October 2008 Archives
The question I am now hearing more than any other from people associated with orchestras goes something like this: "What effect is the current economic crisis going to have on orchestras?" If I could answer that accurately, I would be a rich man--probably even maintaining my riches through the current recession (or "probable recession," or "almost-recession," or "maybe it will become a recession"). Why economists think we should have faith in them, by the way, when they cannot even agree on what to call whatever we are experiencing, is a question I cannot answer.
Roughly two years ago, I wrote about my experience observing a couple of days of a Midori Orchestra Residency in Great Falls, Montana. Well, I just had another experience--shorter, to be sure--and I cannot resist writing about it again.
It struck me recently that the music of Dimitri Shostakovich seems to turn up on orchestra programs with more and more frequency these days. His string quartets are also heard more often than they used to be. It's become apparent to me that over the past 30 or 40 years, Shostakovich's music has quietly gone about establishing its place in the canon. Not that Shostakovich's music always goes about anything "quietly."
Very often in my travels around the country to visit with orchestras I am asked about power. "Who has the real power?" "Is the real power in the music director, the board chair, or the executive director?" "Where in this organization should the final authority lie?" "If the conductor and executive director disagree, who settles it?" These are some typical examples (and I could give many more) of questions I have experienced that all have to do with power. Along with that often comes the "whom should the music director report to?" question--i.e., should it be the executive director or the board chair?
I have assisted many orchestras, mid-sized and small, in music director searches. Often a music director has been present for many years and there is little or no institutional memory about the previous search. Where possible, I always suggest that an orchestra send search committee members (including at least one musician) to the League of American Orchestras' Music Director Search Seminar, because it is an intensive two-day education on just about all aspects of a search. Sometimes, though, the timing of the search is such that they cannot attend it--or even if they do, they cannot send the entire search committee.