In this guest post, Deborah Borda, President and CEO of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, explains how thinking big and embracing social responsibility led the LA Phil to a groundbreaking new partnership. Ms. Borda will be speaking at our free event on Sunday, October 23rd, with Gustavo Dudamel, Music Director of the LA Phil.
Who would imagine that an orchestra, a conservatory, and a college on opposite coasts would – or could – unite around a common goal? A few short weeks ago, the answer to this question was revealed when the LA Phil announced a groundbreaking new partnership with the Longy School of Music and Bard College to support social change through music. The joint initiative, called Take a Stand, is inspired by Venezuela’s revolutionary music education program, El Sistema, and supports the pioneering field through national conferences and a credentialed teacher training program. In the past, a venture like this – so heavily rooted in social responsibility – may have been considered out of place in the symphony orchestra world. But today, it is precisely this kind of undertaking that we must challenge ourselves to seek out in order to survive and stay relevant.
Bringing Youth Orchestra LA (YOLA), an El Sistema-inspired program, to Los Angeles was bold. Risky, even. We didn’t know how the community would respond to such a radical departure from traditional music education. But four years later, the program is thriving – and there has been a dramatic rise in programs across the country that embrace the philosophy of El Sistema. As the impact of our work became increasingly clear, simply acknowledging YOLA’s ability to inspire others was not enough. In order to incite real change, we need to envision our future – a future in which music is an essential human right.
What makes an initiative like Take a Stand unique is that its motivation was borne out of the social and moral imperative we now have to reach our communities in meaningful ways. It is a natural extension of the artistic imperative that drives our work – and can no longer be isolated from our pursuit of excellence.
— Deborah Borda
Addressing the theme “Creating an Environment for Innovation,” Ms. Borda delivered the following speech during the opening plenary of the 2011 League of American Orchestras National Conference, where she challenged participants to grow their capacity for change and risk-taking. Learn more about Take a Stand.