Friday, May 29, 2009

A Video Podcast How-To

Today is the third of my four Friday posts featuring some of my favorite items from the League’s Innovation Forum, “a place where member orchestras can share ideas, programs, tactics, and strategies.”

This week I will focus on the Technology area of the Forum, specifically: Fairfax (VA) Symphony Orchestras Video Podcasts. One of our conference toolbox sessions will look at Getting the Most Out of Social Networking, and although audio and video podcasts may not immediately come to mind when you think of social networking it is a way of building a community around your organization and its mission through the web.

As we look forward to that session and what our guest speakers from,, and See3 Communications have to say about it, let’s take a look at what our friends in Fairfax have done.

Click here to find out more about how they made it work.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Dreaming About the 21st Century Orchestra and the 2009 League Conference

Today we welcome Frank J. Oteri to the Conference Blog! Mr. Oteri is a New York City-based composer and music journalist. He is the Composer Advocate at the American Music Center and the Founding Editor of its web magazine, now in its tenth year. On Wednesday June 10, from 2:45 to 4:00P.M., he will moderate "Orchestras and New Music: New Idioms, Instruments, and Ideas" at the 2009 Conference of the League of American Orchestras in Chicago.

Posted by Frank J. Oteri:

Amidst all the gloomy news in the media about things getting smaller or getting cut entirely, it’s extremely important not to be disheartened by all the negativity and to continue to dream. Music is perhaps the greatest realization of dreaming in the corporeal world, and orchestral music is perhaps the biggest of such dreams both because it brings together so many people making sound in so many different ways and because it is able to do so effectively despite its seeming impracticality.

So let’s pause a moment to dream a little bit about how an orchestra can be re-imagined for the 21st century. I’m delighted to be moderating a panel at the 2009 League Conference in only two more weeks that will aspire to do just that. Back at the turn of the previous century, Gustav Mahler talked about how the orchestra was a universe of sonic possibilities. And indeed the orchestra he wrote for continues to be one of the most exciting and versatile of all of the world’s ensembles. But over the intervening years many other sounds have captured the imagination of composers and the hearts of audiences. From the vibrant vocabulary of jazz improvisation to the visceral energy of rock, to all of the world’s traditional musics and the new hybrids they have inspired through mixing with one another in today’s globally-connected communities, to all of the new sounds and manipulation of older sounds that have been made possible through electricity, and subsequently through computers and the internet—all of these are grist for the mill for the 21st century composer’s toolbox and have therefore become a part of the 21st century orchestra.

I’ll be talking to four composers who have each expanded the orchestra as we know it to incorporate some of these new 21st century possibilities—British maverick Mark-Anthony Turnage, whose music combines the spontaneity of jazz and the aggression of rock with classical compositional rigor; U.S.-based world citizen Osvaldo Golijov whose multicultural musical panoramas have connected seemingly irreconcilable musical traditions; plus Jeremy Flower and Michael Ward-Bergman representing the next generation for whom the laptop is a digital analog to an orchestra.

Our discussion promises to be a passionate and wide ranging. My only worry is that we only have an hour and fifteen minutes—seems a pity to limit us to the length of a 20th century compact disc! But the talk will hopefully serve as a preamble to countless conversations I hope everyone will be having afterwards throughout the rest of the conference and beyond as we strategize together to reinvigorate a way of making music we all love so much. It is a big dream but one that we’ll need to have not only when we’re asleep but even more importantly when we’re wide awake.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Commit to Local Action!

Today is the second of my three Wednesday posts featuring content from the League’s website which you might not know even existed. For example, did you know that we have two amazing staff members who work full-time in D.C. to advocate for music education and American orchestras? One of the many initiatives they have been working on is the statement of common cause, "Orchestras Support In-School Music Education,” and I want to take a moment to highlight this area of our website.

The statement of common cause was drafted with input from more than 50 orchestras and reflects a collective opportunity for all orchestras to take individual, community-specific action to improve access to music education in schools nationwide. Click here to download the pdf.

If you will be in Chicago for the conference, and you are interested in the topic of Music in Our Schools and in Our Future, you might want to check out the Toolbox session on June 10.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Can you hear me now?

Today we welcome Mark Pemberton to the Conference Blog! Mr. Pemberton is the Director of the Association of British Orchestras and will be one of our guest speakers for the Toolbox session called Protecting Musicians Hearing on June 10.

Posted by Mark Pemberton:

Just a few weeks to go, and I’m hugely looking forward to joining you all at the League conference. My first conference was last year, and what intrigued me then were the similarities and differences between the concerns of American and British orchestras, particularly in these difficult times.

We’ve not been immune to the economic shocks either. But to read of the collapse in endowments and pay cuts to players and managers in the USA puts in perspective how lucky we are to have public investment in orchestras and the arts in general. What makes the position in the UK so complicated is that we actually four different governments – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – each with their own arts strategies and funding models. In England, for example, the Arts Council has been able to maintain inflationary increases for its funded orchestras through to 2010/11. In Northern Ireland, in contrast, the Ulster Orchestra is facing a standstill in its funding allied to a drop in sponsorship (its major sponsors being banks).

Private income has inevitably been squeezed, with corporate sponsorship suffering particularly badly. Ironically, corporations have in some cases been withdrawing their sponsorship not because they don’t have the money, but because they are concerned it would look frivolous to be supporting the arts when they are laying off staff. We are working hard to reinforce the fact that support for the arts should be seen as part of their corporate social responsibility, not as just an optional line in their marketing budget.

The good news is that our orchestras are reporting an increase in ticket sales. It’s as if people are choosing to keep going to concerts while sacrificing the luxuries. And individual giving is also holding up. This is good news for those of our members who do not benefit from public funding. The key, we feel, is to hold our nerve, continue to take risks, while making what savings we can and drawing on what reserves we have to weather the storm.

But while the economy dominates our thoughts (as well as the distraction of a parliament in crisis through the exposure of dodgy expense claims by those that represent us) other concerns have to be dealt with. We have a new visa system in place, similar to the US model, which requires biometric testing of ‘migrant workers’ (which happens to include conductors and soloists). We have already had two high-profile artists cancel engagements in the UK because of their perception that the system is an affront to their dignity. We would like to work in conjunction with our colleagues in the League to enforce to our respective governments the need for the free movement of international artists, on the principal that cultural exchange is intrinsic to a civilized society.

And another consideration is the implementation of pan-European regulations that impose limits on the exposure of ‘workers’ to excessive noise. This is causing quite a headache for orchestras, as the sheer act of creating great music flirts uncomfortably close to the thresholds now enshrined in law. Plus orchestras are technically obliged to take noise measurements, which is a costly undertaking. I’ve been asked to speak on this at the League conference, and I am sure you will find it an interesting and alarming story of how well-meaning regulations can suffer from the law of unintended consequences.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Sound Investment in Los Angeles

Today is the second of my four Friday posts featuring some of my favorite items from the League’s Innovation Forum, “a place where member orchestras can share ideas, programs, tactics, and strategies.”

This week I will focus on the Education and Community Engagement area of the Forum, specifically: Los Angeles Chamber Symphony’s Sound Investment. One of our conference perspective sessions will look at New Models for Consortium Commissioning, as we look forward to that session let’s take a look at what the LACO has done to integrate their commissioning program with their community.

For a summary of how the plan worked and why they declared it a “win-win” click here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Volunteer Perspective

Today we welcome Sandra Weingarten to the Conference Blog! Ms. Weingarten is a member of the League's Volunteer Council and the Eugene Symphony Guild. You will see below that we'll be keeping our volunteers busy in Chicago.

Posted by Sandra Weingarten:

As a member of the Volunteer Council, I have a great opportunity to connect with orchestra volunteers from all parts of the country. In addition, I am a volunteer with my orchestra and with its Guild. I know first-hand how passionate volunteers are about supporting their orchestras, how hard they work toward this goal, and the many challenges that stand in their way. These include attracting new members, identifying new leaders, creating a harmonious working environment within the organization and also with the orchestra’s staff and board. And mostly, the challenge of raising more and more money, which is needed and often expected, and which is an ever greater challenge in these economic times. I hear from other volunteer leaders that we all face the same issues and that we have many ways of meeting them.

Why are volunteer leaders coming to Chicago? Sure – there is the chance to socialize, to attend great concerts, to boast of accomplishments, to air gripes, to share challenges and ideas. But mostly, they come to learn.

We on the Volunteer Council, being volunteer leaders ourselves, have all been there. We understand what our delegates are looking for and our goal is to provide the best possible learning experience. Author Jill Fixler will address the challenges of attracting, working with and keeping younger generations of volunteers in the OLA session on Wednesday morning. That afternoon Jill will be guiding us through the new paradigm of engaging the contemporary volunteer – those of the “boomer” generation especially, and discussing how to utilize their wisdom, skills and resources.

Identifying and cultivating leaders is a constant challenge for volunteers these days. Our workshop “Great Leaders = Great Organizations” will address that very problem. This session will begin with roundtable discussions, where participants can talk about what leadership means to them, followed by a panel of diverse volunteer leaders commenting on the topic. Volunteers can learn all about identifying new leaders, developing new leaders, convincing members to become leaders and maintaining good leadership. This panel discussion anchored by Volunteer Council members includes question and answer opportunities and could be the help volunteer organizations have been looking for.

And of course volunteers want to learn about best practices in fund raising and other volunteer-led projects. The all-time favorite sessions are those including volunteer projects that have been selected by the Volunteer Council for awards recognizing excellence. After brief presentations of these projects, there is time for questions and discussion about what makes these projects great and how they can be used and/or adapted by other organizations. Here is where volunteers can learn more about successful fund raising, or outstanding educational projects, or new ways to collaborate with orchestra staff, or exciting examples of community engagement from those who have done it. The questions are stimulating, and the discussion lively.

Yes, volunteers come to Conference to learn. And learn they do. We hope that they will return to their organizations not only educated, but inspired, energized and optimistic.

The “Elephant” Task Force

Beginning today, and for the next two Wednesday’s leading up to Conference, I will be posting links to some important content from the League’s website which you might not know even existed. This week I will start things off with an item that can be found in the League’s Knowledge Center: The “Elephant” Task Force Report.

What is the “Elephant” Task Force? At the 2009 Mid Winter Managers Meeting, Bruce Coppock, former Executive Director of The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra presented the findings of a task force of managers, musicians and trustees that addressed the long term opportunities for orchestras in the face of a challenging economy.

Click here for access to the full report, PowerPoint presentation, and streaming video of the presentation.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Diversity and Inclusiveness: Let’s Really Talk About It!

Today we welcome Jim Hirsh to the Conference Blog! If you will be in Chicago, Mr. Hirsch will be one of our panelists for the Towards Greater Diversity and Inclusion Toolbox session on June 10.

Post by Jim Hirsch:

Want to start a spirited discussion with your musicians, staff and board members? Bring up the topic of diversity within your organization. A year ago one of the musicians from my orchestra, the Chicago Sinfonietta, wrote a blog for about diversity in orchestras that elicited a rash of comments – some of them downright angry. If you are feeling curious (or masochistic) read all 55 of them at the link above.

So why do so many orchestras, not to mention other arts organizations, have so much trouble addressing diversity and inclusiveness? I suspect part of the reason is that despite recent breakthroughs – yes I am referencing our new President – many of us are still uncomfortable talking about diversity and inclusiveness, especially as it relates to race. However, there are productive and comfortable ways of engaging in these discussions that can bring people together and strengthen our organizations.

At this year’s conference I will be joined by Maestro Paul Freeman, Founder and Music Director of the Chicago Sinfonietta, and AndrĂ©s Tapia, Chief Diversity Officer for Hewitt & Associates, to conduct a Toolbox Session on this timely and important subject. We will share with you some of our best practices and provide you with a set of tools that can help you begin the internal and external conversations needed to move your organization forward.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Citizen Journalist Night

Beginning today, and for the next three Friday’s leading up to Conference, I will be posting links to a few of my favorite items from the League’s Innovation Forum, “a place where member orchestras can share ideas, programs, tactics, and strategies.” This week I will start things off with a personal favorite from the Audience Development area of the Forum: San Francisco Symphony’s Citizen Journalist Night. This is particularly relevant here on the Conference blog since it discusses creative ways to use bloggers to promote your organizations programming.

For a summary of their planning, their evening and the results click here.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

In Troubled Times: The Case for the Arts

Today we welcome JoAnn Falletta to the conference blog! If you will be in Chicago, Ms. Falletta will be our guest faculty for the pre-conference OLA Seminar for Women Conductors on June 10. Below she makes her case for the arts.

Posted by JoAnn Falletta:

I am a musician. I have known that simple fact since my seventh birthday, when I wrapped my arms around the little guitar that had been a gift from my father, when I breathed the dusky fragrance of wood and varnish, when I touched the grainy fingerboard that would become my personal road to enchantment. Despite challenges, I have never had one moment of regret about that calling, nor a second of doubt about the vital role that music plays in the world around us. As a conductor, I have witnessed thousands of audiences – literally millions of listeners – come to the concert hall and leave, two hours later, in a place they would never have been able to imagine when they arrived, frazzled and distracted, earlier that evening.

I feel a certain conflict of emotions as I write this essay- gratitude certainly, for being given this opportunity to talk about the importance of the art form, but also a profound sorrow that classical music somehow finds itself desperately in need of advocates. Why should that be especially so in troubled economic times? We feel betrayed perhaps by Wall Street greed, by ineffectual governance, by political leadership. But music has never betrayed us, never let us down. It constantly gives back to us, as a boundlessly beautiful repository of the past or a vibrant mirror of our current society. The need for music is not learned – it is “hard-wired” into our being. Even infants respond to it and understand it. As we grow, our exposure to music sharpens our brains, awakens a heightened sense of individual awareness, helps us develop an appreciation for beauty and value.

The ancient Greeks in their extraordinarily sophisticated society understood the tremendous power of music. Plato himself espoused careful planning of the number of hours young people should listen to music in certain keys – so powerful was the influence of each key that it would have strong affects on the long-term personality and character of the young listeners! In my many visits to schools, I have observed that the musicians in the orchestra, band, or chorus are most often the students on the dean’s list, on the student council, in clubs and after-school activities and are often involved in community service as well. A strange coincidence? I don’t think so – I am convinced that the making of music teaches them the skills – discipline, patience, respect and dedication – that enable them to succeed in all their endeavors.

We remain for all of our lives extremely sensitive to that power of music, whether or not we choose to (or even can) articulate that power. I have always been fond of Garrison Keillor’s words: “An orchestra concert is where people go to find their souls. Having worked so hard to lose them, people come and sit in the dark under the spell of music and are reminded of their humanity”. What happens? That room full of people – all with different issues on their minds – experiences a force that we can never fully explain. Listening, our sense of time changes, our focus sharpens, our problems fade, our priorities shift.

We all know that the “music business” has a strong positive affect on our economy. Facts and figures will bear out the statement that concerts bring many times their cost back to the community. But that is truly besides the point. Music has a profound affect on our psyche, our understanding of ourselves, our view of a world grown astonishingly small. In a global community where solutions will be found through creativity, ingenuity and imagination, music holds the key to nurturing the values that will help us find answers to seemingly insurmountable challenges.

Why do we need music as a nation, as citizens of the United States? Some Americans might claim that we are not an artistic people. I could not disagree more strongly. Americans invented film, jazz, modern dance, musical theater, country music, abstract impressionism. We are expressive, innovative and imaginative. Our art echoes our essential American-ness – our willingness to experiment and to take risks, our desire to share and borrow and change, our egalitarianism, our inclusiveness, our endless curiosity and humor. This American art echoes every culture in the world, and has spread to the furthest reaches of the globe. The arts are how we explain ourselves and come to know ourselves. They are woven into the very fabric of our complicated democracy and into the lives of our people. They are, in a very real way, the sum of our collective soul. The American orchestra is at the center of the arts in our country, and the cornerstone of our cultural society. Orchestras preserve our heritage, foster diversity, encourage creativity, and stand as a shining paradigm for excellence.

What do we remember and value from great civilizations of the past? Certainly it is not their business plans, their economic challenges, their financial success; not their wars, their fleeting conquests, their eventual collapse. We remember the beautiful and telling legacy of their artistic life – the paintings, poetry, architecture, music, gleaming brightly centuries after their creation, still able to move and touch us. Through their art, we realize that these long-dead creatures were really not so very different from us, filling their small parcel of life with as much beauty as they could. What will our great-grandchildren inherit from us? What will they remember? Will the economic recession of the early 21st century color their world? Or will the next century – most probably more complex and more intense than ours – still look to the nobility in the arts as a touchstone for what is truly valuable?

In times of economic difficulty, the arts, rather than languishing as a discretionary luxury, becomes more vital to the human condition. Through the arts, we honor our past, celebrate our present and dream our future. The very best of who we are is inherent in the arts, and the arts are at the core of the continual reinvigoration of our human spirit.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Welcome to the League’s 2009 Conference Blog!

Posted by Jesse Rosen:

During the next few weeks leading up to our Conference we will use this space to hear from the remarkable individuals who will be making presentations in Chicago – they will tell us what to look forward to and perhaps surprise us with what’s on their mind. A group of delegates also will report from Conference about the sessions they are attending, what they are learning, and the ideas they will be taking home with them. You will be able to read daily posts from these people and stay connected with Conference activities. So if you cannot attend Conference, let us come to you! Whether you will be in Chicago or not, no one need feel alone or without a network of support.

As you know, this year’s theme is The New Reality: Economics & Public Value. We are designing and structuring this conference to address ways orchestras can achieve sustainability, vibrancy, entrepreneurship, and partnerships in this turbulent and uncertain climate. Coming together to face challenges is what League conferences are all about.

You can find out more about the programming at Conference here and the schedule here.

I am very excited about this blog – over the coming weeks we will hear from Joann Falletta (Music Director, Buffalo Philharmonic), Jim Hirsch (Executive Director, Chicago Sinfonietta), Sarah Lutman (President and Managing Director, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra), Doug McLennan (founder of, Debra Natenshon (CEO, The Center for What Works), and Mark Pemberton (Director, Association of British Orchestras).

We are confident that this will be a great source for information and perspective leading up to, during, and after Conference.

If you would like to leave a comment on this post, or any of the posts on this blog, simply click on the comments link below.