Visionary Orchestra Management

One of the most interesting panels at the 2nd International Orchestra Conference from the management perspective delt with future visions on orchestra management. Speakers and moderators from the US, the UK, China and Germany shared inspiring views.

Discussing: 200 participants from 40 countries

Alan Valentine, President & CEO Nashville Symphony Orchestra (USA) made four major points in his presentation: 1. Most important is a healthy internal culture within the orchestra, esp. communication between management and musicians, 2. clear strategic plan, 3. artistic vision, esp. commissioning  new music, 4. becoming more relevant for the community, putting the orchestra in the middle of community, sports and other public events when ever possible and when ever classical music is needed. In the panel discussion Valentine added, that his orchestra sells more tickets when it is regualarly featuring new works throughout the season. After many outreach activities during the last few years  for many people as though the Nashville Symphony is their orchestra.

Roger Wright, Controller BBC 3 and BBC Proms (UK) pointed out a couple of issues, visions and questions very clearly:

1. Audiences: It is vital to put audiences at the heart of our thinking about our orchestral world in the future. We need to understand how audiences wish to consume what orchestras offer.

2. Flexibility is essential if we are to deliver to audiences what they want and when they want it. This includes the need for conductors and soloists to be flexible too!

3. Invention: We must be ahead of audiences as well as responsive to them. This means pro-active programme planning and not falling into easy old fashioned formulas for concert presentation.

4. Forward looking: We must take risks and always have the future in our mind. What will our world be like in 10 years time? The same number of orchestras? With the same contracts? In the same places?

5. Rights: Being flexible includes working arrangements and rights. Content will remain central to future technologies and the live experience will become even more important in the future.

6. New technology: The speed of technological change is increasing every day and orchestras must respond to it. Who knows what means may be at our disposal to deliver orchestral music to audiences in the future? But there will be ways we have never dreamed of and we must be ready with flexibility and invention to adapt to any new world.

Madame Guo Shan, President of the China Symphony Development Foundation (CSDF) and Chair of the Alliance of Asia-Pacific Region Orchestras (AAPO), explained the complex situation of the 56 Chinese symphony orchestras. Less than 6 of them have a full season and only 2 have an annual subscription series. This means that most of the other orchestras only have a quarterly based plan or with no specific plan at all. Visionary orchestra management under this circumstances has a complete different meaning than it has in other more developed national orchestra landscapes. But the CSDF tries to improve the situation step by step in gathering usefull information and models for Chinese orchestra organizations and managers. An annual white book updates the information on the growing number of Chinese orchestras as well. Every second year the AAPO helds it summit for the members of the alliance. This is a developing market place for orchestra managers, artist agencies, consultants and NGOs.

Bruce Ridge, Chairman of ICSOM (International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians, USA & Canada) highlighted that a vision, visionary orchestra managers as well as musicians, desrcibes a special quality that inspires by seeing opportunities that other might not see. Every crisis has at least to be seen as an opportunity. On the other hand he made a warning that orchestras should be very carefull in seeking „new models“ which jeopardize the relationship between musicians and management. Too often symphonic field promotes a negative message from within. However, in some cases visionary orchestra managers have led their orchestras to a period of new heights: the Metropolitan Opera appears in 1500 movie theatres in 46 countries as part of its international broadcasts, the Los Angeles Philharmonic has appeared in theatres across North America, the New York Philharmonic has nearly doubled its fund raising goal. Visionary orchestra management of such orchestras will serve to inspire others.

In the following discussion with the floor participants  asked for a stronger engagement of conductors. How can they be involved more to raise their voices in questions of music education as well as politically in the support for orchestras and musicians?

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