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1 Orchestras of today,


Orchestras of today, 2


L ife and music go together. Music is a fundamental part of cultural and social life, both now and in the future. Without music there is silence.

Classical music is a major cornerstone of our cultural heritage. The Dutch masters are to painting what the great composers are to classical music. The whole world is familiar with The Night Watch and Beethoven’s Fifth.

Our Western music culture is built on classical music. You hear it more often than you think: assimilated into pop music, in films, as ringtones, and of course there’s the live sensation produced in the concert hall and beyond.

Listening to and performing classical music brings people together, it entertains them and it (both literally and figuratively) creates harmony. It enhances the minds of young people in particular. Music education is fundamental to all children’s development. In addition, the classical music sector is also of economic value, attracting people and businesses from other countries. Concerts draw national and international tourists and provide business for restaurants, hotels and parking garages.

Orchestra’s offer a powerful live experience. You never experience the power of a symphony orchestra as intensely as in The Concertgebouw or the Ziggo Dome. Orchestras all over the world bring classical and new masterpieces to life. The magic and impact of a live performance can overwhelm both young and old. Our music never sounds the same, the excitement is only partially in the music itself, and it is kindled mainly by the performance itself.

That’s what constantly revives it and what captivates and moves new generations over and over again. This is the unique power of orchestras worldwide and their fundamental raison d’être.

The oldest Dutch orchestra has now been around for over 150 years, and various others have already celebrated their centenaries. Over and over again orchestras have managed to keep pace with a changing society.

Article 22(3) of the Dutch Constitution: ‘The government creates conditions for social and cultural development and for leisure activities.’ In this regard the symphony orchestras are partners to the government.

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< The Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest, rehearsal at The Concertgebouw, Amsterdam. Photo: Anne Dokter.

The Rotterdams Philharmonisch Orkest performs at Rotterdam Central Station. Photo: Bart Driels. >


The philharmonie zuidnederland plays the annual liberation concert in Amsterdam.

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According to Dutch orchestral statistics, the number of activities increased substantially from 2,400 in 2009 to around 2,800 in 2013, despite the folding of two orchestras during that time.

Symphony orchestras are doing more and more, and are developing a widening portfolio of educational, public and promotional activities. Beyond the regular podia, they perform at festivals, conferences, schools and even in night clubs, stations and stadiums.

Between 2009 and 2013 the number of people attending orchestral concerts also rose by 4% to over 1.5 million. A new trend in recent years is increasing attendance of productions outside the concert halls.

The orchestras are also getting better at reaching audiences in other venues. The number of activities outside the concert hall increased by about 20% over the past five years, with the number of people attending them quadrupling to almost 170,000. That is 11% of audience numbers at orchestra concerts. The search for new formats, with a segmented approach to target groups, is bearing fruit.

The income generated by orchestras themselves is growing.

The musicians are the orchestras’ talented musical capital. They do more than make symphonic music. Their new collective labour agreement provides opportunities for taking on new responsibilities, enabling them to inspire children, devise and carry out small-scale neighbourhood projects and put on clinics for businesses.

With 2.5 million amateurs that make music for pleasure, Dutch society enjoys a broad musical basis. A small part of this enormous pool of talent eventually rises to excel as outstanding talent in the symphony orchestras. A larger part is made up of visitors to concerts, amateurs who make music together and take lessons from professionals, many of whom perform in the symphony orchestras.

Much of this talent is sown in the educational context, i.e. in schools. Orchestras themselves do their bit to educate children and work with the conservatories to develop talent even further. They are thus involved in this entire process, from school going children to music students.

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< HET Symfonieorkest in a self-produced, small scale operaproduction. Photo: Giancarlo Cattaneo.

Het Balletorkest, partner of the ­National Ballet and the Nederlands Dans Theater. Photo: Angela Sterling. >

Het Gelders Orkest in the production ‘Frozen Planet in Concert’ in the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam. Photo: René Knoop .

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The Residentie Orkest at Lowlands Festival, 2011. Photo: Mylene Siegers.

< The Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest, partner of The ­National Opera, in a performance of Wagner’s Der Ring des ­Nibelungen, 2014. Photo: Monika Rittershaus.


The Noord Nederlands Orkest plays ‘Thank you for the music! A tribute to ABBA, in De Oosterpoort,­ Groningen, 2014. Photo: Jos Schoenmaker.

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Until not very long ago music was, more often and more self-evidently than now, a part of our upbringing within the family and our education in the church, at school and in music schools.

In recent decades many of these institutions have undergone marked and extensive changes.

For instance, music education has now been virtually eliminated from standard education. The number of music schools has diminished drastically, and with less subsidy available active music-making has become more expensive and thus less accessible to children and young adults. We therefore see that active music-making by amateurs, the broad basis referred to above, is now eroding.

In generating new audiences, we must thus assume a far more limited musical knowledge and learn to deal with an entirely different “cultural consumption”.

The Dutch population has become more diverse in recent decades. Furthermore, the tastes of a major portion are now catholic, and competition in the leisure sector has increased considerably. The large group of faithful concertgoers is aging rapidly. New target groups are not attending concerts automatically and self-evidently.

Although the concert halls are where symphonic music sounds at its best, we are seeing an increasing interest in our innovative programmes in special venues and at open air events.

Concert attendance is much harder to predict than ever before. Fewer tickets are being sold in advance and, in general, fewer series subscriptions are being sold. People are increasingly deciding to go to concerts at the last minute.

These trends are contributing towards the changing public perception of symphony orchestras that we have seen in recent decades. Their legitimacy is no longer taken for granted; this means that orchestras are having to articulate their worth more explicitly, not only to the public but also to politicians and society as a whole.

The same goes for the subsidisers of the symphony orchestras. Government subsidies are no longer as self-evident as they used to be, which is forcing orchestras to look for new revenue models, ways of boosting their existing sources of income and trying to generate alternative sources of income.

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Educational orchestra Het Leerorkest in Amsterdam. Photo: Ronald Knapp. >

< Noord Nederlands Orkest, concert for preschoolers, Leeuwarden, 2014. Photo Arend Jan Wonink.

The Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest in Carnegie Hall, New York 2013. Photo: Anne Dokter.

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Orchestras keep looking at new ways of giving concerts to a new public. Here, detailed audience studies and smart marketing are crucial and orchestras will have to increase their efforts in this regard.

There is no music without musicians. And without music education there are no musicians. It is therefore important that children be given the opportunity, as a fixed part of their schooling, to find out what music can mean for them and how wonderful it can be to make and listen to music together. Orchestras will have to intensify their contributions in this area.

The orchestras will not have to keep coming up with new ways of reaching these children. Successful educational projects are already being exchanged, and this will increase in the future.

More than they did before, the orchestras are building bridges to other disciplines: within the arts (film, animation, dance, theatre) and also outside the arts (care and well-being).

Where possible, we will broaden and deepen the cooperation between halls and orchestras. In this regard there is much to be gained from marketing and programming.

Finally, we will intensify our cooperation with each other. Where possible and desirable, we will share knowledge and expertise and cooperate in matters that are in our collective interest. Examples of these include employment terms, profiling of the sector, development of HR tools, lobbying in social and tax matters, development of IT applications, libraries, collective purchasing (e.g. energy), and substantive policy development.

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The Radio Filharmonic 足Orchestra and Groot Omroepkoor, openingconcert TivoliVredenburg, Utrecht, 2014. Photo: Ivar Pel.

The rehearsal location of the Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest, East-Amsterdam. Photo: Ronald Knapp. >

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Holland, total

Biggest 5 cities, total

# citizens

17 mln.

2.7 mln.

# of orchestras


# musicians (payroll)

800 Total

in concert hall


outside concert hall



# of activities







# of visitors

1.5 million






Based in

Main function

Het Balletorkest


Accompany ballet companies

Het Gelders Orkest


Concerts in the province of Gelderland

Koninklijk Concertgebouw Orkest


Concerts in Amsterdam and abroad

HET Symfonieorkest


Concerts in the province of Overijssel

Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest/Nederlands Kamer Orkest


Concerts in Amsterdam, province of Noord Holland; accompanying the National Opera

Noord Nederlands Orkest


Concerts in the provinces of Groningen, Friesland and Drenthe

philharmonie zuidnederland


Concerts in the provinces of Noord-Brabant, Limburg, Zeeland

Radio Philharmonisch Orkest/Groot Omroep Koor


Concerts in Amsterdam and Utrecht, principal broadcasting partner

Residentie Orkest

The Hague

Concerts in The Hague

Rotterdams Philharmonisch Orkest


Concerts in Rotterdam

Besides other activities like programs for education and talent development.


Position paper summary dutch symphony orchestras 2014 def lowres  
Position paper summary dutch symphony orchestras 2014 def lowres