There are a couple of the central issues raised by co-operations between permanent ensembles and freelancers: while the latter are commonly hired to address specific needs or reach particular audiences – and in this capacity often do excellent work – the two parties may not necessarily see eye to eye.
Co-operation between symphony orchestras and independent partners are fairly common for educational activities, as they are often project-based. Artistic co-operations are becoming more frequent, too, and they can give creative impulses and reach out for new audiences, though this has to be weighed against greater organizational efforts. Experiences are similar for co-operations between independents and opera houses, for example, by the Deutsche Oper Berlin and its new experimental space “Tischlerei” (“Joiner’s Workshop”): opera houses can offer resources usually unavailable to fringe ensembles, yet again, work styles are often markedly different, thus requiring more coordination. Immigration policies and their cultural aspects are a particularly interesting, but also difficult area in which independent artists or groups can play a role.
A case study of the Komische Oper Berlin in particular and its outreach activities towards audiences with a migrant background – typically hard to reach – shows how difficult (but necessary) co-operation is in practice and that there must be answers about the integration of migrant staff. Many of these aspects are also reflected in discussions with freelance artists. Artists of independent performance projects often do have their special experiences with orchestras and opera houses: variations from enthusiasm for fresh ideas and willingness to adapt working processes to reservations over perceived non-professionalism. This is a leadership challenge for every management.
Looking abroad to the UK and the USA, where independent artists and ensembles are much more common shows the differences due to the lower number of public orchestras in comparison to Germany and Central Europe. Very special is the relation from institutions to the “teaching artist”, who is much more than a music pedagogue, but a highly-trained, if independent, professional.