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.
My students will profile innovative ideas in the world of the American ensemble, interview musicians and other industry insiders, and take on their own original research projects, exploring the future of the ensemble in America.
The seminar’s virtual participation in the American Orchestra Forum is only part of a larger partnership that involves key figures from the Symphony’s staff (Executive Director Brent Assink, for example) “visiting” my Ann Arbor classroom via Skype videolink. Our collaboration will climax in March 2012, when the San Francisco Symphony will be in residence at Michigan to perform four concerts from its Mavericks Festival, work with our students, and participate in a reprise of the American Orchestras Summit, first held at U-M in March 2010. My students and I will host this conference to bring the insights and ideas of the American Orchestra Forum to campus and engage with student musicians, who will be living the future of the American orchestra.
This collaboration is incredibly exiting for me and I’m grateful fo the opportunity. It’s a pioneering effort for both the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance and the San Francisco Symphony and hopefully represents just the beginning of an ongoing friendship that will connect U-M students with top professionals in the field and bring the artistry of a great ensemble to campus.
— Mark Clague