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.

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


Jesse Rosen, President and CEO of the League of American Orchestras, visits class via Skype

University of Michigan students

San Francisco Symphony’s Susan Key


  1. Hello. My name is Trish Cornett and I am one of the students in the “Ensemble in America” class. I am a second year doctoral student in wind conducting, and I’m looking forward to participating in this forum.

  2. Hi everybody! My name is Matthew Browne I, too, am a student in the “Ensemble in America” class . I am a first year masters student in composition.

  3. Erin Hansen says:

    Greetings! My name is Erin Hansen and I am in my second year of the music education PhD program at the University of Michigan. Prior to this program, I taught orchestra and guitar in the public schools, grades 5 through 12. I look forward to participating in this forum and meeting others interested in developing and expanding the orchestra community in the U.S.

  4. Sommer Forrester says:

    Hello, my name is Sommer Forrester and I am a first year PhD music education student at the University of Michigan. I look forward to participating in the discussions surrounding orchestras and arts organization in the United States.

  5. Phillip Bloomer says:

    Hello, my name is Phillip Bloomer, and I am in the second year of my Doctorate in tuba performance. I am looking forward to the discussions!

  6. Kevin Maloney says:

    Hello! My name is Kevin Maloney, and I am a first year DMA student in trumpet performance at the University of Michigan. In addition to my studies, I am Affiliate Professor of trumpet at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, MI and play third trumpet in the Ann Arbor Symphony. Looking forward to participating in this great project!

  7. Sigal Hemy says:

    Hi everyone!
    I’m Sigal Hemy, a first year masters student in clarinet performance in Professor Clague’s class. Like the rest of the class, I’m excited to be part of this discussion!

  8. Anthony Do-Hoon Kim says:

    Hi everyone! I’m a little late to the party, but plan on staying for awhile… my name is Anthony Do-Hoon Kim, I’m a second year master’s student in orchestral conducting at Michigan. I’m also in Professor Clague’s band of orchestral followers! I conduct the Michigan Pops Orchestra here in Ann Arbor and look forward to making more posts in the near future.

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