I would like to welcome you to my blog, which I hope will become a forum for issues concerning American symphony orchestras. In the three years since I have become President of the American Symphony Orchestra League I have visited and spent at least one day with 95 U.S. orchestras of all sizes and types, and have heard about 70 of them perform, so I think that I may have an overview that is fairly thoroughly grounded.
For instance, just last week I spent a day with the Board of the Traverse Symphony Orchestra in Michigan - a $900,000/year orchestra. The CD sampler they gave me from a number of their performances was astonishingly good - and the internal spirit and morale of the Board and staff and music director was inspiring. They made a decision about five years ago to raise the artistic level of the orchestra, which meant taking on greater expenses, and they have unquestionably done that. They do have some deficits, but they have a very solid plan for dealing with them, and we spent most of our time together discussing the possibility of a capital campaign scaled appropriately for their community.
A week earlier, I heard the first concert of a new music director in Santa Barbara - Nir Kabaretti. I thought the concert was terrific, and found an orchestra that has been in the black for the past three years, is operating solidly, has very good internal alignment between board, volunteers, staff, musicians, and music director. These are the kinds of stories that don't make the news - and that I hope to report on in this space.
The reason I do all of this traveling is not because I love airports so much, but because the League and I are committed to taking the pulse of our nation's orchestras so that we, as a service organization, can be of the greatest help to our members.
Finally - one thought for those who believe that the orchestra field never changes. On Friday night Oct. 20, I attended the New York Philharmonic's performance of Prokofiev's music, with the original film, of Alexander Nevsky. On Saturday night, I attended a concert of the student orchestra at Northwestern University. The Philharmonic concert was conducted by Xian Zhang, the orchestra's assistant conductor. The first half of the Northwestern concert was conducted by Ruth Lin, a talented doctoral conducting student. Thus, with in about 26 hours, I saw two symphony orchestra concerts conducted by Chinese women. Anyone around this business for any length of time knows that twenty-five years ago the chances of that were zero!
I'll be posting approximately every week, and I promise also not to shy away from the tough issues that the orchestra field faces - even while also trying to report the good news that tends to be hidden because controversy and problems are more attractive to much of the press. I will write about music I hear, about interesting new ideas I encounter, about people I meet, in short about the whole breadth and depth of the orchestra world. From time to time, I may invite a guest blogger. I look forward to exploring our orchestral world with you.