February, 2012

  1. Speaker Spotlight: Mason Bates, a composer/DJ taking the orchestral world by storm

    Mason BatesAs The Bay Citizen puts it, “For nearly a decade, composer Mason Bates has been hailed as one of the young saviors of classical music.”

    He works with two major American orchestras in a formal capacity–as Composer-in-Residence at the Chicago Symphony and as Project San Francisco composer at the San Francisco Symphony–and audiences love his modern take on the orchestral sound. After a recent San Francisco performance of his piece “Alternative Energy” one fan on Twitter was offering $50 for a bootleg recording of the (so far) unreleased piece.

    So, what is it about Mason Bates’ approach that is taking the orchestral world by storm?

    Edmund Campion, a composer and professor of music at the University of California, Berkeley, said Bates was a much-needed bridge between musical worlds. “The orchestra today is fighting with its identity as a historical elephant,” Campion said. “Mason provides a sense of renewal, a connection to social and cultural things in contemporary life.” Read the full article on The Bay Citizen.

    Indeed, trained at Juilliard and schooled in the clubs of San Francisco, neither the “electronica” nor the “classical” in Bates’ music seems forced. He’s not a crossover artist, just an artist, using the tools at hand to create what Michael Tilson Thomas calls, those “beautiful notes.”

    On Saturday, March 17, composer Mason Bates will take part in our Talking About Creativity event in San Francisco. Paired in conversation with composer John Adams, it will be interesting to hear both of their thoughts on “Creativity” in the American orchestral world.

    Register now for our free, live event on Saturday, March 17 with Mason Bates. Attendees will receive a free copy of the book/CD set American Mavericks. Learn more.

  2. Podcast – Chapter Three: Considering Technology

    No conversation about music—about any art form, for that matter—gets very far these days without addressing the impact, potential and pitfalls of technology. From high- definition broadcasts of live performances, to an audience tuned in to Facebook, Twitter and other social media, classical music must find its place in an increasingly digital community. This podcast was developed from our October 2011 live event.

    Chapter Three: Considering Technology, Part 1

    Play | Download | Transcript


  3. Podcast – Chapter Two: Personal Stories, featuring Gustavo Dudamel

    The second chapter in our podcast series is about personal stories, those intimate connections between a student and a teacher that, like a pebble in a pond, send waves radiating outward. Few stories are more compelling or influential than that of Gustavo Dudamel, the Venezuelan-born conductor—and now Music Director of the Los Angeles Philarhmonic—who found his own pebble-in-the-pond experience in his home country’s visionary music education and social program, El Sistema. This podcast was developed from our October 2011 live event.

    Chapter Two: Personal Stories

    Play | Download | Transcript


  4. New! Podcast – Chapter One: Historic Context of the American Orchestra

    We’re pleased to bring you the first in a series of podcasts developed from our live events and behind-the-scenes conversations with musicians, scholars, composers, executives, critics and technologists.

    This first chapter is drawn from the October 23 public Forum during the Los Angeles Philharmonic residency and a later interview with Alan Gilbert, Music Director of the New York Philharmonic. It addresses the historical and cultural roots of American orchestras and how those traditions impact and inform an orchestra’s place in the contemporary American community.

    Chapter One: Historic Context of the American Orchestra

    Play | Download | Transcript


  5. Live Blog: Behind-the-scenes conversation with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

    What follows is a live blog from our chat with leaders from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on Tuesday, February 14, 2012.

    Participants included:

    • Deborah Rutter, President of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
    • Martha Gilmer, Vice President for Artistic Planning and Audience Development
    • Anna Clyne, Mead Composer-in-Residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra
    • Stephen Lester, Bass, Chair of the Orchestra Committee
    • Lawrie Bloom, Clarinet


  6. Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

    After four long years of searching for the right music director, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra got its man. Riccardo Muti took the helm in 2010 and has brought to Chicago his passion for “building bridges with music, to reaching listeners who might never set foot inside a concert hall or opera house,” as Wynne Deloma reports in a recent San Francisco Classical Voice article. When asked about his impressions of the city and the orchestra, Muti says:

    As for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the instrument is wonderful and has a long history of great music directors. Of course, every conductor gives his own stamp. But I didn’t come here with the idea that I want to change [the CSO]. I’m here not only to make music with this wonderful orchestra, but I also want to help the city, as much as I can, to come close to the music. Because I believe culture is the only thing that can save this world. Read the full interview.

    Administrative leaders and musicians from the CSO will be joining us on Tuesday, February 14 for a behind-the-scenes conversation. We’ll be live blogging the proceedings here and tweeting at @AmOrchForum. Certainly, the CSO’s community initiatives will be part of the conversation. What’s your take? Email us if you have questions you’d like answered!

  7. A “Resurrection” in Kansas City

    Steven Winn examines the resurgence of orchestral music in Kansas City.

    “You hear the trembling of the world,” Kansas City Symphony music director Michael Stern promised the packed-house crowd at Helzberg Hall. He was telling the audience what to expect in the premonitory opening moments of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, “Resurrection,” which the orchestra was about to perform.

    When it came, the trembling was a fearsome thing, shimmering and glowering in the strings. Over the next 100 minutes, Stern led his mighty forces (a huge orchestra, choir, two soloists) deeper into the darkness, through patches of pearly bright light and on to a resplendent finish. The hard-working horns shone especially brilliantly, onstage and off, throughout.

    For a first-time visitor to this splendid 1600-seat hall, one of two performance spaces in the eye-popping new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, it was impossible not to reflect on what a resurrection, what a rising from the dead, this Super Bowl Sunday afternoon concert represented.

    Thirty years ago, in 1982, the city saw its troubled orchestra, the Kansas City Philharmonic, throw in the towel and disband. A group of civic leaders moved quickly to create a successor, the Kansas City Symphony, which performed at the old Lyric Theatre and also played regular concerts at three suburban venues. It was a challenging arrangement. Attracting audiences to the acoustically compromised 3000-seat Lyric in a moribund downtown posed one problem; traveling around to the far-flung suburbs was another. Something had to change.

    And so, in a carefully plotted strategy, it did. (more…)

  8. Speaker spotlight: Deborah Rutter, President of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

    In this Chicago Tribune profile of Deborah Rutter, President of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, her job is summed up this way:

    …foremost, she must keep her audiences happy. This encompasses everyone from the students who sit in the gallery to the folks who pass their names on the donor walls as they approach their box seats. It also encompasses countless people in Chicago and beyond who may rarely, if ever, set foot in the Symphony Center.

    So when Rutter is huddling with artistic planning/audience development vice president Martha Gilmer to determine programs, jetting to Europe to hear [Riccardo] Muti conduct, speaking to civic groups or simply being a presence at hundreds of Symphony Center performances each year, she has the same purpose: to connect the orchestra to the outside world that gives it its reason and means to exist.

    “I grew up believing that an orchestra was mine,” she says. “It’s like going to the library. We’re here to really have this relationship with our community.” Read the full article by Mark Caro.

    At the helm of the orchestra since 2003, Deborah Rutter has navigated the choppy economic waters of the late 2000s and led a successful effort to woo Riccardo Muti into joining the CSO as Music Director. All this while also setting the stage for fruitful artistic collaborations with young composers like Mason Bates and Anna Clyne (two upcoming American Orchestra Forum panelists and Composers-in-Residence at the CSO) and launching the Citizen Musician initiative which invites community members to make music, even getting Yo-Yo Ma into the act.

    It will be interesting to hear her take on some of the issues around Audience, Creativity, and Community that we will be exploring in our behind-the-scenes conversation on Tuesday, February 14. We’ll be live blogging the proceedings here and tweeting at @AmOrchForum. Content from the discussion will be used in future American Orchestra Forum podcasts.

    Do you have a question for Deborah Rutter? Email us and we’ll include them in our discussion on Tuesday.

  9. Collaboration and experimentation: Ludovic Morlot at the Seattle Symphony

    Steven Winn examines Ludovic Morlot’s new vision for the Seattle Symphony.

    Ludovic Morlot, the ebullient new 38-year-old music director of the Seattle Symphony, is making waves in his city, creating fresh pathways of connection between the orchestra and its community.  According to a recent admiring piece in the New York Times, Morlot hopes to make the Symphony “central to Seattle’s cultural scene, open-minded and with a taste for collaboration and experimentation.”   Plans for the 2012-13 season include a series of 10 p.m. Friday new-music concerts (open-endedly dubbed [untitled]) in the lobby of the orchestra’s Benaroya Hall home, with drinking and mingling encouraged; the premiere of John Luther Adams’ ambitious “Become Ocean,” an especially apt fit for this water-oriented place; and a collaboration with the Intiman Theater, one of the leading lights of a theater-rich town.  The season announcement came at City Hall, after a free concert attended by Mayor Mike McGinn and lots of children.

    In another news story, Morlot expressed his enthusiasm for the orchestra’s Symphony Untuxed concerts.  As he told the Seattle Times, “We want to be very casual and invite everyone to come as they are.”   That may be especially important in this city, where Northface jackets and REI hiking boots are for many a standard dress code.  Morlot is taking care to take a full measure of his new city.  He threw out the first pitch at a Seattle Mariners baseball game. (more…)