Asean Orchestras discuss topic problems

Some 60 participants from orchestras and associations in Asia, Europe and North America have been discussing topic problems of orchestras at the 8th AAPRO Summit in Moscow.

Moscow: AAPRO Summit discussions

Get some ideas from the so called „Russian“ day:   Especially interesting to investigate more about the situation of Russian orchestras. Nobody knows the exact orchestra count and the numbers of musicians. It differs from 70 to 90 all over Russia and from 15 to 20 in Moscow. Funding comes for most of the orchestras (90 percent) from the state, the regions and the cities. But there have been private foundings as well, for example the Russian National Orchestra (RNO) with Mikhael Pletnev which started as a private enterprise in the early 1990s. The payment of the Moscow and St. Petersburg Orchestra musicians has been risen a little bit, but  in other regions it is still on a level of some 150 Euros a month.

Today the RNO gets 50 percent of the budget from the state. The other half of the cake is a) foreign sponsorship (esp. from the Russian Arts Foundation in the US), b) domestic sponsorship from Russian and Russian based foreign enterprises and c) commercial orchestra activities (ticket sales, subscription etc.).  During the last few years the RNO created its own production structures, esp. an own arts production company.

Some Russian participants complained about the lack of clear regulations, for example collective bargaining agreeements and other rules for the orchestra management. Very often management people work on a trial-and-error-basis. A little bit surprising was the message that Russia is not only an export country for more or less cheaper orchestras but even more a developing market for foreign artists, orchestras and ensembles. Indeed, during the AAPRO summit German Brass performed in Moscow and the International House of Music (with a great 3.000 seat hall) invited the Stuttgarter Bachakademie and Leipziger Bachorchester for a Bach Festival.

During the discussions and presentations some other important points were made:

– A Moscow based firm (360 Project Company) has developed a 360 grade display system for illustrated concerts not only on one screen behind the orchestra but using the whole hall. The „Russian Philharmonic“ (Moscow City Symphony) with its new chief conductor Dmitri Jurowski has used this new system for several concert projects already.

Pro 360 presentation

– The Russian Symphony and Chamber Orchestra Managers‘ Association (ASKOR) reported on festival activites to collect money for better orchestra instruments and higher musician salaries by running festival concerts and special masterclasses and training events. However, the ASKOR is not a real manager tool in comparison to other managers associations. It only organizes festivals but there is no real interaction between orchestras, agencies or managers.

– Moscow City Symphony „Russian Philharmonic“ (hosting the summit) and the Moscow Chamber Orchestra (Spivakov) are the only city funded Moscow orchestras. All others in the Moscow region depend on the state funding. The state funded orchestras are almost in the „old shape“ reigned by a conductor. The Russian Philharmonic seems to be the only one with a real professional orchestra management. There is no common spirit, no solidarity between Russian orchestras yet, participants reported.

Russian Philharmonic on stage

– The German and Singapore based MSM Productions informed about media strategies for orchestras and classical music. Internet downloads have been going up, but more for pop and rock music. Classical music is still purchased on CD, DVD and Blue Ray. Orchestras should keep this in mind.

– The final session of the first day dealed with lobbying tools for orchestras and orchestra associations. Examples and thoughts from Germany and Finland gave some fresh inputs how to enhance orchestra activities in the society.

Some more issues of the summit delt with concert programming, the administrative and creative ratio of orchestra management, labour disputes and conflicts and the role of artist managers.

Speakers from Canada, Japan and Hungary pointed out that Asia and Russia are getting better connected to Europe and America: Asean born artists and composers have spread out all over the world. Today many of them are cultural bridge builders and gap fillers, „searching for sense in the sounds“. Orchestra programms and audiences have become much more diverse. In some forms visual elements, projections, puppet theatre etc. have been new applications for performing classiscal and new music.

Audiences have to been surveyd on a regular basis. Some orchestras started to invite destinguished audience members for dicussions on their programming. Beeing competitors with other entertainment branches orchestras have to be innovative as well as better connected with their stakeholders.

Japanese orchestra managers reported on the difficult situation since 3/11 earthquake and tsunami catastrophy. Some halls (Sendai, Kawasaki) have been badly damaged and will be refurbished. 2012 there will be budget cuts for all orchestras in Japan.  Public funding for orchestras in other Asean states is very different. In Hong Kong public support for the orchestras has been increased. In China many orchestras have been founded in the provinces during the last few years. However, many of these orchestra depend extremly on the goodwill of the local mayors and other politicians.  The lack of a classical music tradition is a big challenge for developing new audiences. But successes have been made.

Summit Venue: Moscow International House of Music

Labour disputes, severe funding problems and dramatic cuts were reported from the US (Philadelphia bankrupty, Detroit strikes etc.), Brazil (OSB case), Ecuador, UK, Netherlands, Italy and Germany. Some conflicts, but not all, could have been avoided by better management, some by better communication between management, musicians and the public. Cases of political ignorance with brutal funding cuts need more special and creative answers from the arts institutions.

The AAPRO summit showcased some vibrant development in the Asia Pacific region. Let’s see how the show goes on and look out for the date of the  2012 summit in Asia.

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