October, 2011

  1. Speaker spotlight: Jesse Rosen

    Jesse Rosen, President and CEO of the League of American Orchestras, will speak at our first live event in San Francisco on Sunday, October 23. In this video, he shares a few reactions to recent conversations happening here on the American Orchestra Forum website — from the Attica prison riots (really! see this post if you missed it) to how music can be the catalyst for deep personal transformation. In the end, it’s all about how music, and orchestras, can connect with people and communities on the most fundamental level.

  2. A Pioneering Educational Partnership: the University of Michigan and the San Francisco Symphony

    Participating in all three American Orchestra Forum events will be a group of eleven graduate students from University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance. These students are enrolled in “Musicology 650: The Ensemble in America,” an upper-level doctoral research seminar organized by musicology professor Mark Clague, author of this post. The class examines the history of orchestras, choirs, bands (concert, rock, and marching), and chamber groups in the United States.

    The fundamental hypothesis of “The Ensemble in America” is that the history of music in the United States is not just a story of talented individuals (composers or musicians), but of cultural organizations, such as the San Francisco Symphony—encompassing its audience, staff, donors, and civic leaders, as well as its musicians. Generally we think of “Art” as the product of individual genius, but making music really requires collective action and these collectives can also be creative. The San Francisco Symphony centennial only highlights this pervasive phenomenon. (more…)

  3. Speaker spotlight: Deborah Borda

    Deborah Borda is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association and will appear in conversation with Gustavo Dudamel at our live event on Sunday, October 23rd. She recently sat down with Jim Farber of San Francisco Classical Voice for an interview and had some interesting things to say about the role of the orchestra in its community:

    You can’t manage an orchestra the way we did 20 years ago, even five years ago. It used to be that as a manager all you had to worry about was the artistic imperative of putting the best show you could on stage. Of course, you still have to worry about that. But in addition, as our society has changed, there is a new moral imperative that we have not really addressed or thought about. Symphony orchestras are cultural institutions. But we are also human service institutions and we need to consistently demonstrate our value. That’s especially true when you are saying to the community, “You need to give me 60 percent of my budget to sustain the institution.” Read the full interview.

  4. The Brooklyn Philharmonic Reboot

    The Brooklyn Philhamonic calls its 2011 season a “reboot.” Under the leadership of Artistic Director Alan Pierson, the orchestra is going “deep into Brooklyn’s famed neighborhoods to connect with the vibrant musical traditions of the people who love it most” and collaborating with a variety of Brooklyn-based artists you might not normally find in the concert hall. (more…)

  5. If they made a movie…

    If they made a movie about a radical business transformation in the orchestral world – what would that story be?

    The new movie Moneyball that’s been generating a lot of buzz got me thinking again about the baseball/classical music analogy that we’ll be exploring in more detail during our May event. These two 19-century traditions are both navigating a very different world in 21st century. How has baseball adapted? How can we? How can orchestras create a culture where innovation is embraced?

    And, perhaps most importantly, who will Brad Pitt play when an orchestral success story gets acted out on the big screen? Any nominations?

  6. Culture and the City

    In this guest post, Neil Harris, Professor Emeritus of History and Art History at the University of Chicago, examines how American arts organizations have arrived at this particular moment in time. Born out of civic pride, one-upmanship and good will, our institutions face a unique and challenging legacy. Neil Harris will be a panelist at our live event in San Francisco on October 23.

    During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, over the course of three or four decades, major American cities brought forth a series of cultural institutions–art and natural history museums, symphony orchestras, opera companies, research libraries. They performed mutliple functions. Many of them were designed to credential their civic hosts, to provide them with status in the highly competitive world of American municiaplities, to invoke the rich cultural life of storied European cities. In a number of cases institution founding was linked to some great local event, or the survival of some great crisis. Patronized in large part by wealthy local businessmen and professionals, they were also in part gestures of good will toward the towns where they had done so well. (more…)

  7. Common Chords at the Minnesota Orchestra

    This week the Minnesota Orchestra launches the Common Chords initiative, designed to create “one-of-a-kind collaborations between the Orchestra and communities around the state.” The first lucky city to participate? Grand Rapids, MN. Population 10,869.

    The week’s events include: Tea and Chamber Music at the Library, Lunch with Minnesota Orchestra Musicians at St. Joseph’s Church, and a Side by Side rehearsal with the Itasca Youth Chamber Orchestra, leading up to a performance by the Minnesota Orchestra on Saturday.

    In her recent post, Afa Sadykhly Dworkin argued that artists and organizations “have to build the sense of value and experience, one person, one family at a time,” and it appears that the Minnesota Orchestra has reached a very similar conclusion. Is this the future of “community” or simply a return to it?

    Learn more about Common Chords.

  8. New World Symphony Wallcasts

    The New World Symphony’s Wallcast concerts start up again this week in Miami. The Wallcasts are free simulcasts on a stunning, outdoor, 7,000-square-foot projection wall.

    Here is the official video:


  9. Building a Sense of Value, One Family at a Time

    This is a guest post by Afa Sadykhly Dworkin, Vice President of Programming and Artistic Director of the Sphinx Organization. Ms. Dworkin will be a panelist at our live event in San Francisco on October 23.

    At Sphinx, we attempt to tackle issues of connecting the artist with the community through the prism of diversity, inclusiveness and integration.

    There is a notable divide between communities of color and classical music. We focus on bridging the gap by immersing classical music within the community. We market our concerts in a grassroots manner, working with community and faith based institutions, to establish common goals and synthesize our efforts. We have to build the sense of value and experience, one person, one family at a time. (more…)

  10. What it Takes to Keep Moving Forward

    What does it take for an orchestra to keep moving forward in the 21st-century? In a recent article, Boston Globe critic Jeremy Eichler emphasizes the need to look outward.

    Performing arts organizations don’t tend to idle in neutral — they either move forward or backward…. many forward-thinking orchestras have begun reexamining their broader missions. More groups are recognizing that the ceaseless pursuit of ensemble virtuosity alone simply does not constitute a governing artistic agenda. They have been angling outward in thoughtful ways to engage a public far beyond specialists and subscribers.

    …The orchestra must [strive] to carve an essential place for this art form in a fractured 21st-century landscape, to link a bunkered concert hall with the cultural and intellectual life of the society at large, and to entice the audience of the future not through pandering or gimmicks but through concerts that demand to be heard. Read the full article.