festival
The Ravinia Festival and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra chose 2010 to conclude their Mahler cycle—with the Adagio from the Tenth Symphony—after having programmed two symphonies per summer for several seasons, all of them led by Ravinia Music Director James Conlon.
most challenged by,” says Olson, whose festival was awarded a Mahler Gold Medal in 2005 by the International Gustav Mahler Society in Vienna for outstanding contributions to all things Mahler. “There are few composers where the conductor plays such a vital role as in Mahler, because of the hundreds of tempo changes. … There is no wider range of interpretation than there is for his music”—this despite the composer’s meticulous indications of tempo, dynamics, and even color. In addition to serving as season openers and closers, Mahler’s works have eclipsed those of Beethoven and Brahms as favorites of touring orchestras. “As long as the construct of the symphony orchestra exists as it does today, conductors are always going to want to do Mahler,” the Ravinia Festival’s Kauffman says. “It’s fun and it’s a challenge: it’s the Ring cycle, orchestral version.” Fine recordings by the world’s great orchestras have helped the cause, beginning for many with those by the New York Philharmonic and Bernstein, whose connection with the music helped drive the centennial revival in the first place. It’s true that the Philharmonic had a continuous tradition of Mahler performance previously, from the composer himself to Bruno Walter and Dmitri Mitropoulos. “But I think it came to a boiling point with Bernstein, who had the passion and the joy to really carry it off,” says Stanley Drucker, who joined the
Ravinia President Welz Kauffman (right) interviews Ravinia Music Director James Conlon at a preconcert discussion.
The Kansas City Symphony, seen here with Music Director Michael Stern, has had success performing Mahler.
Philharmonic in 1948 and was principal clarinet from 1960 until his retirement in 2009. “He could draw things out of players that probably they themselves didn’t think they could do. There was a certain kind of passion that was just overwhelming. His involvement was so thorough, so deep, it was very emotional. It touched a lot of nerves.” “We like to think there’s the continuation of a tradition,” says Philharmonic President and Executive Director Zarin Mehta, “because it’s been played unceasingly here since Mahler’s time and I have no doubt that there’s been a passage of tradition from one generation to the next.” In September, Philharmonic tickets were “Mahler is at a premium for three considerably sold-out performances of more the composer’s massive Third Symphony, part of mainstream Alan Gilbert’s inaugural today week as the ensemble’s for every new music director. “That kind of interest and reorchestra, sponse is part of why I’m large and hopeful for the future of small,” says mankind,” Mehta adds with a laugh. Kansas City But Mahler is not just Symphony for bigger orchestras: his Executive music is bread-and-butter Director Frank for small- and mediumsized orchestras as well. Byrne. “Mahler is considerably more mainstream today
for every orchestra, large and small,” says Kansas City Symphony Executive Director Frank Byrne. “It is important not only for our audience but for the musicians for us to program this music with as much frequency as possible.” Byrne sees Mahler as a good investment for an orchestra, because it stretches players’ artistic level in a healthy way. “Musicians just love to play it,” he says. “And it requires of them certain interpretive skills that are not found in some of the more standard repertoire.” Even outdoor performances of the symphonies have become common fare at summer festivals, a tradition established by conductors such as James Levine at Ravinia with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. “It’s a pretty dynamic experience,” Kauffman says. “You’re in nature. And is there a better depiction of nature than Mahler?” Moreover, advances in digital technology have greatly aided the capturing of Mahler’s dense textures on disc. Tilson Thomas’s previously mentioned SACD set with the San Francisco Symphony has been part of a growing trend toward live Mahler recordings. “If you perform this music in the studio, you’ve got the performers and the music director, but there’s one important element that’s missing,” says John Kieser, director of operations and electronic media at the San Francisco Symphony, “and that’s the audience. In Davies Hall, our audience surrounds the stage, and there’s a lot of energy that’s going back and forth. How the audience is reacting is a crucial part of the performance.” The edge-of-the-seat spontaneity of these
recordings has paid off, partly in the form of 133,000 copies sold and seven Grammy Awards. “It’s not by chance that these CDs are live recordings,” says Joshua Kosman of the San Francisco Chronicle, “because that really is part of [Tilson Thomas’s] world view of how to capture those moments.” Emotion for Our Time
But familiarity alone can’t fully explain Mahler’s new currency. Is it partly, perhaps,
Luchino Visconti’s 1971 film Death in Venice, based on Thomas Mann’s novel, featured a character, composer Gustav Aschenbach, loosely based on Gustav Mahler. The Adagietto from Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 became widely popular due to the film.
that we as a culture have grown closer to Mahler—has the complexity of our world made our need for his music seem greater? “Every possible human emotion is ex pressed in his work,” the Colorado Mahler fest’s Olson says. “It seems that we are a civilization now that is highly emotional ized; everything in our lives seems to be taken to extremes that are unprecedented. And it’s all there in Mahler’s music.” In a culture awash with reality television and celebrity confessionals, today’s listener seems less fazed by Mahler’s over-the-top tirades than those of previous generations. Indeed, it is this very self-confessional qual ity that many find familiar, even comfort ing, says New York Philharmonic Artistic Administrator John Mangum, who at 35 is young enough to have grown up in a world where Mahler was already a given. “You can access his extremely rich inner emotional world quite directly in the music, and it’s fairly easy to indentify with the emotional struggle. You hear in the music things that you are experiencing yourself.” And the is sues being addressed are big ones, Mangum
adds—“profound spiritual questions about the place of humans in the world.” Mahler’s materials can be simple: march es, folk songs, chorales. But his marches “are like heart attacks,” as Bernstein wrote, “his chorales like all Christendom gone mad.” Indeed, says Kosman, “often one’s reaction to hearing Mahler for the first time is to say something along the lines of, ‘You can’t be serious, dude! “Frère Jacques” in the minor? What are you talking about?’ And it takes a kind of advocacy on the part of the per formers, and faith and patience on the part of listeners, to listen through that sardonic surface and to hear the emotional depth and sincerity behind that sensibility.” That Mahler is here to stay seems cer tain. “He’s definitely part of the permanent collection,” Drucker says. And in the view of critic Alex Ross, part of that endurance is the breadth of his vista. “His world-view is tremendous,” says Ross. “He is inclusive, he is all-embracing, he speaks for outsiders and outcasts. He loves high and low. He was elitist in some ways, but the music it self gives you this profoundly sympathetic
image—a very stirring image, a mirror, an ideal of a world to which we can aspire.” Or, as Bernstein wrote in High Fidelity of the Ninth’s finale: “We are cleansed, when all is said and done; no person of sensibility can come away from the Ninth Symphony without being exhausted and purified. And that is the triumphant result of all this pur gatory, justifying all excesses: We do ulti mately encounter an apocalyptic radiance, a glimmer of what peace must be like.” PAUL HORSLEY is the performing arts editor for The Independent (Kansas City). He was previously the music and dance critic for The Kansas City Star, and currently writes program notes for several orchestras, venues, and presenting series.
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The Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview and Music Director Search Seminar February 15–17, 2011 New Orleans, LA Music Director Search Seminar February 15 –16 Are you currently in a Music Director search? Do you want to see the brightest emerging conducting talent? Come to New Orleans for an in-depth exploration of the music director search process with leading experts in the field. Stay to experience gifted conductors showcasing their artistry with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. Save the date now and don’t miss out—the Seminar and Preview are only offered every two years, and will not be held again until 2013. For more information or to register, visit americanorchestras.org. This seminar is made possible by grants from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Argosy Foundation, The Hearst Foundation, Inc., and National Endowment for the Arts.
The Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview Hosted by the Louisiana Philharmonic February 17 See, hear, and meet the nation’s top emerging conducting talent as they showcase their artistry with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra in New Orleans. Space is limited, so register now! If you are a conductor wanting to apply for The Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview, please complete the application here. Deadline for applications is October 1, 2010. The Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview is made possible by generous grants from The Bruno Walter Memorial Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Louisianna Philharmonic Orchestra Music Director Carlos Miguel Prieto
Business How has the classical music industry changed from generation to generation? Members of several prominent musical families weigh in. by Eileen Reynolds
Michael J. Lutch
Anton and Julian Kuerti, father and son, together on a 1996 rafting trip on the Tatshenshini River
hen pianist Anton Kuerti traveled to Boston to catch the last of his son Julian Kuerti’s debut concerts as assistant conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in March 2008, he thought he would sit in the audience, enjoying Dvořák’s Seventh Symphony and Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto. A veteran performer who maintains a busy schedule with top orchestras, Anton Kuerti, 72, has recorded all of the Beethoven concertos and sonatas. This time, Leon Fleisher was scheduled to perform as piano soloist in the concerto, and Kuerti was attending the concert as a proud parent. When Fleisher fell ill late in the afternoon on the day of the concert, Kuerti’s plans abruptly changed: he was asked to fill in for Fleisher, performing the concerto— with his son leading the orchestra.
“I didn’t have much time to think about it, because the phone call came in at six o’clock,” Anton Kuerti says. “I was just taking a shower getting ready to go down to the hall.” With just 45 minutes to warm up backstage before the performance, he had to focus on the music, not on the fact that the conductor was his son. “The last thing going through my head was that he was my father,” Julian Kuerti, 33, says of the eleventh-hour soloist swap. “It was only after the last chord had sounded, that I was able to think about it in the context of what just happened.” Stories about parents and their adult children performing together are appealing for sentimental reasons, but when music is the family business, family members who have forged brilliant careers as solo and orchestral musicians can also provide insight into the evolution of the profession. How are the challenges faced by a musician in 2010 dif-
ferent than those encountered by musicians in 1970—or 1910? What do changes in the broader culture mean in the context of the everyday lives of classical musicians? With their multi-year, cross-generational perspective, musical families are a great resource for exploring the shifts and tensions within the classical music industry. Is the life of the soloist more or less difficult today than it used to be? What about the job market for the many accomplished musicians who graduate from conservatories and university music programs every year? Family members from different generations provide valuable perspectives on how the classical music world has—and hasn’t— changed with the times. Though they enjoy performing together, Anton and Julian Kuerti admit that when a rehearsal becomes a family affair, it can be difficult to separate the personal from the professional. “I want to make sure not symphony
Anton Kuerti and son Julian Kuerti after their March 2008 performance with the Boston Symphony Orchestra
to say or do anything which might conceivably humiliate him or make it seem like I’m calling all the shots,” Anton says. Julian tries not to allow his father’s suggestions to bruise his ego. “One time I had just finished asking the orchestra to play something short, and then my father stood up and said actually all of these notes have to be played long, completely contradicting what I’d just said,” Julian says with a laugh. “I’m always happy to defer to the soloist anyway,” he adds. On one point, father and son agree: one of the most striking differences between today’s classical music world and that of earlier generations is that there are now more highly skilled young musicians entering the workforce. Julian notes that for a single opening in the violin section, an orchestra might “receive applications from eighty different violinists. And those violinists—or the great majority of those— americanorchestras.org
would probably have the ability and the technique and integrity to perform in that position. It’s just so difficult to select one of them.” For musicians hoping for solo careers, Anton says, the competition is even stiffer. “How many pianists, violinists, and cellists can the world sustain?” he asks, saying that he stopped taking on new students because he felt that training more pianists was, in a way, irresponsible. “I had some outstanding students who are making good careers, so in a sense I’ve replaced myself,” Anton says. “And if I keep trying to train more and more pianists, what’s to become of them all?” Both Kuertis speak to the question of supply and demand in the classical music industry: there is no shortage of accomplished musicians who want to perform, but are there enough people who are interested in listening? For Anton Kuerti, the key to courting audiences for classical music is
making sure tickets are affordable. Noting that the top ticket prices for many orchestras can be as high as $125, Anton says, “it would have to be a pretty outrageously magnificent concert before I’m going to spend that much money, and I would say the majority of people cannot afford that. There are quite a lot of educated young people who are looking for something deeper and more meaningful. I think it’s those that we really have to try to attract.” Julian Kuerti has a different idea about what tomorrow’s audiences might look like. “My theory,” he says, “is that when the baby-boom generation finally retires, we’re going to have a huge cohort. We’re going to have a boom in attendance, because suddenly these people are going to become interested in finding something deeper and going into the concert hall instead of just driving in the car and listening to the radio.”
Practical Career Advice
Charlotte Symphony violinist Jenny Topilow (above); Carl Topilow (left)
“I had a violin waiting for me in the closet when I was three years old,” says Charlotte Symphony Orchestra violinist Jenny Topilow of growing up as the daughter of Carl Topilow, founder and director of the Cleveland Pops Orchestra. Carl is also the longtime music director of the National Repertory Orchestra, a Colorado-based training ensemble where Jenny performed for two summers, and director of orchestras at the Cleveland Institute of Music, where Jenny received her degree in violin performance. Now 30 and a member of the North Carolina-based Charlotte Symphony since 2004, Jenny looks back on a childhood that was filled with classical music. “When I was a kid,” she says, “my two favorite pieces to dance to were Firebird and ‘Jupiter’ from The Planets.” Like Julian and Anton Kuerti, Jenny points to the fierce competition for orchestra jobs as one of the biggest challenges facing her generation of musicians. “I think that the audition process is even “You can go more grueling than it was before,” Jenny says, and read on adding that despite blogs what her early immersion in everybody’s music, certain aspects saying about of being a professional musician took her by you. Alisa has surprise. “There should pointed this out be a class in college for to me,” says everyone who wants to pianist Vivian be an orchestral musician on the ins and Weilerstein, outs of contracts and mother of cellist orchestra committees,” Alisa Weilerstein. Jenny says, noting that “That’s shocking musicians who are welltrained as artists are to me.” sometimes ill-prepared to think about classical music as a business. Now a member of the Charlotte Symphony’s musicians’ committee, Jenny has taken an active role in addressing the practical and financial concerns of her fellow musicians. At the Cleveland Institute of Music, Carl Topilow is doing his part to provide his conducting students with the kind of practical knowledge that his daughter feels conservatory-trained musicians sometimes lack. Because conducting positions are often scarce, Carl urges his students to distinguish themselves by cultivating a vari-
ety of skills. “You can’t really put all your eggs in one basket,” he says. “You have to be able to diversify: you have to be able to teach and do any number of things, including working with lots of different smaller orchestras, just to make ends meet.” And, he says, this is not the time to be shy about promoting oneself: every aspiring musician should develop an “entrepreneurial spirit,” embracing recent technological developments for use in creating publicity. “You have to have a website, and conductors now need to have DVDs that they can send around to orchestras where they are candidates,” Carl says. While he notes that “there was no internet when I was coming up,” he seems perfectly at home in the information age: he has a website of his own, complete with embedded YouTube videos of his performances.
out of cereal boxes. Alisa’s commitment to the cello never waned, and now, at age 28, she is in high demand as a soloist: last year she performed for President Obama at the White House, and in April she made her Berlin Philharmonic debut playing Elgar’s cello concerto. But she still performs with her parents as a part of the Weilerstein Trio, which is in residence at New England Conservatory, where both parents are faculty members. “There’s a basic musical rapport that I think the three of us share, and it can make for some very special musical experiences,” says Alisa. Since the days of being serenaded as an infant by his older sister, Josh has gone on to launch a successful career: he performed as a violin soloist with the Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar on its 2007 tour of the United States, and he won Denmark’s prestigious Malko Competition for Young Conductors at the age of 21, just after he graduated from New England Conservatory. When Alisa’s solo career began to take off after she signed with a management company at age fourteen, her parents were careful to shelter her from the pressures of public life. “I remember hiding reviews from her even though they were
Enter the Internet
When cellist Alisa Weilerstein’s brother Josh was born, the first thing the six-year-old wanted to do was sit down with her parents for an impromptu family performance of one of Haydn’s piano trios. “He was lying in the bassinette,” says pianist Vivian Weilerstein, Alisa and Josh’s mother. “I had just given birth, but I had to walk in the door and play Haydn for him.” Vivian and her violinist husband, Donald Weilerstein, had recently started practicing the trios with Alisa, a precocious child who had begged for cello lessons after her grandmother let her play with a mock cello constructed
The Weilerstein Trio: Donald, Alisa, and Vivian
A Relative Thing
Josh Weilerstein won the 2009 Malko Competition for young conductors at age 21.
E Andrew Hurlbut
very now and then a story about family ties within the classical music world sparks public interest. Since Alan Gilbert began his tenure as music director of the New York Philharmonic in September 2009, for example, there have been numerous articles about Gilbert and his mother, Yoko Takebe, a longtime New York Philharmonic violinist, and father Michael Gilbert, also a violinist, who retired from the orchestra in 2001. Those who spend a lot of time with classical musicians, however, know this is just the tip of the iceberg—it is probably more common for professional musicians to come from a family of musicians than not. What follows is a tiny sampling of musical families from today’s classical music scene.
all fantastic,” Vivian says. “I didn’t want her to think that people were talking so much about her.” These days, a parent would have to do a lot more than cut reviews from the newspaper, since it’s possible to type a name into a search engine and find multiple reviews of a single performance. And, with blogs and comment features on websites, anyone can voice an opinion. “You can go and read on blogs what everybody’s saying about you. Alisa has pointed this out to me,” Vivian says. “That’s shocking to me.” As a performer who spends a lot of time on the road, Alisa wonders whether soloists from previous generations led such hectic lives. “I think people are expected to be busier nowadays—to play 150 concerts a year,” she says. “In Rubinstein’s time, he would take three weeks on a cruise, then go play in New York, and then take a boat back to Europe. It’s a very, very different lifestyle these days—more frenetic.” Alisa also muses that the classical music recording industry has changed a lot between her parents’ generation and her own. Her father, Donald Weilerstein, co-founded the Cleveland Quartet in 1969, and during his twenty years as the group’s first violinist the quartet recorded seven Grammy-nominated albums. Since then, the development of mp3 players and programs like iTunes— which allow listeners to purchase single music tracks instead of whole albums— has changed the way people listen to music. “Some people would say the recording industry is dying,” Alisa says, while “others would say that it’s transforming into something different, and we don’t really know how it’s going to pan out.” Donald believes that though new technologies may have decreased the demand for traditional albums, electronic downloads have provided greater access to classical music. “That kind of accessibility is a wonderful thing,” he says. americanorchestras.org
The Ahn Trio: sisters Angella, violin, Lucia, piano, and Maria, cello The 5 Browns: pianists Ryan, Melody, Gregory, Deondra and Desirae, all siblings, all Juilliard grads The DePue Brothers: Zach, concertmaster of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and member of Time for Three; Wallace, assistant concertmaster of the Philly Pops; Jason, Philadelphia Orchestra violinist; and Alex, fiddler and composer Brothers Anthony McGill, principal clarinet of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, and Demarre McGill, principal flute of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra Pianist Claude Frank and daughter Pamela Frank, violinist Pianist and conductor Jeffrey Kahane, music director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and son Gabriel Kahane, composer and songwriter Cellist Carlos Prieto and son Carlos Miguel Prieto, music director of the Louisiana Philharmonic, Huntsville Symphony, and Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional de Mexico Baritone Rod Gilfry and daughter Carin Gilfry, mezzo-soprano Conductor Gennady Rozhdestvensky; wife Viktoria Postnikova, pianist; and son Sasha Rozhdestvensky, violinist Conductor Zubin Mehta; brother Zarin Mehta, president and executive director of the New York Philharmonic; son Mervon Mehta, executive director for performing arts at Canada’s Royal Conservatory of Music; and cousin Bejun Mehta, countertenor Composer Peter Schickele; son Matt Schickele, composer and songwriter; and daughter Karla Schickele, singer/songwriter Ancestral Links to New Music
Pianist Jonathan Biss likes to say that his Carnegie Hall debut was a prenatal one: in 1980, while pregnant with Jonathan, violinist Miriam Fried performed Mozart’s Violin Concerto in A Major at Carnegie Hall with the Cleveland Orchestra under the direction of Lorin Maazel. Thirty years later, Jonathan still spends a lot of time onstage: according to the League of American Orchestras’ 2008-09 Orchestra Repertoire Report, he was the second-most-frequently scheduled solo performer for the 2008-09 season. “I don’t feel like I can have a serious conversation about my relationship with music, my being a musician, and my love of music without talking about my parents,” Jonathan, now 30, says. His father, Paul Biss, is a violinist, violist, and longtime music
professor at Indiana University. Jonathan’s grandmother—Paul’s mother—was Raya Garbousova, the cellist for whom Samuel Barber composed his cello concerto. Taking inspiration from his grandmother’s career, Jonathan has cultivated relationships with numerous living composers, and he frequently performs works written for him by Leon Kirchner and Lewis Spratlan. By commissioning works and approaching new music with seriousness and rigor, Jonathan commits himself to playing new music with the “same commitment and passion and advocacy that you play old music. You don’t segregate the two.” For Paul Biss, the responsibility for performers to introduce new works is something that has been passed down from generation to generation. “I’m really happy that not only 20th-century music, but also
one woman soloist.’ That would be against the law now—and it also would never occur to anybody to say, even if they thought it.” But Jonathan and his mother agree that some aspects of the soloist’s life haven’t changed much over the years. “People say there is more commercialism now, but I think that was always there,” Fried says. Jonathan, too, feels that the demand for performers to cultivate marketable public personas is nothing new—“at least a hundred and fifty years old, if not older,” he says— but suggests that the internet has changed the speed with which news about performers can spread. “It’s more of a fishbowl, just because information is communicated faster and goes around the world so easily now,” Jonathan says. “It’s possible to have a reputation in places you’ve never been.” But while public scrutiny can be exhausting, Jonathan also says that the internet provides opportunities to engage in rewarding discussions that would have been impossible in the past. “I love the idea of creating a relationship with my audience where I try to bring them closer to the music I play,” Jonathan says of his blog. “I think that’s where the internet is incredibly exciting as a tool.”
Remembering the Homeland
commissioning composers, is part of Jonathan’s concert life,” Paul says. “If people didn’t [perform new music] in the time of Beethoven and they didn’t do it in the time “Life for a female of all the great masters, we wouldn’t be aware of musician just 30 their music.” or 40 years ago Jonathan’s mother, Miriam Fried, notes that was drastically some aspects of life as a different than professional musician it is now,” says have changed radically violinist Miriam in just a few decades. Fried (below left) Fried’s solo career startwho is married ed to take off in 1968, when she won Genoa’s to violinist Paul Paganini Competition; Biss and is the after she became the mother of pianist first female violinist to Jonathan Biss win the Queen Elisabeth International Mu(below right). sic Competition in 1971, her international reputation soared. Life for a female musician just 30 or 40 years ago was drastically different than it is now, Fried says. “There was a major orchestra that wrote a letter to me that said, ‘Regrettably, you will not be hired to play with our orchestra next season because we already have
Conductor Kristjan Järvi’s latest recording project is the product of a relationship between two musical families that stretches back before his birth. In the 1960s, Kristjan’s father, Neeme Järvi, and composer Arvo Pärt became friends while they were both working at Estonian Radio—Järvi as conductor of the Estonian Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra, and Pärt as a recording engineer for the station’s music programs. The new album, which is being released in celebration of Pärt’s 75th birthday in September 2010, features Pärt’s Symphony No. 3, dedicated to Neeme Järvi in 1973, and a new orchestral and choral version of Pärt’s Stabat Mater commissioned by Kristjan Järvi in 2008. The Järvi and Pärt families left Estonia for the U.S. in 1980, and have remained close since. For Kristjan, 38, the youngest in a powerhouse musical family that includes father Neeme, 73, brother Paavo, 47 (both conductors), and sister Maarika, 45, a flutist, moving to the United States was a formative event. “It was like coming from a black and white world into color,” he says. “The possibilities and abundance of sensory perception in America was just unbelievable, compared to where we came from,” Kristjan says, citing exposure to jazz and other American musical genres as an important influence on his development as a musician. Kristjan says that if he hadn’t moved to the United States, he probably would be “a lot more conservative. Probably I would just be less creative, as I see it.” Kristjan’s sister Maarika, who was sixteen when the family moved (Kristjan was only eight) and who has made her career largely in Europe, feels stronger ties to her home country. Like her brothers and her father, Maarika is a strong advocate for Estonian music, and she has recorded three classical albums featuring flute concertos by contemporary Estonian composers. Maarika has performed as an orchestral musician and soloist throughout Europe, but she says that, unlike her brothers, she’s never been tempted to try conducting. “There are already enough conductors in our family,” she says. “And I guess when I was growing up it wasn’t time yet for women conductors. The idea never occurred to me.” Maarika says she and her brothers are rarely tempted to compare their achievements. “One career symphony
Boston University.................................... 2 Broadcast Music Inc. (BMI)................... 3 Charlie Chaplin......................................c2 Classical Kids Live!............................... 17 Tiit Veermäe
Maarika Järvi, flute, with her brother Kristjan conducting
doesn’t ever look like another one,” she says. Having worked with numerous orchestras and watched the careers of her family, Maarika is in a unique position to comment on what kind of leadership makes for successful orchestras. “If you’re lucky to have a music director who builds an orchestra, then everything is great,” she says. “My father has built orchestras and stayed with them a long time to see the results.” Neeme Järvi was music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra from 1990 to 2005, and music director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra from 2005 to 2009. Kristjan also looks to his father for inspiration as a conductor, and says that the “music without borders” concept for his New York-based Absolute Ensemble (founded in 1993) was partly inspired by his father’s programming as music director of the Detroit Symphony. “He did everything from exploring all sorts of unknown American music, to doing lots of jazz, to commissioning people, to pursuing multi-genre types of works,” Kristjan says.
suing careers in music, one word comes up again and again: love. As long as there are dedicated young musicians who love and are committed to classical music, they will find ways to make a living, no matter how difficult. Jenny Topilow mentions friends who have made careers teaching at universities, performing as freelancers, and even touring with musical theater productions. Vivian Weilerstein marvels at her NEC students, many of whom have formed their own ensembles, composed their own music, and pursued opportunities to blend world music, pop, and classical styles. No one would argue that a career in classical music will ever be an easy one. But, says Jonathan Biss, it is worth pursuing. “Part of being young and being a student is you should have a certain kind of idealism, whatever generation you’re living in and whatever the difficulties are. I think the longer you can hold onto that, the better position you are in for a lifelong musical career. And more important than a musical career is living a life with music.”
Passion for the Art
EILEEN REYNOLDS is a bassoonist and graduate student in cultural reporting and criticism at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. Her writing on the arts has appeared in Show Business and The New Yorker’s Book Bench blog.
“Over the past fifty years, or even over the past ten to twenty years, the orchestra as an animal—as a beast—has had to look at its relevance to society,” says Kristjan Järvi. While parents and children from different families may disagree on smaller issues— like the role of the internet or the responsibility of music schools to prepare students for an increasingly competitive environment—they all share the passionate belief that classical music is something valuable that must be passed on to future generations. When asked what advice they would give to young musicians interested in puramericanorchestras.org
Got an opinion? Join the discussion! Do you think life as a professional musician is easier or harder than it was a generation ago? What has changed, and what remains the same?
Click on Discussions below to comment.
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Mr. Robert A. Birman, Prospect, KY Nancy Blaugrund, Albuquerque, NM § Mr. Frank Byrne, Kansas City, MO § Katherine Carleton, Toronto, ON, Canada § Judy Christl, Whitefish Bay, WI § Ms. Katy Clark, New York, NY ·§ Amy & Trey Devey, Cincinnati, OH ·§ Mr. D. M. Edwards, Tyler, TX § Susan Feder & Todd Gordon, Irvington, NY Ryan Fleur & Laura Banchero, Memphis, TN †·§ Mrs. William A. Friedlander, Cincinnati, OH § Karen Gahl-Mills & Laurence Mills-Gahl, Syracuse, NY § The GE Foundation, Fairfield, CT Michael Gehret, Lawrenceville, NJ Mr. Kareem A. George, Detroit, MI ·§ Maryellen Gleason & Kim Ohlemeyer, Phoenix, AZ Kathie & Ken Goode, Cincinnati, OH § Richard Gray, Chicago, IL Mr. André Gremillet, Jersey City, 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 Ann Koonsman, Fort Worth, TX JoAnne Krause, Brookfield, WI Andrea Laguni, Los Angeles, CA Carolyn and Wayne Landsverk, Portland, OR David Loebel, Lebanon, NH Hampton Mallory, Glenshaw, PA † Ms. Nancy March, Tucson, AZ Fred & Lois Margolin, Denver, CO Terri McDowell, Lookout Mountain, TN Mrs. Charlotte W. McNeel, Jackson, MS Evans Mirageas, Minnetrista, MN Steven & Donna Monder, Cincinnati, OH † Mr. Parker E. Monroe, Oakland, CA Heather Moore, Dallas, TX Gerald Morgan Jr., Midlothian, VA J.L. Nave, III & Paul Cook, Fort Wayne, IN ·§ Brenda Nienhouse, Spokane, WA ·§ Kristen Phillips & Matt Schreck, Hartford, CT Vicky & Rick Reynolds, Cincinnati, OH § Brian A. Ritter, Albany, NY William A. Ryberg, Hailey, ID Roger Saydack & Elaine Bernat, Eugene, OR † Mr. Louis Scaglione, Philadelphia, PA § Grace & Jim Seitz, Naples, FL + Ms. Rita Shapiro, Arlington, VA R. L. Sias, Oklahoma City, OK † Mr. Ari Solotoff, Portland, ME ·§ Barbara J. Soroca, Stamford, CT § Mr. John Stahr, Corona Del Mar, CA Mr. Gideon Toeplitz, Washington, DC Melia & Michael Tourangeau, Salt Lake City, UT Jeff & Melissa Tsai, Pittsburgh, PA ·§ Robert J. Wagner, Maplewood, NJ § Edward Walker, Oklahoma City, OK § Pamela J. Weaver, Greer, SC Melody Welsh-Buchholz, Crestwood, KY § Gary & Diane West, West Chester, OH Melinda Whiting & John Burrows, Riverton, NJ Paul R. Winberg & Bruce Czuchna, Eugene, OR Lisa M. Wong, M.D., Newton, MA Carol Sue Wooten, Fort Smith, AR † Rebecca & David Worters, Raleigh, NC § Edward C. Yim, New York, NY ·§ Paul Jan Zdunek, Pasadena, CA Anonymous (1) * Charter Member † Directors Council (former League Board) · Orchestra Management Fellowship Program Alumni • Donald Thulean Fund for Artistic Excellence + Includes Corporate Matching Gift ‡ In-Kind Donation § Includes Campaign Gift ^ Deceased
The League of American Orchestras graciously recognizes those who have remembered the League in their estate plans as members of the Helen M. Thompson Heritage Society. W. Curtis Livingston, co-chair, Nantucket, MA Nina C. Masek, co-chair, Sonoita, AZ Janet F. & 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 Brown, co-chair, Winston-Salem, NC Richard & Kay Fredericks Cisek, co-chair, North Oaks, MN Nancy & Ellsworth Alvord, Jr., M.D.^, Seattle, WA 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 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 The Irving Harris Foundation, Chicago, IL Mr. Cannon Y. Harvey, Denver, CO Mark Jung, Menlo Park, CA Art and Martha Kaemmer Fund of HRK Foundation, Saint Paul, MN 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 Mary Carr Patton, Orange Park, FL 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 Penelope Van Horn, Chicago, IL Ms. Ginger B. Warner, Cincinnati, OH Mr. & Mrs. Albert K. Webster, New York, NY Adair & Dick White, Atlanta, GA The Simon Yates & Kevin Roon Foundation, New York, NY
The Homecoming On the eve of his arrival as music director of the National Symphony Orchestra and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Christoph Eschenbach looks ahead.
50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in a concert on the exact anniversary of the original Inaugural Concert played by the NSO in 1961. We are commissioning a new piece for narrator and orchestra from Peter Lieberson. The text will use President Kennedy’s own words taken from his eloquent and profound speeches. The Kennedy Center was created as a living memorial to the president, and, by bringing these words to musical life, we hope to create an event all who attend will remember. The NSO’s role as the Kennedy Center’s resident symphonic orchestra gives us a broad canvas and fascinating opportunities, including one, in particular, that I treasure: the ability to Christoph Eschenbach leads the National Symphony Orchestra participate in international in Verdi’s Requiem in March 2010—his first concerts since festivals celebrating all aspects being appointed the NSO’s music director. of the performing arts. Our The National Symphony Orchestra part of maximum INDIA festival, from and I are united in another goal, one March 1 to 20, 2011, gives me the pleasure which will spur us as we travel across of programming a work that I love dearly: the country and around the world: to be Messiaen’s Turangalîla, the title of which cultural ambassadors, both for music and comes from Sanskrit. Turangalîla is, in the for Washington. words of the composer, “ ‘a love song’ as When I was young, a conductor told well as ‘a hymn to joy.’ ” me he thought my middle name was Another work dear to me that we “Challenge.” Now, I think it must be will perform during maximum INDIA is “Creative Curiosity,” for my imagination is Zemlinsky’s Lyric Symphony, a setting of never still for a moment as I contemplate the texts of India’s great polymath and my new home. Nobel laureate, Rabindranath Tagore. Margot Ingoldsby Schulman
ast August was the first time I was able to work with the National Symphony since the announcement of my appointment as music director. Traveling to Washington, D.C. from Chicago, I encountered almost every problem one could imagine. My plane was cancelled, I had to take a later one, and I was very late for the session with the musicians. I was concerned. When I walked onstage, I told them how sorry I was for their inconvenience, and out came the words I really wanted to say to them: “But now, I am home.” That is the way I have felt from that moment on. I have known this orchestra for many years, of course—I appeared with them as a pianist for the first time in 1972, and began guest-conducting them during Mstislav Rostropovich’s time as music director—but now our artistic partnership is growing deeper and richer, with this new role. I consider the NSO the most wonderful birthday gift of my 70th year! As my knowledge of my new artistic home grows, so does my sense of the great possibilities. The National Symphony Orchestra’s commitment to commissioning American music is extraordinary: more than 60 works created by 50 different composers since 1983. While we will expand our commissioning to international composers, I am happy to become part of the orchestra’s important tradition. On January 20th, 2011, it will be our honor to celebrate the
On another program, Anoushka Shankar, daughter of the great Ravi Shankar, will join us to play one of her father’s concertos for sitar and orchestra, and we will also perform a suite from Roussel’s Padmâvatî, reflecting that composer’s fascination with the sounds and legends of India. Mentoring has always been an irreducible part of my life. My mentors helped me on my way in my early career, and I have done my best, throughout my life, to pass their generosity of spirit along to succeeding generations of performers. Again, my new home offers much potential: I look forward to working with students from the region’s universities and conservatories.
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