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AAPRO rundown: Notes from the Association of Asian and Pacific Region Orchestras conference

Notes from the Association of Asian and Pacific Region Orchestras conference, Hong Kong, October 2010 – Kate Lidbetter

Chief Executive Officer Kate Lidbetter attended the Association of Asian and Pacific Region Orchestras (AAPRO) conference in Hong Kong from 14-17 October 2010.  She delivered a speech on Audience Development which can be read here, and provides a run-down on other presentations throughout the conference.  The conference schedule is reproduced at the end of this document.

“The report that follows merely notes some important themes that I gleaned from the various speakers at the conference – it is not an accurate transcription of what was said and reflects the notes that I took throughout the event. Please note also that many presentations were translated from their original language into English.  I apologise for any inaccuracies. Please note also this report does not cover all sessions of the conference.”

Day 1 – Friday 15 October

Mr Tamio Kano from the Association of Japanese Symphony Orchestras noted that the Japanese federal budget will be reduced by 10% next year and that the economy is still weak.  He hopes to show the strength of Asian orchestras to western countries and to contribute to the world.  He hopes to maintain government funding for Asian Orchestra Week, which has hosted a special Day of the Orchestra on March 31 since 2007.  On this day orchestras present unique events across the country, encouraging people to enjoy orchestras at a reasonable cost.  Orchestras invite audiences to rehearsals, have education programs for children and so on.  In Mr Kano’s view, in western countries the popularity of classical music is decreasing.  We need a purpose, to act to reach a goal.

Madame Atchara Tejapaibul from the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra Foundation talked about the development of symphony orchestras in Thailand, which haven’t really been affected by the global financial crisis.  The Bangkok Symphony Orchestra (BSO) is Thailand’s oldest orchestra, giving its first concert in 1982 with no funding from government or council, and it has to gain its own money in a manner similar to many US orchestras.  The orchestra offers a freelance contract to its musicians so can tie its expenditure to the money available in any one year.  In Ms Tejapaibul’s view reducing the number of concerts to save money becomes self-defeating so they are trying to increase the number of presentations.  In 2007 they celebrated the birthday of the King with a new concert series called Great Artists of the World, which utilizes high profile performers such as James Galway, Hilary Hahn, Leif Ove Andsnes, Barbara Bonney etc.  They have also brought in orchestras from Russia, Italy and Germany and are trying to increase the number of actual orchestral concerts rather than just recitals, and aim to increase younger audiences.  Western classical music is relatively unknown in Thailand so in 2011 they are holding a Classical Favourites program to introduce audiences to new classical music at each concert.  They offer reasonable prices for young people and bring in young conductors from Europe and Asia, focusing on repertoire rather than artists to try and get more young people to attend.

Ms Tejapaibul outlined the teaching situation in Thailand and also talked about some small ensembles that exist around Bangkok.  She noted that there is only one venue suitable for orchestral music in Bangkok, a Centre that was opened in 1987 and given as a gift to the King on his 60th birthday by Japan.  The hall is multipurpose and there is pressure on the venue to the point that a second venue is required.  BSO is lobbying government but finding it hard to convince the politicians that cultural development is important, and that proper acoustics are required for a concert hall.  Cultural activities in Thailand will be reduced next year because of the lack of a venue, but there is no lack of audience.  Policy changes each time a new government is brought in and the political situation in Thailand is unstable, and the private sector is not interested.  She felt it was doubtful that there will be much development in orchestral music in the future.

Mr Jooho Kim from the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra explained that there are more than 30 orchestras in Korea (some say as many as 50 or 60). There is no associated body or meeting for orchestras so it is difficult to know exactly how many there are.  Mr Kim is keen to set up such an organization.  The Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra (SPO) is the leading orchestra with 103 players, 25 staff and 130 performances each year.  The budget is USD $16m per year, with revenue of USD $4m.  The orchestra was established in 1948 and relaunched as an independent foundation in 2005.  The music director, Myun-Whun Chung went through an extensive evaluation process of the players.  The key patron of the orchestra is the Seoul Metropolitan government, which provides 75% of the orchestra’s income.  The other 25% is made up of 49% corporate sponsorship, 22% ticket sales, 16% performance fees, 7% corporate tickets and 6% other income.  The orchestra continues to try and find corporate partners despite its government support.  In addition to the Music Director, the orchestra has an Associate Conductor and a composer in residence (both women).   The major activities are public, including outreach, education and outdoor concerts.  There are 18 subscription concerts spread across four series.  The SPO also does contemporary music, touring and recording.  They toured to Europe in 2010 and will again in 2011, and will go to North America in 2012.  A major new venue called Residence Hall will open in 2015 – they’re about to break ground on it, despite controversy over the huge cost of the job.  The hall will be in the middle of the Han River, with amazing architecture.  SPO is a symbol of Seoul, a bit like the NY Phil or the Berlin Phil.  It serves serves its community, city and its visitors, and enhances the image of Seoul.

Ms Joyce Chiou (Executive Director of Philharmonia Taiwan, which is an Associate of Symphony Services International) spoke about the situation in Taiwan.  In that country there are 6 full time orchestras, 23m people and 20+ part time or community orchestras.  Philharmonia Taiwan is an executive juridical body and receives 60-65% of its funding from the government, but expects 3-5% cuts in the future.

Ms Gayane Shiladzhyan is the CEO of the Moscow City Symphony Orchestra (known as the Russian Philharmonic).  She noted there are 20 symphony orchestras in Moscow and that the Russian Philharmonic is the only big orchestra founded by the Moscow City Government.  It has just had its 10th anniversary.  It has 120 musicians and 30 staff including conductors, librarians, administration staff and so on.  Symphonic and classical music are seen as elitist, not mass culture.  Russia has many centuries of history and Ms Shiladzhyan believes that unless we develop we risk losing this heritage.  She believes we should establish lower ticket prices and have constant advertising.  The programming of concert houses is poor, as they only want popular product.  It is impossible to perform Mahler or Berlioz symphonies in Moscow as you would have an almost empty hall.  You need visual effects such as dynamic video and slide projections.  In Moscow there is great competition with 100 dramatic and opera houses, 20 concert organizations, 200 clubs so there needs to be proper advertising of classical music supported by the state, but this is just a dream.  Classical music should be compulsory in the education system but in secondary schools less and less attention is paid to culture.  Attracting young people to classical music requires specific propaganda and it needs to be an initiative of the state.  It is impossible to finance orchestras without the state.  Administrative leaders must be capable of lobbying at a high level for orchestral development, financing of orchestral salaries, concert/rehearsal bases at the biggest possible concert hall, strong musicians, good quality instruments, proper programming policy, allocating money to advertising, and so on.  We make tremendous efforts to have new instruments.

Mr Motti Eines from the Haifa Symphony Orchestra told us that the orchestra was founded in 1950 and recently became the focal point of music in the north of Israel.  They have expanded to include activities around the whole country.  For the past 5 years the Music Director has been Noam Sheriff.  HSO is supported by the Ministry of Culture (30%), Haifa Municipality (35%), income (35%).  There are four classical subscription series.  On Sundays Israelis come to listen to music.  The orchestra has a good education program, with two series’ for kids, one in schools.  There is one opera house in Tel Aviv and it would be great to build venues in Haifa.  There are 9 orchestras in Israel including one philharmonic, three symphony orchestras, 6 chamber orchestras.  There is also a jazz orchestra.

Day 1 – afternoon session (Theme 1, Symphony concert programming)

Speakers – Atchara Tejapaibul (Moderator); Guo Shan; Joyce Chiou; Akihira Nozaki

JC – Audiences in Europe and the USA are different, they program differently.  In Asia, most orchestras play both symphonic music and do pit work.  30% of the population is in the “end” generation, which would rather spend time on computers, playing games, watching TV etc.  Technological advances mean people have more time to enjoy classical music.  With globalization musicians no longer belong to just one part of the world.  How can we compete with other forms of entertainment?

GS – Government departments face a lot of issues, culture is only one dimension.  If you show achievements, the government will pay more attention.  China Symphony Development Foundation (CSDF) has a $20M budget and is responsible for planning a festival every year.  Its focus is on developing a wider market.  Many renowned Chinese musicians are working all over the world.  CSDF would like to organize a competition or training camps for professional development, but there are problems in implementation.  No government support is available to CSDF and it is not allowed to be involved in commercial events.  It can do projects and send invitations to commercial companies inviting them to become sponsors.

AN – creative programming has many different meanings.  I take it to mean programming that is stimulating for the audience, and challenging for the orchestra.  In some orchestras the Rite of Spring may be creative, but not in others.  Nowadays most Japanese orchestras are at a reasonable level.  It is important to allow them more time to practise and sectional rehearsals.  Contemporary music is very challenging in Japan.  It’s hard to sell tickets and can also be very expensive if the orchestra is large.  Revenue may not match the cost.  In Japan we need subsidies for experimental works.  It doesn’t cover all of the costs but gives an opportunity to have some new music concerts.  If we combine contemporary music with masterpieces of famous performers we’re more likely to get an audience.  If there is only one orchestra in the area, they need to be able to play everything so it’s difficult to be creative.  We must have a policy, to introduce new music by necessity into each concert.  There should be one commissioned work every season.

Theme 2 – Audience Outreach

This was the panel that I spoke on.  Moderator Motti Eines (Haifa Symphony Orchestra) introduced the panel, saying that audience development can mean different things for different orchestras.  He introduced Mark Pemberton, Director of the Association of British Orchestras.  Mark presented videos of a range of activities being used by British orchestras, and summarised recent briefings on new concert formats, technological innovation and education work.  In particular, he featured the Hallé Orchestra, BBC Concert Orchestra and Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment plus the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra’s teaching software called Things to Come.  He noted that the London Philharmonic Orchestra was the first in the UK to develop an iPhone application.

I outlined the company’s range of services to its six Members, the professional Australian symphony orchestras.  She noted that the company has recently expanded to also offer most of its services to orchestras around the world.  I also outlined some of the audience development programs currently being offered by the Australian symphony orchestras.  These include activities such as the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s Pizzicato Effect program, Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s online web based programs that will allow teachers and students to meet members of the orchestra, the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra’s “Geek in Residence” who works on a range of technological advances for that orchestra and other innovative activities taking place around the country.  My full speech can be found here.

Day 2 – Saturday 16 October (theme 3, Educational Programme)

Dr Leung Hio Ming, President of the Macao Conservatory, spoke of the Macao Orchestra’s outreach program which is run in conjunction with the Conservatory.  It expanded as the result of a change of government.  50-60% of the workload of the musicians is directed to the outreach program.  It includes an education program, with musicians required to teach.  The performing arts school includes music, dance and theatre and all of the orchestra’s musicians teach there so the locals will be very well trained and will become members of the orchestra in due course.  The orchestra does a series of schools concerts, with small ensembles and a speaker.  Some audience members become loyal listeners, and some are motivated to study instruments.  In the Macau Concert Centre, there are 6 concerts in a row (two per day) plus lectures, interactive activities, and well known pieces played.  Young people can attend an open-air concert and play alongside professionals.

Mr Ajit Abeysekera, President of the players of the Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka explained that Sri Lanka is a small island that is densely populated (20m people) with one orchestra in central Colombo.  There is a long history of European colonization, with Portuguese, Dutch and British among them.  Sri Lanka achieved independence in 1948 and the origins of the orchestra date to the 1930s when Danish brothers created it.  The orchestra had the support of the ruling classes and the symphony orchestra has passionate and loyal supporters.  Part of the function of the orchestra is to popularize western music.  This is difficult as there is not one single classical music radio in the country.  There is no Sri Lankan classical tradition – people listen to either Indian or Western classical music.  The indigenous music is close to the Indian system.  The orchestra gives away free tickets to children and brings around 50 children to concerts on a regular basis so that kids who have never heard an orchestra get the opportunity.  There is a new school of visual and performing arts which is not yet well attended but getting there.  Chamber music groups to out to outstations and lecture about instruments and music, then perform.  Recently the orchestra had nearly 1000 students in the concert hall for a wildly popular concert.  The orchestra is not professional, the musicians play for the love of it.  The board of governors helps the orchestra do what they want to, and they are also volunteers.  There is a professional violinist as concertmaster, and under his tuition a junior orchestra has been set up.  The orchestra tries to work with foreign conductors and soloists to improve standards and are looking for ways to get good instruments and a venue.  They currently perform in a school hall.

Mr David Ascanio, Founding member of the National Youth Orchestras of Venezuela, was unfortunately unable to attend the conference at the last minute.  He was replaced by Mr Klaus Heymann, Chairman/CEO of Naxos Music Group, who showed a Naxos video of El Sistema.  He asked whether El Sistema could be a model for music education in Asia.  He noted that such programs are popping up all over the world.  El Sistema is state supported, fully funded since it was begun in 1975 by Jose Antonio Abreu, an economist rather than a musician.  El Sistema is funded by the health department rather than the arts department, which says something about its philosophy.  There are now 300 nucleii (centres) including the famous Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra, which have provided music training to more than 2 million children, most living in abject poverty.  They all have higher class attendance and better results when they attend El Sistema.  This system is capable of lifting children out of poverty.  Each nucleo has individual control and is relatively independent.  Kids spend 17 hours per week on their music and mentor each other.  They spend an average of 10 years in the program and 85% achieve good music skills by the time they leave.  The program includes as many kids as possible, but also achieves excellence for the really good ones.  The nucleo is a community centre that also includes family members.  They need access to space, be within walking distance of schools and safe.  These requirements are hard to find in Asia.  You also need enough people to participate, plus the right kind of teachers who can reach out to needy children and be free and accessible to all.

Mark Pemberton, Director of the Association of British Orchestras, noted that the UK had been piloting some projects influenced by El Sistema.  It came to the UK’s consciousness in 2007 when the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra performed at the Proms and a residency followed in 2008 at the Southbank Centre, at which Dr Abreu gave a presentation. The projects were in Raploch in Scotland, a socially deprived area of Stirling, and three pilot projects in England.  The latter had received £3m over three years, and the projects are in Liverpool, Lambeth and Norwich.  Of the three, the Liverpool project has benefited from the involvement of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, focusing on one primary school and has rapidly delivered results. It’s a misconception to see this as an arts project, it’s really a social project.  Music is a tool to deal with social deprivation.  The key is sustained investment.  In Venezuela, one generation is now handing the project down to the next.  We all need to look at what’s appropriate for our respective country, and use the resources that are available.

 Theme 5, Orchestras’ Business Model

Moderator for this session was Ms Michelle Xing, Financial Consultant of the AAPRO board.  She first introduced Ms Neo Phaik Hoon, of the Singapore Chinese Orchestra company.  Ms Hoon explained that the orchestra uses traditional Chinese instruments although it plays some western music.  The orchestra preserves and interprets Chinese music and has a history of about 50 years.  It runs all 12 months of the year with holiday breaks in June and December.  It gives 100-110 concerts each year, of which 50 are ticketed and the rest are outreach.  60% of its funding comes from government and the rest is earned income, and the orchestra does not get its funding if it does not achieve the other 40% itself.  There are 26 staff, plus a further 14 staff at the concert hall, which has 900 seats.  The orchestra is able to hire out the hall when it is not using it.  The company commissions approximately 50 new works each year.  About 14 years ago the orchestra had to decide on a business model and decided to use the Business Excellence Framework, which is a social enterprise model.  The orchestra got its certification and complies with the charities code, and they try to continually upgrade the management system.  There are 7 dimensions of excellence: leadership, planning, information, people, processes, customers and results.  The Excellence Framework is a health check for the organization.  It identifies strengths and areas for improvement.  The company has an extensive strategic plan, broken into the “one year plan” and the “five year plan”.  Board and management are involved in the formation of both of these documents.

Patrick Pickett, CEO of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, gave some background on that orchestra and its location in the state of Queensland.  He noted that at present subscriptions are decreasing at the rate of around 10% each year and this is not sustainable.  QSO had to find a business model that would address this problem.  Patrick has researched a number of orchestras in the UK, US and Australia to consider employment options that might form the basis of business models.  All of these models have idiosyncrasies but no real uniqueness.  He noted, in particular, three models used in the UK – regional contract orchestras, the London independent system and BBC contract orchestras.  Each of these works because of the large number of musicians available to choose from and each would be almost impossible to transplant to Australia.

Patrick noted that venues are a major influence on financial stability of orchestras.  Some own their premises but can’t rent them out when they’re empty.  Some are paying large amounts of rent.  The variation in models used in the US is because they needed to create change to keep working.  The Boston Symphony/Boston Pops model is very successful.  Funding methods are a crucial part of choosing the right model – for instance, it’s rare to find freelance orchestras in the US, the majority have permanent employees.  Government funding is far lower in the US and the global financial crisis has affected American orchestras badly.  Many orchestras receive 60-70% of their income through private giving, whereas in Australia orchestras receive 60-70% of their income through government funding, though this is fixed and therefore declining in real terms.  In the USA the maximum government funding is approximately 5% and in the UK it is approximately 30%.

Day 3 – Sunday 17 October (Theme 7, the social and community relevance of the music festival)


Mr Tamio Kano explained that there are many, many festivals in the world, especially in Japan.  He introduced Mr Masami Shigeta, the Chairman of Japan Aspen Music Incorporated, who outlined that Festival.  The Aspen facility is only 10 years old and is in a tent.  Aspen was founded in 1949 and has more than 320 musical events over 8 weeks in the summer.  Aspen used to slow down over the summer period, but now because of the Festival it is busy all year round.  The population increases from 8000 to over 25000 in Festival time.  More than 25% of the events are free of charge.  The theme is creativity, community, collaboration.

Ms Lin Hui Yin, the Outreach Manager of the Hong Kong Arts Festival showed a promotional video of the 29th Hong Kong Arts Festival, which will occur from 17 February – 27 March 2011.  The festival will run for 39 days, with 54 performing groups and 315 performances, of which 40 will be free for young people.


SCHEDULE: 7th Summit of Alliance of Asia-Pacific Region Orchestras

October 14-17, 2010 Hong Kong

From Passion to Mission

Venue: Intercontinental Grand Stanford Hong Kong

Thursday 14 October

Registration, General Committee Meeting, Welcoming Reception, Group Photo, Welcoming Banquet

Friday 15 October


Welcoming Address

Mr Naomoto Okayama Former President of Alliance of

Asia-Pacific Region Orchestras, Madame Guo Shan President of Alliance of Asia-Pacific

Region Orchestras (theme: From Passion to Mission)


Speeches by Committee

Mr Tamio Kano – Managing Director of Association of Japanese Symphony Orchestras

Madame Atchara Tejapaibul – Director and Secretary General of Bangkok Symphony Orchestra Foundation

Mr Jooho Kim – President & CEO of Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra

Mr K.N.Suntook – Chairman of National Centre Performing Arts(India)

Ms Joyce Chiou – CEO of Philharmonia Taiwan

Ms Gayane Shiladzhyan – CEO of Moscow City Symphony Orchestra “Russian Philharmonic”

Mr Motti Eines – General Director of the Haifa Symphony Orchestra

Theme 1 – Symphony concert programming

Moderator: Madame Atchara Tejapaibul Director and Secretary General of Bangkok Symphony Orchestra Foundation

Speakers:Madame Guo Shan – President of China Symphony Development Foundation (creative non-profit concerts)

Ms Joyce Chiou – CEO of Philharmonia Taiwan

Mr Akihira Nozaki – Executive Director of Century Orchestra Osaka

Theme  2 – Audience Outreach

Moderator: Mr Motti Eines General Director of the Haifa Symphony Orchestra

Speakers Mr Mark Pemberton Director of Association of British Orchestras

Ms Kate Lidbetter – Chief Executive Officer, Symphony Services International (Symphony Services Australia)

Mr Fan Yu – Editor of Music Lover


Concert by Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra

Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall

Conductor – Perry So

Violin – John Harding

Piano – Nancy Loo

The Hong Kong Children’s Choir

Saturday 16 October

Theme 3 – Educational Programme


Performance Outreach of Macau Orchestra

Speaker: Dr Leung Hio Ming – President of Macao Conservatory

The Current Situation and Development of Symphony Orchestras in Sri Lanka

Speaker : Mr Ajit Abeysekera – President of the Players Committee of the Symphony Orchestra of Sri Lanka

Introduction of El system of Venezuela including video footage from the documentary EI Sistema released by Euro Arts

Speakers: Mr David Ascanio, Founding member of the National Youth Orchestras of Venezuela, professor in the Masters in Music at the University Simon Bolivar, the Simon Bolivar IUDEM and Conservatory (Mr Asciano was unable to attend the conference at the last minute).

Mr. Klaus Heymann – Chairman, CEO of Naxos Group

Cross-Region Cooperation Project

Speaker: Mr Geir Johnson – Artistic Director of TRANSPOSITION, a music co-operation between music institutions in Vietnam and Norway.

Promotion of classical music

Speaker: Mr Wolfgang Schaufler – International Representative of Universal Edition in Vienna

Introduction of Wing of Music Children’s Musical Charity with video footage

Ms Chen Qian – Executive Director of Wing of Music Children’s Musical Charity

Theme 4 –  Orchestra Identified by Recorded Music

Moderator: Mr Jooho Kim – President & CEO of Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra

Speaker: Mr Klaus Heymann – Chairman, CEO of Naxos Group


Young International Artist Showcase

Performed by Pianist Colleen Lee

Theme 5 – Orchestras’ Business Model

Moderator:Ms Michelle Xing – Financial Consultant of AAPRO board member

Speakers:Ms Neo Phaik Hoon – Singapore Chinese Orchestra Company

Mr Patrick Pickett – CEO of Queensland Symphony Orchestra


Young International Artist Showcase

Performed by Cellist Trey Lee

Tune Up Party Forum main foyer

Sunday 17 October

A Report of CSDF Orchestras League – Mr Guan Xia President of Orchestra League of China

Symphony Development Foundation

Theme 6 – Symphony Promotion from the Perspective of Concert Halls

Moderator: Mr Marat Bisengaliev – Music Director of India Symphony Orchestra

Speakers: Mr Michio Takemori – Senior Producer of Suntory Hall

Mr Christopher Blair – Principal of Akustiks LLC

Ms Shu-Chun Lai – Programme Director of Guangzhou Opera House

Theme 7 – The Social & Community Relevance of Music Festival

Moderator: Mr Tamio Kano – MD of Association of Japanese Symphony Orchestras

Speakers:Mr Masami Shigeta – Chairman of Japan Aspen Music incorporated

Hong Kong Arts Festival 2011 Preview

Ms Lin Hui Yin – Outreach Manager of Hong Kong Arts Festival


Closing Session

Madame Guo Shan President of Alliance of Asia-Pacific Region Orchestras

Note: a few images of the conference are available on the SSI Facebook page