on the record: May 2008 Archives

I wonder if there's something in the water in Eugene, Oregon. For a relatively small community it seems to me to have a remarkably vital arts community. The Oregon Bach Festival, the Oregon Mozart Players, the Shedd Institute (which presents the Oregon Festival of American Music and many other events, and has an extensive music education program), the Eugene Symphony Orchestra, and a number of other organizations exist side by side and bring an enormous range and scope of activities to the city.  Having just spent two days there, most of it with the Eugene Symphony Orchestra, I came away as I have before, thinking that this is a very special place.

May 30, 2008 12:42 PM | | Comments (2)

Less than a month from now a remarkable event will take place in Denver: the National Performing Arts Convention, scheduled for Tuesday, June 10 through Saturday, June 14. Although it's billed as the second such convention (the first was in Pittsburgh in 2004), it will actually be a first in most ways. In Pittsburgh, the various service organizations combined for an opening session on a Wednesday night, and produced some combined discussions and sessions on Saturday. But on Thursday and Friday, the individual organizations each operated their own independent conferences.

May 23, 2008 10:27 AM |

I have written continuously about symphony orchestras and community engagement. I keep saying that the biggest change in the behavior of orchestras around the country in the past decade or so is that they are re-examining their relationships with their communities, expanding those relationships so that they are so much more than givers of concerts - although of course those concerts are and will always be at the center of what they are. But orchestras must be more than givers of subscription concerts - they must be meaningful to a wide range of people, many of whom may never actually attend those concerts. From a time when community programs started with the hope that they might increase attendance, they have become programs with a different goal - a goal of the symphony orchestra being a true community resource.

May 16, 2008 10:30 AM | | Comments (1)

A major element of the League of American Orchestras' strategic plan concerns an oft-misunderstood concept that we call "achieving civic stature." Simply put, it refers to an orchestra reaching a point in its community where the entire community views it as a resource of value, something central to the life of that community.  Even more simply put, it refers to orchestras finding ways to be of relevance to people who may never come to a subscription concert.  I believe that over the past ten to fifteen years, this area represents one of the most significant changes in the behavior of orchestras in America. But because it is not marked by a single, dramatic event, it has been largely unnoticed by the press, even by those who observe orchestras regularly and keenly.

May 9, 2008 9:45 AM | | Comments (2)

One of the really interesting issues that I keep coming across as I visit a wide range of symphony orchestras in America is the question of what is sometimes called "artistic policy." And the central issue around it is "who is in charge?" One's immediate instinct is to say, of course, the music director. The old cliché is that the music director is in charge of the artistic product, the executive director is in charge of the business, and the board governs both. The problem is that that model doesn't work. It probably never really did, but in our more complex times it certainly doesn't.  The reality is that there is hardly any artistic decision that can be made that does not have a financial implication, and there is hardly a financial decision that doesn't have an artistic implication. As a general rule (there are always exceptions, of course) the orchestras that I encounter that are most successful by any objective standards are orchestras where there is a true collaborative spirit between the executive and artistic directors (and, sometimes, the board leadership as well - depending on knowledge and experience). The old-fashioned music director who stands on a pedestal as well as a podium, and single-handedly makes programming decisions without discussion and genuine input from others is vanishing, and in my view none too soon. 

May 2, 2008 12:47 PM | | Comments (2)


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