The Philadelphia Orchestra – Moving Forward

For our last conversation of the American Orchestra Forum project we’ll be sitting down with leaders from The Philadelphia Orchestra on Saturday to talk about Audience, Community and Creativity. The orchestra will perform two concerts in San Francisco on their way back from a ten-day “Resdiency and Tour” of China, the first of its kind by an American orchestra.

Having recently announced a reorganization and debt payment plan that will allow them to exit from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, The Philadelphia Orchestra is moving forward. And with new Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin coming on board in the 2012-13 season, there certainly seems to be momentum toward “succeeding in creating a stronger Orchestra for Philadelphia and the world” as President and CEO Alison Vulgamore recently stated.

So what will that future look like?

One recent indication is a project that the Orchestra has undertaken to celebrate the legacy of legendary Music Director Leopold Stokowsi. The Orchestra has teamed with renowned opera and theater director James Alexander to create “immersive” experiences that feature “ground-breaking and exhilarating theatrical displays.” You can get a sense of it in this “Concert Creators” video:

The idea is to engage audiences with music in a new way, while the “orchestral performance remains the shining centerpiece.” Interestingly, when Nézet-Séguin sat down with us for an interview a few months ago, he made the point that exactly this type of innovation is what carries on the great tradition of The Philadelphia Orchestra and of musicians like Stokowski. Decades ago they experimented with “new” (for their time) media and different concert presentations. In some ways, this project is all about taking the orchestra back to its roots.

Also pointing towards a new vision is the recent China tour and announcement that the Orchestra plans to continue residencies there for the next five years. Closer to home, the Orchestra is working with an el-Sistema inspired organization Play on Philly that offers music education in communities which typically have little access to it.

We look forward to learning more on Saturday. Join us here as we live blog, or on Twitter at @AmOrchForum for live tweets. A podcast developed from the conversation with be posted later this summer.

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