On Saturday 12 October, Hoang Pham was announced the 2013 ABC Symphony Australia Young Performer of the year after a spectacular performance of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No.1.
The last stage of the finals which for the first time ran in the new format was held at the Melbourne Town Hall, with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra conducted by Christopher Seaman and included thrilling performances from two other finalists, Andrew Kawai (VIC) performing the Strauss Oboe Concerto and Stefan Cassomenos (VIC) performing the Prokofiev Piano Concerto No.3.
The three young performers had battled their way through two previous rounds of competition to have the chance to play their concertos in this concert which was broadcast live on ABC Classic FM and wonderfully presented by Graham Abbott and Mairi Nicolson.
The winner was announced by Symphony Services International Chief Executive Officer, Kate Lidbetter in a prize ceremony following the concert. The 12 performers who took part in the finals were all presented with a trophy in recognition of their achievement and the following prizes were awarded;
Best Recital ($5000) went to Andrew Kawai (VIC)
Best Chamber Music Performance ($5000) went to Hoang Pham (VIC) for his performance of the Mendelssohn Piano Trio No.1
Best Performance of an Australian Work ($5000) went to Grace Clifford for her performance of Soliloquy: a fragment from String Quartet No.2 by Wilfred Lehmann in the Recital round.
Andrew Kawai and Stefan Cassomenos both received a cash prize of $7500 and Hoang Pham takes home a $25,000 cash prize, multiple copies of a CD of his winning performance and opportunities for future concert engagements with major Australian symphony orchestras as well as a feature interview in the ABC Limelight magazine.
All seven YPA finals concerts were recorded and broadcast live by ABC Classic FM, and an hour-long special about the finals will feature on ABC TV on Sunday 15 December, at 2.00pm on ABC 1.
The Recitals round of the 2013 ABC Symphony Australia Young Performers Awards finals took place on October 4 and 5 in the Iwaki Auditorium at the ABC Southbank Centre in Melbourne.
12 outstanding finalists performed individual solo recitals over four concerts which were each broadcast live on ABC Classic FM and presented by Graham Abbott and Mairi Nicolson.
Adjudicators were Ian Munro, Barbara Jane Gilby, Catherine McCorkill and Huw Humphreys.
The six finalists selected to proceed to the next stage of the finals and details of the Chamber Music round are;
Concert 1: 1pm, Wednesday 9 October, Iwaki Auditorium
Grace Clifford (violin) will perform the Brahms Piano Trio in C minor Op.101
Andrew Kawai (oboe) will perform the Mozart Oboe Quartet in F K.370
Stefan Cassomenos (piano) will perform the Mendelssohn Piano Trio No.1 in D minor Op.49
Concert 2: 7pm, Wednesday 9 October, Iwaki Auditorium
Jonathon Ramsay (euphonium) will perform the Brahms Horn Trio Op.40
Hoang Pham (piano) will perform the Mendelssohn Piano Trio No.1 in D minor Op.49
Harry Ward (violin) will perform the Brahms Piano Trio in C minor Op.101
Both these concerts will be broadcast live on ABC Classic FM. Tickets are free and available at the door an hour prior to each concert.
Orchestras and the quest for relevance.
Thank you, Kate, and a special thank you to each of you for your flexibility. Scheduling this presentation has been an enormous challenge and I am really grateful for the opportunity to be here today. This is my second visit to Australia in as many months after never having been here before. What can one say? It is beautiful here, and we are having a wonderful time. Before I begin, let me also acknowledge upfront that I am somewhat aware of the differences between Australian and US orchestras in our funding and governance structures. Clearly, I will speak from the perspective of a career spent in the US; I hope you will make allowances for that and my rather one-sided perspective.
I’ve chosen today to talk about Anton Bruckner with you as a proxy for the ongoing debate about orchestras and relevance.
You all know Anton Bruckner, the Austrian composer who died in 1896, a social misfit to the end. Painfully shy, he was even mocked for the old-fashioned way he dressed. He was insecure to a fault, endlessly revising and re-revising his symphonies. He adored Wagner, which immediately placed him in the camp opposing Brahms who was roughly his contemporary. His compositional output was relatively small—several masses and nine symphonies which are so clearly from the same pen that some critics claimed he wrote the same symphony nine times. Even though he lived during the period of high Romanticism in art, he stayed away from those crowd pleasing virtuosic showpieces that were, and are, so characteristic of that period. Were he alive today, he would probably be shocked that he, this humble Austrian church organist, is being mentioned here, in Sydney, Australia, in 2013. You might be, too.
And, yes, he’s still around. The Sydney Symphony performed his ninth symphony last week three times. The San Francisco Symphony has included his works on 48 of our programs since 1971—and given the length of his many of his symphonies, those probably WERE the programs. American orchestras programmed his works over 660 times in the first decade of this century. Over on YouTube, the performance of the Eighth Symphony by the Berliner Philharmoniker, conducted by Christian Thielemann, has garnered 140,000 views in the last several years. Not exactly Beethoven or Mozart, is it? But he is still with us.
Why? Some of our musicians don’t particularly enjoy playing Bruckner. The unrelenting patterns in the strings are exhausting to play. Because of the size of the orchestra, his music is expensive to mount—lots of extra musicians are required. Our audiences aren’t clamoring for his music—checking the last four performances that the San Francisco Symphony gave of his music from 2008-12, the percentage of our hall sold ranged from 50% to 66% compared with a season-long average of 80-84%. His music doesn’t carry the emotional temperature that Mahler’s does and that seems to speak so vividly to our audiences today. His symphonies are not conductor showpieces—they are long, repetitious, and full of such dense counterpoint that only a music theorist could love them.
And yet, he is still with us. What are we to make of this? Is Bruckner, in some mysterious way, relevant? Our dictionary’s definition of “relevant” is “having practical and especially social applicability.” Whatever else one may say about Bruckner, you might not call him “relevant,” by that definition. Bruckner is, I suggest, a bit like orchestras. These centuries-old organisms are still around. For those of us not in Europe, these types of collections of musicians are not only from centuries past, they also were created to perform music from a culture that is imported to our shores. Like Bruckner, our orchestras specialize in delayed gratification. Like Bruckner, there is something stiff and formal about our concerts. Like Bruckner, our attire of white tie and tails is old-fashioned. Like Bruckner, we can be socially awkward—gathering people together for a social experience and then limiting their opportunity to interact.
And WE are still around. There are almost 1000 member orchestras of the League of American Orchestras. In the seasons of 2005-2009, American orchestras performed between 3600 and 4700 concerts per season. The San Francisco Symphony performs or presents over 225 concerts in each season, performing for over 500,000 people at our home in San Francisco. Like Bruckner, are our orchestras, in some mysterious way, “relevant?”
I don’t know about your experience here, but we in the US are constantly challenged to be “relevant” by funders, by Board members. I think that is the wrong term. Our tendency is to focus on the first part of our definition, and I suggest that most people think of it in that way. We are not practical; orchestras never have been. So when a funder or Board member or donor challenges the San Francisco Symphony to be more “relevant,” I immediately ask them to clarify exactly what they mean. I find that they almost invariably want us to be more “meaningful.”
I like that term much better. It’s clearer and more easily understood. And it lays out a blueprint for how we might proceed as orchestras. Let’s review eight ways in which our communities seek meaning in their interactions with music and examine how effectively we deliver on that quest for meaning. I have chosen to present this from the perspective of eight potential or current audience members.
1. MY MEANING IS CHOICE. Have you ever seen this catch phrase in an orchestra’s brochure: “Our Music: What We Want to Play and When We Want to Play it…Come Pay To Hear Us If You Want to.” No, I haven’t either. But this is how orchestra concerts are perceived by many in our communities. To be fair, almost every performing art form, every sporting event, places similar expectations on its community. We are called to join together at an appointed time to observe an activity for a fixed period of time—whether that is going to the Opera or Symphony or Ballet, watching a movie, or watching football (of any kind). This works as long as there is a significant percentage of our community that finds meaning within a structured ritual to experience something over which they have had little choice.
But we now live in a world of practically limitless choice, in practically anything. I can listen to any type of music that I want to, for any duration, at any place and at any time. We have become so quickly accustomed to this that we don’t often realize what a recent phenomenon this is. Interestingly enough, this desire is not limited to the “younger” generation. In the US, the percentage of adults with a college degree is increasing, the population is growing, and income is rising. But with each passing year, the percentage of those people who would have traditionally been in our audience has been declining. The post-war Baby Boom generation, the largest generation in history, has now aged into the typical demographic of loyal subscribers. We should have full halls at all of our concerts. One reason we don’t, I suggest, is that there is limitless choice—how they spend their leisure time is one choice they need to make, and then whether they get to curate part of the experience is another choice. We can’t or don’t give them the latter choice, so the former choice tilts away from us to other activities where they might have that choice.
2. MY MEANING IS PARTICIPATION. For many years, our communities have asked us to help them educate their children in music. And we have responded. Since 1987, for example, the San Francisco Symphony has essentially been THE provider of music education in the San Francisco Public School District, grades 1-5, because of significant cutbacks in California state government support for music education in the previous decade. This has consisted of ensemble visits into the classrooms, teacher training, curriculum materials, and a visit by each of the students to hear a concert performed by the full orchestra in Davies Symphony Hall. This type of exposure gave these students a desire to make music, not only listen to it. Because they saw real live musicians on stage and in their classrooms, they began to imagine that they, too, could be musicians. Well over 70% of American orchestral audiences played a musical instrument or sang in a choir in their youth. So providing opportunities for instrumental instruction means not only that we are being good citizens, it also means that we are helping to build the pipeline for future audiences. We leave instrumental instruction to the schools or to the home at our long-term peril. It’s important to note that this desire for participation doesn’t suddenly magically end when you finish school. So a number of orchestras have started providing adult musical participation activities. In 2010, the Symphony launched a program called “Community of Music-Makers,” giving those adult amateur musicians a chance to play on our stage and be coached by members of our orchestras. We have evenings for strings, for winds and brass, for percussion, and for singers. They fill up as soon as they are announced.
3. MY MEANING IS VARIETY. Many of our audience members are still completely comfortable showing up at the appointed hour, usually 8 p.m., hearing repertoire selected by others within a total window of time of about 2 hours; sitting in seats they have occupied for many years and occasionally reflecting on how their many, many years of subscribing to symphony concerts has affected them, enriched them, broadened their appreciation for music, for beauty, for all of the arts. We LOVE these people, in part because they are perfectly aligned with our delivery mechanism. These are the people who are served through the construction of our collective bargaining agreements and around which our weekly schedules are built. Our institutions are well-oiled machines to deliver top-notch performances in two-hour chunks several times a week. But for many people, this predictability does not have musical meaning. They are interested in shorter, more varied programs—perhaps less formal, perhaps even with some say in what is played. They’re not interested in paying the same price for that shorter concert as they would for a full two-hour concert; they want to hear this music at different times and to encounter it even during the day. They don’t care if they’re hearing a full orchestra, a small orchestra, a chamber group, or a percussion group. They find meaningful experiences in unpredictability and variety.
4. MY MEANING = SOCIAL MEDIA. I recall a number of years ago how scandalized many in our audience were when one of their fellow audience members made an outgoing phone call during a concert, and said into the phone: “You gotta hear this,” and held out the phone for the person on the other end to experience what she was hearing in the hall. This was a sign of things to come. Our daughter takes a photo of what we’re eating in a restaurant in Spokane, Washington, and instantly transmits it to her friends here in Sydney so they can share in our experience while it is happening thousands of miles away. Telling our audiences to shut down electronically for two hours is giving some of them withdrawal anxiety. We now have Board members from Facebook and Twitter, and they can hardly wait until intermission so they can see what they’ve missed in other people’s lives. I make no value judgments right now, for fear of sounding like a member of the Baby Boom generation (which I am). For purposes of this discussion today, though, we need to be attuned to the fact that experiences like the ones we provide are increasingly meant to be shared. Instantly. That Beethoven Fifth Symphony was awesome, they say; I want a link to that performance so I can send others to it and let them know I heard it live. This sounds like pretty good viral marketing to me. Another aspect of the growth in social media is emerging in the San Francisco Bay Area. According to some reports, people who work in social media look at that work as bringing fulfillment and meaning into people’s lives. Their efforts to connect us, to make our lives “frictionless” is a way that applies technological advances to give us meaning, usurping—perhaps—the historical role of religion or the arts as a way of building community. In a May 27 New Yorker article, George Packer quotes a young entrepreneur: “Many see their social responsibility fulfilled by their businesses, not by social or political action.” This, if true, has enormous implications for us in the philanthropic sector in the US. If someone who believes he is “doing good” in his work (i.e., solving social problems) that person is much less likely to use his most precious commodity—time—to serve on the Board of an organization that might also be “doing good.” This attitude clearly colors attitudes for philanthropy as well.
It seems to me there are least three implications for us as social media becomes an ever more pervasive aspect of our work in orchestras:
- Individual and organizational reputations are built or diminished instantly and constantly, even during our concerts (no more news cycles);
- Technology as the great “gatherer” can be viewed as a replacement to the live experience or anything else that gathers communities together;
- These communities information streams are becoming more decentralized—“friend” or “unfriend,” opt-in or opt-out, and impacts your organizations directly
While the future of social media is difficult to predict, it is comparatively easy to understand why those who live their lives “in this space” might build in different ways a sense of loyalty and longstanding commitment to our orchestral institutions.
5. MY MEANING = KNOWING AND BEING KNOWN. Our community increasingly values a much more in-depth knowledge and relationship with what’s going on behind the scenes. Who are those musicians anyway? What are their individual stories? Would they talk with me? How long have they played their instruments? What is their favorite piece of music and why? But our musicians arrive and leave by a door on one side of the building; the audience comes in another. For two hours, they interact in a most profound way with each other—playing and receiving the most sublime music ever written. Afterwards, they go their separate ways—audiences discuss the concerts with other audience members, and musicians discuss the performance, the conductor, with each other. They rarely reflect on the experience together. Our communities would value more of that. And many of our musicians would too. But in order to provide that, we need to change our physical plant a bit, and again modify the concert ritual.
6. MY MEANING IS VALUE. If our audience is paying $100 for a ticket, they place high expectations on the overall experience. This audience has less tolerance for any aspect of the concert experience that does not meet their expectations—parking, food service, wine (quality, quantity, and price), seat locations—all work together to help our communities decide if the experience is worth the price. But this is also a bit more complicated. When you buy something in the store for $100, you have a pretty good idea if it is good quality and if it does what it was designed to do. Our communities increasingly have a hard time distinguishing high quality as opposed to a more mediocre level performance. And, to many of them, value means a recognized work, performed by a recognized name. What WE place value on, high artistic quality, for example, is not necessarily where our community places value. If they heard the best performance of a Bruckner Symphony imaginable, but thought the wine before the concert was second-rate, we are going to have to work that much harder to get them back. In other words, magnificent Bruckner isn’t going to be enough to tip the scales if the rest of the experience wasn’t completely perfect.
7. MY MEANING IS A RICH CIVIC LIFE. Our communities may bring less background, exposure and knowledge to our concerts, but many of them still have a sense that a night at the Symphony is something that an informed and engaged citizen should “do.” Learning how to play a musical instrument is perceived as a lofty and beneficial goal. Donors recognize the value proposition of their philanthropic support; politicians view orchestras as contributing to the common good of a civil society; business leaders recognize the importance that orchestras bring in economic benefits, attractiveness to potential employees of their companies, education to their children. For this community, simply knowing that their town has an orchestra adds meaning. In 1989, San Francisco was severely damaged and traumatized by the Loma Prieta earthquake. A few days afterwards, the Symphony performed a free performance of Beethoven Nine in Golden Gate Park to draw the community together; we also performed for thousands on the one-year anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy. Communities around the world look to their orchestras to build community during a time of sadness and tragedy or a time of celebration. Or…they look to their orchestras to provide services like the Chicago Symphony Orchestra offers through their “Citizen Musician” program—music in assisted living facilities or hospitals.
8. And, finally, MY MEANING IS MY MUSIC. Our communities are becoming increasingly diverse ethnically. The Hispanic population is the fastest growing ethnic group in the Bay Area by far. The Asian community is so large and so engaged in musical life in the Bay Area that our Youth Orchestra is predominantly Asian; diversity in this case might mean bringing in more Caucasians. This incredible mixture of backgrounds and ethnicities adds to the complexities and opportunities facing our orchestras. Over 10 years ago, the Symphony started a Chinese New Year concert, drawing on the rich musical tradition of China and mixing in the Western instruments. This event has grown to the point where it is our second-largest fundraiser of the year and is THE event of that time period for many in the San Francisco Chinese community. The Symphony helps provide meaning to this community as they gather to celebrate a family tradition. Five years ago, we started a similar program called “Day of the Dead” to celebrate the musical heritage of the Hispanic community around this big holiday in that community. The orchestral tradition in the Hispanic community is rich and programming these concerts is a real joy.
So…we have Choice, Participation, Variety, Social Media, Knowing and Being Known, Value, Civic Life, My Music. If you agree that our communities seek to engage in meaningful musical experiences through one or more of these doorways, it doesn’t take a decades-long career in orchestra management to conclude that we face challenges. We are just not set up to provide those experiences very often or effectively. I really believe that orchestras ARE at a crossroads today—we can hang onto the pattern of fixed subscription concerts that appeal to the segment of our communities that subscribe and renew year after year. And let’s be honest with each other: there is enormous pressure to continue on exactly that path. Let’s look at a few reasons why we stay on this course:
- Economic. Since 1992, the San Francisco Symphony has performed 106 subscription concerts per season. Our net contribution to fixed costs for each one of those concerts has ranged from between $85,000 and $100,000. By contrast, the holiday concerts, or summer concerts, or presentations may struggle to net $30,000. Why would I, as Executive Director, reduce the service allocation from something that nets this well towards something that might net only a fraction…even while I see the attendance at these subscription concerts gradually diminish year over year?
- Personal Love. I started in this field in 1980. Subscription concerts are what I love—I love hearing the orchestra playing the same repertoire several times a week and hearing how they settle into it, how they take different chances musically at each concert; how each performance is slightly different.
- MusicianInterests . Generally speaking, our musicians love to play concerts of the standard repertoire for which they feel they have had adequate rehearsal. This is what they were trained to do. Add the challenges of a collective bargaining agreement that in most of our orchestras limits scheduling flexibility, there is much work to be done to address the issues of choice, participation, variety, social media, value, and civic life.
You have probably heard the saying: “When the tide goes out, you find out who hasn’t been wearing swim suits.” While some of our orchestras have been in various stages of undress for many years, I submit to you that, especially since the dramatic economic downturn of 2008, the outgoing tide has ripped off much of the attire that many of us were wearing and that we thought was securely fastened about us. I hope we learned a lesson: the time to be sure we are wearing swim suits is when the tide is in because it most definitely WILL go out again…and it might never come back.
So are we as orchestras going to take the safe route—maintaining the status quo that many of us love and offering the occasional education programs or other programs at the fringe? Or are we going to engage in serious self-examination about how we relate to our communities’ quest for meaning and be prepared for that rapid or gradual reduction in the tidewater level around us? Let me suggest five steps to take that should send us at least partway down the more dangerous , and ultimately more rewarding, road:
- All real or virtual barriers to getting our music widely disseminated digitally simply must be removed. The casual curious music-lover can fall in love with, say, the Bartok Concerto for Orchestra if given a chance. But how or when is this person ever going to have a chance encounter with this music? It’s not on the radio anymore, they don’t stumble on it in record stores, and they never check it out on iTunes or YouTube. We need to turn our audiences into viral marketers and give them all the tools to do so.
- All musicians coming into conservatories today need to assume they will be educators, community engagement professionals, and local celebrities in addition to great orchestral musicians. And they need to be given the training to do so. Education is, and will be, everyone’s responsibility. Further, our musicians need to be THE superstars, the household names, and freely provide us with the tools to get their stories told. I was so impressed by the brochures of your orchestras—almost all of them not only showcased the members of the orchestra, but also listed them by name. While this might introduce a level of discomfort in some of our musicians, added variety in their responsibilities can and should be enormously enriching.
- Our orchestras as organizations need to be fully present in the lives of our communities. We cannot only show up for 1000 or 1500 people 3 or 4 nights a week, playing repertoire that we select at a time and for a duration that fit well with people’s schedules a generation ago. We still need to do that, but we also need to provide different encounters. I’m referring to carefully planned musical encounters by the orchestra such that the community is caught up each week by the music and the great value of having these musicians in their communities. This will likely engender much more variety in the musicians’ schedules in the future.
- We need to be unified organizations in addressing these challenges. We need to work together to be sure that our boards and donors are reminded what a great gift our orchestras are to our communities and the amazing talent that is rolled up into the musicians of our orchestras. Our boards need to know that this music and the community service that our musicians provide is a cause worthy of their best thinking at board meetings, of their personal philanthropic support, and of their willingness to ask friends and colleagues to support this cause. Likewise, our musicians need to acknowledge the incredible pressures that boards and staffs are under—brought on by these changes in audience expectations, by rapidly rising health care and pension costs, by weak economic activity. Musicians need to thank their audiences and donors like never before. And internally, we all need each other. Just as our staff members recognize that we need the best musicians possible, our musicians need to recognize that they need THE best chief financial officer, or general manager possible.
- Finally, we need to be true to who we are. We are orchestras, specifically designed and created to perform symphonic repertoire. No other entity is made to do that, and we can easily abandon our responsibilities when we only REACT to how our communities seek meaning in their musical experiences. We also need to mold and direct them. I’m happy that the San Francisco Symphony’s mission statement intentionally calls for us to “shape the Bay Area culture.” We need to be the Steve Jobs or Henry Fords of our art form—giving people something they never knew they needed. We have to be willing to lead. By doing so, we will only become more meaningful to our communities and will have enriched countless lives of millions of people around us.
So this brings us back to Bruckner. Keep programming and playing his music. But do so within the quest for meaning that our communities seek. Give him context—get your trombone players talking about why they love to play Bruckner or your strings talking about why they don’t; get your social media sphere debating about why Bruckner speaks today, or doesn’t; give your audience links to the performance when they leave.
You see, the richness of Bruckner is that he didn’t write the same symphony nine times. He wrote works of endless variety and power that reward inquisitiveness and open-hearted listening. We can scrape away the encrustations around our concert delivery systems to connect Bruckner and others to the meaning that our communities seek. It requires hard work, creativity, risk-taking, unity, and great ingenuity. I wish you all great success as you continue to chart the path forward for your orchestras.
Thank you for the opportunity to be with you today.
Executive Director, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
Symphony Services International Orchestral Summit
August 15, 2013
The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra is Australia’s national baroque orchestra and 2014 marks the 25th year since the Brandenburg’s establishment. Under the charismatic leadership of the Orchestra’s Co-founder and Artistic Director Paul Dyer AO, the Brandenburg features the finest period musicians from around Australia. We bring to life the original colours of baroque and early classical masterpieces with the beautiful sounds of instruments of the 16th 17th and 18th centuries. Works performed include those by del known composers of the period as well as exhilarating new discoveries. As a member of the Australian Major performing Arts Group and winner of five ARIA awards for Best Classical Album in Australia, the Brandenburg is a leader in Australia’s cultural landscape. Visit their website.
China is undoubtedly the place to be for classical music. Since I arrived in Hong Kong three years ago, barely a month has passed without the news of some major strategic alliance between a western music institution and a Chinese one. The touring traffic of great orchestras and artists seems more like a flood, as eyes move to the startling Chinese growth industry in classical music. And the eyes boggle – an estimated 40,000,000 piano students, thousands of concert halls (with more under construction), and a strong curiosity and engagement in our artform. In other parts of the world classical music seems to stutter, but China is forging ahead, and even if the nature of these connections is still being defined, they bear witness to huge optimism about the future of Western art music in Asia.
Hong Kong is also part of that world, but its unique history and overlapping identities as a former colony and a ‘Special Administrative Region’, not to mention Hong Kong people’s own feelings towards Mainland China (which are often ambiguous), continue to hold this city apart. We trade on a long-established identity of being ‘where east meets west’. Hong Kong’s current tag- line is ‘Asia’s World City’. Its flag features the Bauhinia flower, an introduced species; the ‘barren rock’ of Hong Kong island is lush with plants which are not native, and crowded by skyscrapers which trumpet western cosmopolitan style.
Where does a western orchestra fit into such a picture? Could it, too, be viewed as a transplanted relic of the departed colonial influence? Could it be part of the exciting new wave which is happening to our north? Should it be a local ensemble, focused inwards on servicing the city, or a truly international ‘flagship’ orchestra, with the sole purpose of bringing the world’s music stars to Hong Kong? These are all questions which the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra has asked itself in recent years, and it’s a challenge to provide a snapshot of such a rich combination of factors.
The HK Phil is in many ways the perfect reflection of its home city; we are about to commence our 40th professional season, but the origins of the orchestra go back more than 100 years, to the foundation of our ancestor the ‘Sino-British Orchestra’ (whose first conductor was a moonlighting property auctioneer – an apt historical footnote for such a commercially driven city). Today, 45 of our 90 musicians come from China or Hong Kong, and of our internationally recruited musicians, 25 now are permanent residents, meaning that they have chosen to lead their lives here.
As for our audience, they are our biggest blessing, young and highly engaged. Hong Kong’s population may be ageing, but its concert-going public is youthful and musical. Learning an instrument is a vital part of a good upbringing in this city. Within a five-minute walk of my home are a dozen small music colleges, with a steady flow in and out of kids and their instruments. These children are often brought to concerts, and our hall is always brimming with (mostly) attentive young children, brought along to hear a noted soloist, and to be given something to aim for as performers. When I first arrived in Hong Kong, the youthfulness of our audience was a source of wonder. Nowadays, when I attend concerts outside Asia, the reverse skew of average age can be just as surprising. In Hong Kong, we ‘get them in young’.
Students vying for places at certain schools are even encouraged to choose their instrument strategically. Double bass, bassoon or harp, for example, are popularly chosen, in the hope that this will make winning a place at the desired school more likely – the orchestra is more likely to need them. A few years ago when we programmed a harp concerto in our subscription series, we discovered that nearly 500 young people in Hong Kong were studying the instrument.
This sort of ‘white heat’ in music study has another potential benefit for the Hong Kong Philharmonic; when we recruit for administrative positions, I’m constantly amazed by the very high proportion of applicants who have their instrumental diploma. It’s tantalizing that so many skilled musicians might be interested in artistic administration. But there is a flip-side: very few seem to continue as active musicians once the achievement is on their CV. The competitive arena often dictates that they will pursue other goals. With the diploma, the musical mission is accomplished, and one is left wondering how much deeply-felt love for music this system is actually engendering.
The main limitation on the orchestra and on most other artistic enterprises in Hong Kong is the venue situation. This is a crowded city; facilities are at a premium. For graphic artists the competition for gallery and workshop space is fierce. For an orchestra, there are no more than a handful of halls in Hong Kong which will take a symphony orchestra’s footprint. These spaces are run as democratically as possible, for obvious reasons given the demand on them, but it means that artistic planning is limited by the shorter timelines by which the venues plan their schedules. A solution is on the horizon; the West Kowloon Cultural District will add over a dozen performance venues for theatre, music and dance to Hong Kong. It’s hoped that this important development will make Hong Kong a true creative hub in East Asia, but a new orchestral venue is still years away.
In the meantime, we have worked towards broadening the appeal of the HK Phil, introducing new concert models and starting times with great success. Even though there is a long history of pops and ‘Canto-pop’ concerts, the Orchestra’s image still reflects the traditional model of what an orchestra can offer. It’s fun to play against this image: in addition to a number of multimedia concerts last season, we presented a jazz concert starring James Morrison and a band of Hong Kong’s best ‘jazz cats’. In the lead-up, I was fielding questions from intrigued journalists about how the fusion of jazz music with orchestra would even work. But in execution, the concerts were hugely popular and attracted a new audience to our hall.
One challenge which I think many orchestras are facing around the world is particularly pronounced in a city like Hong Kong: the many stories and legends which inform repertoire, and by which we can help explain it, are less and less well known. To introduce a work like Holst’s Planets, for example, it’s extremely helpful to know the back-stories of Greco-Roman deities. One can then move directly to the conceptual leaps that Holst made between the planet, the deity and the observer. It’s not a case (as it might be in the West) of people being less acquainted with these old stories and archetypes. Here, an equally complex and rich tradition of Chinese astrology renders the Greco-Roman version an obscure reference, which itself needs introduction and explanation for many people.
Another example is the Jupiter symphony. At what point does one give up splitting hairs, and resort to the bare fundamental of the name as the vast majority of people know it – to market the symphony with a visual of the planet? I was once told that Haydn’s Creation would be a tough sell, since the general public “no longer really knows the story” – this was in reference to the Australian public. How much trickier when the story is itself not fundamental to the cultural tradition where the performance is taking place? Working in Hong Kong has made me especially aware of this challenging gap, and that we can make no assumptions about the familiarity of narratives which were deeply ingrained in the composer’s culture.
The HK Phil has big plans, coming off the back of Edo de Waart’s eight-year tenure as Chief Conductor – a period of unprecedented musical development for the orchestra. With our new Music Director, Jaap van Zweden, a series of international tours is in preparation. We have begun a recording project of Chinese composers conducting their own works, for release on the NAXOS label. Tan Dun and Bright Sheng are the first composers to be thus featured. During the past season we have renewed our local relationships with local cultural institutions such as Hong Kong’s Space Museum, its Polar Museum, Academy of Performing Arts, and many others. The orchestra is in a period of growth in all directions.
As for the hurdles we face, a unique one is the annual typhoon season, beginning in summer and continuing through the first weeks of our season. All of Hong Kong stays glued to the weather report, as tropical storms brew in the South China Sea, then wend their way towards land. An alert system tells us when to close windows, take pot plants inside, avoid coastal areas, and eventually cancel orchestral services, because leaving one’s home is too dangerous. It doesn’t happen often, but it lends an extra intensity to a week of rehearsals and performances when a typhoon is bearing down on us!
Looking around the region, the relative isolation of the orchestras of East Asia means that each has a unique story to tell. In Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Taipei, Macau and Hong Kong, orchestras evolved more or less separately, responding to the (largely expatriate) hunger in each community for music. The distances are still too great for us to be competitors, and cultural differences mean that we often don’t share programming priorities. But we are facing similar challenges in our own environments, and also the opportunity of the current turning of tables: the world engine of classical music will soon be China. Being so close to the giant to our north, it’s a fascinating time to be working here and contributing to the Hong Kong Philharmonic’s exciting journey.
Raff Wilson, © 2013
Formerly Artistic Administration Manager of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Raff Wilson has been Director of Artistic Planning for the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra since December 2010.
When people think Los Angeles, they often think Hollywood and ‘Hollywood’ tends to be a byword for glitz and superficiality. But Los Angeles is also a home to musical experimentation. The groundbreaking Monday Evening Concerts that started on the roof of Peter Yates’ home in Silver Lake in 1939 are still going strong (though no longer on the rooftop), and I try never to forget that John Cage was born in the Good Samaritan Hospital on Wilshire Boulevard in 1912.
One of the significant ways in which Los Angeles contributes to musical life is in opera. Composer Anne LeBaron, who is interviewed later in this article, has written that living in Los Angeles, she’s ‘fortunate to be in physical proximity to nimble companies that embrace risk-taking, companies that are beginning to make history (or have been doing so for some time) by presenting challenging new work’ [i]. She mentions Long Beach Opera (soon to do Peter Lieberson’s ‘campfire opera under the stars’, King Gesar), Opera Povera and also The Industry, which established itself last year with a production of her ‘hyperopera’, Crescent City.
Founded by director, Yuval Sharon, and producer, Laura Kay Swanson, The Industry aims to ‘present new and experimental productions that merge music, visual arts, and performance in order to expand the traditional definition of opera and create a new paradigm for interdisciplinary collaboration’ (according to their website). In October they’ll be presenting Invisible Cities, an opera by Christopher Cerrone based on the book of the same name by Italo Calvino. As The Industry’s kickstarter fundraising campaign said of this work, ‘Imagine yourself in LA’s historic Union Station, surrounded by passengers and passersby, wearing a comfortable pair of top-of-the-line Sennheiser wireless headphones with crystal-clear sound technology, listening to a new opera while discovering the live singers and dancers appearing and disappearing throughout the space.’ It’s a project that takes cognizance of Sharon’s desire to exploit opera’s capacity for multi-perspectives. It also has the support of the City and new mayor, Eric Garcetti – the kind of collaborative experimental work that Los Angeles is ripe for.
The big buzz last year, however, was Crescent City, the Industry’s first production in an old warehouse in Atwater Crossing [ii]. Its composer Anne LeBaron is a New Orleanian who now teaches at CalArts (California Institute of the Arts) based in Santa Clarita in one of Los Angeles’ northern valleys. A former student of Mauricio Kagel and György Ligeti, LeBaron has pushed the boundaries not only of opera, but of instrumental music. I heard her monodrama Some Things Should Not Move (about her experiences in a haunted apartment in Vienna) at The Colburn School’s Zipper Hall in March and can well understand how an eventual production of that opera, when it is complete, might make a virtue of positioning the audience in a haunted space (if indeed that’s the direction it goes in).
Crescent City is what LeBaron calls a ‘hyperopera’. Not so much a genre, says LeBaron, as a ‘state of mind’, hyperopera takes opera’s collaborative potential and ‘ramps it up to another place that is more collaborative than anything you might imagine’. Hyperopera grew out of LeBaron’s courses at CalArts where students from various disciplines would get together and create an opera in a semester. There might be several writers, a composer for each character, negotiated ensemble writing…Crescent City took that concept to the highest professional level. Though there was only one composer, LeBaron and director Yuval Sharon storyboarded the opera before the final libretto was drafted. Sound designers and visual artists became members of the collaboration, ‘the creative family’, at an early stage of the process. They created the city that was the character behind everything else that went on in the opera [iii].
Crescent City is set in a city like New Orleans, just after a post-Katrina type event. Expecting another hurricane, Marie Laveau, queen of the voodoos, rises from her grave and approaches the Loa, the voodoo gods, pleading with them to spare her beloved city. At first indifferent, they eventually agree to save the city if they can find one good man in the debris.
‘The overall idea of hyperopera,’ said LeBaron when I met her in Santa Clarita, ‘is to diminish the hierarchy in opera, so that it’s not top-down composer, director, librettist and then the servants.’ In fact, LeBaron’s desire to change the hierarchy is inspired by the free interchange and fresh results of jazz. (Her score for Crescent City was described by Culture Spot LA as ‘Preservation Hall on acid’.) The big thing with this Crescent City production, however, was the use and design of the performance space. Six installation artists – Brianna Gorton, Mason Cooley, Katie Grinnan, Alice Könitz, Jeff Kopp and Olga Koumoundouros actually evolved a city in the Atwater warehouse. There was a supervening authority (Brianna Gorton was the curator) but separate ‘architects’ for the ‘buildings’ – cemetery, hospital, ‘dive bar’, swamp, Good Man’s Shack and junk heap – eventually amounting to a distinctive ‘civic character’.
What made this opera such a unique experience? Audience members sat in the city with various options on where to sit in relation to the performers and musicians. ‘Our Dive Bar, the “Chit Hole”,’ says LeBaron, ‘was actually a long tongue of a runway – the tip was a tongue – and we had some of the audience sit around it in beanbag chairs. The highest-priced tickets were the skybox where you could have an overview of the city. And you could get a pedestrian ticket, too, where you could walk on planks behind and around the action.’ So the audience was fluid. It was possible to come on separate nights and gain new perspectives on what you might already have seen and heard. Views were blocked just as in a city but live video on large screens around the space provided insight into areas you may not otherwise have been able to see. Video also served for surtitles or enhancement of stage action. The Loa, for example, were first seen onscreen, nonchalantly munching on chicken legs, before assuming human dimension onstage with other members of the cast.
But why do this in an opera? Firstly, the maximum development of the opera’s constituent parts enlivened other aspects of the work. With regard to composition, different heterogenous configurations of instruments (including strings, woodwinds, didgeridoos and electronica) in varying spatial arrangements accompanied strikingly different scenes. Olga Koumoundouras’s desire to do the dive bar as basically one enormous anus got LeBaron thinking that the dive bar should be all trombones and this led to the idea of bringing in the chromolodeon, the Harry Partch organ that has 43 tones to the octave. A big part of the payoff for all the various elements knocking together like this was increased vigilance on the part of the audience, multi-perspectives keeping the audience’s critical faculties active.
Yuval Sharon was the director of Crescent City. An Illinois native and graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, Sharon was Project Director for four years of New York City Opera’s Vox program where he first met LeBaron and presented concert presentations of Crescent City. He has worked at houses such as the Mariinsky and Komische Oper, Berlin, and was Associate Director for the world premiere of Stockhausen’s Mittwoch aus Licht with Graham Vick for the London 2012 Cultural Olympics.
I asked him about the value of what LeBaron calls ‘meta-collaboration’. Why do it? ‘All operas are inherently collaborative,’ he says. ‘It’s not as if the composer is not being influenced by singers he or she is working with or the librettist and the source material. There are lots of influences. To take all of that away and say that this person is a monolithic creator is something that is not quite honest as to how operas actually come to life. It takes a village.’
Sharon was Assistant Director to Achim Freyer on the LA Opera’s Ring cycle. ‘Wagner is a huge part of my background,’ he says, ‘but much as I love the idea of the gesamtkunstwerk [Wagner’s theory of opera as a union of the arts], I can’t forget the Brechtian critique that Wagner takes all of the arts and throws them into one stew and makes a mush out of it. The music and text and scenography all become one general flow that puts the listener into a sort of catatonic state, whereas Brecht [whose plays and theories influenced 20th century theatre] wanted to separate the elements, to really wake up the audience and keep them alert and critical.’
Mention of Brecht, who wrote his classics The Caucasian Chalk Circle and the American version of Life of Galileo in LA’s beachside city of Santa Monica, takes the discussion into deeper theoretical areas. It may be objected that most opera lovers go to opera for the emotional experience, but Sharon doesn’t see emotion being excluded from the equation. ‘The idea of breaks and disruption in Brecht’s work was not at the expense of emotion. They were something that made the audience realise the construction of the emotion and woke up their critical faculties. I think opera is an emotional experience but it shouldn’t be manipulative. I don’t go as far as other people to say that Puccini is super-manipulative. But Puccini’s music almost always only means one thing. His orchestral writing’s very deep but the emotional life is ultimately, somewhat one-dimensional. And depth doesn’t always have to be multiple things happening at once. Verdi can create depth but almost lengthwise through a piece.
‘But you talk about being able to view things from different angles?
‘And this is part of the reason why the audience can re-position themselves?
‘I’m really interested in that.
‘They will see things differently?
‘That’s right. That’s a key idea for me really, because what opera really does provide is multiple perspectives and multiple viewpoints onto the same action, same idea or same character. The multi-headed beast that is opera actually really encourages this type of thing.’
Which is all well and good, but are we talking about an area opera could legitimately move into and attract a completely new audience? ‘Oh absolutely’, says LeBaron, noting that The Industry’s goal was that everybody in Los Angeles should have heard about Crescent City and just about did. ‘It was a very mixed audience,’ says Sharon. ‘I’m really excited about that because that’s certainly been the mission for The Industry. I see opera as being a very solid 21st century possibility. And so I very much wanted to speak to people outside of the traditional world. There were certainly opera lovers who came. But we had just as many visual arts people. We had just as many people from all works of life who just wanted to see this spectacle. For a lot of people Crescent City was their first opera and they would come up to me and say, “Oh, is all opera like this?” And I’d say, “Well not exactly,” but that’s not bad either. We don’t want a one-size-fits-all approach. It’s exciting to see people’s gears turning a little bit and saying, “Oh wow, if this is opera what else is possible?”’
Sharon doesn’t believe the pieces he’s developing will replace the old operas or that the directorial ideas he came up with for Crescent City would necessarily be appropriate for them, but the sort of work he’s doing reveals directions for exciting new development in this 400 year-old form. After all, he says, ‘the potential for re-reading – that’s what’s really great about the standard repertoire.’
And the exciting thing is that there’s an audience for this in LA, and not just an audience but, as Sharon has noted before, ‘an amazing audience’ that has been developed here ever since Schoenberg and Klemperer came to town in the 1930s. Why look, even the Los Angeles Opera is doing the Robert Wilson/Philip Glass work Einstein on the Beach next season, right after that old favourite, Carmen.
Gordon Kalton Williams, © 2013
[i] ‘Crescent City: A Hyperopera (Anne LeBaron), Journal of the International Alliance for Women in Music, Volume 19, no.1 2013, pp1-6
[ii] See The Industry’s page on Crescent City
[iii] See Yuval Sharon’s blog Building Crescent City, chronically the construction of Crescent City’s set in The Industry’s warehouse theatre
Inside Conducting is Christopher Seaman’s humorous and witty take on the art of his profession.
What does a conductor actually do? How much effect does he or she have? Can the orchestra manage without one? Why don’t players look at the conductor more? Is it necessary for the conductor to play every instrument? What about interpretation? What happens at rehearsals Why do some conductors “thrash around’ more than others? Who’s the boss in a concerto: the soloist or the conductor?
These are some of the questions that receive lively and informative answers in this book.
There are many books on the art of conducting, but none like this. Music lovers wondering what the figure on the podium actually does, and aspiring conductors eager to learn more about the art and craft of leading an orchestra, will all treasure this wise yet humorous book.
“This book is simply typical Christopher, something I would consider one of the highest compliments. Typical of Christopher to combine so much wisdom with so much wit. Required reading, I think, and one of the friendliest books about music ever penned.”
SIR SIMON RATTLE, Chief Conductor and Artistic Director, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra
“With humor, clarity and wisdom, Christopher Seaman gives insight into the mind of a conductor. A feast of inside scoops for music lovers.”
YO-YO MA, cellist and Artistic Director of the Silk Road Project
“To hear the human truths from an experienced music director, enriched by examples from his life, is marvelously illuminating. I learned many little things and some big ones.”
NORMAN LEBRECHT, author and critic
Inside Conducting can be purchased in all reputable book stores or online;
Boydell and Brewer – http://www.urpress.com/store/viewItem.asp?idProduct=14177
Applications for the 2014 Conductor Development Program are now open!
Symphony Services International’s Conductor Development program represents a major investment in Australian talent. One of our goals is to assist a new generation of conductors to reach their potential by providing the highest quality training possible and we are now also welcoming applications from international conductors.
We are delighted to welcome back guest teachers Johannes Fritzsch and Eckehard Stier who will each teach mastercourses in 2014 with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra. Course Director Christopher Seaman will teach mastercourses with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestras as well as the Summer School with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.
For all the details and information please download the brochure here.
To apply you must complete the online form here.
Applications close Friday 26 July 2013.
In August 2013, Symphony Services International will be hosting the 2013 Orchestral Summit for Member and Associate orchestras.
Our guest speakers this year will be Brent Assink (Executive Director, San Francisco Symphony) and Joseph LaPosta (State Operating and Major Projects Manager, AFL NSW/ACT). Their biographies appear below.
Keynote addresses and workshops will be presented on the mornings of Thursday 15 and Friday 16 August, and constituency meetings for CEOs, Artistic Administrators and Human Resources personnel will be hosted on Thursday afternoon.
Download the Registration Form.
Note: This event is only open to staff from our Member and Associate orchestras.
Day 1: Thursday 15 August, 10am-4pm
Day 2: Friday 16 August, 10am-1pm
Venue: Macquarie Bank, 1 Shelley St, Sydney
Cost: Free to staff of Member and Associate orchestras
You can view the full two-day schedule of the event here.
Brent Assink, Executive Director of the San Francisco Symphony (SFS), leads one of North America’s most forward-looking arts organizations with a distinctive combination of business skills and musical passion. He brings over 30 years of experience in orchestra management to his role at the SFS helm as he continues to steer the organization in new directions, forging a path for classical music in the 21st century.
A native of Washington State, Mr. Assink has been a pianist since childhood and is an accomplished organist. After taking a master’s degree in musicology and business administration from the University of Minnesota, he joined the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra’s (SPCO) artistic operations department in 1981 and six years later was named SPCO Manager. In 1990, he was named SFS General Manager, then returned to the SPCO in 1994 as the organization’s President. He was named SFS Executive Director in March 1999.
Now in his thirteenth year as Executive Director of the San Francisco Symphony, Brent Assink heads an institution that presents more than 220 concerts each year with an annual budget of more than $69 million. He has implemented initiatives that have put the SFS into the front ranks of the world’s most innovative and successful orchestras, including television, radio, Internet, and recording projects. His passion for music has spearheaded education projects and community engagement activities, and the Orchestra’s reputation has assumed new dimensions through its national and international tours, with annual performances at Carnegie Hall.
Among the high-profile projects the Symphony has launched under Mr. Assink’s leadership is the establishment in 2001 of its own audio and video recording label, SFS Media. The label’s releases have featured Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas and the Orchestra in an acclaimed Mahler cycle that includes all of the composer’s symphonies and works for voices, chorus, and orchestra. The Mahler recordings have won seven Grammy Awards and widespread international acclaim. The label continues to feature works of the core repertoire as well as adventurous and infrequently recorded contemporary material.
Assink spearheaded the Orchestra’s Keeping Score project, an unprecedented global multimedia endeavor designed to make classical music accessible to people of all ages and musical backgrounds. Keeping Score’s components include television documentaries and concert programs seen by over 9 million Americans on PBS television, a Peabody Award-winning national radio series, interactive web sites and an education program that has trained elementary school teachers nationwide to incorporate music instruction into core subjects. The educational Web site for children sfskids.com, first introduced in 2002, will re-launch in 2013 using the latest web-based learning tools and gaming techniques. Under Brent Assink’s leadership, the SFS has expanded Adventures in Music, the longest running and most comprehensive education program among U.S. orchestras, now bringing music to every child in grades one through five in all San Francisco public elementary schools, and reaching more than 23,000 students. In 2011-12, its Instrument Training and Support program has expanded to reach more students in every public San Francisco middle and high school with a music program, with professional musicians teaching and coaching at schools and helping provide students with music supplies, instrument repairs, and other needed resources. As part of the SF Symphony’s Centennial initiatives, Assink oversaw the development of Community of Music Makers, an ambitious amateur music program serving adult musicians and promoting active participation in music-making and lifelong learning. The popular program extends the Symphony’s role beyond its historic performance and teaching model by creating opportunities for SFS concertgoers to participate in music-making under the auspices of the SFS and with the support of SFS players and artistic staff.
Other successful programs initiated during Mr. Assink’s tenure, and designed to serve San Francisco’s uniquely diverse community, include an annual Chinese New Year Concert that celebrates Asian and Western musical traditions; the popular Deck the Hall holiday celebration for children from local community organizations; and an annual Día de los Muertos community concert and celebration.
As SFS General Manager from 1990 to 1994, Brent Assink oversaw a major acoustical modification of Davies Symphony Hall, launched several new concert series, expanded ticket revenue, and augmented its education and community activities.
As SPCO President from 1994 to 1999, he recruited new board leadership, appointed Bobby McFerrin and Nicholas McGegan to the artistic staff, launched an educational initiative in partnership with St. Paul and Minneapolis public schools, and solidified the ensemble’s program of national and international touring, including the SPCO’s first tour of Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. The SPCO presented annual balanced budgets, retired its accumulated deficit, and launched a new endowment campaign that raised more than $14 million under his direction.
Brent Assink holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration and piano performance from Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa. He is a regular faculty member for the Orchestra Leadership Academy, sponsored by the League of American Orchestras and Co-Director of the League’s Essentials of Orchestra Management Seminar. He serves on the board of the League of American Orchestras and on the Advisory Council for the University of Minnesota’s School of Music, and is a regular panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts. He has published articles on church music, is a published composer, and has been recognized as a distinguished alumnus by Dordt College. He and his wife, Jan, have three adult children.
Joseph Laposta, State Operating & Major Projects Manager – AFL NSW/ACT. Joseph has been with AFL NSW/ACT for 4 years based at their Head Office in Sydney. Prior to working with the AFL Joseph was involved in Town Planning and Infrastructure Development, both in the public and private sectors throughout Sydney and Melbourne.
Joseph’s current role with the AFL is State Operating & Major Projects Manager – NSW/ACT, leading business operations with a strong focus on their people, partnerships and infrastructure projects. This role oversees a staffing structure of 75 full time staff and $10.5 million in annual budget.
A performance by Melbourne Chamber Orchestra reflects the city’s independent spirit and distinctive cultural identity. Under the artistic direction of legendary Australian violinist William Hennessy, the orchestra captivates audiences with its world-class artistry, dynamic stage presence and stimulating programming from the vast chamber music repertoire.
Founded in 1995 as Australia Pro Arte Orchestra, MCO has a core of string players drawn from Melbourne’s outstanding community of orchestral artists. The orchestra presents an annual series of concerts in the world-renowned acoustic environment of the Melbourne Recital Centre. Recent highlights included performing in the world premiere of Deborah Cheetham’s Indigenous opera Pecan Summer and a festival conducted by Sir Neville Marriner.
With a particular focus on being an agile, regional orchestra for all Victorians, MCO delights audiences outside central Melbourne with its regular touring and series in metropolitan and regional locations. The orchestra has performed over 50 concerts outside Melbourne since 2008. MCO also offers an innovative Regional Advanced Strings Education Program in selected Victorian centres. For more on Melbourne Chamber Orchestra, visit their website.
by James Koehne
When Donald Mitchell set out to write an appreciation of Malcolm Arnold in 1977, he felt compelled to rescue the composer from the ‘curse of popularity’. Even in his symphonies, Arnold’s music indulges in big, beautiful tunes, and this, Mitchell points out, ‘gives rise to suspicions that we’re being seduced by something vaguely improper, that we’re succumbing to the blandishments of the popular while the composer is somehow abandoning the pedestal of high art…’ Accordingly, ‘there is a real sense in which Arnold’s extraordinary melodic gift has, ironically, made things difficult for him rather than easy’.
The defence Mitchell built for Arnold was to say that the composer himself actually knew much better, and that he was being ironic with his big tunes – he was only presenting them as ‘illusions’. Mitchell couldn’t simply propose that Arnold’s popular appeal and gift with a good tune was cause for celebration – he had to show that Arnold was a ‘serious’ composer at heart.
Mitchell borrowed his concept of the ‘curse’ from his mentor, Hans Keller, who had used the term the ‘problem of popularity’ in a similar 1950 defence of Australian composer Arthur Benjamin, who was mostly associated, like Arnold, with ‘light music’, usually regarded as watered-down classical music with popular touches to it. In making his pitch for Benjamin, Keller took a much more well-judged line than Mitchell, pointing out that music like Benjamin’s, which had genuine popular appeal but did not forsake artistic quality, is a necessary thing for a healthy musical life. Observing that the advancement of music – under the influence at that time of Arnold Schoenberg – had ‘left the majority of listeners far behind’, Keller framed the ‘problem’ as a real quandary: namely, ‘how to be popular’.
In suggesting that it was a problem worth even considering, Keller was a rare voice in his time. While declaring his belief in the ideal of the eternal, absolute work of great music, Keller also proposed that we should never ‘underestimate the importance, even for great art itself, of art that was not great, but art nevertheless’. All around him, however, ideologues and musicologists were urgently sequestering popular music – or music tainted by the traces of popularity, like Light Music – away from and far below the musical mainstream.
The eminent musicologist Carl Dahlhaus, in compiling his history of 19th-century music, had to find some way to account for the likes of the Strauss family, Offenbach and Arthur Sullivan, from whose loins Light Music sprang. Dahlhaus labelled it all as Trivialmusik, ranging ‘from the salon piece to the hit tune, from the periphery of operetta to entertainment music’. This whole mass of music arose, Dahlhaus said, from the broadening of education to ‘all levels of the population’, resulting in a ‘mass acquisition of music and an emphasis on the emotional affects of acoustic phenomena, even those of minimal or dubious artistic qualities’. The extension of educational opportunity more widely in society unfortunately exposed music to two ‘new dangers’: ‘low’ taste and commercial exploitation. The ‘philanthropical’ good intentions of education were to become ‘perverted… by a process of commercialization or industrialization which took hold in virtually all areas of society as a compulsion to mass-produce and distribute commodities’. Dahlhaus assumed his mission to be to preserve the autonomy of great composers from the threat of popular trivialization.
The element of The Popular became classical music’s ‘Other’, the thing to be excluded so that proper attention could be lavished on the serious side. While people like Dahlhaus were making a philosophical argument for downgrading the popular, in a more practical way too, popular music was excised from our concert programs.
In his history of Classical Music in America, Joseph Horowitz recounts the story of how the Boston Symphony Orchestra changed its programming practice to separate its popular content from its serious. Under the orchestra’s original conductor, George Henschel, concert programs had routinely concluded with selections of light overtures and numbers, intended presumably to send the audience away with a smile on their face. But with the arrival of the much more earnest German conductor Wilhelm Gericke, that all changed, as he disciplined his audiences to follow his lead into more elevating musical realms. The popular content – at that time represented in the music of Gounod, Auber, Waldteufel, Rossini, Suppé and Zeller, etc. – was therefore hived off into a separate program of ‘promenade’ concerts, originating in 1885, under another conductor.
This division – in some ways a specialisation of labour – proved highly successful as both the Boston Symphony and Boston Pops flourished long thereafter. But for concert programs, the separation of these worlds meant that a Beethoven symphony would never again be heard in the company of, say, Gounod, Grétry, or Waldteufel. The Boston split symbolises how the separation of the galaxy of Great Symphonies and Eternal Masterpieces from a parallel universe of Popular Dances and Ephemeral Tunes, became firmly entrenched.
Today Hans Keller’s quandary – how to be popular – is more potent than ever. It is one we have to face, and find our own answers to – so that orchestras are not relegated to the periphery of social and cultural interest, quite regardless of the issue of economic sustainability. Having devoted so much effort to getting popularity out of our system, we now have to contend with finding ways to draw it back in… much to the chagrin of many involved in the orchestral enterprise!
It is now a regular practice for orchestras around the world to bring in ‘popular’ shows: sometimes it feels like gigs with rock bands, pop divas, film screens and the like are taking over. We try to sequester these events away from our ‘real’ product (the serious stuff), and gain some consolation from the fact that we can use the money earned by the pop shows to present Mahler and Bruckner… or pay salaries. But perhaps there is another, more creative way to deal with the problem. Instead of resenting the fact that we have to deal with this stuff, would it be possible to actually take ownership over popular content, and even to develop ways to integrate it as a core part of our concert offerings?
This is a suggestion put forward by philosopher Richard Shusterman, whose book Pragmatist Aesthetics provides the classic antidote to Dahlhaus’s aesthetics of separation and alienation. Shusterman takes his inspiration from a branch of philosophy known as Pragmatism, in particular, the work of Thomas Dewey. From Dewey, Shusterman gained a transforming insight: art is not a thing, but an experience.
As musicians, of course, we know that keenly. But Shusterman (following Dewey) puts this notion at the centre of artistic judgment and value. Like a tree falling in the woods, art only has value when it is experienced, and it is the quality of this experiencing that determines the value of art. From this idea, Shusterman develops a series of observations about how we might think about art and music. We should not restrict our sense of artistic value to the lineage of masterpieces, judged by fixed criteria – instead we need to be flexible, adaptable, responding to changing social and individual values. We need to think of art again as a primarily sensual experience, not an intellectual or written-down one. We must not be content to sustain our musical life within the confines of the concert hall alone – we have to take it out there to the people, so that it becomes ‘a normal part of the processes of living’. And finally, we need to start thinking of all musical styles not as separate – even opposing – categories but as parts of a spectrum of continuity, each type of music feeding and inspiring the other. Shusterman even suggests that popular art will be the salvation of the high arts, by showing us how to make ourselves popular again, how to overcome our stagnating social and aesthetic inwardness.
If we treat the element of the popular as something more than a mere ‘cash cow’, we may find a new creative energy that will bring back to us the broader audience we have been losing in the last few decades. The great thing about the way Keller has phrased the quandary – how to be popular – is that it suggests there is more than one way to skin this cat. That is, popularity can be – in fact has to be – achieved by a variety of means.
The admonitions of Richard Shusterman do not provide us with a pat or simple set of answers to the popularity quandary, but they do contain the seeds of different ways of thinking and valuing that could take us to a better place. Instead of just seeking the quickest and easiest way to answer the quandary – picking up a cheap profitable Beatles Tribute concert here and there – we need to think seriously about popularity. ‘How to be popular’ is no longer a question only for the marketing department – even philosophers are thinking about it!
Programming for Popularity
Discovering new ways to achieve popularity deserves to be considered as our new quest, so that it actually becomes the focus of our efforts at experimentation and innovation. Like any quest, it involves a process of change and adaptation, which will be full of successes and failures, but here are a few ideas, some potential principles, to begin the journey:
1. Take a broader view of what constitutes the mainstream of our repertoire, embracing Malcolm Arnold and Arthur Benjamin and their ilk as part of the mainstream of concert life. Even more obviously, make space to include the classic repertoire of film music (Korngold, Elmer Bernstein, Maurice Jarre, etc.) as core repertoire. Deliberately set aside that gazillionth regurgitation of the Egmont Overture to make room for them!
2. Invent new formats for concert programs, beyond the meat-and-potatoes diet of Overture-Concerto-Symphony programs. William Weber’s history of 18th- and 19th-century concert programming, The Great Transformation of Musical Taste, offers an illuminating historical perspective on the art and science of concert programming. It deserves to be required reading for all concert professionals. Concerts before the 20th century strove constantly to achieve an integration of the popular and the serious, or at least engaged in the battle between them. Concepts like ‘miscellany’ and ‘promenade’ which Weber reveals in the history of concert-making, provide ways for us to think freshly about the construction and materials of concert programs.
3. In preference to focussing only on the enclosed demographic of our existing audience, think outwards to draw in additional audience groupings. The point is not to think of one big ‘mass’ audience, but to identify extra groupings, more or less on the fringe of our existing audience, progressively spreading wider to incorporate those we might seduce into our world of orchestral experiences. Such a strategy must become a continual pattern of mainstream concert-giving in order to effect a permanent change in concert culture.
4. Integrate ‘classical’ content with popular concert experiences. There are often, if not always, opportunities to add in orchestral works when programming popular presentations, and without any sense of didacticism or condescension. A favourite example from my own experience came in the context of a Led Zeppelin Tribute concert (the idea had been forced upon me, I admit), into which I incorporated Mosolov’s Iron Foundry and Matthew Hindson’s Headbanger – to the sheer delight of the audience! On the orchestra’s part, of course, it meant paying for additional music hire and adding in extra rehearsal time – but the investment is worthwhile if taken as a long-term direction.
These are just four actions that can help to deconstruct the Berlin Walls of concert programming: the divide that separates the kind of concert thinking that goes on among those within the world of orchestral music-making from the kinds of concert thinking of those who live outside of that world.
James Koehne, © 2013
Books and articles referred to (in order of appearance):
Donald Mitchell, ‘Malcolm Arnold: The Curse of Popularity’, in Cradles of the New: Writings on Music, 1951-1991, London: Faber, 1995
Hans Keller, ‘Arthur Benjamin and the Problem of Popularity: A Critical Appreciation’, in Tempo, No. 15 (Spring 1950), pp. 4-15
Carl Dahlhaus, Nineteenth-Century Music, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989
Joseph Horowitz, Classical Music in America: A History of its Rise and Fall, New York: Norton, 2005
Richard Shusterman, Pragmatist Aesthetics: Living Beauty, Rethinking Art, Second Edition, Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000
William Weber, The Great Transformation of Musical Taste: Concert Programming from Haydn to Brahms, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.
James Koehne is currently writing his PhD dissertation on the light music of Sven Libaek and Don Banks. He was Director of Artistic Planning for the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, 1997-2010
by Gordon Kalton Williams
A number of times over the past few years, the contemporary German film director Werner Herzog has described Los Angeles as the most culturally substantial city in the United States. It’s why he and his wife decided to move here he will say, often citing the number of writers, philosophers, and mathematicians who are also in residence.
To anyone in classical music, Los Angeles has a further claim to cultural substance: in the 1930s and 40s, mostly because of Hitler, Los Angeles ended up with the highest concentration of great composers, writers and performers per square mile of any place on the planet, probably at any time. Just think who lived here – Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Otto Klemperer, Bruno Walter, Thomas and Heinrich Mann, Bertolt Brecht, singers like Lotte Lehmann and instrumentalists such as Jascha Heifitz. Nearly all of them lived walking distance from Sunset Boulevard’s arc to the sea at Santa Monica. People ask whether Angelenos have profited from the time these greats spent among them, but it’s certainly inspired me as a newcomer. I’ve walked the streets with a copy of Dorothy Lamb Crawford’s A Windfall of Composers in hand and Carol Merrill-Mirsky’s Exiles in Paradise 1991 exhibition catalogue tucked under my arm. I’ve shared the same initial experience as the Stravinskys who marvelled at ‘the sun, the climate, the beautiful countryside, the charming homes…’
An Australian who wants to retrace the steps of a world-famous composer can walk up Caroline Street, South Yarra and know that that’s where Percy Grainger lived. Here, you can see the houses owned by even bigger names and meet their children, grandchildren and students. Phil Azelton, a music copyist I met, studied under Ingolf Dahl and remembers the day Dahl came in and told the class how sad he was that his good friend, Paul Hindemith, had died. I love the everyday-ness of it. I’ve shopped at the farmers’ market at the corner of Fairfax Ave and Third Street where Vera Stravinsky met Natalia Rachmaninov and invited her and her husband to tea with Igor and her and the Rubinsteins; where the Stravinskys took W.H. Auden to shop while he was working with Igor on The Rake’s Progress. Getting around the county on the Rapid Transit, around that huge amphitheatre which is the coastal plain backed by the Hollywood Hills, I know exactly what Otto Klemperer meant when he came here to conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic from 1933 and spoke of ‘distances such as we can hardly conceive of’. Even now, it takes on average two hours to get anywhere one-way.
But the city has also served as a kind of map by which to learn about other less well-known musicians. I’d heard Hanns Eisler’s music in productions of Brecht, but never before delved much into his concert music. And I’ve wondered why Ernst Toch is so little represented in concert programs; his Symphony No.5 Jephta could easily sit alongside Barber’s First or Roy Harris’ Third as one of the great one-movement symphonies of the 20th century. Toch didn’t go in for ‘systems’, but Schoenberg thought enough of him to let him know when he was retiring from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) so that Toch could go for the job. (Schoenberg didn’t go in for systems either, of course. One of the great anecdotes in Crawford’s book concerns Milhaud’s visit to Schoenberg upon returning from a post-war visit to Europe. So many post-war European composers are writing with twelve tones, he told Schoenberg, thinking Schoenberg would be pleased. ‘I hope they’re putting some music into it,’ said Schoenberg.) Carol Merrill-Mirsky, the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Hollywood Bowl Museum and Archives Director, mentions other less well-known musicians whose presence here contributed to the artistic activity of the city, people like Leon Levitch, an émigré from Yugoslavia who got interned in Italy, then upstate New York – ‘an excellent composer’ ‘who made his living here in Los Angeles as a piano tuner’.
But to go back to Toch. He had studied music despite the disapproval of his parents and learnt from ‘secret early study of Mozart’s scores’ the emotional wellsprings of music. You’d think that Toch’s music (‘from the heart – may it go to hearts’, as he described Poems to Martha) would equip him to write for the movies, the town’s principal industry. But he was not the only composer to be disillusioned by this experience.
Reading about these composers’ experiences with the film studios you sometimes see Old World sensitivities butting up against those of the New World. Crawford in her book suggests that the relative age of a composer when he arrived in Los Angeles was a factor in the success or not of his (and it was usually ‘his’) dealings with Hollywood. Franz Waxman, Frederick Hollander and Erich Wolfgang Korngold did well because they were comparatively young. But perhaps there’s more to it than age. Those three allowed that a film’s rhetoric trumped music’s when it came to making movies. Max Reinhardt, the great German director, said that Frederick Hollander could have been a dramaturg if he hadn’t been a composer. According to Hugo Friedhofer, Korngold could go to a director and say, ‘I feel that there’s a first act curtain there,’ and ask if there was any more footage so his music could make more of the moment; he always got his way. The complaint of composer Alexandre Tansman – that the entire city of Los Angeles would await the latest offering from MGM – seems beside the point. Films were the principal storytelling medium of the town. But of course, present-day orchestral artistic administrators are wrestling with the idea of concerts that may not have ‘the music’ as their principal rationale.
Stravinsky hoped to get work in the movies when he moved here in 1940. A number of his concert works, such as Four Norwegian Moods, started out as film music that couldn’t be fitted into the final filmic result. You can still go past Stravinsky’s house up in West Hollywood. He had an easier time of living in Los Angeles than most and that may be because he had no problem prioritising the making of money. (The American composer, George Antheil, couldn’t quite believe Stravinsky’s way of ‘invariably turning idealistic musical conversations into mercenary channels’.) But Stravinsky also expected America to create ‘the new things in music’. According to a story by David Raksin (famous for the film score, Laura), Stravinsky could go along to a nightclub and be delighted to hear Oscar Peterson, Herb Ellis and Ray Brown while Pierre Boulez and Robert Craft, his companions (on the particular night Raksin was describing), ‘looked like two guys out of a Daumier drawing, disparaging something’. Thirdly, Stravinsky was used to emigrating and had already done so a couple of times.
There is great poignancy, however, in reading of the suffering of some of the other émigrés, the German-speakers mostly, in adapting to their new home. German novelists felt greatly the loss of German-speaking readers, for example, and many returned to Europe after the war. There’s ‘an element of personality that makes it possible for some people to assimilate’, says Merrill-Mirsky. ‘Bon-vivants like Rubinstein or Stravinsky could live anywhere.’ Of course, if I get homesick, I can walk to the ocean and look out in the direction of Australia. And I can stave off ‘heimweh’ by creating an Australian plant-species distribution map for Los Angeles county. I saw a huge Moreton Bay Fig in a garden on Burlingame Avenue, Brentwood on my way to the Schoenbergs’ house. Importantly, my homeland is not at war. Many were the émigrés in the 1940s who couldn’t quite appreciate the swaying of palm trees in balmy breezes while the streets where they grew up were being bombed into craters and childhood bonds with family and friends were being extinguished (or not – they just didn’t know). But, says Merrill-Mirsky, a lot of the modern-day Angelenos who are taken with the story of this period are Jewish people, ‘because when you’re inundated with stories of the Holocaust this almost looks like a good news story. These are the few who made it, who came here, were successful, raised families, many of whom are still living here.’ At the beginning, in 1934, Schoenberg likened it to entering Paradise: ‘I…came from one country into another, where I am allowed to go on my feet, where my head can be erect, where kindness and cheerfulness is dominating, and where to live is a joy and to be an expatriate of another country is the grace of God.’
Living here and studying this period from an artistic point of view I get a huge sense of how deeply Schoenberg and his 12-tone technique were steeped in European culture. California offered its distractions (and Schoenberg was swayed enough by the climate to be obsessed about tennis and ping-pong) but apart from that, he maintained his path, or shall we say his voice, with granite-like integrity. I get a new sense of how much his music burned from inside, but also a sense of his courage, ‘his refusal to be whittled down to mortal size by adversity’, in David Raksin’s phrase.
I visited his son and daughter-in-law, Ronald and Barbara, retired California trial judge and professor of German literature and language respectively, at the Schoenberg family home in Brentwood. Ronald showed me his father’s workspace. When his father worked here, there was a board over the archway (the house is in a Spanish style), so that he could have privacy. There are still things on the desk that reveal little character details about Schoenberg – the box that once housed the chess set Schoenberg made for Ronald, a piece of paper with a method for scoring tennis. You get a sense of the broad creativity of a truly creative person. And you also get a sense of the person behind the monument. Ronald mentions that a visitor to the Schoenberg archive in Vienna objected to footage of Schoenberg laughing and smiling – ‘That shouldn’t be shown’ – but that’s also the Schoenberg the family saw, the smiling person was Dad. Barbara shows me a cabinet containing her composer father, Eric Zeisl’s memorabilia – a letter from Alma Mahler, a letter in French from Igor and Vera Stravinsky saying how shocked they were by Zeisl’s sudden death. She tells me about Zeisl’s radiant Requiem Ebraico. You get the sense that both Schoenbergs would wish for more performances of their parents’ music, but ‘Christian Tetzlaff is playing Schoenberg’s Violin Concerto with the Philharmonic next season’ and Barbara says they’re getting more and more people coming to look at the house these days. Many of them are Austrians or Germans. ‘They hover,’ she says. ‘If I’m out in the garden, I ask them if I can help, and they say, “Oh, no thank you”, and I can tell by the accent, so then I ask in German, and they say, “Is this where the composer Schoenberg lived?”’
Over torte and coffee, our conversation soon turned to US politics, which made me realise how thoroughly American the children of the émigrés have become. ‘Who is your favourite US president?’ I ask Ronald. ‘Until I read about them?’ he quipped. And we talk about traffic, the excruciating inconvenience of going east of the 405 after 4pm. Nevertheless, afterwards Ronald drives me to Wilshire Boulevard where I’ll have more transport options. On the way out, we pass O.J. Simpson’s place. He tells me about the crowds that used to go up there to gawk. In his father’s day, Shirley Temple lived across the road and his father hoped that the sightseers were coming to see the composer Schoenberg’s place. Down Bundy Drive, we pass the former home of cellist, Piatigorsky. ‘His wife died last year,’ says Ronald. Last year? Have we only just emerged from this era of Los Angeles’ history? I wonder.
Which makes me muse about the lasting legacy of the ‘exiles in paradise’. Certainly, many of the most famous pieces of classical music’s 20th century repertoire were composed in Los Angeles. Not all owe their existence to Los Angeles. But it’s interesting to note that Schoenberg’s Kol nidre, Toch’s Cantata of the Bitter Herbs, Korngold’s A Passover Psalm, Op. 30 and Prayer, Op. 32 (the only pieces he composed ‘for myself’ during World War II), and Zeisl’s Reqiuem Ebraico all came about from commissions from Rabbi Jacob Sonderling of the Fairfax Temple. Schoenberg’s Survivor from Warsaw, Ode to Napoleon and String Trio were written in LA. So too, Stravinsky’s Circus Polka, Symphony in Three Movements and Agon. We still experience some of this period’s legacy in film scores of people like John Williams who studied with Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco and worked with Franz Waxman, or in the concert hall with André Previn who also studied with Castelnuovo-Tedesco. Yuval Sharon, Artistic Director of the opera company, The Industry, credits this period of LA’s history – this period when people like Klemperer and Schoenberg came here, and when UCLA and USC (the University of Southern California) were staffed by people of this quality – with why Los Angeles is so ripe for the sort of artistic experimentation he’s interested in. Because, he says, ‘There’s not just an audience, there’s an amazing audience here that has been developed through what’s already been here culturally.’
Local musicians, mezzo-soprano Bonnie Snell Schindler and Jeffrey Schindler (known in Hobart for performances they’ve given with the Australian International Symphony Orchestra Institute) have a recital program called From Hitler to Hollywood. The concept is the music a bicycle messenger might have heard as he couriered an urgent package from Korngold’s place at Toluca Lake (right near Warner Bros) to Hanns Eisler on the beach at Santa Monica. Stopping at Gershwin’s, Schoenberg’s and the Werfels’ he might have heard such pieces as Alma Mahler-Werfel’s Ich wandle unter Blumen, Schoenberg’s Gigerlette or Kurt Weill’s Lost in the Stars. Whether there has been a continuing influence of this period, this recital program proves there was a time when the Los Angeles basin gave rise to a most phenomenal outpouring of music. It looks like cultural substance to me.
Gordon Kalton Williams, © 2013
After a grueling month of nation-wide auditions, 12 young performers have been selected to proceed to the Finals for the 2013 ABC Symphony Australia Young Performers Awards. The 12 talented musicians vying for the title of Young Performer of the Year are;
Stefan Cassomenos – Piano (VIC, 28)
Grace Clifford – Violin (NSW, 14)
Anna Da Silva Chen – Violin (NSW, 16)
Anne-Marie Johnson – Violin (VIC, 21 )
Andrew Kawai – Oboe (VIC, 14)
Sarah Kim – Cello (VIC, 23)
Hoang Pham – Piano (VIC, 27)
Alex Raineri – Piano (QLD, 20)
Jonathon Ramsay – Euphonium (NSW, 19)
Robbin Reza – Piano (NSW, 18)
Brijette Tubb – Flute (QLD, 24)
Harry Ward – Violin (NSW, 17)
The Finals will take place in Melbourne, in three stages, over nine days from October 4 – 12. There will be four recitals concerts that will take place in the Iwaki auditorium at the ABC Southbank Centre on October 4 and 5 with three performers playing a full recital program in each concert.
After the recitals concerts on October 4 & 5, six finalists will be selected to proceed to the next stage of the finals – the chamber music round. In the chamber music round, the six finalists will collaborate with musicians from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra to prepare and perform a chamber music work. These works will be performed in two concerts on Wednesday October 9 in the Iwaki Auditorium with three performers featuring in each concert.
After the chamber music concerts on October 9, three finalists will be selected to proceed to the next and last stage of the finals – the concerto round. The three finalists selected will perform their nominated concerto with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra conducted by Christopher Seaman in the Melbourne Town Hall on Saturday October 12.
All concerts in each stage of the finals will be open to the public and broadcast live on ABC Classic FM.
For more details regarding the concert and broadcast times please visit our YPA page.
Applications for the 2013 Symphony Australia TSO Composers’ School (October 14-18) are now open. The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra is calling for 5 – 8 minute orchestral works, scored for double wind orchestra only. The School is a unique opportunity to experience an intense week of compositional training in one of Australia’s most beautiful cities and have your work rehearsed and performed by the TSO and recorded by ABC Classic FM. The 2013 staff includes Ken Young, Maria Grenfell, Andrew Schultz and Paul Stanhope.
The application form is available on our applications page and the TSO web site
Applications close 5pm on Friday 31 May 2013. Late applications will not be considered.
2013 is the first year that YPA will run in its new format. The new look competition comprises of two stages: a preliminary round of national auditions, and a finals period held over nine days during which 12 young musicians will compete in recital, chamber music and concerto rounds.
The Preliminary auditions are happening in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane throughout March. Over 200 applications have been received from performers around Australia all vying for the chance to compete in the finals which will be hosted by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in October.
Finalists will be announced in early April so stay tuned!
Kate Lidbetter, CEO of Symphony Services International, attended the AAPRO Summit in Macau, from 3-6 November 2012. The report that follows notes some important themes that gleaned from the various speakers at the event – it is not an accurate transcription of what was said (unless indicated) and reflects only the notes that she took throughout the event. This document may contain some inaccuracies or errors, and some sessions were translated into English. Please note also this report does not cover all sessions of the Summit.
Delegates were welcomed by Raymond Zhou, Executive Editor-in-Chief of the China Daily website. He invited Madame Guo Shan, Chairwoman of the Alliance of Asia-Pacific Region Orchestras, to speak to the delegates.
Guo Shan noted that she had attended other events that had attracted attention around the world. Classical music may have a shrinking market, but now we have events such as ClassicalNEXT. Why do we attend international conferences and events? It is very important for the growth of AAPRO. We will be able to influence more people. Since the Moscow Summit, the Alliance has attracted new people. Three new board members have been confirmed, and new members have been attracted to join because of our efforts. We welcome all these new members. We have maintained close contact with other organisations and orchestras, for instance from Sydney, Hong Kong, Singapore etc. The General Manager from the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra has come to Macau. We can see that in countries around Europe, many countries have participated in more Summit related activities. I have also travelled to China and attended China Dream. Mr Zhou will present to us what has been covered in these tours.
A number of video welcomes/apologies were presented from delegates unable to travel to China. All wished the Summit well.
Raymond Zhou then introduced Jesse Rosen, President and CEO of the League of American Orchestras and invited him to give the keynote address to the Summit
KEYNOTE ADDRESS: THE NEW WORK OF ORCHESTRAS
President and CEO, League of American Orchestras
Summit of Alliance of Asia-Pacific Region Orchestras
November 4, 2012 Macau
Thank you Madame Guo! You and your colleagues, and many of you in this room have traveled to the United States to attend the League’s annual conference, and I want to express my gratitude for your participation. I am very happy to now be able to reciprocate by being with you at this important meeting, which promotes learning among our organizations and across international boundaries. Whenever I have the chance to speak at a conference, other than our own, I have two very powerful feelings. The first is admiration for the conference planners and organizers. I know with absolute certainty how much work goes into this! So I’d like to begin with a big thank you to Madame Goh, Rudolf Tang and everyone associated with the AA-PRO for creating what promises to be a very stimulating few days on innovation, a subject of great concern to all of us.
The second powerful feeling I have is enormous relief — that I can be here as a participant just like the rest of you. If the room is too hot or too cold, or you can’t find your way to a session; or if your PowerPoint projector doesn’t work, I know you won’t be calling me!
My remarks are titled “The New Work of Orchestras.” It would be more accurate to call it “the new work of American orchestras.” I don’t want to presume that the American scene, our issues and opportunities, are the same as any of yours. But I think I can best serve the spirit of this international meeting by speaking about what I know of the American situation. Then, we can look at what is the same and what is different, and begin learning from one another.
Today I will give you a brief look back at the evolution of certain basic values and practices in American orchestras. Then we will move to today’s changed environment and how it has affected our orchestras. Finally, I would like to take you through a series of new questions our orchestras are asking as they confront this new world, and add some thoughts on what those questions require of leaders.
Let’s start by going back to the early 1960s, the time that the modern American orchestra began to take shape. Under presidents Kennedy and Johnson, the country passed legislation designed to eradicate poverty, improve education, put a man in space, and to finally confront — through federal policy and enforcement — the imperative to bring civil rights to all Americans. On the international front, the United States was determined to prove that it was now a world power in every arena, including the performing arts. So the arts held a significant place on the national agenda in the 60s and 70s.
In 1966, Lyndon Johnson signed into law the National Endowments for the Arts and for the Humanities, as well as the first national park dedicated to the performing arts. In 1969, the Ford Foundation poured a half billion dollars into 50 American orchestras. Orchestras, ballet, and theater all were broadcast routinely on network television, when there were only three networks and no cable TV. Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts, for example, were carried to millions of viewers on CBS television.
Under President Richard Nixon’s administration the National Endowment for the Arts budget literally soared, leveraging increasing corporate and foundation investment with it. This major new investment was intended to expand artistic activity to meet the demand of a population ready and eager to participate, train professional arts administrators, and improve the livelihood of performing artists.
So what changes did American orchestras experience during this period? Well, their 2 managements became more professional, mostly through the work of the League of American Orchestras, which launched its first annual orchestra management seminar in 1962. The largest orchestras also lengthened their seasons, with 18 of them playing year-round and thus able to offer their musicians a living wage with job security. The subscription system took hold, and endowments were built, to ensure a reliable income stream. Artistic excellence became the galvanizing ideal, expressed in mission statements that talked about becoming “the best, world-class,” and performing at “the highest standard of excellence.” And a single vision of success came to define that excellence: 52-week contracts that included domestic and international tours, recordings, at least one Carnegie hall appearance, and international caliber guest artists.
These practices and values were innovative for their time, and served orchestras well during this period of growth. Here’s a telling image that sums up just how well: In the 1960s the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s subscription renewal campaign consisted of nothing more than a one page letter listing the dates of the concerts — no artists, no repertoire, just the dates. And they were sold out on subscription!
From the 1960s through some time into the 1990s, audiences grew and the quality of performance achieved new heights. American orchestras not only toured internationally but played an important role in cultural diplomacy. Wages increased for many musicians, and practices in operations, marketing and fundraising solidified.
Now let’s fast forward to today. It’s no secret to any of us that the business and cultural environment in this second decade of the 21st century is profoundly different than the recent past I’ve just described. And it continues to change at a dizzying rate. Digital media has created an explosion of access to the arts and creativity. At the age of five my son – who is now only 9 — was making mash-ups and had produced his own recording on a CD, a technology that is now almost obsolete. Digital media has also challenged our ideas of excellence, quality, and even professionalism.
Think of the mp3 file — an inferior sound by any estimation — yet we accept it because it is the technology that permits ease of access and the widest distribution. Crowd sourcing and digital tools now make it possible for virtually anyone with a computer to create and distribute their content on a global platform, blurring the lines between amateur and professional. There are now 9,000 apps for creating music!
In the United States a huge generational shift is taking place: every 8 seconds someone turns 65, and by 2015, the American work force will be dominated by Generation X (people who are now in their 30s). Some major American cities now have majority African American populations and by 2050, whites will be a minority throughout the country.
Print media is rapidly giving way to social media, whose platforms continually change, causing unbelievable communications confusion for those trying to deliver their messages. And the new do-it-yourself, get-it-on-demand mentality wreaks havoc on those whose product delivery requires physical attendance at a fixed time and place. Meanwhile, the growing quality of Internet is closing the gap between live and virtual reality.
There are also big changes afoot in philanthropy. As I’m sure you know, the American system of government arts support rests primarily on tax policies, more than direct subsidies, to encourage individual and institutional giving. These policies, which form the backbone of our arts support, are now in jeopardy, since for the first time both political parties have included in their platforms a reduction in incentives for charitable giving.
Accompanying this public policy challenge is the growing demand for non-profits to create and demonstrate public value. The civic agenda of America’s cities places high priority on community building, on help to the underserved, economic development, and cultural equity — that is, on giving a fair share to all art forms, not just those who present the western canon in music, theater and dance.
So what impact has all this been having on orchestras? Straight lines are difficult to draw but we can certainly observe some correlations, including these key trends: The audience for orchestras is getting older, and Generations X and Y are participating in classical music at substantially lower rates than the Baby boomers did when they were in their 20s, 30s and 40s. Next, subscription sales are steadily giving way to single sales and last minute purchasing, which has added significant cost and volatility to marketing efforts. And in philanthropy, funders and donors are challenging the amount of resource consumed by large, western canon arts producers in relation to smaller groups that focus on specific cultures. The arts’ share of total philanthropic support is decreasing.
Meanwhile as orchestras have confronted these challenges they have found that the standard responses of working harder, refining marketing and fundraising techniques, and getting back to fundamentals are no longer enough. My colleague Ben Cameron from the Doris Duke Foundation is fond of this quote from the American poet Adrienne Rich: “We’re out in a country that has no language, no laws…Whatever we do together is pure invention…The maps they gave us were out of date by years…”
Well if our maps are out of date, what are the new maps? And what are the questions orchestras have to ask that will lead to new levels of innovation? What is our new work?
I believe orchestras must re-examine seven key areas. They are: Mission, Artistry, Community, Audience, Sustainability, Collaboration, and Leadership.
The first question is about mission: Why do we matter? As I said, in the past orchestras’ galvanizing value was on artistic excellence. They offered audiences a simple transaction: you buy a ticket or give us a donation, and we’ll give you a concert — a great one. Of course I’m oversimplifying to make the point. But today orchestras must ask themselves –and many of them are — “Is this simple transaction still relevant?” A crystal clear answer is essential — not only to guide strategy and inform innovation, but also to grow support from both private and government funders.
This work has begun in the States, and we are seeing a shift in orchestra mission statements toward a greater focus on access and service for audiences and communities. Here is one old example: “The mission of Orchestra Blank is to foster and maintain an organization dedicated to the making of music consonant with the highest aspirations of the musical art.” Now here’s a new one: “The Blank Symphony Orchestra exists to create meaningful experiences through music.” Remember, there is no right or wrong here. The important thing is to ask and answer the question.
The same is true of the next question: How do we define artistry in today’s world? Artistic excellence has been our rallying cry, yet it is one of the least defined terms in our field. I suspect it was meant to encompass the quality of musicians, conductors, and soloists; the collective level of orchestral execution; and an acoustical environment that supports the conveyance of the true sound of the orchestra. Thanks to our friends at the Australian Arts Council, we now have a new term that seems more in tune with how orchestras are beginning to expand their thinking. This new term is “artistic vibrancy,” which the Arts Council define as the combined factors of community relevance, artist development, stimulating the audience, a fresh approach to preserving and growing the art form, and of course, excellence.
This new “vibrancy” framework poses a clear and broader set of questions for orchestra leaders to consider in their artistic activity. It adds the important outward facing considerations of audience and community, while also deepening the potential of our institutions to invest in the growth of their musicians. And did you notice that this new definition places the questions of relevance and audience squarely in the artistic realm, instead of relegating them to marketing or community relations?
I recently observed a fascinating example of a “vibrant” event initiated by the NY Philharmonic’s music director Alan Gilbert. Alan’s program was Ives’ Unanswered Question, Boulez’s Rituel, the 3rd scene of the 1st act of Don Giovanni, and Stockhausen’s Gruppen for three orchestras. Quite an unusual program, to say the least. But it was also done in an armory: a huge empty space that was set with the audience in the round on bleacher seats; three platforms for the orchestra spaced between the bleacher sections; and in the center, more audience on the floor. The action took place all around you, you were very close to the musicians and the action, and you could see your fellow audience members. The performances simply enveloped you. With marketing as creative as the program, it’s no surprise that two performances were sold out. The orchestra’s director of marketing told me that he saw barely a regular Philharmonic subscriber – it was an entirely new audience.
That leads us to our third question: What about our future audiences: Where will they come from? In our old way of thinking, the audience was defined as the people who bought tickets and came to the concerts. The audience mattered a lot because their purchases paid our bills and established our success. We believed that our audiences had always been primarily people older than 40 years old. We also believed that if we could just keep them buying big subscription packages and paying more every year, and if we could find more people like them, all would be well.
This worked for a while, but over time attendance began to decline. At first orchestras raised prices to keep income steady, but eventually both attendance and revenue began to slide. The price was simply too high.
As I mentioned, today we no longer have another generation waiting in the wings that is ready to replace our aging audience in the same numbers. Nor is seeking a new audience that look like the current one a formula for long term success. That would simply give us a larger share of a shrinking market. Today, we must be learning everything we can about people who are not yet members of our audience but could be: people who teach music, amateurs who play music at home, and other listeners who don’t come to concerts.
We know that classical music engagement online is high and 20% of the American public reports enjoying classical music. The question we must ask today is “How can orchestras create engagement and access for these people? What must we change about our pricing, customer service, concert design, and venues?”
For some people the answer may be about merging live and virtual experiences. In Miami, Florida the New World Symphony has a wonderful new concert hall that enables them to broadcast their performances live on the exterior wall of the building, which faces a park with a state of the art sound system. Often as much as half of the concert audience will go outside after intermission to watch the second half on the “wall cast,” joining thousands of listeners who are already there.
Several other orchestras have run successful experiments in lowering their prices, trading near term revenue for higher attendance and long term loyalty. And recent research on first time attendees, 80% of whom don’t come back, has identified promising strategies to convince them to return and eventually become patrons. In Memphis, Tennessee, symphony musicians have started a concert series in blues clubs. The programmer, the orchestra’s concertmistress, told me, “We need to grow our audience, and as musicians we think we have a role to play. This is where a lot of the musical people in Memphis happen to be.”
Closely related to the question of audience is the next one: Who is our community, and how do we relate to it? Traditionally, orchestras viewed the community primarily as the source of audience and support. Both were essential to generate necessary income streams, but the model was that the community gave and the orchestra received. The orchestra’s presence alone was reason enough for people to support it.
Today, orchestras must compete for resources and leisure time against an extraordinary array of opportunities. At the same time, civic leaders are turning to their non-profits to play a role in meeting community needs. So our old notion of community is not so well aligned with today’s expectations. For orchestras to remain vital and well supported they must ask new questions about community that extend beyond how much resource can be obtained. They need to ask, “How can the orchestra contribute to the advancement of civic health? How can we create access and engagement with more segments of the community? “How can our repertoire– both current and still to be written — relate to the themes coursing through our society?” In short, “how can we become good citizens?”
One avenue, of course, is through education. Many orchestras have deepened and broadened their educational activity, often partnering with schools. But there are so many more opportunities to expand the role of music in our communities. I am tantalized, for example, by the Atlanta Symphony’s new partnership with Emory University. Together they will explore the theme of “creation” from the perspectives of the arts, theology, and the sciences through a series of public symposia. Emory will develop a new curriculum to coincide with the project and the symphony will commission a new “Creation.”
Now here’s another example of orchestras responding to community needs.
I know some of you are familiar with El Sistema, the exciting movement from Venezuela that combines music education with social justice. The Los Angeles Philharmonic and more than ten orchestras across the United States have created similar programs with partner agencies, to reach children in underserved neighborhoods.
It can be difficult for orchestras to know how to advance their community work. The League has helped by creating an online tool that can guide them through the questions they need to ask.
Now so far we have looked at mission, at artistry, at audience, and at community. These are all familiar concerns. But the question that is creating the greatest tension today is, “What does true fiscal health require?” In fact, many orchestras may need to acquire new knowledge in order to answer this question.
There is a saying in English: “When the tide goes out, you find out who is swimming without a bathing suit.” The recession of 2008 exposed the financial fragility of many orchestras. But our data tells us that even before the harsh impact of the recession, which is still being felt today, long term negative trends had been in play for many years. From 2000 to 2010, attendance dropped and costs rose faster than income, yet orchestras continued to add concerts. This is not only unsustainable, but it leaves too many orchestras persistently fragile.
There were other risky assumptions. For many years, orchestras believed that a balanced budget and an endowment four times the size of its operating income were enough to assure fiscal health. Today, the high volatility in the stock market has made endowment returns less reliable while also greatly increasing pension liabilities. These factors have combined with continually rising health care costs to exert enormous pressure on some orchestras.
And here are other critical financial questions for today’s boards and chief executives: How can orchestras align cost with income? How can they understand their local markets, and avoid the trap of comparing themselves to those in different markets with different conditions?
How can orchestras achieve greater liquidity, and acquire enough capital to build sufficient cash reserves and invest in the research and development necessary to innovate and transition into this new world?
I don’t for a minute believe this is easy work and I don’t have all the answers. After all, just balancing the budget seems to take all of our ingenuity and energy. But I do know that if we are to make progress on these challenges, boards and executives will need to be transparent about their true financial position with all who have a stake in their success. They will need to plan and model for 10-20 years into the future, and to base that planning on facts rather than aspirations. That means resisting the pressure to satisfy near term needs at the expense of long term stability.
Here, again, the League has been working to help our members improve their knowledge and skills. This year we introduced a diagnostic tool that helps orchestras understand their true financial realities, their levels of risk, and how to plan accordingly. It is already creating greater transparency and promoting new conversations within orchestras.
Now the next question may surprise you: How can orchestras work with one another to meet their shared challenges? In the private sector, when demand changes or declines and resources to address the challenges are in short supply, companies often turn to collaboration. Orchestras have much to learn from this practice. How can collaboration within and across organizations help us generate solutions and mutual benefits?
In one example, the Chicago Symphony has created a ground–breaking concert program called “Beyond the Score.” These theatrical presentations use film, video, photography, spoken text, lighting and actors — along with the live orchestra — to help the audience delve more deeply into a specific work, its composer, and its context. Eighteen orchestras have already licensed Beyond the Score presentations. That has defrayed Chicago’s large up-front production costs, while putting into circulation a high quality product at a fraction of the cost that participating orchestras would otherwise have to pay.
In another example, a few years ago the League’s own “Ford Made in America” commissioning program brought together 68 orchestras from all 50 states to award a major commission — at a cost that averaged less than $1,000 per orchestra.
And remember the important research I cited earlier on capturing first time attendees? That was undertaken by a consortium of nine orchestras in major markets pooling their resources to support the work.
There is yet another type of collaboration that is very much part of the new work of American orchestras. Some of you probably know that our last conference featured a joint presentation by the lead negotiators from the United Auto Workers and the Ford Motor Company. Why did we do this? Because when American musicians, boards and managements struggle over extremely challenging negotiations, they tend to see one another as the enemy. But the level of conflict in some American orchestras today pales compared to the physical combat that occurred in 1937 when Ford was unionized. Today, Ford’s management and labor have found a new way of doing business: they collaborate. Things changed when labor and management realized that they were not each other’s enemies. That instead, they needed to work together to address a shared challenge: globalization. And that success in meeting this challenge would result in benefits for all parties.
While I have both appreciation and sympathy for the pain that today’s aggravated situations in our orchestras have been causing to musicians, board, staff, and communities, ultimately the challenge all of these parties face is how to adapt to the 21st century. If we put our collective energies into that work, I believe we have a chance for a vibrant future.
This brings us to leadership, and the last question for today: What changes are required of leaders? I realize that I have told an American story to a group of peers whose organizations may bear little resemblance to those I’ve just described. Funding schemes, relationships with musicians, audience dynamics, artistic opportunities, missions, may all be quite different for many of you from those I have discussed.
Perhaps some parts of what I have shared are relevant to some dimension of your work. But I believe that there is one overarching idea around which we can all engage on equal footing. And that idea is the need to grow our capacity to navigate and lead change. No matter how secure any of us may feel about the durability of our organizations, we can all count on changes that will present new opportunities and new threats. In both the US and Europe, the traditional funding schemes are now at risk. And in every country, to greater or lesser degrees, orchestras and the performing arts are subject to changes in political direction. Tastes continue to change, and there is every indication that the speed of developing technology will continue to accelerate, and impact our cultures and behaviors.
When my predecessor Henry Fogel was CEO of the Chicago Symphony, he solved one of the most vexing problems for audiences: how to find the concert program in a program book stuffed with advertising. Henry’s innovation was to simply have a tab created that could take the reader directly to the program. This is surely a great idea, but it was developed to solve a technical problem.
Today, our challenges are of a different order. We are being asked to adapt to an entirely new set of conditions. So instead of the problem Henry faced, his successors and all of us must confront the adaptive challenge of ensuring that we continually have robust audiences to read our program books. And, we might reasonably ask, are program books even still relevant given all the new platforms for delivering information about our concerts?
To meet adaptive challenges, leaders must have special skills. In fact, I propose that our ability to achieve meaningful innovation depends upon our ability to lead change and adaptation. There is a great deal of literature on this subject, but one writer whose work resonates with me is Ronald Heifetz, a top leadership scholar based at Harvard. Heifetz offers these four principles for leading change:
One: Step back in the midst of the action to get some perspective, so you can find out what’s really going on. Or as Heifetz says, “get off the dance floor and onto the balcony.” This paves the way for a clearer view of the bigger picture.
Two: Foster adaptation. That is, help people develop the “next practices” that will enable the organization to thrive in a new world, even as they continue with the best practices necessary for current success.
Three: Embrace disequilibrium. It is important to keep people in a state that creates enough discomfort to induce change, but not so much that they fight, flee, or freeze.
And finally: Give the work back to the people. Let others lead experiments that will help your organization adapt to changing times. You don’t have to shoulder this all on your own!
For us as stewards of an art form and of performing artists, the most exciting thing about change is the art itself. The western canon wasn’t born as a canon; it was born of the immediacy of the time and place that inspired its creators. As leaders we must insure that the orchestral experience, whether new music or old, continues to be supple and fresh, and that it is presented in ways that deeply engage our current and future audiences.
This suggests that arguably our most important role is to foster creativity in the context of our time. This work extends far beyond finding the hottest new conductor or soloist. We can look first to the members of our orchestras, whose talent and creativity extend well beyond the narrow roles we ask them to play. We can look to the 20 year olds on our staffs, whose knowledge of social media is far greater than ours and manages to stay current. We can look to the artists outside our field in videography, dance and even the circus– for creative collaborations. To the animateurs of all kinds who bring the unique ability to bridge the orchestral experience to audiences unfamiliar with our work. And finally, today’s young composers and performers possess a new found spirit of invention, entrepreneurship, and innovation, offering a tremendous opportunity for orchestras to be at the leading edge in artistry.
Our new challenge as leaders is to encourage, guide and shape these creative forces – along with all of our stakeholders – so that they work together to help orchestras better serve our time and remain central to our society.
This conference offers a wonderful opportunity to challenge each other and advance this vital and innovative work. I look forward to learning from all of you.
(Speech reprinted with permission from Jesse Rosen)
Jennifer Dautermann – Director, Classical:NEXT
Classical:NEXT is an international professional forum for classical music where people can meet with all sectors in one place. Each sector has its own meeting (eg AAPRO) but it’s also important to look beyond your own sector. All sectors engaged with classical music are involved. Classical:NEXT is brand new – there has been only one event to date. But it’s very popular – 750 professionals from 41 countries came. Over 4 days there were presentations, artists performing live, speakers and delegates. We want to build on this through cross sector networking. Users generate the content and anyone with a good idea is encouraged to propose it. The event has 3 main parts – an expo, a showcase, a conference.
The expo is where most of the networking takes place. There were stands for 74 exhibitors in 2012 but it will be expanded in 2013. Showcases are for creatives to present themselves both live and via video showcases in which one person can present an entire orchestra. The person who presents doesn’t pay to attend, though they have to fund their own travel. A jury selects from proposals and is looking for high quality and what’s next. The deadline is 9 November but this could be extended by a few days if delegates are interested in applying.
The conference focuses on knowledge exchange and again, the Jury selects participants. They are looking for current issues, what’s next as special presentations.
Kate Lidbetter, CEO of Symphony Services International (Moderator); Mark Pemberton, Director of the Association of British Orchestras; Saneyuki Yoshii, Managing Director of the Association of Japanese Symphony Orchestras.
Kate Lidbetter introduced the panel as follows:
Thank you for the invitation to speak to delegates at the AAPRO conference and congratulations to Mme Guo and her team for putting together such a wonderful few days of discussion and networking.
Innovation is the lifeblood of our orchestras. Without it, we can’t build audiences, especially younger audiences. Without it, we fulfil the cliché of simply being “heritage arts”, playing the music of dead white males. Without it, we will stagnate.
Before I introduce our panellists, I’d like to tell you a bit about innovation in the orchestral sector in Australia. As many of you know, I run a company called Symphony Services International, based in Sydney. We provide a range of products and services to our members, the six symphony orchestras located around Australia. More and more, we’re also providing those same services to orchestras around the world. In addition to a truly wonderful artist development program providing training for performers, conductors and composers, we have a database of over 3500 program notes and annotations available for re-print. We offer surtitles for orchestral works with a vocal component, we have a music library that we believe is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere with over 460,000 individual items available for hire. We have also started selling our groundbreaking Goodear Acoustic Shield internationally, with strong sales in the US and UK to date.
I’d like to give you a taste of some of the innovations implemented by our Member orchestras; the Adelaide, Melbourne Queensland, Sydney, Tasmanian and West Australian Symphony Orchestras. These orchestras range from just 47 players to over 100, most of whom are employed on a permanent, full time basis. The Sydney Symphony has just returned from an extremely successful tour of China, where it performed 6 concerts in 10 days including Guangzhou, Tianjin and Beijing where the orchestra contributed to celebrations of 40 years of diplomatic relations between Australia and China (get pronunciation). The SSO’s blog nominates some of the education concerts as highlights, including presentations and workshops with schools and tertiary institutions.
Earlier this year, the Sydney Symphony announced a major partnership with the Xinghai Conservatory of Music in Guangzhou. This partnership is designed to assist the Australian government in creating closer political, economic, social and commercial ties with China. Clearly it will also create closer musical ties as well.
The Queensland Symphony Orchestra is undertaking a unique program in 2013. Later this month, the orchestra will present a concert called Symphony of Legends: Video Games Unplugged. This is a compilation of some of the most widely heard music today from popular video games such as Starcraft II. QSO believes new audiences are best reached through new and innovative marketing and they have therefore created the position of Gamer in Residence. Believed to be a world first, QSO’s Gamer in Residence will provide a link between the orchestra and game players in Australia and will enable the orchestra to raise its profile in relevant ways among new audiences.
The Gamer in Residence is Australia’s leading Starcraft II player, a professional gamer who also has an interest in video games music and orchestral performances. He will work with the orchestra to promote the concert by actively participating on facebook and twitter and in gaming forums where people interested in music from video games are likely to be. He’ll also participate in interviews about the concert and professional gaming, lending a unique perspective to the concert’s promotion and the music being played. QSO hopes to hold a Starcraft II tournament in the lead-up to the concert, to create awareness of the concert and highlight its relevance to gamers. The tournament will offer prizes and attract the interest of professional gamers throughout the region; tournaments such as these can be live streamed or watched by non-professional gamers, introducing QSO’s activities to a new audience. This would be aligned with concert merchandising including mousepads and t-shirts as well as advertising on selected websites frequented by gamers.
The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra also has an innovative new program titled Secret Symphony. It’s designed to give Melbourne audiences “up close and personal” experiences with the orchestra. Unlike a traditional concert program, many of the performance details will remain secret until just before the opening bars are played. Potential audience members must “like” the MSO facebook page and follow twitter feeds to get clues to what’s happening, where and when. Concerts are not held at the usual times, or in the usual venues and to date, the activity has been a huge success.
These are just a couple of examples of innovation in Australian orchestras. When I asked my colleagues to provide me with some information to bring here to you, I was flooded with great ideas and plans – I had to choose carefully just a couple that I thought might be of interest. Now I’m very excited to hear what’s going on in the United Kingdom and Japan.
Our first panellist is Mark Pemberton, Director of the Association of British Orchestras.
- Director of the Association of British Orchestras, which exists to champion, connect and develop professional orchestras across the UK.
- Graduated Oxford University,
- Administrator of the professional touring theatre company Quicksilver Theatre for Children
- General Administrator of leading drama conservatoire Drama Centre London
- Head of Development and Marketing, Mountview Theatre School
- Chief Executive of the National Operatic & Dramatic Association, the UK’s representative body for amateur and community theatre, during which time he served as chair of Voluntary Arts England.
- Currently chair of the National Music Council, which exists to promote the interests of the music sector as a whole.
Our second panellist today is Mr Saneyuki Yoshii, Managing Director of the Association of Japanese Symphony Orchestras. Yoshii-san joined the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra at age 21 and remained there for a decade. He worked in marketing and planning for the Yomiyuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra and was General Manager of the Miyagi Philharmonic Orchestra (currently known as the Sendai Philharmonic Orchestra). He was awarded the 9th Nippon Steel Music Award (Special Award) in 1999. From 2000 to 2007 he oversaw the management of this orchestra as Concerts and Operating Manager and since his retirement he has been an advisor to the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra.
Mark Pemberton speech:
INNOVATION IN BRITISH ORCHESTRAS
British orchestras have grasped the opportunities afforded by new technology for some years now. Indeed, two years I gave a presentation to this conference on just some of the exciting developments we’d seen from our members. But before I show you some more recent initiatives, I want to ask a question. Why innovate? Why do orchestras feel the need to embrace new technology, when their core business is to present the great classics on the concert platform?
Well, the key to answering this question lies in an orchestra’s mission. British orchestras now understand that their business needs to extend beyond the concert hall and beyond their traditional audience. A common mission across our members is to perform the highest quality music to the widest possible audience. And it is the “audience” that lies at the heart of the innovations I want to present to you today.
Some of the motivation for this comes from funders. Both public and private investment is increasingly linked to maximising the reach of the orchestra and generating a social return on investment. But there is also this sense that the audience is changing. There will always be an audience for the traditional two hour concert in the hushed confines of the concert hall. But we have the potential to go so much further than that, to engage with a wider audience with different expectations of contemporary art and entertainment.
So the three presentations I want to show are all about reaching that different audience. The first springs from some research carried out in London which showed that, contrary to the assumptions of the orchestras’ marketing departments, they did not each have their own distinct and loyal audience. Instead, it showed that many people made little distinction between the 7 orchestras – it was the attractiveness of each concert, with some bias towards the concert hall, that drove the audience into the hall. And it also showed that the student audience (and there are over 400,000 students in Higher Education in London) was particularly fluid and under-developed. So those marketing departments broke the habit of a lifetime and collaborated on a marketing strategy to remove barriers to attendance, which they had identified through several years of focus groups, surveys and other feedback: specifically high ticket prices, confusing box office procedures, high booking fees, worries about ‘fitting in’ and needing to make it a social occasion.
The Student Pulse app tackles these barriers, and an additional one – the issue of brand cut through in the crowded London orchestra market. All London orchestras are going after the same “small” student market with similar offers, competing for space at the same Freshers Fairs and usually failing to look any different. The Student Pulse was the ideal opportunity to put some of the findings of this research into action on the student market.
The Pulse app was developed with funding from the Digital R & D Fund for Culture and the Arts (ACE, NESTA, AHRC); one of which criteria was that the technology they developed could benefit other arts organisations. By extending the app to include all nine Student Pulse partners, it has enabled them to have the benefit of this technology for a fraction of the full development costs.
Let’s now look at two other initiatives in London. Taking that word “audience”, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment had the bold idea of turning their marketing on its head, and focusing not, as was usual, on the musicians and the repertoire, but on the audience itself. But it will be better explained in the three clips I’m about to show you. The first was the call for audience members, the second a teaser for the season brochure they produced, and the third explains how they got there.
Finally, I’d like to show you perhaps the boldest attempt to move the orchestra out of the concert hall and into an entirely different environment. The Philharmonia has absolutely put new technology at the heart of its mission, which includes “the use of new media to bring its performances to the largest and most diverse audience possible”.
Universe of Sound is a free interactive digital installation, allowing people to explore the orchestra from the inside out as they perform Holst’s The Planets.
Using giant visual displays, touch screens, unconventional projecting surfaces, movement-based interaction and planetarium-style projections, people can take part as musicians, conductors, arrangers and composers, concentrating on different sections of the orchestra and even creating their own mix. Universe of Sound has been created by Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia Orchestra, on a 37 camera shoot, believed to be the largest classical recording session yet undertaken.
Its première was presented in partnership with the Science Museum in London from 23 May-27 August 2012. The project will then tour to UK cities including Birmingham and Canterbury in 2013, before being developed for international touring.
Universe of Sound also appeared online at The Space, the free digital challenge launched this summer by Arts Council England and the BBC.
(Speech reprinted with permission from Mark Pemberton)
A number of topics were discussed between the panel and the audience including:
Do you think that management of orchestras consciously ask themselves “how can I be innovative today”? Are they specifically looking for new and uncharted projects to try and make new audiences, or do you think it’s a more organic process than that? Why do you think innovation is important for orchestras?
Do symphony orchestras, which are inherently heritage ensembles, try a bit too hard to prove themselves in the area of innovation? Do you think it’s any more important for an orchestra to engage in innovative programming or come up with bright new ideas than say a dance or theatre company?
Peter Meisel, Leiter Kommunikation of Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks (Munich)
I have been working in Munich since 1995 and in that time there have been many changes. If you make marketing pertain to one specific city, it will not work in other cities. Munich has 1.4m inhabitants. It is a little village compared to Asia but the 3rd largest city in Germany, and very beautiful. It has a rich cultural life and the surroundings are beautiful. There are 5 major orchestras, two opera houses, two concerts halls and many other cultural institutions. Oktoberfest every year sees 6 million people come to the city. This is much more important than orchestras! Strauss, Mozart, Wagner are all associated with Munich. In the Munich opera houses it is important that conductors present the work of these composers. Audiences expect big names. Sawallisch, Mehta, Maazel, Thielemann, Levine etc have all worked here. Hiring conductors of this level costs, and the money for this has fortunately always been there and still is.
The average age of the audience is around 60. Single ticket buyers are a little younger but not much. Throughout history there have never been concert audiences with very young average ages. Perhaps this is because you appreciate good things with age. Every orchestra has an education department and Europe has caught up with US and GB in recent years.
Education – 80% of the audience has higher education of some kind.
Subscribers – 70-80% of the audience are usually subscribers. 33% are interested in the program, 12% come because of friends, only 11% are interested in the conductor, and 6% in the orchestra. Non-subscribers are more interested in the conductor and the program (in that order).
Information sources – word of mouth is the most important tool in getting people to the concert. It’s cheaper than advertising! Printed media and radio are the most important source of information, not the internet. Only 12% of respondents named the internet as the most important source of information.
When I started working with the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra (1995), Sergiu Celibidache was the only marketing tool, but shortly he died. James Levine was appointed after that, and he increased the number of concerts on offer. We had to start marketing to sell tickets. We aimed for a younger audience, and decided to not put Levine in the focus. We used a sneaker (sandshoe) motif in our campaign, and it worked. This campaign continued for couple of years, then we used a workers motif and slogans like “Headphones make you lonesome”. People found the advertisements funny. Our numbers increased from 11,000 to 19,000 subscribers in my time there. The press liked it too, so they wrote about it. We also did radio spots.
After 5 years Levine left and Christian Thielemann arrived and we needed a big marketing campaign. He was a German conductor, so we decided to put him in the focus. We ran an absurd campaign: “Anton Bruckner is really looking forward to meeting Christian Thielemann” etc. There was also a big press campaign. I was responsible at the time for press, marketing and education – an interesting combination.
Then I went to the Bavarian Radio Orchestra. The situation was different there – it’s a radio orchestra so the funding is very, very safe. The radio pays 100% for the orchestra, and conditions are good. But the orchestra was frustrated because people were not really aware that this was THE orchestra in Germany (besides Berlin Philharmonic). There were limitations on marketing – the internet has the same conditions as a radio station, which has nothing to do with what an orchestra needs, so it’s inadequate. We found a graphic designer to make a new corporate design. We needed people to identify with the orchestra. We got a young genius graphic designer, who created typography especially for the orchestra. We concentrated on printed matter for the orchestra. Each poster is designed individually so we can emphasise whatever we like. There is no standard pattern. Sometimes we focus on the work, sometimes the soloist, or the conductor. From year to year we printed the name of the orchestra smaller and smaller and people began to associate the font with the orchestra.
Guo Shan, Chairwoman of AAAPRO, President of China Symphony Development Fund (“Orchestras of China”)
We are interested in introducing advanced management ideas but Asia is lagging behind. In past decades many European and American orchestras have come to China. We get partners, residencies to cooperate. Some orchestras have started using these models. As a not-for-profit organisation we are working with orchestras around Asia to learn from each other and also to organise tours overseas. We like to have annual summits and talk to guests from all over the world.
Seasons are a commonplace concept in the west that has limited popularity in China. Funding can be attributed by the maturity level of the orchestra though this is not necessarily the case. International co-operation is also important.
Mr Guo Yuliang – Vice President of the National Centre for the Performing Arts, Beijing and Chairman of NCPA Concert Hall Orchestra, China (“Cultivate the audience through strengthening the marketing”)
We are all here talking about one thing. We talk about marketing, how to nurture the audience. As Chinese we like to know the principles before we carry out the real work. What makes high arts relevant in the modern era? What is for development in the future? If you are an artist you are perceived as having high moral standards and also talent. Culture is a means to nurture people. In the old days, Confucius heard a great piece of music and for three months he didn’t eat meat. In modern China we talk a lot about government support. Officials talk about facing our audience so the essence of our sector’s development is audience. Audience is the impetus for the future development of our sector.
The first way to achieve this is marketing. Who do you want your customers to become? Product is determined by consumers. Music consumers are the determining factor tor for classical music. Without an audience, the orchestral sector is not sustainable. What advantages do we have? In China we have parents’ expectations, they like their children to study music if they have the means. About 20m children are learning the piano in China. Cultural consumption has been growing rapidly. Before we lacked musical talents. 20 years ago it was rare for Chinese to study in famous conservatoires in Europe and USA. Now we have so many students studying arts and music in the west. The next step for Beijing is to become a world class city. Already we are well renowned in the arts. Audience numbers are still not up to expectation. People think they need a proper education to enjoy classical music. In terms of nurturing audiences, we use marketing strategies. We don’t think free tickets are a good way to popularise classical music. Museums around the country are free. But museums are static places that should be protected by the government. We are performing arts. Through marketing we can nurture our audience. All marketing strategies are interrelated.
Socialised communication. First we must professionalise. Where are our audiences? We have four categories of audiences. One thing is the die-hard fans, the lovers, the passionate and some that are just concerned about music. Many don’t know many musicians and artists. We have targeted our activities at those people. We try to transmit our ideas through the artists – for instance Lang Lang. There was a Music festival in May at NCPA. Many people don’t know about music. Media is not very passionate about reporting such music.
Mr Rudolph Tang, Head of Communications, China Symphony Development Fund (“Introduction to a different world”)
Twitter and Facebook are not available in mainland China but there is an equivalent available. It is growing by leaps and bounds, with 250m accounts in China. China is different to the rest of the world. Facebook and twitter are not accessible without extreme means. You have to get over the wall. You can do it through a virtual portal network but you are at risk of getting exposed or it may not work. The Chinese have their own version, which was started in 2009. Weibo.com has become dominant the social media choice in China – 57% of social media users in China use it, it has over 300m users and is growing rapidly with 100m tweets daily. A word limit is imposed, 140 characters. Chinese can use fewer characters because of its typography (ie more can be said with fewer characters). This is a fundamental feature of the Chinese language. Weibo can carry triple the amount of information in fewer characters.
There was a successful social media campaign for Shanghai Symphony Orchestra recently. They started tweeting in early 2011 through Weibo and post about 20 new tweets per day.
Ken Smith (Music Critic) and John Kieser (General Manager, San Francisco Symphony) in conversation.
What was life like earlier on when the record label was the only option for recordings. PBS used to produce a lot of media including classical music etc. There was a big change in the recording industry in the 90s, a shift in how they could support the classical music world. They are for-profit companies, have to think carefully about their catalogues. It was hard to agree what to record – we had our interests, they had their needs, and we decided to part company over the control of the content. So who would own it? The record label owned the recording, so we didn’t own the intellectual property. In 2000 we created SFS Media, the second orchestra to have its own label. SFS Media also includes TV, wireless media etc.
Our first project was a Mahler cycle. We collaborated with labels but they were working for us, not the label. It was a question of branding. It’s a double edged sword, it’s wonderful to have control and determine the marketing etc, because if you’re with a label you’re fighting all the other orchestras they deal with. On the other hand you have the headache of distribution and marketing and publicity. We wanted to put our resources into the publicity.
You have to define your priorities, and know the identity and heritage of orchestra. We had to confront why media is important. Our core business is presenting live music on a concert hall stage. It’s core to our belief that this is the best way to experience the music. But there are other reasons for doing media. Recognition, promotion and marketing, education, it builds and retains audiences, recruits and helps retain artistic leadership, musicians and artists, it provides a permanent record. You become your own middle man. Lots of orchestras now have their own labels, or partnerships eg Nashville and Naxos.
We still do brochures and telemarketing but YouTube and Facebook are free, though you have to produce fresh content.
There’s a great challenge with media – it’s often classified “nice to have”, but really it’s essential. About 20 years ago very few orchestras had human resources departments – now they do. The same thing is true of media. You need to dedicate a portion of your staff’s time to make this happen. The worst thing you could do is delegate it to just one person. Media touches every part of the organisation. There has to be a conscious allocation of some portion of the budget to media.
Products and content
Audio – CDs, other hard media, downloads and streams, podcasts, concert broadcasts, ringtones. Audio/video – documentary and educational video, concert videos, promotional videos. But you can’t do it all. You need to work out what you do really well and then dedicate yourself to it. Formats are changing rapidly and no-one has a crystal ball about where it’s heading, though subscription streaming seems popular (Spotify etc).
SFS seems to be a West Coast orchestra specifically. We are closer to Asia than to Europe in many ways. What kind of responsibility in terms of repertory, identity etc do we have? When we looked at the persona of SFS, there were couple of things we wanted our international audiences to be aware of. We are dedicated to presenting core repertoire and cutting edge repertoire (especially American repertoire). Our strategy for producing audio products is the pinnacle of why we produce. Every release of core repertoire is balanced with an American recording because we don’t want our image to go one way or the other.
Some US orchestras appear to be one organisation at home, and another one when they’re on tour. Is that different for SFS? It’s interesting because there is certainly a persona that is projected by media. Herbert Blomstedt, when he first came to SF, was working on Neilson symphonies. Europe didn’t want that – it was a tough sell. But then we started recording them with Decca and got quite well known for that repertoire, but then Maestro changed to Buckner, and Europe wanted Neilson because we’d been typecast. On our current tour, our first concert is in Macau and we’re performing Mahler 5, Rachmaninov, Lou Harrison, John Adams; we’re trying to vary our programming to match our media.
When you’re in charge you don’t have to wait on their distribution and timetables. What are the distribution channels you use?
Broadcast television, YouTube and other video sites, Facebook and other social media outlets, radio, internet and satellite radio, iTunes and other download distributors, Rhapsody, Spotify, Rdio and other streaming outlets, orchestra website, bricks and mortar and online stores, dynamic signage. YouTube Symphony – 33m people watched it in Sydney. Many of them hung in there for 3.5 hours.
Dynamic Signage – screens everywhere you look eg the ferry from Hong Kong to Macau. You need to get your content in there, even if it’s just a clip of your orchestra playing.
Even the movie industry has trouble getting people into the cinema. How is this working in terms of getting people not the concert hall? For a long time we’ve tried to connect media with people in the concert hall. It’s very hard to do. You need to establish benchmarks and goals, metrics. The live concert experience and trying to reach the younger demographic is something we’ve been studying over the past few months. And you use media to draw attention to your orchestra but the actual concert experience has to undertake major restructuring if we’re to expect audiences in the future. All the experience surrounding the concert has to change, it needs to be a more social event. If someone is going to commit to a subscription series a year into the future you have to let people be more spur of the moment, spontaneous.
It’s easy for SFS to talk about this, you have a Music director who’s used to this. What should other orchestras do without replicating SFS? Context – people want to know more about what they’re going to hear, what to expect etc. Podcasts useful for people to understand what will go on. If your music director isn’t comfortable talking to the audience, you need someone else to do it. Pre- concert talks, off the podium dialogue with the audience, run a store in the hall, increase the number of artist signings etc. Direct connection between the audience and the artist is extremely important. Have a reception before or after concert, get the musicians known by the audience.
How does one build up a media centre or integrate it within the organisation? First thing is getting the media on the side of promotion. Look for existing talent within the organisation to shoot promotional videos. Build the structure within the organisation. We use media to promote media. This is a basic skill set within any organisation. The challenges are time and money. There must be an allocation of funding to media. Look to local TV etc to stretch the dollars, seek philanthropy. Build a team with the right skill sets. Your musicians may already be quite adept at making videos. The level of quality is a concern, what you put out there must be the highest possible quality. The excellence on stage must be met by excellent production values. Distribution is also a major challenge.
Orchestra Victoria is a major performing arts organisation that makes a significant and valuable contribution to the vibrant cultural identity of the state of Victoria, delivering a programme of artistic excellence.
Orchestra Victoria continues to celebrate and showcase its own distinct programme – OVation. The Orchestra also has a strong commitment to taking orchestral music to audiences around the state and our OVation Season delivers Education workshops and concerts to regional Victoria. Orchestra Victoria is committed to innovative programming and showcasing distinguished guest artists, conductors and the musicians of tomorrow.
Orchestra Victoria is also recognised for the quality of its performances and its role as an outstanding accompanying orchestra for Australia’s premier arts companies including The Australian Ballet, Opera Australia, The Production Company and Victorian Opera.
Gordon Williams interviews David Starkey of Asheville Lyric Opera
I remember reading an article last year on operatic activity in New York state and being overwhelmed by the number of companies in one state alone. ‘Of course’, you might say, ‘that’s New York, one of the bigger states’. But there’s a proliferation of opera companies all over the USA. Whether or not all companies are success stories is a matter for separate study. But it’s worth noting that operatic activity in the US is not limited to the big cities.
Asheville Lyric Opera (ALO) is a small, regional company situated in a small city nestled in the mountains of North Carolina, about 334 miles or 537 ½ kms from the Atlantic coast. It presents a season each year in the intimate 500-seat Diana Wortham Theater and has been getting stronger since its inception in 1999. In the South we heard a lot about Asheville itself (a ‘niche city’ as the description goes) from Southerners who summer there to escape the stickiness of coastal Charleston and Savannah. It’s on the western edge of North Carolina at the beginning of the Blue Ridge Mountains, It’s also a very ‘artsy’ city. Home to poet Carl Sandburg (who lived in the neighbouring county) and novelist, Thomas Wolfe (author of Look Homeward, Angel and Of Time and the River), ‘the area’s numerous galleries,’ says the ALO’s website, ‘feature works ranging from classic fine art to fiber and glass art and traditional quilting.’ While the metro area’s population is nearly half a million, the city itself, according to the 2010 census, hosts 83,393 people. It’s interesting to consider whether we could have a company like this in a city the same size in Australia.
I met ALO’s director, David Starkey, in March 2012 when he was observing Sherrill Milnes’ VOICExperience workshops in Savannah, looking to see if there might be synergies between his company and that of another emerging entity in the US southeast.
Starkey began his career as a singer. He spent three summers (1994-6) with Brevard, the music festival founded in 1936 in the Blue Ridge Mountains which is partly how he became familiar with the Asheville area. I spoke to David by phone on the evening of the third presidential debate in October. He mentioned that the Fall colours had just started in the mountains back of the city.
GW: Why did you want to set up an opera company out here? After all, you had a career as a singer, performing with New York City Opera and at the Bregenz Festival in Austria…
DS: So many times you go to school and you have this pipe dream of ‘oh my gosh’ becoming an opera singer or a conductor or whatever. And then you go into grad school and you continue to grow and thrive and expand. Then you get out in the real world and inevitably ¾ of the work that you do is based upon people saying, ‘Oh we don’t do it that way; that was just college.’ And I got to the point in my professional career where I wondered what I would do if I was given the opportunity to go and do it the right way. And that’s what stirred the dream.’
David was working at New York City Opera when he sat down with Paul Kellog, the-then General and Artistic Director of that company, who had also run the annual Glimmerglass Opera festival in Cooperstown village in upstate New York since 1979. Together, they came up with a set of five pre-conditions they felt necessary for establishing an opera company in a regional area:
1. There must be an artistic community.
2. There must be academic institutions or some aspect of higher education in the area.
3. There must be a community of giving and a spirit of philanthropy.
4. There must be a desire for entertainment.
5. There must be a ‘centre of energy’, or localized focus in the city.
It’s interesting to consider which Australian regional centres might fit this bill. Armidale, Bendigo or Ballarat all have tertiary institutions but Bendigo and Ballarat are close enough to Melbourne to get there and back in an afternoon and evening. Perhaps ‘desire for entertainment’ also implies ‘remoteness from’. And while Armidale might have an established conservatorium, how many of our regional centres have ‘a community of giving and a spirit of philanthropy’? I asked David about some of these preconditions. Why do there have to be academic institutions?
DS: My Masters program was at Indiana University, and Bloomington Indiana where it’s based is nearly 80% the university. At a certain size those academies become cities themselves. There’s so much infrastructure, and there’s a quality of life that begins to grow out of that infrastructure. The academic institutions let you know that arts and culture are going to become an integral fabric and piece of their education of a person. And what begins to happen is that these academic towns or cities begin to breed more and more creative people, who are problem solvers. You get more unique ways to address the sorts of challenges and growth and setbacks that reset a community forward. Not every single community can have an opera company because it doesn’t have the infrastructure or it may not have the academic stimulus among the people or the economic complexities that allow people to have the idea of doing things beyond their normal needs and requirements.
GW: You mentioned somewhere that you weren’t so stuck on having the presence of corporations and I’m just wondering why that would be.
DS: It stems from the philosophy that corporations come and go and people do not. The investment that people make into a community is much deeper and much wider than a corporation. And that’s not a criticism of the corporate model because many corporations try and emulate the type of commitment that people do. But I took Paul’s wisdom and experience, which I think came from his long tenure at Glimmerglass up in Cooperstown, which, like Asheville, is a niche location too with the Baseball Hall of Fame and so on. And he shared with me how it really is about people; people and what they care about as the fundamental core of their community. And so, my relationship with the corporate community is a little bit more from the standpoint of building relationships. Yes we talk about the bottom line, we talk about return on the investment. But when it comes down to it, the choice that an organisation makes to give to, say, my organisation is because I have relationships with people and they see that kind of return in the relationship.
GW: When I met you, you were in Savannah checking out the first outing of Sherrill Milnes’ VOICExperience there, and mulling over the possibilities of future synergies between your companies. But you used a term in talking about the feasibility of synergies to the effect of ‘some cities are still just struggling to understand who they are’. Is one of your unstated preconditions that a city needs ‘to have a sense of its own identity’?
DS: Yes, to really collaborate and to share and to work together, you’ve got to really have a strong sense of who you are, so that you don’t lose yourself. Plus you also learn by what you can give. It’s a really difficult thing for people in the arts because it’s such an individual enterprise or from a business standpoint we’re all a bunch of little businesses running around together because it’s all about who each one of us are. And then we’ve got to figure out how to share that and put it together in these projects that then need some co-ordination. A real big trust has to come together with that. That trust has to then be shared with another city which is going through its own processing period. But for me, I consider this co-operation to be a higher calling of the arts. I think it has to always be part of our craft and when it happens it’s really marvellous.
GW: Your repertoire – and this seems deliberate – is conservative and, yet, it’s what you determined Asheville was looking for. I just wonder if you take a broader view, what you see as the future of opera if the sort of repertoire that appeals to a town like Asheville is verismo, bel canto? What happens to the music of the future and where does that fit?
DS: We have four tiers of opera companies in this country. I think the bigger companies, the A and B companies, like the Met, Chicago Lyric and Houston, then down the line to St. Louis, Sarasota and Santa Barbara, are definitely in the mindset of discovering new things. In some way I believe we smaller companies should do a bit of that. A couple of years ago, we did Hans Krása’s Brundibar, the children’s opera composed in Theresienstadt Concentration Camp; we did Sound of Music last year. So we’ve done American musical. We are going to be producing our first Tosca so the grander verismo material. We keep taking steps in different directions and just trying to discover things. I’ve just had a number of colleagues talk to me about an intimate chamber version of Milwaukee Florentine Opera’s Elmer Gantry, which just won a Grammy Award for its first recording. The parents of Robert Aldridge who wrote the opera are donors of mine.
But I believe our responsibility is to continue to stay true to the roots of the opera business. First of all, it’s not being produced as much, second of all there’s still a mission within the art-form where you’ve got to teach and nurture the upcoming talent and that’s something that we are very much thriving at. And our productions are fresh. We build our sets here and then rent them out. Rigoletto is an example of the focus of our innovation. The show had many scenes, a lot of cast members, and it was a complicated and layered show. We stretched ourselves to be able to do it.
GW: Perhaps the biggest measure of the strength of your relationship with your audience is the attitude you take to the Met broadcasts. You advertise them in your program booklets. They’re not a threat?
DS: For some of my colleagues, and some people in certain cities it’s a huge conflict. It’s basically sucking right into their opera audience. There are others that it’s helping to thrive. I mean, I was mentored at the Met and then from my time at NYC Opera with Paul I began to have at least a glimmer of what these companies mean and why they are important. And they can do things that no other company in the country can or should or would do. But there are things that my opera company can do that they will never do.
I can do infinite productions. I can do grass-roots productions. I can incorporate the least-experienced and the most-experienced at the same time. There is a level of involvement that is very much on the level of a family. I began to see that my company could relate to the audience that was in that theatre in a way that the Met could never do. They could not customer-service them. There’d be a snowstorm and people’d have to cancel and get refunds and we’d step in. And so gradually, because of our experience and because of us knowing how to be a customer service agent, we created an initial relationship with the theatre and the audience in a way that the Met and not even a movie theatre could do. And that added value to our purpose. I think one of the greatest endorsements that the Met can do is they always say, ‘Hey, go support your local opera company.’ And I run on that phrase over and over and over again, and just recently we’ve been able to bring in some of those Met calibre talents and put them on our stage and watch them grow and develop before our eyes. And that intimacy and that connection is not something that Asheville audiences are going to gain by watching it on a movie screen.’
I think back on David’s and Paul Kellog’s five pre-conditions and realise that nowhere in them is ‘live entertainment’ explicitly stated. A desire for this must partly underlie ALO’s success. But before I can actually ask about this, David’s next sentence sums up really the reason for Asheville Opera’s success:
DS: Our company continues to survive and thrive because it is part of the fabric of its community. It’s a natural fit. That does not happen just anywhere.
Gordon Williams spoke to David Starkey.
Philosophical questions and other practical considerations – My first year at the Orchestre philharmonique de Strasbourg.
Antony Ernst recently moved to Europe to take up a position with the Orchestre philharmonique de Strasbourg after terms as CEO of Sydney Youth Orchestras and Manager of Artistic Planning for the Auckland Philharmonia. He reflects on what he has learnt in his first year in France.
It’s been a year now since I moved from Sydney to Strasbourg to take up a position as the délégué artistique (artistic planning manager) at the Orchestre philharmonique de Strasbourg. It’s not so often these days that someone goes in this direction – it seems much more frequent that Europeans or Americans come to take up positions in Australia and New Zealand, but that’s partly a function of the disparity of populations. Nevertheless, here I was, arriving in Europe (‘where the history comes from’, as a friend had so aptly put it), coming to a place I had visited a few times as a tourist and trying to settle into a position which, ideally, requires knowing the town, the society and the audience rather well. Oh, and the language. A bit of a challenge there.
I’ll skip over the getting the kids into school, the innumerable visits to Ikea, the dealing with the bureaucracy about the work visa, learning French while in meetings with three people talking at once, and various other matters which loomed a lot at the time but which aren’t of much interest to anyone else. Instead, I’d like to talk about some of the differences and similarities I’ve found – expected and unexpected – and how they play out in my work and the work of those around me.
To begin with, it should be mentioned that Strasbourg is an unusual town – it is the capital of the region of Alsace, one of the more stubbornly individualist provinces of France. It’s on the German border: the Rhine is five minutes drive away and on the other side is Germany, something which was a bit of a shock to my five-year-old son, who, like a good Australian, thought that you needed to get in an aeroplane to go to another country. In fact, Alsace has occasionally been part of Germany and the local dialect is a German one, not a French one, but the people are most insistently not German. Mind you, they refer to the rest of the French as ‘Français de l’interieur’, so they’re not exactly flag-waving children of la patrie either. That said, the Marseillaise was composed here and the city has one of France’s oldest universities. It’s contradictions like this which make it a logical place to base the European Parliament, Council of Europe, European Court of Human Rights and various other institutions, making Strasbourg simultaneously a relatively small, proudly idiosyncratic town and a self-styled ‘capitale Européenne’.
I’ll come back to the ramifications of this double identity on artistic planning a little later, because I don’t want to get ahead of myself. The most major difference to grapple with when I arrived had nothing directly to do with socio-cultural issues and everything to do with politics and economics: for the first time I was working in the kind of heavily-subsidised orchestra that most of us artistic planners in Australasia fantasise about. When you’re sitting in Auckland (where I worked for five years) and realising that a late Bruckner symphony is going to be impossible because (a) you need too many casuals and you can’t afford them (b) the audience probably aren’t going to turn up for it and you can’t afford that and (c) the only set of Wagner tubas in the country is owned by another orchestra and they’re playing The Alpine Symphony that week, then you dream of a 110-piece salaried orchestra that doesn’t worry about box office receipts because they’re not part of the operating budget anyway. When I did the interview for the position in Strasbourg, one of the questions was ‘M Ernst, you’re aware that the economic situation in Europe is getting more difficult, and you probably know that this is having an impact on the orchestras here – do you think that in the future you would be able to work with a more restricted budget?’ I was able to say (not without a touch of self-righteousness, I have to admit) ‘Gentlemen, with all due respect, you know nothing of budget restrictions’.
By world standards, this is true. Although the financial crisis has had some major impact, notably in the Netherlands and Germany, and although the French cultural sector has been squeezed, Strasbourg has thus far been spared, and the Orchestre philharmonique de Strasbourg remains one of the French National Orchestras and as such, part of the national heritage and therefore to a certain degree insulated from the first line of budget cuts and austerity measures. This is partly because the orchestra is, structurally speaking, the Orchestra Department of the City of Strasbourg – something which even in France is increasingly unusual. In effect, the orchestra is part of the city administration, its budget is part of the municipal budget and its personnel part of the city payroll. This means that the orchestra is 85% directly funded by government and that its budget position is a matter of allocations within the municipal budget rather than absolutes of cash in the bank or interest on capital funds.
There is a downside to this. Although we aren’t in financial straits, should we want to actively expand our activities or obtain more flexibility of enterprise through sponsorship and alternative sources of income, these are very difficult to source, because any support has to go to the city as a whole and not us in particular, thus reducing branding and promotional opportunities for sponsors. Another issue is that as a city official I need to fill in an application form three weeks in advance in order to take someone out for coffee.
As a corollary though, being part of the city administration also means that the administration of the orchestra itself, as a proportion of orchestra size and activity is, compared to orchestras run on other funding models, rather small. Where the Dallas Symphony, with an establishment of 96 musicians has a staff of 62 (29 of whom are devoted to fundraising and marketing in some form), the Orchestre philharmonique de Strasbourg, (incidentally servicing a town one tenth the size of Dallas), has an establishment of 110 musicians with a staff of 21 (with no fundraising and one marketing person).
Fundamentally, though, subsidy means that the activities and aims of the orchestra are defined by their civic value, rather than their commercial viability. We can spend money, but we need to be able to justify why we are doing it in terms of how we are benefiting the city of Strasbourg. I had an interesting experience shortly after arriving which opened my eyes to the implications of this difference. I had been in contact with an agent who was promoting one of the ‘blockbuster film with live orchestra’ packages. I’d never had the resources to make one work before, and I was determined to have a crack at it in this new environment; but I couldn’t get people on board. I took the case to the general manager and told him about the project, emphasising that it was a fairly simple business model. You buy the package, you fill the hall several times at high prices, the audience has a great time, you make money, everyone is happy. I couldn’t see where the problem was.
He explained it to me – if you’re doing something popular to reach a large audience, you can’t charge high prices. It limits access, and that defeats the whole point of a popular initiative. I argued that popular doesn’t mean poor, and that students, frankly, would save up to go to something like this which even at a top price wouldn’t cost more than a night out at a club. We could charge heftily and they’d still come, but if we didn’t charge heftily then there was no way we could break even. At this point the general manager said that he didn’t mind losing money on the project, as long as we could point to it as engagement with the city and reaching a new audience. After all, we were launching the season with a Verdi Requiem in an arena venue in order to show that the new Music Director wanted to reach out beyond the subscriber base, and to demonstrate to the city that we were starting a new era of cooperation with the opera and conservatoire. We were losing money on it, but it was a project which sent the right social and political signals, and which would hopefully ease the way strategically for the Music Director’s tenure. Whether we did the film project he said, was a philosophical question about how we regarded our role as a subsidised organisation and how best to fulfil that role. I’ve put the project on the backburner until I’m confident enough of my postulates and my ability to express them in French.
France, I have found, is full of ‘philosophical questions’ in the most unexpected places. Questions which in the English-speaking orchestra world are ones of economics, in France remain philosophical. Why are tours important? Are pops concerts audience development or just entertainment – and if they are the latter, are we OK with that? Is the audience’s antipathy to Sibelius innate or learned? What is the nature of the cultural relationship between the town and its orchestra? What’s with Boulez anyway? It’s refreshing to have the opportunity to reflect on these matters rather than simply to act on the fact of them. The questions are still there and need to be dealt with though: the difference that our subsidy makes is that it means audiences pay for us with their taxes rather than the higher ticket prices or the donations which they incur in other places.
On the upside, it means less stress about box office figures for individual concerts. We don’t even see our box office receipts – they go straight to the city’s consolidated revenue and are not regarded as particularly relevant to us. As a result we have the luxury of being able to take a longer term view of audience development in order to encourage audiences to embrace the unknown (and more Sibelius is on the menu this season, along with Lindberg, Takemitsu, Lutoslawski, Ligeti, Berio and Kancheli – we’ll see how it goes). Nevertheless, as elsewhere, we need to be responsive to our audiences – novelty needs to be a positive experience, because they are as wary of the unknown as most audiences. This is not so easy to do when you’ve just arrived in a new place in a new hemisphere and have to put a season together quick smart – Strasbourg has an educated, solidly middle-class audience, and if the subscription figures are anything to go by, they’re open-minded enough to come and hear the composers I’ve listed above; but it’s been a tense few months waiting to find out how they’d respond. If they don’t enjoy what we do, they’ll likely not stand up for us if there’s a threat to our subsidies, and subsidies can no longer be taken for granted – just across the Rhine two of the South West German Radio Orchestras have just been merged, and the axe is hanging over a number of other ensembles. Interestingly though, just across the Rhine are also between a quarter and a third of our subscribers – our position on the border and our hybrid cultural identity means that a solid German contingent has always been an important part of our audience base. It’s interesting that the benefit of the government subsidies here extends even beyond the tax base which supports them – but I’m sure it’s the sort of quid pro quo which exists across most European borders these days.
Being responsive to an audience and programming with the idea of engaging them and extending their horizons is really what this civic responsibility is about; but it requires a certain self-discipline in programming to follow through on this in the absence of an economic imperative. I’ve come to feel quite strongly that one of the reasons for the so-called decline of classical music lies in the fact that for much of the post war period, most European orchestras and opera houses had little incentive to appeal to audiences; and in fact there was more kudos to be had through stirring them than engaging them. I think it’s a mentality that is changing now and personally I aim for a respectful relationship with the audience that takes their tastes seriously and doesn’t regard my role as that of trying to enlighten an inchoate group. Ultimately, the reason for concerts is the audience, and even if you can get away with acting as if this were not the case in the long run I think it would be likely to harm the sustainability of the art.
I’ve found (and, for me, given what I’ve had to put together over the last year, the following is a comforting thought) that audiences, unless they have been carefully cultivated over a long period, tend to have fairly similar default tastes. They tend to like what they already know – it’s human nature. It is arguable but by no means certain that a given European audience may have been exposed to a wider repertoire than a given Australasian one; but in Strasbourg as in Sydney, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky will fill a hall; Lutoslawski and Ives will probably not. So the converse risk to that (of obliviousness to an audience’s needs) is also always present: trying to please people by giving them what they already know, abrogating your own taste and running the risk of an ever decreasing circle of acceptable repertoire repeated too often.
So, in a nuts-and-bolts sort of a way, what are the differences when it comes to artistic planning? One of the most significant factors in programming for the Australasian region is its distance from the major orchestral hubs of Europe and America. I won’t even touch upon the simple problems of time difference which make Australian or New Zealand phone calls to Europe and America a nuisance – I still can’t get used to the idea that I can just pick up my office phone in Strasbourg and call someone in London. The real implications of distance are twofold – one is the proportion of the artist budget consumed by travel costs, and the other is the difficulty in attracting artists to make the journey. The best way of tackling both these problems [in Australasia] is for orchestras to share artists, thus making the prospect of coming more attractive to the artists, and also amortising travel costs. There is a significant degree of coordination of schedules between the regional orchestras required, which is a constant planning factor, and it also means that for budget reasons there will always be a motivation to use an artist who is already going to be in the region and available. The programming implications are that of course most artists will tour with certain repertoire and it is not always possible to program the concerto one would have ideally liked to have. By contrast, in Europe the travel costs are almost negligible no matter where in Europe an artist is coming from – this is also because there is no question of anyone traveling business class, which by contrast is an understandable wish for artists traveling half way across the world. Being in Europe means that there is a much wider possible choice of artists. For example, it is possible for a singer to come and do a concert with an orchestra between opera performances in another European country. There is a flipside though – sometimes it is possible to engage artists to come to Australasia simply because they want to visit the region. No matter how beautiful or interesting the town in Europe, no one is going to take a gig there just to visit it. It’s too easy to get there in your free time.
So yet again I am left with the philosophical questions – no longer constrained by the necessity of using one of the three available pianists in the region, or the two conductors who are mad keen sailors, hikers or golfers (I exaggerate of course – artists also visit Australasia for artistic reasons), whom do I choose and by what criteria? Given that I can choose repertoire and then secure the artists to perform it, to what degree do I let this influence me? To what extent am I willing to risk audience numbers in pursuit of breadth of programming? To be honest, I’m still in the process of answering these questions; but in the meantime I can say with reasonable certainty: removing the external economic pressures simply means that your own resources of vision, audience psychology and artistic self-discipline become necessary qualities. Our job will always be in a sense about juggling – and no matter whether you’re juggling skittles or chainsaws, it’s knowing how to juggle which makes it successful.
Antony Ernst is Délégué Artistique (Artistic Planning Manager) at the Orchestre philharmonique de Strasbourg.
The Grand Final of the 2012 Young Performers Awards was held on Thursday 4 October in the Perth Concert Hall. Three finalists performed their concertos with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Vladimir Verbitsky.
After each winning their respective Stage 3 finals Grand Finalists were Young Kwon Choi (NSW), 26, who performed the Prokofiev Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor, Som Howie (NSW), 22, who performed the Copland Clarinet Concerto and Katerina Nazarova (TAS), 27, who performed the Shostakovich Violin Concerto No.1 in A minor.
With a brilliant performance of the Shostakovich Violin Concerto No.1 in A minor, Katerina was announced the winner securing a cash prize of $20,000, multiple CD recordings of their winning performance and opportunities for future concert engagements with major Australian symphony orchestras, as well as a feature interview in the ABC Limelight magazine’s ‘Please Welcome’ section.
Born in Tasmania, Katerina Nazarova began playing the violin and piano at a very early age, first learning from her mother and then from Barbara Jane Gilby. Her solo debut at age 11 with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra was broadcast nationally on ABC Television. She has attended chamber music courses at the Australian National Academy of Music and has also participated in the Australian Youth Orchestra Young Symphonists program. She studied with Berent Korfker at the Royal College of Music in London, where she won the RCM Concerto Competition and participated in the Rising Stars series, and has taken master classes and lessons with Glenn Dicterow, Pierre Amoyal, Victor Danchenko, György Pauk and Tibor Varga, among others.
Katerina performs regularly with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, the Hallé and the Philharmonia Orchestra, and leads various other orchestras and ensembles including the Cosima Piano Quintet. She has given recitals at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, the Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall, Cadogan Hall, LSO St Luke’s, and in Italy, Germany and the US, where she has appeared at the Kennedy Center and worked with Lorin Maazel on Britten’s Albert Herring and The Turn of the Screw. Forthcoming projects include recitals in Portugal as violinist and pianist with cellist Tim Hugh.
She performs on a violin on loan from Florian Leonhard.
We now look to the future and invite applications for the 2013 ABC Symphony Australia Young Performers Awards.
For all the details on the new look competition, please download the 2013 brochure.
Applications can be submitted here
The Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra (AOBO) is the busiest of all Australian orchestras, giving around 250 performances each year. A wholly owned subsidiary of Opera Australia, the AOBO performs for Opera Australia and The Australian Ballet during their respective Sydney seasons.
Formerly the Sydney Elizabethan Orchestra, the AOBO has earned a reputation for warmth of sound and impressive flexibility in the most challenging of environments. The repertory performance schedule of Opera Australia means that up to five different productions are being performed and prepared at any one time, resulting in up to 8 performances per week. The confined space of the orchestra pit presents occupational health and safety issues, mainly high noise levels. Excellent seasonal and casual musicians provide respite for the permanent musicians of the Orchestra.
Notable recent productions for Opera Australia in the last year have included: Opera on Sydney Harbour- La Traviata, which saw the orchestra playing on a harbour stage in the acclaimed first season of this landmark Sydney event; Die Tote Stadt, a ground-breaking production conducted by Christian Badea and directed by Bruce Beresford, which featured the orchestra “beamed” into the Sydney Opera House Opera Theatre from The Studio; and The Australian Ballet‘s wonderful season of Prokofieff’s Romeo and Juliet directed by Graeme Murphy and conducted by Nicolette Fraillon.
The Orchestra also features on recent recordings of live performances in the Sydney Opera House of The Marriage of Figaro, Rigoletto, Der Rosenkavalier, and La Boheme and Swan Lake for cinema and DVD release.
Kate Lidbetter, CEO of Symphony Services International, attended the League of American Orchestras conference, 6-8 June, 2012, held in Dallas, Texas. Colleague Gordon Williams came along to assist with the marketing of the Goodear Acoustic Shield, featured in the Exhibit Hall.
The report that follows is not an accurate transcription of any conference sessions or meetings and reflects only the views of the writer. It may contain some inaccuracies or errors.
Orchestral Leadership Academy seminar
Immediately prior to each Conference, the League of American Orchestras offers a range of “Orchestral Leadership Academy” seminars – learning opportunities focussing on a wide range of topics. On Tuesday 5 June, Patrick Pickett (CEO of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra) and I turned up bright and early to hear from Susan Nelson and Allison M Crump, senior representatives of Technical Development Corporation (TDC). The seminar was titled Aligning Money and Organisations Strategy – Beyond Breakeven. Patrick and I had both heard these speakers at the previous League conference and had been impressed with their clear, concise and entertaining dissection of finance as it relates to orchestras. We were not disappointed in this all-day seminar – the hours flew by and we emerged with a range of new ways of thinking about balance sheets and how they relate to orchestras.
Fellow participants included representatives from America and other countries, mostly non-finance but senior within their orchestra, and largely smaller to mid-size orchestras. The focus was on practical balance sheet analysis and how to connect money and strategy. The session used a fictional orchestra, “Downtown Orchestra” to closely examine the income statement, balance sheet, key financial indicators and trends, to arrive at a thorough picture of the organisation’s health. Some accounting differences existed between the Australian and the US approach, but the need for thorough, honest and deep analysis was common to both. A simple but extremely telling deconstruction of the balance sheet showed that the numbers don’t tell the full story once restricted funds, advances, fixed assets and operations are removed from the list of “assets”. In particular, this session was aimed at empowering orchestral managers to ask difficult questions about whether their orchestra is in the right space to consider launching (or adding to) an endowment.
From Wednesday 6 to Friday 8 June the League ran its extraordinary conference. Held this year for the 67th time, the League certainly has its act together when it comes to these events. I highly recommend going online to the League’s site, where you can download many of the sessions and events that were videoed. Enjoy them at your leisure.
A highlight for me was attending a “Constituency X” meeting (for those of us that didn’t fit easily into the many other constituency options available) led by marketing guru Trevor O’Donnell. Author of the e-book Marketing the Arts to Death: How Lazy Language is Killing Culture, he examined the language used by orchestral marketers and common traps into which it is very easy to fall. He talked about how audiences today are buying the whole experience – from getting the babysitter to the parking to dinner before the concert to ease of getting home afterwards. His session made sense, and was entertaining (if at times a bit confronting) for both the marketing and non-marketing audience. His book can be found at http://trevorodonnell.com/ or on Amazon.
The mood of this year’s Conference was generally lighter than at the previous events I’ve attended. People seemed to feel that the GFC’s strength is waning, and although it felt like there were fewer delegates than in the past, this could possibly have been due to the vastness of the hotel in downtown Dallas. The Sheraton had seen a conference of several thousand Anime afficionados immediately prior to the League event. Upon checking in, late at night, I had been confronted with a sea of young people in costumes queuing for every available lift into the residential towers. I suspect the hotel staff breathed a sigh of relief when the smaller group of League delegates arrived!
The Exhibit Hall and Goodear Acoustic Shield
One primary purpose for Symphony Services International attending the Conference was the opportunity to display our Goodear Acoustic Shield. Although Gordon and I had attended the 2011 Conference and taken a display booth for Goodear, we felt that we could do more to reach the American audience in 2012. This year, we not only took a booth we also concentrated on marketing our presence prior to the Conference, and as much as possible during the Conference through sponsoring the Operations & General Managers’ Constituency Meeting. This gave me the opportunity to speak to a captive audience of decision makers – what we in Australia call the Orchestra Managers.
They were an attentive audience, interested in the history and benefits of Goodear and generous in their response. We had also arranged, at the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s request, to send 10 shields to Texas for use by the DSO in its important concert on the opening evening of the Conference. DSO drew attention to this at the start of the concert, and it became a talking point when visitors came to our booth throughout the course of the event. Interestingly, most had not noticed Goodear on the stage that night, and had not perceived any difference in the sound from the stage. For us, this was great news – the product is designed to be discreet and blend into the background, and to protect the musicians while not altering the sound for players, conductor or audience. This anecdotal feedback certainly supported our claims!
Other networking opportunities
There was quite a large Aussie contingent at the Conference, including Craig Whitehead (West Australian Symphony Orchestra), Patrick Pickett (Queensland Symphony Orchestra) and Rory Jeffes (Sydney Symphony). We were also delighted to catch up with ex-pat Australians Raff Wilson (Director of Artistic Planning, Hong Kong Philharmonic), David Pratt (Executive Director, Savannah Philharmonic) and Sally Braybrooks (Music Institute of Chicago).
I was also delighted to once more catch up with my British counterpart, Director of the Association of British Orchestras, Mark Pemberton. Last seen (by me) in Hong Kong, Mark was full of his usual enthusiasm and interesting updates on the state of orchestras in the UK. Mark and I spent some time with Dr Robert Flanagan, author of the fascinating book The Perilous Life of Symphony Orchestras (available through Amazon or from Yale Press.
Bob had quoted comparisons between American, Australian and British orchestras (among others) in terms of their government subsidies, revenue, expenditure and other key statistics. Mark and I were each able to update him on the state of things orchestral in our jurisdictions, and to bring more recent figures and statistics. We spent a fascinating hour learning how an economist thinks about the business of running orchestras!
All in all it was a great few days. I learned a lot, made new contacts and caught up with old colleagues. I highly recommend the League’s Conference to anyone in the sector who is able to attend.
Savannah, established by philanthropist Sir James Oglethorpe in 1733, was intended to be safe up on its bluff, a functional British bulwark against Spanish Florida and French Louisiana, and downtown is still shaped by Oglethorpe’s grid pattern around squares. Echoes of Savannah’s history rebound. It’s in the Deep South (Georgia) so there are memorials ‘to our Confederate dead’, houses where Confederate heroes, like Jefferson Davis (the Confederate president), or Robert E. Lee, once slept.
Savannah is a smallish city – 130,000 in the downtown, 300,000 in the metro area. 55% of the metro population is African-American. There are not many Hispanics, even so close to Florida (about two hours away by car). But there’s a significant Jewish population, which goes back to the idealistic Oglethorpe who permitted Jews, Lutheran Salzburgers and other persecuted groups to settle in the colony.
It is atmospheric – in summer the city languishes in the humidity – and supposedly haunted. I was told that the CVS downtown is the only one of these pharmacies in the US to close at sundown because the staff won’t work after dark. But Savannah is mostly celebrated for its visual beauty. Like most amenable US cities it’s a university town, but SCAD, the Savannah College of Art and Design (which seems to own and to have renovated a building on every block) specializes in visual arts, illustration, photography, fashion, web design…
How does Savannah sound? Church bells constantly ring. In December the streets pop to the sounds of acorns dropping on pavements or crunching underfoot. But despite the fact that Lowell Mason (whose hymn ‘Watchman’ is quoted in Charles Ives’ Fourth Symphony) spent his early adulthood in Savannah, or that Savannah is the birthplace of lyricist Johnny Mercer, until recently you wouldn’t have gone to Savannah for the performing arts. In two weeks I spent in the city in March, however, I got a pretty impressive sense of how much musical activity there can be in even a small US city.
First of all, Savannah is one community that has gone to the trouble of re-establishing an orchestra after a pretty spectacular collapse. I spoke to David Pratt, the Executive Director, an Australian who formerly worked at the Sydney Symphony.
‘The Symphony falling over [in 2003] rocked the city to its core,’ he says. ‘Every business was involved. And they lost a lot.’ David explains that the new Philharmonic grew out of the chorus that had been part of the Symphony when it went under. After the dust settled, the singers who were formerly attached to the Symphony wanted to keep singing. They found an artistic director in Peter Shannon, an Irishman who had spent ten years conducting the Collegium Musicum orchestra in Heidelberg Germany, and in late 2007, Peter decided the singers would do a concert with orchestra. So he drew musicians from all over the southeast (Jacksonville, Charleston, Atlanta, Columbia) and got such a good response that they did it again, and then the board of the choral society said, ‘Maybe it’s time to look at forming a new orchestra,’ The orchestra functions now on a per call basis, but players are kept in their chairs as much as possible to foster the sense of regular ensemble. But how hard is it to re-establish an orchestra where government support is ‘zip’. How do you bring the donors back?
‘Show them the financials, the 990 tax forms that we have to send in,’ says David, who was brought in as Executive Director, once the orchestra was put on a more permanent footing. ‘And they can see them online. It’s also getting potential donors into a performance and seeing a 1200-seat theatre that’s full. Then we can at least get them to start coming again. They’ll buy tickets or they’ll start at a very low level, but these are people who used to give you know $50,000, $25,000, $10,000. Some will never ever come back. They’ve said to my face: “Absolutely not interested in giving to an orchestra ever again.” I accept that.’
With Savannah’s demography, a population that is 55% African-American, does the Savannah Philharmonic worry about outreach?
‘You know, it’s an interesting mix of people. Savannah’s changed a lot over the years. Once upon a time, pre-SCAD, Savannah was a very closed community. If you came here as an outsider, you would never break in.’ This is the Savannah John Berendt described in his best-seller, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. ‘And there’s still, to some degree, a little of that,’ says David. ‘If I was a Yankee, it could be a problem, but two things have had an influence. The movie of Midnight put Savannah on the map for tourism, the film more than the book. Two: SCAD has revitalized downtown. You talk to people who were here in the 80s, this entire street [Broughton Street, the main street] was boarded up.’
As for outreach, ‘We’ve done bits and pieces. We’ve done this initiative with the Anderson Cancer Institute. And that’s come out of Peter’s love for music and its role in integrated medicine. I did some other things with what are called under-served communities here. Second Harvest runs an incredible program, 44 kids’ cafes, essentially after-school programs that run for two or three hours. It’s the only meal these kids get every day. The director of the program said to me, “Most of these kids have never even eaten a McDonalds because their families can’t afford it.” And Second Harvest has a cultural component. So we had musicians come in and play and interact with these kids – a presence every week. And that starts to build a profile with the community.’
David also lists co-pros with Savannah State University, a predominantly African-American institution and participation in ‘two great programs in city’: Bravo (it’s an acronym standing for Black youth Reaching out Vocal and Orchestral music) and Sonata: ‘They fund private music lessons for African-American kids who cannot otherwise afford them.’
‘But most of my focus is to build financial stability. And the only way I can do that is to make sure all our concerts are sold out, that we are raising money, and that we’re focused on funding our season, with building a reserve.’ David talks about two areas where there may be potential for philanthropic support – Skidaway Island, a gated community which has attracted successful people from the Midwest and Northeast who retired to Savannah to live in a warmer climate. Also Bluffton, 30 minutes away in South Carolina, halfway between Savannah and Hilton Head where there’s another orchestra. ‘Most of my time goes into researching and cultivating individuals and looking for these sorts of pockets of communities,’ he concludes.
In Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil much was made of voodoo. There were scenes of the sorceress Minerva paddling through ‘gator infested swamps to sprinkle rooster blood on a grave and pacify its dead resident. And I realize that here on the Atlantic seaboard there can be quite a profound sense of Africa to the southeast. It’s a counterbalance to the Confederate ‘whiteness’.
Given that, it’s worth noting that Savannah hosts one of the best World Music festivals anywhere in the world. The Festival’s main focus is on the 17 days each Spring where you can catch a smorgasbord of music ranging from some of the very best jazz, Malian musicians from Africa, Iranians, chamber music – all compressed into the small space of walkable downtown Savannah.
I went to Savannah in March deliberately to catch this festival. On one typical day I heard the Sweet Singing Harmony Harmoneers, followed by the Takacs Quartet playing Beethoven and Schubert, and Bela Fleck and the Flecktones at the Trustees Theater. Two days later I squeezed in the McIntosh County Shouters, Menachem Pressler playing Dvořàk with Daniel Hope and Friends, and Ruthie Foster and The Campbell Brothers.
The Festival is run by Rob Gibson, a native Georgian. I spoke to him and Communications and Operations Director, Ryan McMaken after coming back from a concert of the McIntosh County Shouters, a group that still practises a form of communal singing and dancing that harks back to slave days on the Georgia coast and predates gospel.
Gibson reckons he’s not doing anything different than he did 32 years ago when he programmed the radio station at University of Georgia. ‘On WUOG we had the Chicago Symphony, the Boston Camerata, the Metropolitan Opera. We had punk rock because it was the height of the Sex Pistols. We had Bob Marley and the Wailers. I had an African music program, then an avant-garde classical program called A Year from Monday after John Cage’s book. So I’ve always had a broad interest in what I would call the musical arts. It’s just not very often that you get to put that inside of a festival.’
The Festival’s got an impressive chamber music component curated by violinist, Daniel Hope. One of the great advantages of hearing chamber music in Savannah is sitting in the 250-seat Telfair Academy (deeded to the city by philanthropist, Mary Telfair) listening to the Dumky Trio and sitting close enough to enjoy the drama of eye contact between players; then walking to the next concert through streets that look essentially unchanged since Dvořàk was composing. (When Robert Redford filmed The Conspirator, all they did was take the parking meters out of Barnard Street and fill it with dirt and, hey presto!, it was Washington, 1865.)
But it’s the mix of programs that really makes the Savannah Music Festival stand out. Gibson is renowned for ‘double bills’, combinations of music that you wouldn’t normally expect to hear together and which make converts of people who would not formerly have listened to another genre. Says Ryan McMaken: Rob put ngoni (lute) player Bassekou Kouyate on a double bill with Bill Frisell an American jazz player. A lot of people knew Bill and came out for that and were floored the first night by Bassekou Kouyate.’
I myself was impressed by a joint concert given by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band from New Orleans and the Dell McCoury Band, a bluegrass group. This wasn’t just a double bill. It was a collaboration, and, on paper, you mightn’t expect it to work. Except that it did. Half the listeners clapped on the beat, the other half off, but even McCoury now prefers some of his songs ‘with horns’.
Quality and the fact that it has to be ‘live’ music, are Gibson’s non-negotiables. He mentions that if you go to the Spoleto Festival up the road in Charleston, South Carolina, you might see the Shen Wei Dance Company ‘comin’ out of New York but they’re doing the tape and I don’t do tape.’
The SMF is marketed consciously to both locals and ‘out-of-towners’, two different campaigns. With 36% of the people in 2011 coming from more than 200 miles away, staying an average of four and a half days and spending an average of $452 per day, it’s important to reach the non-locals. But there is also a huge element of local pride in presenting music of the South. ‘Gospel grew up in Georgia’, said Gibson before one of the concerts, and later, to me: ‘the indigenous musics that come out of the United States, Blues, Gospel, Country and Western, Zydeco, Cajun and Tex-Mex, all of them are Southern.’
They’re also highly involving. At the McIntosh County Shouters concert I attended, one of the singers stepped forward and sang , ‘Good Lord in Heaven, I know I’ve been changed,’ and the woman at the next table joined in, the guy behind me joined in hands raised. I thought, ‘This is music that gets people where they live. They believe they’re going to be raptured up.’
But opera, too, deals with the basics of life – with love, death… How does opera fare in Savannah? There is no resident company. Once again, I was happy to have found myself in Savannah this March.
Since 2001, the legendary Verdi baritone, Sherrill Milnes has run a singer development program called the VOICExperience (Vocal and Operatic Intensive Creative Experience) with his wife, Maria Zouves. It’s based in Tampa Florida where Milnes retired to, but does workshops in New York City and Chicago. The purpose of the ‘Experience’, in the words of its website, is to advance singers in their careers by giving them the highest level of educators while creating outreach of opera and musical theatre to the communities of the world. Programs include ‘Opera as Drama’, working on operas from the perspective of the text, ‘Generation X’, an intensive week of classes, private coaching, masterclasses and audition preparation for the young singer, and the ‘Voice Workshop’ to help career beginners refine their craft. This year, Milnes and Zouves brought the Voice Workshop to Savannah and Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, 50 miles inland. Over a week, 17 young professional singers had the opportunity to study with Milnes, Zouves and former Metropolitan star, Diana Soviero before presenting their accomplishments in two public concerts at the end of the week.
Milnes and Zouves have been considering moving to Savannah, and this was a test run to see if the community support was there for operatic activity. The idea in locating the workshop and presentations in Savannah and Statesboro, was to place the results in front of Savannahians who have the wherewithal to support opera, in the hope that they might be inspired to grab the opportunity. As was explained to me, you have to be careful in launching anything in Savannah. Savannahians have a profound sense of place and do not need to be told what they lack. Savannah even rejected the composer Gian-Carlo Menotti when he was looking for a home for his Spoleto Festival, and he went instead to Charleston.
Milnes and Zouves were therefore approaching this prospect with the hope that influential locals would come forward and say, ‘Hey, let’s do more of this,’ Nothing big deal, just an incremental step towards having more regular operatic activity.
At the end of the week the VOICExperience put on a concert in Christ Church, followed by a repeat out at Georgia Southern. In a sense the concert was a showcase of arias and ensembles that the particpants had worked on in the previous few days, but Zouves has a background as an opera director, and the excerpts were shaped and staged in such a way as to give the emotional impression of an operatic trajectory. The audience in Christ Church loved it, and there was the prospect of some donations.
The VOICExperience has since put on another concert in June, and Zouves and Milnes intend to bring South Carolina-born composer Carlisle Floyd [composer of Of Mice and Men and Susannah] to Savannah in August. Now is crunch time to know if the city is ready for more permanent operatic activity.
Will Savannah end up with an opera company anytime soon? Is it big enough? That is still an open question but a Savannahian company’s catchment would be three or four states wide and vocal music is a seedbed for other musical activity in the community. The orchestra was resurrected by people who wanted to keep singing.
I went with VOICExperience singers, Rebecca Flaherty and Jessica Best to a demonstration they gave at the Savannah Arts Academy, a high school dedicated to the arts, on Washington Avenue. What struck me most was student response at the end of the session. Four boys jumped up to reciprocate and what did they sing? Barbershop quartets.
‘There’s a real resurgence of a capella male singing in America,’ whispered the guy standing next to me, David Starkey, General and Artistic Director of Asheville Lyric Opera in North Carolina, who had driven the five hours from the mountains of North Carolina to attend the VOICExperience concerts and see if there were any synergies here for other opera companies in the South. Then all the students the students gathered around us in a circle and sang the Lutkin Benediction: ‘the Lord bless you and keep you’. It was a moving moment. ‘That’s America for you,’ said Starkey. ‘We don’t just do some of it; we do all of it.’
That kind of explains how a city of 130,000 can have so much going on. Savannah can tout Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Treasure Island (yes, it figures in Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic) and Forrest Gump. Of course, it can’t boast Porgy and Bess – that’s rival city Charleston’s honour – but perhaps that doesn’t matter. Look how much was going on in the two weeks I was there in March – and that in a city not noted for its performing arts.
Gordon Kalton Williams, © 2012
ABC Symphony Australia Young Performers Awards 2012
At first glance you could be forgiven for failing to see the common link between the three 2012 ABC Symphony Australia Young Performers Awards string finalists. Katerina Nazarova (27), an Australian expat living and working in London, Anna Da Silva Chen (15) a Sydney high-school student, and Shane Chen (26) a father of three from Melbourne made up the unlikely trio. The link is of course a shared passion for music and the violin, and it was lovely to see that despite their differences, not long after meeting one another for the first time, the three competitors were making arrangements for a lunch date the following day. In June this year they each had the opportunity to perform a concerto with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra in the first stage 3 final for the 2012 ABC Symphony Australia Young Performers Awards. With brilliant performances from all finalists (of fittingly contrasting violin concertos including the Tchaikovsky, the Elgar and the first of Shostakovich) the panel certainly had a difficult task in choosing a winner and deciding who would progress to the Grand Final. Katerina claimed victory and was the first to take the next step towards the coveted prize.
The next finalist to proceed in the competition would be decided only a few weeks later across town in the ABC’s studio 520. Once again the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra played host but this time for the Other Instruments category. Arguably it’s the most difficult final to judge as it encompasses all instruments not played on a string or keyboard including wind, brass, percussion and everything in between. Affectionately coined the ‘offal’ category by Marc Taddei (conductor of the strings and keyboards category), it was actually Benjamin Northey who had the task of guiding the orchestra and four young soloists through the concerti.
The concert included Vaughan Williams’ Oboe Concerto performed by Jessica Foot, Rosauro’s Marimba Concerto performed by Shanie Klas, Linkola’s Euphonium Concerto performed by Jonathon Ramsay, and Copland’s Clarinet Concerto performed by Som Howie. How does one compare a clarinet to a marimba you might ask? Let alone an oboe to a euphonium… Well, it had to be done and it was Som Howie with his performance of the Copland who was named the winner, the second contestant to claim a spot in the Grand Final.
Only one place remained and it would go to the winner of the keyboard final which was to take place in Hobart with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. Finalists included John Fisher from Queensland and old friends from Sydney – Young Kwon Choi, Jeremy So and Tony Lee – who were reunited having learned from the same teacher in their youth. It was sure to be a big week with a program including not one but two concertos by Prokofiev, the much loved Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No.1 and Totentanz by Liszt. ‘It’s a rare thing to be able to say that Totentanz could be considered one of the lighter works in the program’, I overheard one of the orchestra members saying to a colleague during a well deserved tea break.
The orchestra certainly earned their keep that week and the four young pianists gave the Hobart audience a feast for the ears in what was an epic concert and awesome display of virtuosity. Young Kwon Choi took out the prize on the night with his performance of Prokofiev’s Second Piano Concerto.
The Grand Final will take place in Perth on Thursday October 4, and if you missed any of the excitement of the stage 3 finals you can catch them again with repeat broadcasts happening on ABC Classic FM at 8pm on October 1 (Keyboards), 2 (Strings) and 3 (Other Instruments).
Artist Development Co-ordinator
Melbourne oboist Anne Gilby recently taught at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music which was established by Ahmad Sarmast in Kabul in 2010. Gordon Williams spoke to her of her experience.
In Polly Watkin’s recently-released documentary Dr Sarmast’s Music School [check out the Sydney Film Festival's blurb], we see students practising in sound-proofed rooms, or the familiar tableau of a violin teacher instructing a student, pointing to a passage of score with violin tucked under his chin. This could be a music school anywhere in the world. Except… it’s Afghanistan, the land-locked Central Asian country which has been a focal point of international contention while riven with its own internal conflicts for decades, if not much of its history. And this school is the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM). Above the sounds of music emanating from the two-storey music school, hovering NATO helicopters denote the lingering effects of the most recent conflict which began in 2001 with the overthrow of the radical Islamist Taliban regime, and is even now felt as dates are set for the withdrawal of the international forces that arrived here in the wake of 9/11.
The Afghanistan National Institute of Music is the brainchild of Dr Ahmad Sarmast, a jovial former PhD student at Melbourne’s Monash University, who in June 2010 established the school on the remnants of a Department of Fine Arts abandoned during an earlier outbreak of war in the 1990s. Dr Sarmast’s dream is to nurture the musicianship of Afghanistan’s traumatised children, to develop their talents and heal them. These kids have known little other than war and its aftermath, and Sarmast is trying to give them something else in life. Specially focussing on the most disadvantaged group in Afghan society, the orphans and street vendors (paying the vendors’ parents for lost earnings while the children are studying; indeed subsidising all students), and with a deliberate intake of girls (100% this year), Sarmast aims to effect social change. His aims are high. Not only does he want to contribute to the emotional healing of these war-ravaged children while helping them reach their full musical and human potential, he wants to rekindle Afghani folk music traditions and create the country’s first symphony orchestra.
Australians clarinettist Mark Walton from Sydney and Melbourne oboist Anne Gilby travelled to the Afghanistan capital, Kabul in January this year to take part in the Institute’s Winter Academy. I asked Anne her reasons for going.
AG: I was interested in someone who was actually creating something through music as a discipline, something which had it as an aim to integrate a group of people into the wider world community. The staff-member I dealt most with was a woman from Colorado called Allegra Boggess. She’s a pianist but she studied oboe when she was in high school and here she was suddenly asked to teach oboe, so my role was really to help her set up a double reed program, write an oboe curriculum, get equipment organised. I was very excited to go. When I arrived we had one oboe student and when I left we had two and a bassoonist.
GW: Afghanistan is still occupied by troops, and hardline Islamic attitudes to women jostle with more moderate influences in the streets and marketplaces of Kabul. Did you have any fears for your safety in what Parmy Olson once described (in Forbes magazine) as the most dangerous country in the world?
AG: Everybody else in my immediate vicinity in Australia was incredibly apprehensive but I wasn’t. The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs advisories were not to go. But I knew that the security would be thorough. ANIM put me in a guesthouse (it’s actually safer than an international hotel) down the street from the American embassy. Across the road was the NATO complex, where the international forces were housed – a huge wall with barbed wire on top.
GW: So it was a constant sensation of being in a cocoon?
AG: I knew that my basic safety was being looked after. But on the flip side I couldn’t do anything independently. The Institute had three cars. When I arranged to go to the Babur Gardens I was taken by one of the drivers, and he organised two of the students to go as well because I needed to be in the company of other people. He sat in the car. It wasn’t appropriate for him to go in with me.
GW: Because you’re a woman?
AG: For me, being a very fair complexioned person, there was no such thing as walking down the street on my own. I must say that the environment became very stressful after a while, as a woman. Everyone was wonderfully friendly and I was extremely well looked after but there was an undercurrent of anger and aggression and violence around all the time.
GW: Now that we can see end-dates for NATO involvement, Afghanistan is in a nation-building stage. But why does Sarmast put so much energy into music teaching at a time like this?
AG: Music is all part of a grand scheme that’s creating what you could call ‘youth with resilience’, people who can take their place in the future and can actually produce a better Afghanistan for everybody.
GW: But he’s also aiming to develop students’ talent to an international standard – is it a separate goal: ‘I’m going to heal some and develop talent in others’?
AG: No. I was very aware that Sarmast was operating on many levels and, you know, we mount arguments in Australia to support why we should have music in schools. The health argument has been one that has been pushed to extremes. Another is the old one about how music helps other disciplines. What Sarmast has done is recognise that there are various things that music can be identified as appealing to, but most importantly music is a discipline in its own right. So yes, he’ll take a street kid, but he starts from the bottom line that there’s a talent there. If there’s no talent and if they don’t want to do it, then they won’t stay. But if they choose to stay, they’re going to engage with music in ways that make sense to them. The fundamental assumption is that music is a discipline and to be engaged with it you need to be disciplined as a person, as a human being. It deals with how you relate with other people. How you engage with authority, for example, is a big thing with the street kids.
GW: I’m interested in why Sarmast includes western classical music in his syllabus?
AG: I would say that he thinks it’s an important genre of music, that’s been embraced worldwide. From a musical point of view he thinks it’s important that young people in Afghanistan have an opportunity to make the music that a large proportion of the world does. But also, music is a language of contact and so his vision for the future of Afghanistan is that young people who are world citizens need to be part of classical music making, which is part of world culture. And he does that in an environment where other musics are there at the same time – it’s not being done in isolation. He has Afghani traditional ensembles, North Indian traditional ensembles. The main ensemble at the ANIM is the Afghani Youth Orchestra where everybody’s in together. While I was there, for example, they were rehearsing Ravel’s Bolero which started off with a tanbur solo, followed by a sitar solo. They’d chosen western repertoire that allowed for Afghani and Indian instruments to be played legitimately alongside western orchestral instruments, and also played arrangements of Afghan melodies. Sarmast considers it very important to acknowledge the musical integrity of different traditions.
Also, Sarmast is interested in the mindset that it takes to play western classical music. It was really quite fascinating to me how the students conceptualised their work. Obviously they were used to an oral tradition of learning. Their notion of what a notated octave meant, for example, was totally different from mine. An ‘e’ was an ‘e’ was an ‘e’. It didn’t much matter what octave it was written in.
GW: He is teaching notation isn’t he?
AG: He is teaching notation, but what he’s actually dealing with, apart from notation, is a framework which has been established in these students from a very young age for approaching music-making and learning in general that doesn’t necessarily assist with western classical music. The numbers of very young students at ANIM should find it easier than their older colleagues in the future.
GW: I’m struck by the fact that the ANIM website talks a lot about the bravery of teachers and students. For example, this announcement: ‘The ANIM student body courageously held their first Student Association election on Thursday October 13, 2011.’
AG: But think of the background. While I was there, ANIM was visited by various members of parliament who were asking questions like, ‘Why aren’t you doing more Islamic studies? Why are girls here? Why are you concentrating on science and maths?’ [because the music lessons are combined with a general education similarly to the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School or Sydney Conservatorium High School]. ANIM’s constantly being asked for more Koranic studies, to remove anything that smacks of western-style curriculum. There’s constant pressure. And, for example, I met a UN employee who told me, with tears in his eyes, about his work in the regions where people have absolutely nothing, they were living in caves. You look at the devastation in Kabul, the bullet holes still in all the major buildings, the bomb sites. Electricity has only just recently been connected to all households. You still see people walking up mountains carrying water up in jerry cans. You can track many of the incredible problems in Afghanistan back to five conflicting tribes, back to the Russians and the English and ‘The Great Game’ [for control of the East] they played across Afghanistan in the 1800s. And you can see why there are incredible problems there right now. And these kids who choose to come to music school are at the forefront of these conceptual and physical conflicts. One of the students was quite upfront in telling me about the destruction of his home when he was three as part of the demolition of the Musicians’ Quarter of central Kabul because it didn’t fit the religious point of view of the party that came to power, and about the response of his neighbours to his studies. His family has moved and lives two hours away from school in an outer suburb. He travels by bus over the mountains and then walks 45 minutes from the bus terminus. The kids in his area shout at him that he’s going to the devil because he’s making music. He’s a devout Muslim himself so he understands what it means to have chosen a different path from most of his peers.
And yet, on the other side of that, there’s a whole group of human beings over there in Kabul who wouldn’t do anything else, devout Muslims who stand up in the middle of a lesson and say, excuse me I just have to go off and pray. Back in an hour.
GW: Sarmast has been incredibly successful with garnering support from a wide range of sources. Just look at ANIM’s website – the World Bank, German Foreign Office, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, Mikhail Simonyan’s Beethoven not Bullets… The German Society of Music Merchants, for example, donated five tons of instruments.
AG: It’s an intensively difficult situation over there and with the Coalition and NATO withdrawing obviously there’s already a huge jockeying for power. There are going to be tough times ahead politically. Islamic militants don’t necessarily agree with what Sarmast is doing. But Sarmast is currently arranging a tour of the Youth Orchestra to Washington and New York next year. So one of the survival things that can happen is connections. If Sarmast can get enough international agreement that this is something that needs to be protected then maybe he has a chance. He basically has a year.
GW: Do you have any particular highlights of the visit?
AG: There was a concert at the French Cultural Centre. It was one of those Kabul affairs where you had to be totally frisked to go in – a rather bored lady security guard made sure I wasn’t carrying anything dangerous. It was freezing cold. The whole building was made out of concrete, there were rollerdoors to the back and the wind was gusting in. I was so cold I was nearly paralytic, but once onstage the overhead lights made it a little warmer. Concerts there are always at 5.30 in the afternoon because foreigners employed at the embassies and international companies are not covered by insurance after 8pm. The audiences are always by RSVP for security reasons. The concerts I played while in Kabul were largely attended by expats and music students. This concert was called Celebration of the Tanbur and featured an Afghani group connected with ANIM. I was in one piece. The group played from memory, I had a written part. It was just like a jazz piece, there was the head, and a number of times through with the different variations. They had their various techniques for making the music faster. I was in ‘seventh heaven’. I had a special part that was designed for me by one of the AMIN staff – a violinist from the US who is very interested in Afghan music. The players were all very polite, told me I did a grand job and everyone applauded ….And it was really very interesting because the leader of the group could have been one of the Afghani warlords. Quite honestly, he oozed power. Anyway, during rehearsals this person was very friendly, but the moment it was over I was a woman.
GW: By any account, this school has been a success hasn’t it? And now ANIM is planning replicas in the provincial capitals of Herat, Mazar-e Sharif, and Jalalabad?
AG: And our own music system, at all levels, could well look at what people are doing over there. We have it materially very easy here, but the lack of physical stress doesn’t mean that our society is not under threat. The daily newspapers give us examples in every issue. Even though we have in our community people who have direct experience of life in places such as Afghanistan we really are as a nation generally complacent about nurturing and protecting notions that underpin our quality of life. One is that access to high quality music making is integral to communities and is not an elitist idea. Dr Sarmast is making a stand in Kabul and we should think about why he is doing it. He is succeeding in giving young people hope for the future and inspiring them to inspire others. For me that is the reason why there are plans to replicate ANIM.
To find out more about the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, please visit their website.
Photographs, Anne Gilby (c) 2012
All views expressed in this interview are either those of Anne Gilby or Gordon Williams
Stage 3 of the competition took place over three concerts in June and July. Thank you to the Adelaide and Tasmanian Symphony Orchestras for hosting the finals and to all the staff and musicians for their support. Thank you also to all the adjudicators that were involved and to our two conductors Marc Taddei and Benjamin Northey.
The winners of each category will now compete in the Grand Final which will take place at 6:00pm on Thursday October 4 in the Perth Concert Hall with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra conducted by Vladimir Verbitsky.
Katerina Nazarova (TAS), 27, will perform the Shostakovich Violin Concerto No.1 in A minor, Som Howie (NSW), 22, will perform the Copland Clarinet Concerto and Young Kwon Choi (NSW), 26, will perform the Prokofiev Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor.
Each finalist has already won a young performers award for their instrument category and received $5,000 in prize money. We are also delighted to partner with the Music and Opera Singers Trust in offering the Nelly Apt Scholarship to Katerina Nazarova to undertake further study in Israel, and with Musica Viva in offering the biennial David Paul Landa Memorial Scholarship to Young Kwon Choi.
The winner will be declared the ABC Symphony Australia Young Performer of the Year and take home a $20,000 cash prize, multiple copies of a CD of their winning performance and opportunities for future concert engagements with major Australian symphony orchestras as well as a feature interview in the ABC Limelight magazine’s ‘Please Welcome’ section.
Tickets $30 each, from tickets.waso.com.au
This concert will be broadcast live on ABC Classic FM (at 8pm on Thursday 4 October).
Young Kwon Choi won the Stage 3 Keyboard Final in the prestigious 2012 ABC Symphony Australia Young Performers Awards.
The Keyboard Final of the 2012 Young Performers Awards was held on Thursday 5 July in the Federation Concert Hall in Hobart. Four finalists performed their concertos with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Marc Taddei.
With a brilliant performance of the Prokofiev Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor, Young Kwon Choi was announced the winner of the Keyboard Category securing a cash prize of $5,000 and a place in the Grand Final as well as the David Paul Landa Memorial Scholarship for Pianists valued at $25,000 funded by the New South Wales Government and presented in partnership with Symphony Australia by Musica Viva Australia.
The other contestants were Tony Lee (NSW), 20 who performed the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No.1 in Bb minor, Jeremy So (NSW), 21 who performed the Prokofiev Piano Concerto No.3 in C, and John Fisher (QLD), 26 who performed the Liszt Totentanz.
Young Kwon Choi, New South Wales. Piano
Young Kwon Choi began playing the piano at the age of four, and won his first national piano competition in South Korea two years later. After moving to Australia, his first orchestral appearance was at age 11 with the Mosman Symphony Orchestra, followed by performances with the Ku-ring-gai Philharmonic and the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra. He studied with Paul Rickard-Ford and Ann Carr-Boyd at the Sydney Conservatorium, where he performed with the Conservatorium Orchestra and at the ENCORE concert at the Sydney Opera House. He subsequently studied in Austria with Alexander Satz at the Hochschule für Musik Graz, and with Hans Leygraf at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, where he graduated with First Class Honours and won the Bösendorfer Intercollegiate Competition.
Currently based in the UK, Young Kwon is the Director of Music at St Peters in London and is on full scholarship as a post-graduate student at the Royal Academy of Music under the tutelage of Tatiana Sarkissova and Dimitri Alexeev. He performs across Europe, Asia and Australia as a soloist and chamber musician, and has given recitals for live broadcast on ORF 1 Austria, BBC Radio 3, and Radio Suisse Romande. He has recently given performances at the Southbank Centre, Steinway Hall London, St James’s Piccadilly and St Martin-in-the-Fields, as well as the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris and the Fuchu Art Centre in Tokyo. He has also appeared as soloist with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra, Graz Philharmonic and Orchestre de la Suisse Romande.
Young Kwon Choi is the last finalist to progress to the Grand Final and will compete against Katerina Nazarova (winner of the String Category) performing the Shostakovich Violin Concerto No.1 in A minor, and Som Howie (winner of the Other Instruments Category) performing the Copland Clarinet Concerto, for the highly coveted title of the ABC Symphony Australia Young Performer of the Year.
The Young Performer of the Year receives a further $20,000 cash prize, multiple CD recordings of their winning performance and opportunities for future concert engagements with major Australian symphony orchestras, as well as a feature interview in the ABC Limelight magazine’s ‘Please Welcome’ section.
If you missed any of the Stage 3 Finals make sure you tune in to the repeat broadcasts happening on ABC Classic FM in the days leading up to the Grand Final.
- The Keyboard Final will be broadcast on Monday 1 October at 8pm
- The String Final will be broadcast on Tuesday 2 October at 8pm
- The Other Instruments Final will be broadcast on Wednesday 3 October at 8pm
The Grand Final will take place at 6pm on Thursday 4 October in the Perth Concert Hall with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra conducted by Vladimir Verbitsky.
Tickets $30 each, from http://tickets.waso.com.au/
This concert will be broadcast live on ABC Classic FM (at 8pm on Thursday 4 October).
Som Howie won the Stage 3 Other Instruments Final in the prestigious 2012 ABC Symphony Australia Young Performers Awards.
The Other Instruments Final of the 2012 Young Performers Awards was held on Saturday 23 June in ABC’s Studio 520 in Adelaide. Four finalists performed their concertos with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the Benjamin Northey.
With a brilliant performance of the Copland Clarinet Concerto, Som was announced the winner of the Other Instruments Category securing a cash prize of $5,000 and a place in the Grand Final.
The other contestants were Jessica Foot (VIC), 27 who performed the Vaughan Williams Oboe Concerto, Jonathon Ramsay (NSW), 18 who performed the Linkola Euphonium Concerto and Shanie Klas (VIC), 20 who performed the Rosauro Marimba Concerto.
Som Howie, NEW SOUTH WALES, Clarinet
Twenty-one-year-old Som Howie was born in Somerset, England and moved to Australia with his family in 1992. He began clarinet lessons at the age of 11 under Mark Walton and obtained his Associate Diploma in clarinet at 17. This year he completed a Bachelor of Music Performance at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, where he studied under Frank Celata, Catherine McCorkill and Sue Newsome.
Som has been the recipient of many awards and scholarships, including the 2007 Gordon Waterhouse Memorial Music Scholarship, 2009 Balmain Sinfonia Prize for Winds, and the 2011 Sydney Conservatorium Concerto Competition. He appeared in the ENCORE concert at the Sydney Opera House, has participated in the Australian Youth Orchestra’s National Music Camp, and was selected for the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra Fellowship, an ongoing collaboration between the AYO and TSO.
Som has performed with the Sydney Youth Orchestra, Wollongong Symphony Orchestra, and the Sydney Conservatorium Symphony and Chamber Orchestras. He is currently a casual musician with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Sydney Symphony, and the Sydney Symphony Sinfonia.
He hopes to pursue his interest in music overseas.
Som will next compete against Katerina Nazarova (winner of the Strings Final) and the winner of Keyboards Final in the Grand Final on Thursday 4 October at the Perth Concert Hall, for the highly coveted title of the ABC Symphony Australia Young Performer of the Year. The Young Performer of the Year receives a further $20,000 cash prize, multiple CD recordings of their winning performance and opportunities for future concert performances with major Australian symphony orchestras.
The last of the Stage 3 Category Finals is the Keyboards. Details are as follows;
The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra conducted by Marc Taddei will host the Keyboards category at 7:30pm on Thursday July 5 in the Federation Concert Hall in Hobart.
Tony Lee (NSW) will perform the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 in Bb minor
Jeremy So (NSW) will perform the Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 3 in C
John Fisher (QLD) will perform the Liszt Totentanz
Young Kwon Choi (NSW) will perform the Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor
This concert will be broadcast on ABC Classic FM at 7:30pm on Friday 6 July.
Tickets $22 each, from www.tso.com.au
Katerina Nazarova won the Stage 3 Strings Final in the prestigious 2012 ABC Symphony Australia Young Performers Awards.
The Strings Final of the 2012 Young Performers Awards was held on Saturday 2 June at Elder Hall in Adelaide. Three finalists performed their concertos with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, conducted by the Marc Taddei.
With a brilliant performance of the Shostakovich Violin Concerto No.1 in A minor, Katerina was announced the winner of the Strings Category securing a cash prize of $5,000 and a place in the Grand Final as well as the Nelly Apt Scholarship of up to $15,000 for a violinist to undertake further study in Israel presented in partnership with Symphony Australia by the Music and Opera Singers Trust.
The other contestants were Shane Chen (VIC), 26 performing the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D, and Anna Da Silva Chen (NSW), 15 performing the Elgar Violin Concerto in B minor.
Katerina Nazarova, TASMANIA, Violin
Born in Tasmania, Katerina Nazarova began playing the violin and piano at a very early age, first learning from her mother and then from Barbara Jane Gilby. Her solo debut at age 11 with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra was broadcast nationally on ABC Television. She has attended chamber music courses at the Australian National Academy of Music and has also participated in the Australian Youth Orchestra Young Symphonists program. She studied with Berent Korfker at the Royal College of Music in London, where she won the RCM Concerto Competition and participated in the Rising Stars series, and has taken master classes and lessons with Glenn Dicterow, Pierre Amoyal, Victor Danchenko, György Pauk and Tibor Varga, among others.
Katerina performs regularly with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, the Hallé and the Philharmonia Orchestra, and leads various other orchestras and ensembles including the Cosima Piano Quintet. She has given recitals at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, the Elgar Room at the Royal Albert Hall, Cadogan Hall, LSO St Luke’s, and in Italy, Germany and the US, where she has appeared at the Kennedy Center and worked with Lorin Maazel on Britten’s Albert Herring and The Turn of the Screw. Forthcoming projects include recitals in Portugal as violinist and pianist
Katerina will next compete against the winners of the Other Instruments and Keyboards Finals in the Grand Final on Thursday 4 October at the Perth Concert Hall, for the highly coveted title of the ABC Symphony Australia Young Performer of the Year. The Young Performer of the Year receives a further $20,000 cash prize, multiple CD recordings of their winning performance and opportunities for future concert performances with major Australian symphony orchestras as well as a feature interview in the ABC Limelight magazine’s ‘Please Welcome’ section.
Details of the next two Stage 3 Finals are as follows;
The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra conducted by Benjamin Northey will host the Other Instruments category at 7:00pm on Saturday 23 June in the Adelaide ABC Studio 520.
Jessica Foot (VIC) will perform the Vaughan Williams Oboe Concerto
Jonathan Ramsay (NSW) will perform the Linkola Euphonium Concerto
Shanie Klas (VIC) will perform the Rosauro Marimba Concerto
Som Howie (NSW) will perform the Copland Clarinet Concerto
This concert will be broadcast live on ABC Classic FM (at 7:30pm on Saturday 23 June).
Tickets $10 each, from ASO reception, 91 Hindley St, Adelaide. No phone bookings taken.
The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra conducted by Marc Taddei will host the Keyboards category at 7:30pm on Thursday July 5 in the Federation Concert Hall in Hobart.
Tony Lee (NSW) will perform the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 in Bb minor
Jeremy So (NSW) will perform the Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 3 in C
John Fisher (QLD) will perform the Liszt Totentanz
Young Kwon Choi (NSW) will perform the Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor
This concert will be broadcast on ABC Classic FM at 7:30pm on Friday 6 July.
Tickets $22 each, from www.tso.com.au
Download the Symphony Services International Annual Report for 2011.
2012 ABC Symphony Australia Young Performers Awards Stage III finalists announced!
Stage II of the competition took place over two weeks in March with 52 young hopefuls auditioning across the country. Thank you to our two national adjudicators and to each of the orchestras and specialist adjudicators for all their efforts over this time and in the earlier stages of the competition.
The successful candidates will be moving on in the competition and performing at the Stage III finals to be held in Adelaide and Tasmania.
The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra conducted by Marc Taddei will host the Strings category at 7:00pm on Saturday 2 June in the Elder Hall.
Shane Chen (VIC) will perform the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto in D
Katerina Nazarova (TAS) will perform the Shostakovich Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor
Anna Da Silva Chen (NSW) will perform the Elgar Violin Concerto in B minor
This concert will be broadcast live on ABC Classic FM (at 7:30pm on Saturday 2 June).
The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra conducted by Benjamin Northey will host the Other Instruments category at 7:00pm on Saturday 23 June in the Adelaide ABC Studio 520.
Jessica Foot (VIC) will perform the Vaughan Williams Oboe Concerto
Jonathan Ramsay (NSW) will perform the Linkola Euphonium Concerto
Shanie Klas (VIC) will perform the Rosauro Marimba Concerto
Som Howie (NSW) will perform the Copland Clarinet Concerto
This concert will be broadcast live on ABC Classic FM (at 7:30pm on Saturday 23 June).
The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra conducted by Marc Taddei will host the Keyboards category at 7:30pm on Thursday July 5 in the Federation Concert Hall in Hobart.
Tony Lee (NSW) will perform the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1 in Bb minor
Jeremy So (NSW) will perform the Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 3 in C
John Fisher (QLD) will perform the Liszt Totentanz
Young Kwon Choi (NSW) will perform the Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor
This concert will be broadcast on ABC Classic FM at 7:30pm on Friday 6 July.
It was a timely coincidence that, a few days only after graduating from the conducting course at the Royal Academy of Music in London, I received an email from the department describing the various mastercourses organised by Symphony Services International and specifying that these were open, for the first time, to international students like myself. I was immediately attracted by the summer mastercourse with the TSO in particular, for it combined an established ensemble, a distinguished conducting mentor (Christopher Seaman), and – a key factor for me – a duration of two weeks, which meant I would have time to settle into my new surroundings, take in as much as possible… and recover from the jet lag!
I came to realise very quickly that the course was more than just an accumulation of podium time. It was in fact a tightly-knitted network of tasks and activities which all pertain to the many-faceted profession of conducting: ear-training, score analysis, physiotherapy, encounters with people working in orchestral administration and the media – not to mention the actual conducting sessions, which remain the core of the program. In short, this two-week course condensed all the aspects one could expect of a comprehensive postgraduate conducting curriculum such as the one I attended at the Royal Academy – with the added benefit of putting a professional orchestra at our disposal.
Last but not least, a course such as this one gave me a golden opportunity to make fruitful encounters with talented conductors and instrumentalists from the Australian musical scene, to learn from them and, hopefully, give a little something in return. I strongly recommend it!
It was an extremely hot January day in Hobart that saw the coming together of eight of Australia’s and one of Europe’s most promising young conductors, to attend the inaugural Symphony Services International Conducting Summer School. Christopher Seaman, director of SSI’s Conductor Development program, was the teacher for the two weeks, and the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra our host for the event. TSO provided the most valuable training component for the participants, and the reason that the program is unique – significant podium time in front of a professional orchestra.
The participating conductors were Nathan Aspinall (QLD), Eugene Ughetti (VIC), Michael Dahlenburg (VIC), Loclan Mackenzie-Spencer (VIC), Edward Ananian-Cooper (SA), Christopher Dragon (WA), Anthony Pasquill (NSW), Daniel Carter (VIC) and Maxime Tortelier who travelled from the UK to attend. Click here to read Maxime’s impressions of the program as our very first international participant.
The Summer School was held over a period of two weeks and involved intensive training for the aspiring maestri with a gruelling timetable of activities that were scheduled on top of the regular conducting sessions with the orchestra. Kim Waldock, Education Manager of the Sydney Symphony, spent countless hours with the group sharpening their aural skills, Bronwen Ackermann worked individually with each participant on posture and movement, and Mairi Nicolson provided insight into the media and publicity. Principal players in the TSO shared their knowledge and expertise on specialised instrumental techniques and what they look for in a conductor, and composer Maria Grenfell offered some insight into what it’s like to prepare a contemporary work and collaborate with a living composer. The group were advised of the wide range of responsibilities of an artistic director and chief conductor, from corporate relationships to concert programming, by TSO’s Managing Director Nicholas Heyward, and Manager of Artistic Planning, Simon Rogers.
Brahms’ Symphony No. 4, Debussy’s La Mer and the Elgar Enigma Variations were only a small part of the long list of orchestral works the conductors were asked to prepare for the Summer School. They were also taught the art of “accompanying” with soloists Jennen Ngiau-Keng and Alexey Yemstov who each graciously and beautifully played their concertos (Bruch Violin Concerto and the Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 2 respectively) many times over so that every participant could have a go.
We welcomed two guest teachers, Ollivier-Phillipe Cuneo and Luke Dollman, both successful graduates of SSI’s Conductor Development program. Olli, who has a wealth of experience in operatic conducting, took the participants through some of the much loved repertoire from Mozart, Puccini and Verdi with singers Tiffany Speight and Michael Lampard. Luke assisted Christopher Seaman with his teaching, working individually with each conductor as soon as they stepped off the podium, allowing any technical issues to be addressed immediately.
Increasing the course time to two weeks and spacing the orchestral calls over this period allowed sufficient time for the participants to digest instructions and implement suggested changes, resulting in their really gaining a sense of their own progress. It also enabled the young conductors to make a personal connection with the musicians in the orchestra who all agreed that there was real development across the board over the fortnight.
Thank you to all the guest lecturers, teachers and artists involved in the Summer School, as well as the musicians and staff at the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and at Symphony Services International who all contributed to its success.
Artist Development Coordinator
You cannot train anybody to be a conductor, and I will say until my dying day, conductors are born and not made. - Sir John Barbirolli
A technique of conducting does exist and can be learnt and practised down to its smallest details before a student first attempts to conduct an orchestra. - Hermann Scherchen
Can the art of conducting be taught? The question is an old one and despite the proliferation of conducting courses around the world, the answer is not straightforward. Ask a selection of experts on the subject and you will get a wide variety of answers.
Perhaps one of the reasons for this is the relative youth of the art of conducting itself. It is easy to forget this in a musical world which has seen figures such as Karajan and Bernstein rise to near god-like status, but the idea that conducting is a profession in itself is essentially a 20th century one. It was not until the appearance of figures such as Hans Richter late in the 19th century that the concept of the specialist conductor began to take hold. Even Hans von Bülow, who is very much remembered today as one of the great pioneers of conducting, was far better known during his own lifetime as a concert pianist.
The idea of actively training conductors was initially slow to come about, it being assumed that conductors should simply learn by first-hand experience. Richard Strauss famously told one aspiring conductor asking for tuition: ‘I can teach you all that can be taught about conducting in a few minutes, the rest can only be learnt through experience.’ Gradually, however, some of the basic elements of conducting began to be taught, particularly in Germany. Whilst little material exists detailing what form these early conducting classes took, we can guess from the writings of people such as Hermann Scherchen that any conductor training that did take place in the early part of the 20th century was at a fairly rudimentary level. It was not really until after the Second World War that the formal education of conductors flourished, with some form of training becoming the norm at universities worldwide.
But what sort of skills should a conductor possess in order to lead an orchestra? Most of us in the music industry think we already know, but perhaps it is worth taking a moment to reassess. As well as issues relating to basic musicianship and the visible, physical act of conducting, a successful conductor must know how to work with a group of people. As the world renowned French conductor Charles Munch once said, ‘Think for a moment of what it would mean to a pianist if by some miracle every key of his instrument should suddenly become a living thing.’ The conductor should also have an intimate knowledge of the score being performed and understand its structure, orchestration and harmonic content. He or she should have a clearly formed interpretation and have developed enough aural skills to be able to hear what is going on in the orchestra, and be able to solve problems as they arise. The conductor should be able to convey their vision of the piece primarily with their physical being rather than speaking, and not least of all, the ideal conductor will inspire the musicians of the orchestra to play to the best of their abilities. For an idea of what one orchestra was looking for in their next chief, click here. With so many individual ingredients required, the question arises again – can conducting be taught? Clearly some of these skills are teachable, but others are perhaps beyond the reach of a conventional education. The second half of the 20th century saw a proliferation in conducting courses being taught, particularly at the tertiary level. As such, the beginning of the 21st century seems to be an appropriate time to look back over this period and assess the strengths and weaknesses of various programs and approaches that have developed throughout the world, and to assess the ‘teachability’ of the art itself.
Leading conducting programs around the world.
Whilst conducting is now taught at a vast number of institutions around the world, I have looked closely at a small group that I would consider leaders of the pack. In Europe, three institutions stand out – the St Petersburg Conservatoire in Russia, the Sibelius Academy in Finland, and the Vienna School of Music and Arts in Austria. However, the teaching methods used at these three institutions vary quite dramatically.
The St Petersburg school of conducting still revolves very much around the teachings of renowned pedagogue Ilya Musin (1904-1999) who taught many big names including Valery Gergiev, Yuri Temirkanov and Tugan Sokhiev over a 60 year period. Musin had a very disciplined approach to the art of conducting and had a detailed technical system which he expected all of his students to adhere to. Students would work with two highly experienced pianists on a regular basis and also have the opportunity to conduct a small professional orchestra that has existed solely for the purpose of training conductors in St Petersburg since the early 1980s. Many former students of Musin speak of having to make a break and develop their own style after completing their studies with him, but at the same time of having an incredible technical vocabulary to draw upon.
This contrasts quite markedly with the approach taken by Jorma Panula who was the conducting professor at the Sibelius Academy from 1973 to 1993 and was also the first course director for Symphony Australia’s conductor training program (1997-2001). Panula himself says that he ‘has no method’ and indeed he is famous for his free approach. Rather than imposing any kind of technical system as the Musin school does, Panula works with what he believes to be the student’s natural movements and helps to make them more effective. To him the individuality of the conductor is of primary importance, and he detests anybody who should try to imitate any of the greats. Students have the opportunity to work with a paid chamber orchestra of high-level students twice a week and each orchestra session is followed by a session of equal length where the rehearsal is analysed on video, and this is where most of the teaching is done. Though video is of course used elsewhere, the emphasis placed on it as a learning tool is unique to the Sibelius Academy. This method allows the student to work more or less uninterrupted whilst on the podium and hence provide an experience closer to a professional situation.
Vienna has long been a mecca for conducting students and again has its own unique approach to conductor training. The golden period for the school was undoubtedly the 50s and 60s under the professorship of Hans Swarowsky, during which time students included Claudio Abbado, Zubin Mehta and Mariss Jansons. Whilst Swarowsky is not remembered as being particularly demanding regarding the physical aspects of conducting, he clearly instilled in his students a deep and thorough approach to the understanding of music through its form and structure. Many teachers have followed since the Swarowsky era, but what continues to make the school unique is the sheer number of students studying conducting full-time. This academic year there are approximately 70 students in Vienna, which is a stark contrast to the Sibelius Academy (12) and St Petersburg (19). There are two professors, each with his own class and the bulk of the teaching is done in groups of five, with four students playing two pianos while the fifth conducts. A professional orchestra is hired periodically to give students a taste of the real thing, but of course with so many students time is limited. However, one of the advantages of having so many students is that courses in subjects such as ear training and orchestration can be tailored specifically for conductors, thus students in Vienna can expect a more thorough grounding in these areas than they will receive in other institutions. Naturally, Vienna is a hub of musical activity and because of this a great place for a budding young conductor to be.
Although not as established as the previous three schools the Zurich School of Music and Arts is unquestionably one of the younger schools on the rise and will no doubt soon join its older siblings as being one of the ‘go to’ places to study. On the question of whether you can teach conducting, Professor Johannes Schlaefli prefers the word training to teaching and sees himself more in a role similar to that of a sporting coach. He provides the framework for the student and directs their attention to crucial points at the right moment. But the students themselves ultimately must do the work and make their own discoveries.
In the US conductor training is led largely by schools on the east coast such as the Juilliard School, the Curtis Institute of Music and the Peabody Institute. One slightly smaller school that deserves to have its name added to this list is the School of Music of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Currently headed by Kenneth Kiesler, this program has produced a large number of successful graduates and developed an excellent reputation over the last 25 years. What makes Kiesler’s approach different to other conducting pedagogues is his willingness to push the boundaries further than most in terms of what aspects of conducting are teachable. Some of the great conductors of our time such as Giulini and Abbado have been said to physically embody the music whilst they are conducting. But is it possible to teach such a concept to a student, or is it an inborn talent? Kiesler believes it is teachable and, uniquely, has various methods to assist his students to open themselves up emotionally and physically, so as to enable the possibility of this concept of embodying the music. This leads us very much into the field of psychology as Kiesler believes the conductor needs to allow him/herself to be ‘vulnerable’ to the effects of the music. In his one-to-one lessons he sometimes improvises at the piano and encourages the student to feel the music in their person, before giving a gesture. This is of course in addition to a very rigorous, traditionally grounded conducting program. On the subject of charisma, Kiesler says, ‘As far as I am concerned charisma emerges from having authority and the only way to have authority is to have knowledge.’
Another crucial factor to consider when comparing courses, is the audition process. How does one predict what kind of people will make the best conductors? Otto Werner Mueller is one of the biggest names in the US conducting scene having been the teacher at the Juilliard School for many years and is currently the teacher at the Curtis Institute. Whereas most courses ultimately place the emphasis on the student’s demonstrated abilities whilst standing on the podium, Mueller is more interested in the student’s listening skills, harmonic knowledge, analytical skills and ability to play an orchestral score at the piano. This naturally leads to a student group with a very different profile to most and hence produces a different kind of conductor.
The Juilliard School has been going through a transitional phase in recent years and has recently appointed Alan Gilbert, the new Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, to lead their program. It will be very interesting to see how this develops in the coming years, and how the students there will benefit from close links with one of the world’s great orchestras.
There are of course many things all of these courses have in common. A solid musical background is required to survive the rigorous audition procedures at all of these schools, and students once admitted are given the chance to work with orchestras on a regular basis. This is clearly a vital ingredient as many aspects of this art can only be learnt with the instrument itself. Another linking thread is that all of these schools have a long history of training conductors at a high level, and have built their reputations over a substantial period of time. In Australia, we currently have two Conservatoriums that offer full-time conducting program, but both courses are relatively young in international terms. Hopefully the excellent work currently being done by Imre Pallo and John Hopkins in Sydney and Melbourne respectively will be foundations for courses that in the future will also be recognised internationally.
Obviously there are other avenues open to aspiring conductors other than training at a tertiary institution, although in the eyes of this author, this is the best way forward, as there are some skills and habits that are best developed through weekly training. Having said that, an intensive masterclass or summer school experience can be enormously beneficial and is actually the perfect supplement to a long term course of study. Without doubt the most famous summer schools are in the US, namely the Tanglewood and Aspen Music Festivals. In Europe the Accademia Chigiana in Siena, Italy is particularly sought after by conducting students. Shorter masterclasses are also becoming increasingly common (particularly in Eastern Europe) and in some cases these masterclasses are linked together to form part of a larger structure. Germany’s Dirigentforum and Symphony Services International’s own program in Australia are two excellent examples of this, with the latter program providing a unique opportunity for Australians to gain ongoing instruction in front of a professional orchestra. And of course, more than one conductor has ventured on to the podium with no specific training at all, but inevitably he or she will have to learn many lessons the hard way and in a very short period of time.
So can conducting be taught? Ultimately the answer seems to be yes, but to quote the venerable Pierre Boulez, ’Teaching is only a beginning; it is teaching yourself that is important.’
Luke Dollman © 2012
Luke Dollman is active as a professional conductor and is himself a graduate of the Sibelius Academy in Finland and a former Fellow of the Aspen Music Festival. He was a participant in the Symphony Australia conductor training program in the late 1990s and today is a teacher in the program. He is writing a PhD on the subject of conductor training.
I spent Christmas/New Year in Los Angeles. It’s my other favourite city. Lest you think I’m mad, let me say why. I don’t focus on the cars and freeways. I notice coyotes in the hills, snow-capped peaks, citrus, sun and birdsong. I see the boundaries of old ranches on the street maps. Mostly, I see the movies.
I walked around Hollywood and admired the mural on the eastern wall of Hollywood High School. It depicted alumni – Laurence Fishburne, Judy Garland, Carol Burnett…You can’t blame Hollywood for celebrating movie actors. But then, on Hollywood Boulevard, I stopped dead in my tracks. There, memorialised in the pavement, was the name of Joseph Szigeti, cited for his work in the recording industry. I’d had no idea that classical musicians were honoured with stars on the Walk of Fame. But then I saw more of them – Lotte Lehmann, Pierre Monteux, Igor Stravinsky, Lauritz Melchior.
I remembered then that classical music was once mainstream. I guess I’m talking about the 1940s, the 50s at a pinch. Bugs Bunny could put a mop on his head and everyone knew he was mocking Leopold Stokowski. The Three Stooges could murder ‘the Sextet from Lucy’, and the sextet from Lucia di Lammermoor was familiar enough for the joke to float.
What went wrong? Could you do that now? Could Jay Leno include Gustavo Dudamel in his nightly spiel and raise a laugh?
Two recent articles got me thinking about this even more. The first was a story in Hawaii Magazine about the resurrection of a symphony orchestra on Oahu. The Hawaii Symphony Orchestra has risen to replace the Honolulu Symphony which collapsed last year after operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for almost a year. They gave their debut performance on 4 March, and have announced their calendar until May. What struck me most however was the program they’re offering – Beethoven, Brahms, Brahms, Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart… Fair enough, they don’t want to scare away an audience, but is Sibelius, Rachmaninov and Rodrigo as much of the 20th century as an audience can take? Arutunian, represented by his trumpet concerto, is still alive, and they’ve scheduled Tan Dun’s Internet Symphony, but the common language dates back to the middle of last century. The mid century, I suppose, after which there was a dreadful disconnect between orchestral repertoire and most of the modern world.
Then I opened up Toronto’s Globe and Mail, which was carrying an interview with Peter Eötvös. ‘Never give what the public asks’ it was headed, and the story talks about how little it matters to Eötvös whether the hard-edged contemporary music he champions has achieved widespread popularity.
These two stories portray a gulf. You’ve got sticking (mostly) with what’s safe on one hand, and a perfectly contented lack of concern about public response on the other. I wonder how far Hollywood would have come with such attitudes? ‘Who cares if you watch?’ Can you imagine a film executive echoing Milton Babbitt’s ‘Who cares if you listen?’
Yet Hollywood keeps pumping out new films all the time. Not all of them are brilliant, sure. But most Hollywood films are okay. Some are very good. A few each year ‘push the envelope’ (to use that ‘cutting edge’ term). It’s probably about the same proportion of enduring excellence that you got in mid 19th-century Italy, where Verdi, Ponchielli and Boito stood above the ruck. And all Hollywood movies play to audiences that classical music would kill for.
What does Hollywood do that’s different, I wondered. I stopped in a bookstore and browsed through a screenwriting magazine. ‘A lot of the cuts are from the first act,’ said screenwriter Dustin Lance Black in an interview about the Clint Eastwood film, J. Edgar. ‘Some of it was in the Bruno Hauptmann story….at a certain point it was clear enough and we didn’t want the audience to be ahead of it.’ What! ‘We didn’t want the audience to be ahead of it’? They’re conscious of where the audience is in relation to their storytelling? I wondered if this might offer a clue. It seems to be completely the opposite of what Eötvös seems to be saying. Is this the sensitivity that disappeared in classical music sometime in the 20th century?
I wondered if Rachmaninov and Sibelius thought this way. As I went back through Beverly Hills, Rachmaninov’s old suburb, I thought, ‘Nah, probably not. They would have been expressing themselves too, and if it happened to gain them an audience, all the better.’ But then, they and their audience shared a common language.
Gordon Kalton Williams © 2012
On 2-3 November 2011, Symphony Services International hosted its second annual Orchestral Summit in Melbourne. Featuring guest speakers Paul Hogle (Executive Vice President, Detroit Symphony Orchestra) and Frankie Airey (Director, Philanthropy Squared), the event was a great success. Read below for various reports on sections of the Summit, and to view the PowerPoint presentations by the guest speakers.
You have only to walk a few blocks in many places in the US to get a sense of the scale of philanthropy here. Just pick a city. In Charleston, for example, within a five-minute walk, you can pass the Karpeles Manuscript Museum, Charles P. Darby Children’s Research Center, and Stiles and Virginia Harper Student Services Center…In Savannah, you can stand inside the Richard and Judy Eckburg Atrium, the impressive entranceway to the Jepson Center, one of the Telfair Museums of Art. Philanthropy is pervasive. Sponsorship also is part of life. Is everything sponsored? The ‘please turn off your cellphone’ message before the curtain at San Diego Opera is sponsored by the Sycuan Casino, that is: a business run by a Native American tribe, the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation.
But I’m going to focus here on private giving, which is on the rise and about to take over from corporations as the biggest source of donation. In 2010, according to Giving USA’s Annual Report, 81% of US giving came from individuals, 14% from foundations. In Australia also, as Brook Turner reported in The Australian Financial Review (20 June 2011): ‘Individuals and foundations are poised to overtake companies as the biggest supporters of major arts companies…’
With businessman Harold Mitchell commissioned by Australia’s Federal Government in April to review private sector support for the arts and due to hand down his report, it may be interesting to consider how philanthropy works in the United States. They’ve been doing it a lot longer and on a much larger scale than Australia. Are there any lessons for us in their experience?
In many respects, Australia and the US have similar ideas about charity. Our ideas of charitable behaviour stem from similar notions of social improvement. In both countries, funnily enough, our definitions of charitable activities can be referred back to a 1601 parliamentary statute brought in to redress ‘the Misemployment of Landes Goodes and Stockes of Money heretofore given to Charitable Uses.’ Back then those charitable uses included ‘Releife of aged impotent and poore people, …Schooles of Learninge…’, even ‘Mariages of poore Maides’. And both Australia and the US believe you should get a tax deduction for a charitable gift. Over the years both countries have refined what is a charity for tax-deductible purposes, what in the US is termed a 501(c)(3) company after the subsection of the US tax code that defines recognised recipients.
It’s always been easy to include organisations that deal in health and welfare in such lists. It has often been harder to include the arts. But the US list is more generous. It includes such organisations as: mutual ditch or irrigation companies ‘if 85 percent or more of the income consists of amounts collected from members for the sole purpose of meeting losses and expenses’ or ‘cemetery companies…’ – and it has long specified literary pursuits for example. The other big differences are that in the US you can also earn income from your gift – and recognition is okay.
Perhaps Americans have a broader list of tax-deductible charities because they want to encourage individuals to support social endeavour rather than the federal government. Australia, of course, is different. One of the most intriguing conversations I’ve had in the US was with a Tea Party supporter who said he would move to Australia ‘if this dang country keeps going the way it’s going.’ I had to tell him that while he enjoyed his time in Sydney and the Barrier Reef, most Australians tolerate, welcome, even seek a higher level of government assistance.
Or, well, did once. Private support is on the rise, and is bound to be a greater source of funding in the future. Is it safe to rely on yet? According to Valerie Wilder, in The Australian Ballet’s public submission to the Mitchell Report: ‘If the recent flurry of press articles on philanthropy in Australia is to be believed, high net worth individuals in this country are not yet contributing at anywhere near capacity’.
Perhaps it is time to offer some of the benefits that US companies are allowed to offer – and advertise. Check out the Met’s website. With an organisation like the Metropolitan Opera you can be acknowledged, earn income and receive a tax deduction at the same time. It’s all explained to you there, on a webpage. Perhaps a Charitable Lead Trust is what you want. As the Met’s site says:
Assets are placed into a charitable lead trust and the trust makes annual payments to the Metropolitan Opera for a specified term of years, often 10 to 15. After that, the assets are returned either to you or to your individual beneficiaries. These trusts are an excellent way to transfer appreciating property (preferably income-producing) to beneficiaries while supporting the Metropolitan Opera. They are a particularly effective means of reducing, or possibly eliminating, the estate and/or gift tax on the eventual transfer of these assets to your beneficiaries…
Or, is a Charitable Remainder Trust more your caper? You can click on the Gift Calculator. If you want simply to give, the Met’s site will tell you exactly what you get for your nominated amount, including assistance with ticket exchanges and seating improvements, donor recognition, and attendance at exclusive receptions, general rehearsals, closed rehearsals and even private coaching sessions with singers. As well, the Met’s website will tell you what portion of your gift, given these benefits, is not available for a Tax deduction.
In 2010, the Metropolitan Opera broke fundraising records. They made $182 million in contributions, a 50% increase on the previous year. It could be credited to the broadening of their donor base through their live broadcasts into cinemas around the country, or individuals ‘stepping up to the plate’. I wonder if it also has something to do with the clarity of their website.
It does seem that philanthropic giving in the US is not as altruistic as in Australia (although there are donors who eschew benefits), but with their ability to attract more people US organisations have more potential to create a community around their artform. If you give in the US you also have a chance to make your mark as a stakeholder. At a certain level of giving, you gain entry to the board. One organisation quoted me $5000 as the price of board membership. I immediately thought, ‘I could become a player here.’
Of course it’s all hard work. Fundraising is more than half of what a US CEO does. The million dollar donors want to talk to him or her. And then there are the huge Development departments, the engine rooms of the organisation, ‘where the energy comes from,’ says Anne Midgette, music critic for The Washington Post, ‘where the income of these organisations is pursued with a lot of muscle.’
Some orchestras in the US, such as the Boston Symphony Orchestra, are wholly reliant on themselves to raise their funds. How does the pressure fall on the individual employee?
Barbara Hanson is Major Gifts Officer at the Boston Symphony Orchestra, with specific responsibility for Tanglewood, the BSO’s summer home in western Massachusetts. A big part of looking after donors is making them feel welcome. Says Hanson, ‘All of our overseers and our trustees have a staff person who is their contact. I have my own list. Basically “I’m your girl”. If these donors have ticketing or other requests, for example, ‘I don’t handle their requests myself. I can’t get in and print out a ticket, but I will go into the box office and sit with the box office manager because they will leave their requests with me and that sort of thing. And I get to know people very well. It’s so unbelievably stimulating and exhausting – and exciting.’
Part of looking after donors for Hanson involves travel. A great many Tanglewood supporters come from New York or northern New Jersey (about two hours’ drive away). ‘In fact, I go to New York for a short period of time every month. I go to Florida in March usually for about a week and see supporters who are wintering down there. I mean lunches and dinners with people, or coffee, or just catch up. We work around an event or two. The Pops goes down every other year and we go with them and see folks and just maintain contact. They might ask, “How’s the season going in Boston? Is anything new coming up for Tanglewood?’ I fill them in if they ask about specific things. And then the same goes for New York. It’s having a presence because certainly they don’t forget about Tanglewood in the winter time but it’s very different once they go back to those lives because also a lot of our supporters are Metropolitan Opera supporters.’
So it’s getting to know your own list of donors and trustees. But how do you, tactfully, work out their giving potential?
‘Well we have a research person on staff, so we try and find out someone’s capacities because, you know, it’s funny. I’ve never asked anyone for a million dollars but there are people who if you asked them for a million they might just keel over and land on the floor. And there are others who, even if they didn’t have that capacity, would be very flattered you would think that they did. So that’s where the relationships come in, getting to know people, finding out how much an institution means to them. You want to know how to approach someone when you’re going to ask them for a big gift because you don’t want to leave money on the table and you don’t want to insult someone. As I’ve been told from the very beginning, when you’re talking to someone about a gift it should never come as a surprise.’
And, says Mi Ryung Roman, Director of Development at New York-based Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, ‘Every board member has an expectation that they’re either going to give or find people – “give or get”. Your most important relationship is with the board and knowing who they are and what they do.’
But why do people give? Deborah R. Card, Executive Director of the Seattle Symphony, once said, ‘People almost never give just because they have the spare cash and they need a place to stash it’. There is a range of reasons for philanthropic giving. For some, it’s the benefits. ‘At Tanglewood,’ says Hanson, ‘we give the benefit of parking and ticketing.’ But, she concedes, there are some who decline benefits. They don’t come to Donor Dinners, for example. Orpheus Chamber Orchestra offers ‘side by sides’. ‘We can offer our top donors the chance to sit onstage next to a musician during a rehearsal, so they can be in it and feel what it’s like,’ says Mi Ryung Roman. ‘Orpheus has the advantage of offering unique opportunities, being a chamber orchestra.’
A lot of the motivation can be summarised as ‘the experience of feeling involved’. So, do donors need the tax breaks? Yes, says music critic, Anne Midgette, pointing out that ‘tax breaks are the state subsidy in America’.
‘I think without a tax break people would be less ready to give $10 million. It’s hard to say because I can’t speak for the super-rich. But I also think motivations are never one-sided. There’s always a complex network of: because your name goes on the building, because it feels good to be a patron to your community, because you get a tax break. You know – win-win. The tax break is not the major reason. It is a reason. It is part of the constellation of perks that make people happy to do it.’
I asked one Chair why he donates. Charles Metcalf is chair of Opera New Jersey, which is based in the beautiful university town of Princeton (once home to Thomas Mann and Albert Einstein), nestled between the larger cities of New York and Philadelphia. ‘I basically give some kind of donation to any arts organisation where I’m a regular subscriber,’ he says. His General Director, Richard Russell, interjects: ‘One board member at an organisation I used to work for said to me they came to the board because they were interested intellectually about learning how an arts company runs. That was something they wanted to do in their retirement. There’s a social caché of being on the board of Metropolitan Opera that we can’t duplicate here, but luckily we have board members who are committed to seeing opera in this area’.
People with enough money to give and the wherewithal to make it work for them – I could imagine a great generative potential for an organisation embracing knowledgeable people who know where to place their money. But what about the dominant personality?
Charles Metcalf: ‘There’s a sense in which you don’t want to be a one-dominant donor place. It can get a bit despotic. But sometimes it’s a dominant donor, sometimes it’s someone who’s been the director for 35 years.’ He and Richard chuckle. Richard explains, ‘There’s a great interest in Gilbert and Sullivan in the Princeton area and Chuck doesn’t have a great love for that work.’ And this time Metcalf interjects: ‘But I support it.’
What about the people who just have ‘spare cash’? Anne Midgette offers a cautionary tale about a donor she spoke to some years ago. ‘I asked her, “What conductors do you like?” And she said, “Oh honestly, you know to me it’s all just beautiful music.” And I thought, “It’s so much like a function of a social place.” I mean, that’s what orchestras have to worry about. The next generation coming up does care about what kind of music they’re hearing.’
Which must mean it’s going to become harder to extract money. I imagine it already is. I talked to a woman from Minneapolis who was going to New York precisely to raise funds for an organisation she’d started. We both talked about the ‘ask’ and how difficult that might be. At what moment do you say, ‘So, the reason I’m here is…?’
But this doesn’t seem to faze the Development people I’ve spoken to. Says Barbara Hanson: ‘I mean I’m a development person. People know what that means. If I’m spending a lot of time with them or having pointed conversations with them about their philanthropy, eventually it’s going to come to “Will you give us this, or can we talk about a long-term gift or that sort of thing?” And I’ve had people say, “We both know what this conversation is about. Why don’t you come to the point?” To me that’s wonderful. It’s called “thank you!”
Says Richard Russell: ‘there is a continuum from single ticket buyers to subscribers who then become donors. So the idea is to capitalise upon their interest to begin with. You’re not trying cultivate people who are not already attached to the organisation, or at least have no interest.’
Mi Ryung Roman: ‘I think the most fun part of my job is it feels like matchmaking. It often makes the “ask” not a scary thing to do. It takes a lot of research and conversation and learning about someone beyond their obvious association. Let’s say you’re a subscriber: do you love music enough to have your kids learn it? Was your own upbringing around music? Do you support other performing arts organisations? I personally have a musical background, but it’s the art of relationships management that counts. The artform speaks for itself.’
Or does it? Does this mean donors and board members who will push the orchestra beyond its standard and arguably petrifying repertoire and make it a living institution in the 21st century, an attractive proposition for the next generation of donors? I spoke to Jesse Rosen, President and CEO of the League of American Orchestras, the advocacy and research organisation for orchestras in the United States: ‘I think in some sense having a large proportion of private support has an energising effect. Your donors and patrons are not just people who give money, but people with perspective and points of view and varying strains of thought and belief. So they have some sway and some influence over direction. They’re voices in the orchestral organisation and arguably through that process orchestras have an accountability to them that keeps orchestras connected to current, contemporary thinking. The other side of this though, which will be contradictory but I think that both things are true, is that the absence of government subsidy means that orchestras operate with an extremely narrow margin for risk, and every program has to meet very stringent revenue targets. Room for experimentation is really quite limited.’
So how diverse are their ‘strains of thought’? There is Midgette’s ‘to me it’s all just beautiful music’ type of donor. But Rosen and I spoke at length about the Cleveland Orchestra’s expansion to Miami, where the orchestra has its own Miami board and donors. ‘The driver for Cleveland going to Miami was the erosion of the population base and wealth in Cleveland itself; its capacity to support an orchestra at the level to which it’s been supported, and they went into a market with no professional orchestra’.
But it seems the Miami venture has had an effect on repertoire and outreach. Says Rosen: ‘What Cleveland realised is that if they were going to be successful in Miami, that they had to build relationships there, not just funding relationships but really make themselves part of the community. So their residencies in Miami are quite extensive in terms of teaching masterclasses, public symposia, partnerships with schools and other organisations. They’ve appointed a conductor with a specialty or special knowledge and experience with Latin American repertoire [Costa Rican Giancarlo Guerrero, who conducted the West Australian Symphony Orchestra in May 2011]. So they have in fact planted themselves there as though they want to stick around and it’s led the musicians and management both to really increase their connection to the Cleveland community.’
This sets up an inspirational image of an imaginative orchestra operating with a flexible and knowledgeable board and set of donors to respond skilfully to a unique set of circumstances. What if, like Hollywood, the boards and donors (think of them as ‘producers’) were knowledgeable peddlers of the product, drawing on deeper and deeper knowledge of the greater society they were beginning to incorporate? But there have been and continue to be risks with philanthropy.
You have to be sensitive, observes Mi Ryung Roman, aware of the demands on New York’s much-requested donors. ‘There are high-profile individuals who are hit up by every organisation in town.’ And there are many calls on their interests. ‘Someone says, “I give the bulk of my charitable giving to Dana-Farber [the Cancer Institute]”,’ says Barbara Hanson. ‘I’m going to argue with that?!’ Charles Metcalf chooses his words carefully: ‘What would be a risk for me in giving to the arts is a substantial weakening of the social and health protection network of the less well-to-do; the pressure will be on me to divert.’
Perhaps the biggest risk is the decline amongst the current giving age-group. ‘It’s not presumed,’ says Jesse Rosen, ‘that as wealth transfers from one generation to the next that the coming generations will be placing the same priority on giving to the orchestra and the ballet, the opera, etc…’
You still get instances like the anonymous donor who matched every dollar individually donated to Orpheus Chamber Orchestra’s Project 440 composer commissioning project. ‘But,’ says Anne Midgette, ‘it’s many organisations’ goal to break away from “heroic giving”,’ which she defines as the sort of donor who will pull out the cheque book when an organisation is a million dollars short and say, ‘Alright, one more time’.
I mention to her a May 7th San Francisco Chronicle article in which David Gockley, General Director of the San Francisco Opera, worried about relying so heavily on 11 top donors, and said, ‘What we need to do is for each wealthy donor, to find 10 people who are interested in opera and get them to give one-tenth of what their parents gave.’
Midgette: ‘But I think you’re going to have to find a hundred people who’ll give $100,000. I say over and over there’s so much emphasis on education and getting young people into the orchestras. What they need to be doing is cultivating people between 40 and 50. That’s the generation that they’re going to lose and that’s the generation that’s poised to be donors.’
And they’ve got to make those people feel that they belong because ‘Orchestras have not done a lot to make their audiences feel like they belong in other ways. You know, there’s that whole format of the orchestra concert. You must behave in a certain way if you don’t want to look stupid. You must sit silently. You’ll often have music played at you that you don’t really like or want to hear. It’s a very oddly antagonistic relationship to the audience and so gaining entrée into a club that feels exclusive and a little bit scary is probably well worth the price. I think the biggest threat is that the billionaires of tomorrow are not going to have the same incentive to donate as the billionaires of today. And yet classical music is relatively cheap. I remember talking to a philanthropist in California, a young woman who got into commissioning music, saying “It’s so cheap. I can’t buy art like this but I can make all of these symphonies…”’
Giving, of course, is meant to be America’s redistribution of wealth. Even so unsentimental a businessman as Cornelius Vanderbilt, one of the fathers of American capitalism, donated his flagship to the Union in 1862 and then, after the Civil War was over, endowed a university in the South as part of his own personal contribution to Reconstruction. In a sense, you are obliged to donate. ‘From those to whom much is given, much is expected,’ Rose Kennedy is supposed to have drummed into her children. Anti-governmentalism is an oft-observed feature of American life, but it doesn’t necessarily translate into anti-society, and most Americans acknowledge that they should give something back to their country. But is there anything my interviewees would want government to be doing?
Some envy Australia’s level of government support. When I ask Richard Russell if he thinks there would be any disadvantages to 37% support, he thinks hard for a minute. ‘I’m struggling to find a “con”.’ Finally, he says, ‘I think you’re obviously subject to political patronage if that’s the case.’ Australians would probably advise that this is no more problematic than the influence of big donors or longstanding music directors. Opera New Jersey does say however that the 5% they get from the state legitimises them to a helpful degree. Says Charles Metcalf; ‘If you get government funding, that is a good housekeeping seal of approval that channels donors to you, or has the potential to do that.’
Jesse Rosen sees some practical benefits in holding onto the sort of data collection and analysis and advocacy that the National Endowment for the Arts is capable of. Anne Midgette is a little more caustic about calls for more government support. ‘Well everyone in America likes to pontificate about how the government should support us. It’s never going to happen. What would I like to see? I’d like to see more dynamic art. I’d like to see less timidity. Nobody’s going to want to go to classical music if it’s “white bread”.’
What most would probably not want is for President Obama to cap the Charitable Gift Deduction, a prospect that was raised again most recently when the White House jobs plan was presented to a joint session of congress. Senate Democrats proposed acceptable alternative ways to fund the package, but some Not-for-Profits (or, rather, 501(c)(3)s to give them their US name) are still nervous about a measure the president has mentioned several times.
You get a sense from studying US philanthropy that when the system works, it works well. But even though Australia’s Productivity Commission said in January 2010: ‘[the reason] governments provide subsidies to the private sector rather than simply increasing state provision is that it can result in better targeting of resources’, I do see holes. A system based on individuals’ predilections is not necessarily a wholistic approach. What happens if you have a disease that doesn’t pique the interest of someone who can pay for the research? I think of the ‘Adopt a Highway’ movement. Around America you see signs acknowledging the people who have subsidised a tract of road – the Central Coast Republican Party, Employees of Hearst’s Castle, North Malibu Hair Salon… But you probably should ask if the interstate highway system could have been built this way. Who provides the overview?
Philanthropy probably won’t replace government involvement in Australia (at least for a long while to come), but it certainly provides a high level of vibrancy in the United States. And hey, on just about every block in America, it’s part of the daily streetscape.
Gordon Kalton Williams
Gordon Williams is currently based in Savannah, Georgia. He is blogging his broader impressions of the US on his website at www.gordonkaltonwilliams.com
Metropolitan Opera’s donor page
Acknowledgements: I’d like to thank Robert Clarke for his advice on this article.
On 2-3 November 2011, Symphony Services International hosted its second annual Orchestral Summit in Melbourne. Featuring guest speakers Paul Hogle (Executive Vice President, Detroit Symphony Orchestra) and Frankie Airey (Director, Philanthropy Squared), the event was a great success. Read below for various reports on sections of the Summit, and to view the PowerPoint presentations by the guest speakers.
Nicholas Russoniello has won the prestigious Grand Final of the ABC Symphony Australia Young Performers Awards, in a stunning performance with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra conducted by Edvard Tchivzhel on Saturday 3 September at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre.
Announcing the winner of the 2011 ABC Symphony Australia Young Performers Awards.
The Grand Final of the ABC Symphony Australia Young Performers Awards was held last night in the Concert Hall of the Queensland Performing Arts Centre.
Three finalists battled it out with astonishing musical skill and fierce competition for the title. Nicholas Russoniello was named the winner with his stunning performance of [insert concerto title here] accompanied by the Queensland Symphony Orchetsra and conducted by Edvard Tchivzhel.
After winning their respective Stage III category finals, pianist Nicholas Young (20 yrs), saxophonist Nicholas Russoniello (26 yrs) and violinist Emily Sun (20 yrs) performed their concertos with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Edvard Tchivzhel, in the prestigious Grand Final of the 2011 ABC Symphony Australia Young Performers Awards in Brisbane last night, Saturday 3 September.
Kate Lidbetter announced Nicholas Russoniello as the winner awarding him/her with a $20,000 cash prize, multiple recordings of the winning performance and valuable opportunities for future concert engagements with major Australian symphony orchestras.
Nicholas Russoniello from Wollongong NSW commenced his studies in saxophone at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, from which he graduated with a Bachelor of Music (Performance) with first class honours.
As a student, Nicholas’ distinguishing talent earned him numerous awards and scholarships which enabled him to pursue international study in the UK and France. Nicholas is a celebrated performer and regularly plays with the ensemble Duo Histoire in concerts around Australia. His merits also include performing as a soloist with the Orchestra Dell’Accademia Musicale di Schio, Vicenza and the Syrinx Quartet, for the Società Dei Concerti Milan. In 2011 Nicholas became a member of the saxophone quartet Continuum Sax.
Kate Lidbetter, CEO of Symphony Services International, attended the Singapore Live! Conference from 1-3 June, 2011. The report that follows notes some important themes that gleaned from the various speakers at the conference – it is not an accurate transcription of what was said and reflects only the notes that she took throughout the event and may contain some inaccuracies or errors. Please note also this report does not cover all (or in some cases, complete) sessions of the conference.
Thursday 2 June, 2011 – Opening plenary (Culturenomics: Urban development and renewal through arts infrastructure development)
Moderator – Tateo Nakajima, Partner, Artec Consultants Inc, USA
Keynote speakers – Richard Evans, CEO, Sydney Opera House, Australia; and David Staples, Chairman, Theatre Projects Consultants, UK
Panel – Ho-Sang Ahn, CEO, Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture, Korea; Graham Sheffield CBE, Director Arts, British Council, UK; Benson Puah, CEO, Esplanade Theatres on the Bay and National Arts Council, Singapore; Ray Harris, Chief Operating Officer, The Nederlander Company, USA
The opening plenary session featured Richard Evans, who gave a fascinating keynote speech titled Culturenomics. He noted that we’ve all seen statistics that show how important culture is to the economic environment of any city, and that cities with a strong culture have equally strong values in other areas. He showed a variety of images of the Sydney Opera House, describing it as a cultural landmark that is World Heritage listed. Not only is it an arts and architectural icon, it is also a place of celebration. Richard stated that we need to be more daring, more audacious and tenacious in our urban renewal. Urban renewal begins with architectural courage and the Sydney Opera House is a case study for architectural audacity. It was designed in the 1950s, a very different time from now. Getting a daring design for an expensive building through parliament in post-war Australia was difficult and took the tenacity of Joe Cahill, Premier of NSW, to argue for the building over and over again. Now the site receives 8.2 million visitors per year, offers 22,500 jobs to the nation and adds $1.1 billion to the economy. The development of the site on which the House sits has also added to redevelopment of the whole Rocks area of Sydney, but Richard noted that it still remains difficult to argue to government for funds to improve infrastructure, which is not seen but so vital. If the tiles were falling off the building money would flow, but to upgrade internal and structural problems is much more difficult.
The venue tries to bring the experience of the Sydney Opera House to those that don’t attend the opera or concerts or plays. They offer free seats via the internet, and have partnered with YouTube and Google. There are online educational activities and regional hubs, attaching the SOH brand to school halls by sending performers out to audiences. Programming is crucial but there are competing expectations – the House is a cultural protector but also a cultural innovator. These two roles can be one and the same. The House’s staples are the opera, ballet, symphonic concerts and theatre. But as presenter/promoters, the House has presented 500 performances to 350,000 people. It must straddle all forms of the arts, constantly reaching new audiences and first-time visitors.
Richard mentioned the “Goldilocks Zone”, where programming must cede just enough power to the audience, but not too much. He cited the recent You Tube Symphony as a good example of how this can work. He noted that people are now well travelled and well informed and very willing to tell programmers what they like and don’t like. How much should programmers cede? Well, the YouTube Symphony project got it just right.
Q: Is it important to have an idea of where you’ll go before you build the building?
Richard Evans: We have 8.2m visitors per year, but only 1.3m ticket purchases. Tourists and daytime visitors really own the building. But the spirit is in the concerts and presentations. There are infrastructure arguments – you don’t see the problems so it’s hard to argue for funding for them. We treat our daytime visitors as seriously as we do our performing arts patrons.
Benson Puah: Why does culture need to defend itself through economic terms when schools, health, defence etc are just seen as necessary? We forget about the enrichment of the individual. The first premise is to influence the people that come – local and Asian artists in the case of Esplanade. Over time it has made a difference. Without art, the building would be a hollow place.
Graham Sheffield: It’s like “slow food” – “slow arts”. The Barbican took from 1956 until 1983 to develop. The Sydney Opera House took from the mid-50s until 1973. It takes a really long time. Because it’s more than just a place, and government and the authorities must realise it’s a long haul. We must challenge the buildings to do different things. You have to get out of the building and really change the education system. Encourage radical change in education systems so people can appreciate the art that’s put on – it’s a generational shift. The way the arts are taught must be designed along with the building. A lot more art won’t occur in these spaces anyway.
Q: When, relative to the opening of the building, does the rest of it start?
Richard Evans: when the Opera House was commissioned there was an orchestra that wanted a hall, but the opera company wasn’t in a position to use the building. Now, a lot of buildings come from artists wanting their own venue.
Benson Puah: the idea for the Esplanade was seeded in the 70s. But there was no market then. The key decision was to build it in phases. Phase 1 was the concert hall, and local artists distanced themselves from it. But it was probably done the right way around as it would be harder to fund a big venue after a smaller one had been built.
Ray Harris: The private sector is different.
David Staples – keynote address
The “Bilbao Bounce” – what is it, and how do you capture it? The keys to success are scale, leadership, context, arts activity and software. Now I’d like to add “audacity” to the list. If Australia knew how much the Opera House would cost and how long it would take, they would not have built it.
The Lincoln Centre is situated on the upper west side of Manhattan because the land there was cheap. Today we would regenerate the area, but in the 50s and 60s it was bulldozed. At the Lincoln Centre there are 11 or 12 organisations and it has been an arts-led urban regeneration. It cost approximately $180M and the whole area is now regenerated. A 1983 study showed a five-fold increase in tax revenue over 20 years and that the Lincoln Centre generated huge income.
The Kennedy Centre in Washington DC opened in 1971. While the people who created the Lincoln Centre spurred regeneration, those that did the Kennedy Centre did nothing. It’s on a river and next to a freeway, and there’s not a single new restaurant or bar in the area. The same can be said of the LA Music Centre, where there was nothing until the Disney Concert Hall was built.
Bilbao was declining until the Guggenheim Museum was built. The civic leaders decided to regenerate the area, and when the Museum opened in 1997 there were economic benefits, including the creation of nearly 4000 jobs. They also built a new airport, a subway system, a footbridge, all designed by good architects.
Salford, UK is one of the most disadvantaged areas in the country. Lowry was a British artist of the 20th century who mainly painted industrial landscapes. The Lowry Centre now attracts around 1.1m visitors per year, because they built other things around it including a shopping mall and BBC North. There are now around 15,000 people working there.
The Dallas Arts District – 30 years ago the white population was leaving. The leaders decided to regenerate with an arts district, an initiative from the development community whose land value was deteriorating. It was a long term plan, started 27 years ago. It took 25 years to bring to fruition but it fails to enliven the city totally. There is a car culture – no-one is on the streets. But it’s a huge success in terms of cultural institutions.
The Sage Gateshead in the UK is another example. It’s a metropolitan centre which started to change people’s attitudes. It was the largest centre in Europe at the time it was built. The Angel of the North was created, plus the Millennium Bridge in 2001 and then the Sage in 2004. This project was about leadership – the Council was determined to change the city.
Friday 3 June: Programming – Performing Arts Content. Producing House or Receiving House (or can it be both?)
Moderator – Guarav Kripalani, Artistic Director, Singapore Repertory Theatre, Singapore
Keynote Speaker – Benson Puah, CEO, Esplanade Theatres on the Bay & National Arts Council, Singapore
Panel – Richard Evans, CEO, Sydney Opera House, Australia; Andrew Kay, Managing Director, Andrew Kay and Associates, Australia; Douglas Gautier, CEO and Artistic Director, Adelaide Festival Centre, Australia; Dong-Ho Park, CEO, Sejong Center for the Performing Arts, Korea; Alison M. Friedman, Director/Founder, Ping Pong Productions, China.
Benson Puah – keynote speech
Yesterday Richard Evans spoke about governments needing to have audacity, to take a leap of faith. What do you do after that leap of faith, when the building is completed? It can’t be left to chance that it fulfils its purpose. In Asia today we are experiencing a boom in the construction of many complexes. Sometimes we don’t understand why they’re being built. Today we’re not just talking about arts centres, but about multi-venue complexes. Esplanade on the Bay has 21 restaurants and bars and other public spaces as well as a theatre. Venues are now grander and cater to a wide variety of perceived needs. Are they symbols for the community that the arts matter, or just someone’s vanity? Their relevance to the community takes secondary importance. Id’ like to share a bit about Esplanade’s journey – the context in which it was built and the role that it plays.
The conundrum of whether we are a producing or receiving house, or bit of both, will follow. At the start, the point of Esplanade was to serve the entire community, including the multicultural community. The centre had to be a place that each community could call home. Performing arts centres are for everyone. A diverse range of programs had to be offered, with our own programming team consciously programming for all. We decided not to have resident companies because we were concerned that being defined by one particular genre would limit our ability to reach out to the community we wanted to serve. Our vision was to be for everyone. There was also a lack of a regular arts going audience at that time. We wanted to build a year-round arts calendar so people knew at any time of the year, there would be a quality arts event for them at Esplanade. We had three starting points – cultural festivals to serve the Malay, Indian and Chinese communities to celebrate festivals through the arts. We have about 15 festivals, 20 series and about 3000 performances per year, most free, some ticketed. Complementing what we do, we also have hirers that present community and commercially driven programs. We curate these programs so choosing a hirer is not a case of accepting the first through the door, it’s curated to ensure the calendar is balanced and there is a certain quality.
This curated program reinforces our identity as an arts centre dedicated to the community for which it is built. We originate content that is relevant to our lives. We retain full use of the different spaces. Having a resident company would require a lot of time and space so we could not present other types of shows or originate work. It would be limiting rather than beneficial. We opened the centre with several commissioned works. We try to open the minds of the audience by exposing them to a range of Asian work available on the world stage, by working with international artists and bringing the Asian voice to the world stage.
Art has the ability to open minds, the capacity to touch lives and to encourage its audiences to look deep inside. When a centre is a place that all can claim as its own, then it starts to do its duty. It can help us to develop a strong social consciousness. The articulation of a clear and strong voice will emerge. Centres can inform the social consciousness of its community.
Richard Evans, SOH – The reality is that venues around the world have become quite good at producing, but it’s really not our skill. Fundamentally we don’t create art ourselves, but it’s our responsibility to bring to the community a global cultural offering. We value the work of the resident companies but by their nature there’s a fois gras approach to force feeding the offering to the audience. A venue’s role is to balance that by presenting its own performances.
It’s a question of balance and in our case we’re moving towards a better balance. Our organisation went through feast and famine. We decided to get into producing very heavily some years ago with mixed results. To start with the House did not take any risk at all which resulted in a lot of dark days. The theatres were utilised about 56-57% when I came in as CEO. We’ve tried to get the balance back, to look at an interesting juxtaposition of ideas. We have six resident companies. Big commercial works are important but we’re a packager and facilitate, and that’s where we can add the most.
Alison Friedman (Ping Pong Productions) – In China venues were neither presenters nor producers but monuments to the state. That’s changing, representatives are here today looking for presenting and producing models. In what timeframe does your resident’s brand become your brand? This is new in China. Lot of these places are now rental houses, the government invests in the building but not the creation of the art or the people that run the buildings. Richard Evans – nature abhors a vacuum, but do we create a venue for companies to use, or build the venue and hope someone will fill it? The Sydney Opera House was built for symphony orchestras and opera came later, then theatre some years later again. It took quite a lot of time but the venue was not dark, it was always very busy. It varies so much in different communities. I think China is very exciting right now and the complex in Beijing is amazing and will have an impact on the whole city. Alison – in China, often if there’s a company they’ll often build their own venue and vice versa. If you have one, you’ll build the other.
Andrew Kay, Andrew Kay and Associates – I’ m an impresario, not a producer or a presenter. I use my own money, have no relationship to investors, do what I want to do when I want to, and do things that are interesting to me. I’m not based in any one city or centre but produce all over the world. I’ve probably presented in 300-500 centres around the world. This business is all about relationships, networks, the way you work with each other to build product. We have access to great artists and can deliver product that no-one else can deliver. Things can disappear overnight, we don’t want to wait to hear whether a venue is available after a month when the committee meets.
There followed a discussion about what the purpose of Esplanade on the Bay is – a community centre or arts centre? Benson Puah – if there is international recognition that’s just a benefit of our programming, not the reason that we program. If we don’t curate, all sorts of stuff gets in that my audience may not want. We need to develop trust with that audience, if you’re not seen to be a reliable venue then you’ll break faith with the audience. People will go to hear someone they don’t know because they trust the venue to do the right thing and give them something they will like. Every society will have its own model and this is ours.
Douglas Gautier, Adelaide Festival Centre – it’s a question of rebuilding and making connections and whether that’s with a resident company or commercial hirers, it’s not an issue of curation but the art of the possible, making it all click together. It’s a delicate balance.
Andrew Kay – there’s a debate in Australia about who the audience belongs to. When you present Richard III at Esplanade, whose audience are they? Esplanade, the company or the person who’s selling the ticket? I sell a ticket but I’m not allowed to have the details of the person who bought the ticket because that information belongs to the company that sold the ticket! Benson Puah – we’re protective of our image and our reputation but we want others to succeed. For Esplanade to succeed we need others to succeed. If we try to succeed at the expense of others we’ll be a destroyer, not a creator.
Alison Friedman – in China they’re looking for new models all the time, (not quite government, not quite public or private sector) – I had sabbatical at the Kennedy centre in the midst of the recession and everyone was looking for new models saying the old one was broken.
Douglas Gautier – we need to build constituencies and be there for the long haul.
Guarav Kripalani – it’s determined a lot by the age of the programmer. I was teaching and my students were super energised by someone I’d never heard of. They sold out on the first day they went on sale. Esplanade has a 20-something on their programming team.
Benson Puah – it’s not for us to impose our views or our taste. Programmers have to show things to a wide range of age groups. Social media is more powerful than we think, a different community and network that exists independently of what we are familiar with.
Arts Infrastructure breakout – Programming Arts Festivals
Moderator – Low Kee Hon, General Manager, Singapore Arts Festival, National Arts Council, Singapore
Keynote Speaker – Douglas Gautier, CEO/Artistic Director Adelaide Festival Centre, Australia
Panel - Lindy Hume, Festival Director, Sydney Festival, Australia; Jan Briers, General Manager, International Flanders Festival, Brussels and Vice President, European Festivals Association, Belgium; Atsuko Yashima, Senior Producer, Tokyo Jazz Festival, Japan; Wei Zhi, Vice President, Shanghai International Arts Festival, China
Keynote address – Douglas Gautier
There has been a recent study on the importance of festivals which makes comparisons of big international festivals with more generic or specific festivals. It includes general questions such as what role can a festival play in urban regeneration, and in the local and international establishment of infrastructure development? Why have festivals? Who calls the shots? How are the public and arts community involved in the program? What is the future of festivals in an increasingly busy event calendar?
Festivals can lead to the creation and enhancement of infrastructure to support the activities. For instance, the Adelaide Festival Centre, Festival Hall in London, Bergen, places in Asia. What will be the future demands of festivals for the buildings that we construct? What can venues do to actually generate festivals? Festivals provide a chance to focus, explore, celebrate, package and engage over a period of time with artist, ideas, audiences and communities. They offer a platform to take people to places they don’t normally go, to take risks – to do things you wouldn’t do at other times. A festival buzz can permeate a whole city/community. They can attract sponsors and tourists. The media gets behind festivals – reportage and partnerships. They provide opportunities for venue management to be involved. Creative and marketing partnerships can be a challenge for venues but a great opportunity for venue management to be involved in a creative way. Festivals are an experience. The intrinsic artistic worth of festivals is something we should think hard about – communities where great festivals are presented make the community feel good about themselves. Multicultural societies – festivals are a good platform for helping issues that arise in that context. Multiculturalism is very much something we face every day in this part of the world. There’s something to be said for festivals that have a lasting life, that are sustainable and take artists and audiences on a journey over a period of time. There’s a cumulative effect which is very precious.
Successful festivals are likely to become more genre specific. With large international festivals there’s a danger that they become a shopping trolley exercise were a circuit is created and one festival can look like another. But there are good examples of where that’s not the case. But when I look across the landscape, the more interesting areas to pursue are genre specific. It’s true that where we see critical mass working, where you have great success, hubs are created with networking opportunities creating opportunities for ideas and momentum, eg Edinburgh. There was a report recently released by Festivals Edinburgh – it’s terrific. Edinburgh’s success has been a model for many of us but they went through a difficult period about 10 years ago where they had to make clear the value of the festivals to the city. About 5 years ago the festivals came together to form Festivals Edinburgh, to position festivals within UK to seek critical mass, friends and influence. About 5 years ago they commissioned study called Thundering Hooves, a remarkable document. Apart from all the economic data that you’d expect ($245m contribution to Edinburgh as a city by festivals) it also emphasised how festivals play a starring role in the profile of the city, increasing local pride, widening access to the arts etc. Attending festival events as a family increased a child’s imagination etc. They offered benchmarking beyond purely financial impacts. They quantified the cultural, social and environmental effects on the city – best practice in the international events sector.
Adelaide is a small city whose main claim to fame and legacy over the years has been its ability to stage festivals of interest. We have looked at the Edinburgh model and thought hard about the festivals that we have and those we could create. Adelaide Festival Centre runs three festivals – a Cabaret Festival (which in the last couple of years we have sought to make more commercial, we’ve put in charge the well known cabaret entertainer David Campbell, which has taken the Festival to commercial heights to the point that it nearly pays for itself). The second is a Guitar festival, with Slava Grigoryan as Artistic Director . And the OzAsia Festival is exploring the links between Australia and the diverse cultures of our Asian neighbours. Connections with Asia are really important in Australia. We have great opportunity to look at these wonderful cultures in Asia and how we can learn from them and work with them. I looked at various landscapes in Australia in terms of work being carried out and saw some interesting work in Brisbane (eg Brisbane Triennale of visual arts) but couldn’t see collaboration between Asia and Australia that was like a hub, nexus, platform for that sort of cultural interaction. It seemed the time was right to start.
Asian communities are growing within Australian cities and we have second, third, fourth generation Asian Australians with a totally different dynamic. The OzAsia Festival presents work by Australian artists that identify with an Asian heritage, and collaborative work between Australian and Asian artists and a cross section of the cultures of Asia, both traditional and contemporary. We have a broad cultural reach including visual arts, dance, music etc. We encourage the participation of key national and international cultural and business organisations, and national and international performing arts groups, including flagship companies. We are building a constituency to make sure this has a forward dynamic. We would like to see it live and kicking in 20 or 30 years time.
Community involvement is very important, there are many free events and live discussions. The tourism side is also very important. We have cultivated strong media partnerships, particularly with SBS. We aim to be a platform for ideas about Asian engagement, and engage the education sector. Language is an issue – tuition of Asian languages in secondary schools and universities is declining. This is a key problem. We seek cooperation from foreign governments and Asian communities and foreign students, business and sponsors. In the end, though, one thing that has struck me in all of this is a quote from patron Hieu Van Le, Lieutenant Governor of SA. “Cultural engagement and the arts can help build bridges, understanding and tolerance like nothing else can”. He was a refugee, a “boat person” from Vietnam 30 years ago.
Low Kee Hong – moderator
A big issue is the relevance of festivals nowadays. The landscape in consumption is so different now. Edinburgh – in a lot of European festivals eg contemporary visual arts events, they create art along the lines of the cultural regeneration model. Art and craft becomes engaging to drive the economy of the city. Edinburgh is a quiet city outside of the festival period. In Singapore it’s a condition that’s very different, we can’t use cultural regeneration here – Singapore is built primarily on the economic model and thinking about art comes after thinking about the economy. In the last 10-15 years it has changed quite a bit. Esplanade on the Bay does 17 festivals per year, some are genre specific or ethnic specific. Does Singapore really still need an arts festival? What does it mean to have a national arts festival? There is a difference between big mega-festivals and genre specific ones. There is a shift/change in market and audience. Who is our audience? This is a grey space as we don’t have a handle on the full audience. How do we create a festival that is relevant to our city? I believe there is no single model that will work, you need to have something that changes.
I run a specific festival – a jazz festival in Tokyo. How do we create a new music festival in a city like Tokyo? It’s about to be our 10th anniversary, we were organised by the national broadcaster in Japan. The festival is held in the Tokyo International Forum, right in the heart of Tokyo, in front of central station and near the palace and business/shopping district. There is not a real residential community there. In 2002 we started the festival in a soccer stadium with 50,000 seats in the suburbs. Then we moved to an exhibition hall near Tokyo Bay, but found no local community in that area. We moved to the real centre of Tokyo thinking it was last place we could be. We’ve been running for 10 years and the constant challenge is to bring new audience/listeners to jazz, compared to old jazz fans who are used to going to jazz clubs and cafes. Most of the Japanese audience who go to festival events would have been men over 40. We wanted a festival where our own friends could come along, who don’t regularly listen to jazz but can find good talent through a festival opportunity. We have been holding free events in open spaces, inviting artists from different genres such as R&B etc. So far we have created a lot of young audiences who come and listen. The audience is now 40% women and a lot of the audience are below the age of 30.
Low Kee Hong
In some ways we are talking about not giving people what we think they want, but coming from the ground to put together a platform where younger bands can be introduced. What is the purpose and our role as curators and programmers? Should we program for audiences, meaning we cater to what the mass wants, or do we have a responsibility to start to push the boundaries and introduce different ways of thinking?
In Sydney, it’s a question of audience and relevance – what does it mean to redefine a festival? The idea of a festival’s identity – we should be creating festivals for our time and our place. Then we’ve got something to start with in an interesting sense of looking back to look forward. You’ve got a DNA in every place, and every festival has its DNA. You have to explore what that is and what it has been, and in the case of long term festivals like Sydney and Perth (coming up to 60th birthday), you have to look at what that means. It’s the same in any business – what a magazine was 35 years ago is not what an e-zine is now. We’re trying to be current and look at our time and place. Sydney festival’s DNA partly had an economic model because it was about creating energy in the deserted CBD in summer. It sure isn’t deserted now! Its’ whole reason for being is a festival for the people of Sydney. The slogan is “This is our city in summer”. It was as true in 1977 as it is now in 2012. It’s about looking at what that means here and now. We are a portfolio festival, not genre specific. We try to talk to a multiplicity of audiences and we are shamelessly populist and creating a festival for the people so not necessarily art first, it’s the audience first, and they tell us what our festival will be. The 2010 festival must not look like the 2011 or 2012 festival because our city is evolving, the hot spots and social issues are different. We must hold a mirror up to our city and that’s what our programming is about.
Low Kee Hong
That brings up the whole frame of consumption. There are booths next door with companies pitching their works to curators and festival directors. This is the whole business of the arts. I’m curious as to any platform like a fair where there is an intense circulation and discussion of art projects or commodities that are to be bought and sold and exchanged. It’s difficult to separate the parts of the festival. Within Australia you have multiple cities and competition is irrelevant – collaboration is more important. We want to be the first to present things, to discover things. In Europe theatre is a big established network of festivals, and funding is available through the EU.
What we are talking about here is in terms of one umbrella with so many different festivals. Our festival organisation has existed for 54 years and always we think we have to change it, because the landscape of the festivals is changing all the time. Originally it was the European Music Festival Association but today most of the festivals are arts festivals, not just music. Artists today want to work together with their colleagues to make all forms of art. We were happy when a few years ago we were at APAP and we learned from them. We saw that all those big festivals are not really in need of federation but are there to help the small festivals. For instance, in Flanders we have 280 music festivals. The top 10 have an audience of more than 5 million visitors so these big festivals have all the professionals, but they are there to help all the small ones.
Low Kee Hong
In Korea there are 6000 festivals. The Association of Asian Performing Arts (AAPA) started with friends who knew each other, who asked what we could do about changing the landscape. In Asia and Asia Pacific very different to Europe. We have a wide range of different festivals. What does it all mean when cities begin to evolve? At the end of all this perhaps it is not about questions of scale, or what is available for circulation. Perhaps it is the time to start thinking about the most fundamental questions that half the time we don’t ask enough – that is the place of the arts in our society. Being in the business we’re very caught up in it and we tend to forget that without the artists and the arts, all of us would not be sitting in this room. What does art mean in your own society? What is the fundamental?
Robert Baird (US/Canada) how do you balance curating a festival that might be putting something forward for art’s sake compared to money’s sake? Douglas – it’s always a balance. We have a festival that makes money and probably should do so (Cabaret) and I don’t think that’s a bad discipline. But with OzAsia festival there’s a lot of investment to be done, free work to be done, aspirational/audience building to be done. Investment is required. I’m fortunate that my trustees and management and the government are understanding so there’s a real endorsement of some of the work that we do having a public purpose, and that is a very important principle when we’re thinking about the landscape of various festivals and their aspirations. I wouldn’t anticipate that OzAsia would ever be a commercial enterprise unless it attracts the interest of corporates (Asian business in Australia and Asian business in Asia). Lindy Hume – when you have something of the breadth of the Sydney Festival, that’s a good example of high quality free events (half our budget) to shamelessly populist to indy bands etc. At the other end of the Festival, which we all focus on strongly because it’s probably the most challenging thing we do, where the element of risk is really high, development and commissioning of new work, genre collaboration and hybridity of artworks – it’s almost the norm now. The big, bold, hard, challenging ideas. Unless you express all those extremes within the festival portfolio you’re not doing your job or holding up the mirror to society. The government understand that the big ideas, risky stuff, needs to be part of that bigger, broader discussion. Jan Briers – you have to take risks but at the same time you have to have an audience. We didn’t change the program but we had a day where we brought all kinds of music to all the halls and we had 3000 people coming to those concerts but we changed the name and our strategy. The public went from one hall to another by boat, and the ticket was included in the cost of the concert. Now we have 10,000 people coming to those concerts. The government says it’s more commercial because of the numbers going, but we didn’t actually change the program.
CLOSING PLENARY – Culturenomics: Where to from here?
Keynote speaker – Michael Lynch, CEO of West Kowloon Cultural District Authority (WKCDA)
My role is to try and recap what has happened over last 3 days and formulate some thoughts about moving into the future. I was appointed CEO of West Kowloon last Friday.
Quote from Andre Malraux – it is important that as the people who are the custodians of the performing arts, that we have something that we hang this work on. Malraux said “art is what remains when all the rest is banished/vanished”. We must remember the important role that artists and the creation of art play. I have been appointed to West Kowloon to build 15 arts buildings on a 40 hectare estate on the water in Hong Kong because I’ve spent a lot of time working in arts organisations over a lot of years. I have experience in changing built-for-purpose buildings in the arts so they can adapt to different circumstances and changing audience expectations. We need to be thinking about more than the way arts venues have worked in our past experience. The big question that we have to ask is how they can work and be attractive to the audiences of the future. This is the biggest challenge – we now confront a very different world. Working in Asia is changing so dramatically and having a profound impact on the rest of the world – we are at a really important change point. The challenge of West Kowloon for me is that I’m interested in the role the arts play in a changing society and making society a more interesting place. I’ve found myself troubled over past few days thinking about a number of the venues that I’ve worked in the past and those I’m trying to create for the future. There are three venues that I think exemplify some of my dilemmas. This venue (The Sands Marina) is extraordinary but it makes me think hard about the future of the artforms I’ve worked in, as I watch a place like this unfold. Who are the audiences, what are they coming here for? Do I want to listen to classical music in a crowded foyer with taxis beeping? This venue challenges many of my notions about performing arts venues and how they work. This morning I visited Jack Ho’s new venue – a 5000 seat venue on the top of a building a couple of miles from here. There is no precedent, it makes you think really hard about what are the experiences an audience will have in a venue like that. What impact will that have on audiences and artists in this city over the course of the coming years. In 1809 a 300 seat Regency theatre in Bury St Edmunds was created. I’ve been looking at the future viability of a number of British arts organisations and I’ve been asked to come and help them survive. The Theatre Royal in Bury is very different compared to Marina Bay Sands and Jack Ho’s theatre because it has operated for 202 years and it is still functioning as a theatre. It just had a £10M renovation to take it back to what it was like in 1809. The experience of being in that theatre is extraordinary – the intimacy, acoustics, and relationship to the stage are all very special. It underscores the other message about the future. In my view performing arts facilities are places for performing and sharing the experience of performance. Live performance will continue to make sense in our society because of the social and intellectual connections that we make. At the heart of all performances are the creators – venues are there to realise the visions of the artists. At West Kowloon our driving consideration must be optimal conditions for artists to create their work. It is the creation of art that is what we as managers and administrators are here to achieve – we exist for the benefit of artistic creation and we want to make artists happy. Happy artists make for happy audiences and happy audiences make for happy arts administrators and happy arts administrators make successful arts precincts.
Over the course of this conference several key messages have been made – we’ve been talking a lot about venues and arts infrastructure. Tateo Nakajima from Artec Consultants has made an extraordinary contribution. His summation of how you build buildings, how you make sure the acoustics work – his message was that the client was the most important member of the design team. Similarly I thought that Richard Evans in his opening address did pose interesting issues. He talked about the big issues that are confronting venues and he has led the Sydney Opera House through big issues over the past 3-4 years. He has made an important contribution. I thought the contributions of Anthony Sargeant in talking about how a venue works and the things you need to do to make a venue work was an important distillation of the key things you need to take on board as you move forward if you’re looking at running a building or programming. What venues are about is creating unforgettable arts experiences to give people magical and transformative experiences. We must hold tight to that message. Provocations in terms of where we might go in the future – is it feasible for the world to just keep on creating more festivals? Should they start obliterating themselves or changing their own nature? There is the issue of cultural and community engagement – big issues in terms of what we’re thinking of in West Kowloon. The creation of new work – there is a radical approach by director of Singapore Festival, 50% new commissions, next year it will be 75%. Lindy Hume talked about the pressure that puts back on people, what happens if you haven’t got it quite right? The end of the big roof buildings – doesn’t mean they’re going to go away but is it acceptable to put a roof over everything and assume that that is the best way to organise the future of our business?
Here is some feedback for next Singapore Live conference – there are no women on this panel, there’s a bit of gender imbalance that probably needs to be addressed. We have to accept that the English, American and Australian perspective has been interesting in getting us to this point because of our histories in the development of both the artforms and the buildings, but what will be more interesting as we go forward is to listen to the perspectives of our Asian colleagues about what the next manifestation of the arts is going to look like once we’ve been through this period of ferment.
Kate Lidbetter, CEO of Symphony Services International, attended the League of American Orchestras Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota, from 6-9 June, 2011. The report that follows notes some important themes that gleaned from the various speakers at the conference – it is not an accurate transcription of what was said and reflects only the notes that she took throughout the event and may contain some inaccuracies or errors. Please note also this report does not cover all sessions of the conference.
LOA President Jesse Rosen noted four key areas for consideration by the conference. These were:
- Board Responsibilities for Fiscal Health
- Realignment with Community Needs
- Fostering Creativity
The event was a wonderful opportunity to mix with key staff from hundreds of American and international orchestras. The conference sessions were largely relevant and interesting, and Symphony Services International took a booth in the trade fair, which gathered interest from a range of US orchestras. We displayed the Goodear Acoustic Shield, program notes and surtitles, Goodear Editions and our library products. At the time of writing it is unclear whether our participation in the event will lead to any specific orders, though early indications are that orchestras in the US will be attracted to the Goodear Shield, particularly once they have had a chance to road-test it.
Gordon Williams (previously Audience Development Manager of SSI and now resident in the United States) joined me at the conference and looked after the booth for much of the period. Other Australian representatives at the conference were Patrick Pickett (CEO, Queensland Symphony Orchestra), Anna Melville (Artistic Co-ordinator, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra) and Mark Elliott (Director of Sales and Marketing, Sydney Symphony). Some of the notes attached to this report were taken by Gordon or Patrick (their initials appear after the heading of the section).
Tuesday June 7: Opening Plenary – Creating and Environment for Innovation
At this opening session of the conference, welcome address were provided by Jesse Rosen, president and CEO, League of American Orchestras; Jon Campbell, chair elect, Minnesota Orchestra; Dobson Wes), board chair, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. Keynote addresses were given by Larry Wendling, Ph.D, vice president, Corporate Research Laboratory, 3M; Katie Wyatt, executive director, KidzNotes and Deborah Borda, president and CEO, Los Angeles Philharmonic. A performance was provided by The Combined Symphonies of the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies & the Minnesota Youth Symphonies.
Larry Wendling spoke eloquently about 3M’s philosophy of innovation, and how “scientists and musicians are very much alike. They are the creative forces in their organisations. The key is to create value. For an American orchestra this means identifying and truly understanding the needs of the customer. When you can do this well and repeatedly you develop true customer loyalty and have sustainable position.”
Katie Wyatt asked “Do we have the guts to make an equal commitment to classical music and social good in ways that strengthen our investment in our community?” Deborah Borda pondered the meaning of innovation, and who is really responsible for change in our sector.
And Jesse Rosen told us “As you move through next few days, don’t let yourself off the hook. Listen hard, question even harder, take notes and pull the strands together for yourself and revel in the music making.”
Click the link below to view the full plenary session and read the PDF transcript of Deborah Borda’s speech.
Tuesday June 7: Concert (Minnesota Orchestra)
Conductor: Osmo Vanska
Soloist: Yevgeny Sudbin, piano
Program: Aaron Jay Kernis – Concerto with Echoes
Beethoven – Concerto No.3 in C Min for Piano and Orchestra, opus 37
Sibelius – Symphony No.2 in D major, Opus 43
Wednesday June 8: Plenary – Red Alert!
This session was introduced by Jesse Rosen, president and CEO, League of American Orchestras then featured Susan Nelson, principal, TDC and Steve A. Wolff, founding principal, AMS Planning and Research. Susan and Steve spoke passionately (and very entertainingly) about capitalization – why it matters and how to develop a capitalization strategy, and the common mistakes made by orchestras.
Click the link below to view the full plenary session and read the PDF transcripts of Jesse Rosen, Susan Nelson and Stephen Wolff’s speeches.
Wednesday June 8: Toolbox session – Two approaches to audience development
This very full session featured Jessica Etten, Director of Marketing and Communications, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra; Cindy Grzanowski, Director of Marketing, Single Ticket Sales & Audience Development; Minnesota Orchestra; Jon Limbacher, Vice President and COO, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra; and David Sailer, Director of Marketing, Subscription Sales & Audience Services, Minnesota Orchestra. It was moderated by David Snead, Vice President of Marketing, New York Philharmonic.
The following details about the Minnesota Symphony Orchestra and St Paul Chamber Orchestra were provided:
- Minneapolis has 31 million people, with the most theatre seats per capita outside NY.
- One of only two US cities that can support 2 full time orchestras (the other is NY).
- Voter turnout is the highest in the US.
- It is the 4th highest educated market, home to 19 fortune 500 companies.
- More than 40% of adults volunteer their time.
- St Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO) is 51 yrs old, with an annual budget of $11m and over 100 subscription concerts per year.
- Over $92K paid attendance, with series running in 10 venues across twin cities.
- SPCO has 35 full time players and just performs classical repertoire – no pops or summer series.
- Minnesota Symphony Orchestra (MSO) is bigger and older, having been around for 100 years.
- MSO has a $31m annual turnover, 124 concerts/year, 66 subscription concerts.
- Paid attendance is $208K, and subscriptions equal $107K.
- The classical season forms 53% of the overall season.
The shared audience between both orchestras is 19% of the St Paul audience and 14% of the Minnesota audience. Among the two orchestras there is only 8% crossover. A bigger threat is the sheer breadth of options for people.
St Paul Chamber Orchestra approach to audience development
This was an extremely interesting audience development approach that many people at the Conference were extremely interested in. The SPCO team outlined the approach as follows:
Our audience development program starts with the belief – simple, and seemingly self-evident – that audience is everything. It’s the existential issue for our orchestra. If we can build a strong audience we can figure out the rest. If there isn’t a strong audience the other problems are insoluble. There is no community urgency around fixing any problems because there won’t be much at stake. Audience is at the core of our mission and business model. Orchestras are much more complicated than their budget size indicates. If you don’t have alignment you can’t get anything done. It’s important for context in terms of our objectives, making strategy decisions, assessing opportunities. Our business model is an ownership model – we can’t sell our way to prosperity, we can’t even come close. Instead we decided to focus on developing investors and owners from within the audience. Those who write the second cheque to give cross the divide between being consumers in a product and being investors in a cause. They feel responsible, directly, for our success or failure. Our strategy is to get more of those investors/owners, as that’s the key for us to thrive. They will come from the audience, so we are focused on enlarging the basis of consumers as they will produce more potential donors and owners of the organisation. This is not about maximising ticket revenue. The larger audience also enhances our case for support. We need to serve more people, otherwise why should people give? You have a case if you’re serving more people in the community.
The lynchpin of our theory is a belief about the power of access – affordability and geographic availability. Access is everything, it will produce larger audience, more donors, a stronger case for support for the organisation, and a stronger community value proposition. What we’re adding in value to the community is an important start towards enhancing the value proposition to raise money in the philanthropic marketplace. We have to constantly improve our case for support to make us competitive. Our audience development program focuses on three concepts:
1. What do we want to achieve?
2. How are we going to achieve it?
3. How are we going to measure whether we’re making progress or not?
Everything fits into these categories. We spend a lot of time getting alignment internally around these three objectives. Our primary objective is to develop a large, sustainable audience for what we do. Sustainability is important – it’s not enough to just build a large audience today. Is there a likelihood that we’ll have an audience in the future? That’s part of our responsibility. It’s not just about ticket revenue. We care about that, but it’s not our driver day to day. Six years ago, if we held a meeting of board, musicians and staff our goal would have got a range of answers, perhaps not like what you see today. We’ve worked to get here over time. We now have six working strategies that are being revised all the time.
1. Affordability – over the last five years we have made a concerted effort to make our organisation more affordable by lowering prices. We offer special prices for neighbourhood concerts, for kids and more recently in our other venues. Before we started, only 35% of tickets cost $25 or less – today it is 85%. 56% of our tickets sell for $10 or less. This is a dramatic change but before we were discounting, our list price had moved towards lower prices for everyone. We said we’d embrace this and lower prices for everyone, and become known for our affordability. We felt it would leave a bit of money on the table but it would be worth it for the organisation in the long run.
2. Our Neighbourhood Strategy, which has been there from beginning. This program was struggling – no-one came, it wasn’t working. We decided to lower prices in this series and immediately saw great demand for tickets priced at $10-$25. We started to expand from four venues to ten in certain neighbourhoods. We moved from 1000 subscribing households to 2500. We will continue to expand this Neighborhood series.
3. The biggest challenge is getting brand new people into the concert hall. Traditionally we did a mass market approach, with lots of advertising (radio, billboard, newspaper). We realised returns were modest in terms of new people coming through the halls. We began a process of scaling back advertising until we eliminated all print/radio advertising and found minimal to no impact on number of households buying tickets. We saved money, but wondered how to get people through the halls? 70-80% of people who come through the door never come back. We wanted the 30% we retained to grow. We took a grass roots approach – the traditional approach was broad, but now we target better. The traditional model is to say to audiences “come because it’s great, believe us”. Now we ask patrons to invite their friends to a concert. The costs involved in the traditional method were high, now we have cut nearly $1m off our budget by eliminating advertising. Grass-roots marketing is not expensive in direct costs but is high cost in terms of people. We’re not there yet, there’s a lot more to do. We use word of mouth marketing, connections and the power of free samples/free trials. We offer a guest pass program – when subscribers get their season tickets, we send them guest passes, asking them to invite someone to come who’s never been before. People have listened to this and we have hundreds of new people coming in the door. When we offer a free concert in a neighbourhood, we post fliers in the local concert hall and ask subscribers in that venue to bring friends and family who might be interested. We have a community ambassadors program – our subscribers serve as ambassadors. We ask them to hand deliver information to people who might be interested. We don’t just leave fliers at restaurants etc – it cuts through the clutter. Sometimes we offer community organisation fundraisers the opportunity to sell SPCO tickets and we each keep half of the revenue. In addition, we get all their database information to keep in contact with people. We have a corporate passport program – we set up an ongoing ticket deal for companies’ employees, give them credit for being a contributor and they come to concerts.
4. We are just dipping our toe in the water with a new strategy of using new media and digital media. We are trying to develop a greater connection for people. On Facebook, our email club, online coupons, and the most important thing we’ve done is make our music free to everyone through the internet. Minnesota Public Radio has recorded all our concerts since 1969 and streams them free through the web. We hope that having music available for free will allow it to go viral. It’s too early to know yet whether it will work.
5. Young audience development (young adults, those under 40). We do have education programs in place but this is for young adults. We have a program called Club 2030, to which people can sign up for free then get $10 best available seats whenever they like if they’re in their 20s or 30s. It does make a difference in the halls. When long term subscribers see young people in the hall they’re more likely to believe there’s a future for their investment. Life gets in the way of coming to concerts, especially for those with young children. We make it more possible to bring children – we offer $5 children’s tickets for any concert, and we see 1500 children per year. Our target is that all family concerts will be free of charge. We have expanded the number of family events that we’re doing. The philosophy is that when the parents have more time, they’ll come to a concert on their own.
6. Rationalising our expense. We can now undertake some of the other strategies here. We have reduced our marketing budget by $1m (especially in advertising) because we were aggressive with our expense reductions. Our net ticket revenue has improved substantially after lowering prices because we’ve been so aggressive on the expense side. Our future revenue potential is huge.
Minnesota Symphony Orchestra’s approach to audience development (Cindy Grzanowski)
Brand differentiation – what makes us unique? In addition to representing classical music we also present music of all kinds, predominantly in one venue, year round. We think this product diversity had advantages. It stabilises our risk (our marketing objective is to focus on earned income). It allows flexibility in programming and we can put music on the stage based on customer response. Just by watching what’s happening on stage we can bring in new people. For instance our program with video games live had 72% of new people coming through door. It helps us to experiment and encourages people to come back and sample things.
We have three income streams and product diversity. In addition to our Music Director/mainstage series we offer a smattering of classical artists, plus artists such as Ben Folds, Herbie Hancock. We promote everything in all of our materials. On average over any one year, 30% of households are new to us. We program music people want to hear. 38% of the households who come to our concerts are “dabblers” trying different types of concerts.
We offer a “Create your own subscriptions” program – is a strategy around frequency. We don’t normally see a classical subscriber buy one ticket and move into 4-6 concerts but maybe they might buy two classical concerts plus a holiday and a concert. It expands our relationship with that customer. There’s a shift in who’s buying. We treat these individuals like a core subscriber and offer them all the same benefits and timing. Two-thirds of our core audience is aged 56+ but in these packages only one-third is 65+. They are used to paying for the things they want so we can keep raising the price for this group.
Our pricing strategy is a real challenge in our orchestra because of high fixed costs. With this comes the necessity to maximise concert revenue, so we have to place a higher value on ticket prices. How do we balance that and present an affordable option for people who have a price barrier? Our average household income is $130K but almost half of our audience earns under $100K. 27% are brand new each year, and 37% of them only come to one concert per year. We have a low introductory price point offer (like trial offer) then we provide targeted discounting throughout the year to patrons we identify need the price break. All five price points are available on main floor. We pre-program the area that’s unpopular at $25/ticket and offer them to self-identified low price point buyers. We data-mine within our own lists to find those people. Patrons can go online and check what’s available in advance. We sell 8000 classical tickets/year to students at $12/$15 rates so there are lots of young faces in the crowd.
We have a program where first-timers are offered two tickets for $10, a bit like the SPCO’s program. People can come and hear short grabs (movements or sections) from the mainstage programs we’ll offer throughout the year. We created a system to keep those tickets available to guests year round, so we’re constantly inviting new people to come and experience us. We find people show up more when we attach a small price to the experience. There are online mechanics behind this – we authenticate people so you can go online and authenticate that you’re brand new and we’ll send you an email that will link you to the site, with a revolving list of concerts available for you. We launched this as a small program in 2005 but it has increased each year. Year after year we see these 2-for-10 buyers have bought a lot in addition to this program. Patrons get something different when they go to these concerts – programs that have everything that we offer on it. People want to know everything that we do. This way we have control, we don’t give them a great big concert program, but provide an order form and helpful hints. The results from this have been successful for us. Increased to four of these per year to promote the 2010/11 season, with end results of $253K revenue (our budget was $16K).
Thursday June 9: Toolboxes – Where Mission and Money Meet
This session was led by Deborah Rutter, President, Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Ed Sermier, Director, national customized services, Nonprofit Finance Fund.
Deborah Rutter introduced the session by saying the speakers intended to talk philosophically and practically about how “finance people” and “mission people” can work together and how the worlds overlap. The session would examine how to utilize your financial acumen and that of your organisation to help you make decisions.
Deborah outlined an issue that had arisen for the Chicago Symphony, noting that similar decisions are required to be made regularly. In 2008 at the height of the GFC, the orchestra had commitments to two projects – a farewell tour to Europe with outgoing chief conductor Bernard Haitink, and a festival celebrating the 85th birthday of Pierre Boulez, with him conducting concerts of Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder at Carnegie Hall. Both projects would be costly and high-profile, and each of the conductors was important to the orchestra.
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s mission is to promote and perform great music to audiences in Chicago and around the world. So both projects met the mission but the organisation could not afford to do both. Management and players considered whether this was the only time that the projects could occur, and exactly what the expenses involved in each would be. They asked: Is this the only way we could do this? What is our commitment to other people and what ongoing positive or negative repercussions would there be in either decision? In the end the orchestra cancelled the Schoenberg and undertook the tour. The Chairman ensured the funds were available to successfully undertake the tour, which the orchestra already had signed contracts for. It would definitely be the last tour with Haitink, and it was a good way to thank him for his time as Chief Conductor. The orchestra decided they create a different festival with Pierre Boulez and do special things to celebrate his birthday. In this way the orchestra addressed its mission, making clear what its priorities were, and doing what they couldn’t do in any other circumstances. The urgency around raising the additional money required to undertake the tour was one they could make a compelling case for to donors and the board.
Deborah noted that in the orchestral world, we are constantly being challenged to make really tough decisions when all the opportunities in front of us are really great ones. By visibly and openly deciding not to act on one opportunity, and to live within our budget (and in fact save money) CSO was able to say “this is our priority” and that was how they got a lot of support for making the decision, including from the musicians.
The group then debated an imaginary scenario where an orchestra has a great education program and is invited to purchase a license for an online delivery of music education that would provide access to every fourth grader in the area, at a cost of $5000 per year. Simultaneously the gala committee wants to add $10,000 to their decorations/entertainment budget for the annual gala, convinced it will pay off in terms of revenue raised.
The group raised a number of interesting questions and areas of discussion. Could the additional investment in the gala raise the $5000 needed for the education license? Would adding to the entertainment/decor budget really make a difference to ticket-buyers who had already paid for their ticket? Is paying the licence fee the best way to access the education program? Is a different band really going to draw additional people to the gala event? While these questions were not specifically answered in the session, it was clear that these were the sort of finance vs mission questions that would need to be asked before the imaginary orchestra could make its decision.
Ed Sermier addressed the group by saying that as the financial person employed by the imaginary orchestra, he would answer the question four different ways depending on his role within the company. He cautioned that he had no intention of casting any aspersions on anyone working in the finance area. But he noted that orchestras generally fall into four categories in terms of size (and turnover), and each has a different type of financial employee working for them. A small budget orchestra (up to $100K) might have a bookkeeper or someone on the board who perhaps doesn’t have another role within the orchestra. This person will not be able to do an analysis of the two issues that Deborah described. The next level is an orchestra with some millions, with an accounting professional in the finance office. Accountants are very precise so you can expect some reasonably sensible analysis that may not go too deep, that allows the Executive Director to make a decision. A larger orchestra again would have a Financial Comptroller who has a few people working for them. This person has an accounting background and may be uncomfortable doing estimates so they don’t give you what you need. Then you have a Chief Financial Officer. The CEO’s expectation of a CFO is to take the issue and essentially look at it from the CEO’s perspective. The CFO will apply judgement – for instance, if the gala is projected to make $60K in revenue and the out of pocked expenses are $56K (netting just $4K), an accountant will show you $4K profit, but a comptroller will tell you it’s break even because the amount is just too small to call it a profit. A CFO not only makes that judgement call, but will put in a contingency or ensure the Executive Director does not use the small surplus as any material factor in making their decision. He will set the financial issue in the larger context of whether there are reserves in the organisation allowing the orchestra to plan for a deficit so it can continue to offer important programs by dropping its reserves rather than depriving the audience of those services. Essentially the difference between these financial experts is the level of analysis and judgment that each can apply to the organisation and the situations it faces.
Ed provided the group with a spreadsheet titled “Program Profitability Model”. A copy of this spreadsheet can be found here. He stated that it is by intention very simple and only on one piece of paper. On this page, revenue and expenses are shown on the one page so the financial position is very clear to everyone. The creation of the numbers and where they lie on this paper is the direct result of the Executive Director’s decisions. You don’t put any marketing expenses in a program that would not go away if the program went away. The Executive Director controls the decisions about where the numbers go, the finance person just makes it easy for the Director to make the decisions. Ed noted that he never represents amounts less than $1000 and he labels carefully which fiscal year each activity is for. Presentation is often where the financial person provides a large contribution.
Deborah noted that the Chicago Symphony Orchestra uses this process every week and live within those margins. She recommended to the group that they try to work out how to get fixed costs (that an organisation would have to pay anyway, eg salaries) into grant applications. This process must occur in advance of making commitments, not afterwards. There is no value judgment on any of this, it’s just financial information. The artform is to look at everything you do and work out what is important, it’s not necessarily about getting rid of everything that loses money. Perhaps it could just lose less, or something that’s making money could make more.
Thursday June 9: Toolboxes – The Art and Science of Pricing
Click the link below to view the full session with speakers Jon Limbacher, Vice President and COO, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra; Jack McAuliffe, President, Engaged Audiences LLC, moderated by Russell Jones, vice president for marketing and membership development, League of American Orchestras.
Russell Jones noted that we need to be strategic in linking our price to our strategy, values and the community. This interesting discussion between advocates of two completely different pricing strategies led to a great deal of discussion and questions from the floor.
Links to a variety of other sessions and workshops (some via video, some PDF transcripts) can be found at the League of American Orchestras’ website as follows:
‘Crisis’. That’s the word you most often hear when someone in the US describes the state of opera in America these days. ‘Our donors are going gray’; ‘We’re one donor from disaster!’ And then they recount the companies that have collapsed in the recent past – Orlando, Baltimore, Opera Pacific, Connecticut, Berkshire – and you start to share their feeling of rising panic. Could the same thing happen in our part of the world? Perhaps not in this way, considering the extent of government support, but…
America’s opera companies are certainly struggling with the sorts of challenges affecting operas and symphony orchestras around the Western world – declining patronage, increasing costs, questions over a static repertoire… When I arrived in New York, the papers carried ‘fat lady’s singing’ stories about New York City Opera. And US companies are still reeling from the Global Financial Crisis, which packed a bigger punch here than in Australia.
‘It’s affected all aspects of our business,’ I was told by Rupert Hemmings, Director of Production at Los Angeles Opera. Hemmings, the son of Peter Hemmings (who as General Manager of The Australian Opera commissioned Meale and Malouf’s Voss) admits that, given LA Opera’s proximity to Hollywood, production value is possibly not an area they can skimp on. But the GFC is a ‘very strong presence’ and it has to be observed. We have ‘scaled back more in quantity of what we’re doing’ (a common solution at many companies: let’s do four operas, instead of five).
But for an Australian still trying to get the lie of the land, the American opera scene still looks pretty inviting. I look enviously at the ads for new productions in the current issue of Opera America – John Musto and Mark Campbell’s The Inspector, the forthcoming premiere of Nico Muhly and Stephen Karam’s Dark Sisters… ‘Why did you come here now?’ a Washington lawyer asked on the train from Chicago. He was shaking his head over the Financial Crisis. But I see hopeful signs.
We already know how successful opera in cinema has been for The Met. That may not denote a solution for all other companies (of which, I’ve got say, there are a staggeringly large number in the US). But clearly American companies are working hard to come to terms with technological opportunities. The keynote speech at the recent Opera America conference in Boston was given by Dr Nicholas Negroponte of MIT’s Media Lab, producer of such programs and platforms as Amazon’s Kindle, Guitar Hero and LEGO Mindstorms.
Under MIT’s auspices, there are even now technological operas like Tod Machover’s Death and the Power: the Robots’ Opera. ‘A wealthy inventor toys with immortality,’ according to The Los Angeles Times’ Mark Swed, ‘by downloading himself into his household environment, sofa included.’
Do technological solutions marry with the enduring values of opera? Swed, in that article, questioned visual solutions for an aural art-form (if that is not putting it too crudely.) When I spoke to LA composer, Paul Reale, he seemed to sound a warning about the attractions of technology: ‘The substance has to be of primary concern.’ Reale, who leans more now toward chamber music, spoke of the need for opera ‘to embed itself in the culture the way Don Giovanni does, because Mozart’s dealing with the way people feel about each other.’ But quite a few of the other possible (‘analogue’) solutions for opera’s predicament look positive.
One of these is personal entrepreneurism. There is a trend on the part of US opera performers to get out there and get doing, creating opportunities for themselves, rather than waiting for auditions.
What is arising now is the kind of musician who can conceive of a project (say, ‘the world of my Appalachian forebears’), source the funding and win an appreciative and profitable response from the community for whom the work was written. Entrepreneurism is even on the syllabus at schools such as Eastman, New England Conservatory, Duquesne University and the Manhattan School of Music. This option is not limited to singers, of course. But singers and opera performers are well-placed to come up with a show, something that makes maximum use of text and stagecraft.
Success is measured now not so much by landing the role of Mimì, but by building a career in this manner. ‘I kind of made myself the opera singer of Bed-Stuy [Bedford-Stuyvesant],’ says soprano Malesha Jessie in a Brooklyn Independent Television interview which you can view on YouTube. She sings in bars, the street, wherever anyone will stop and listen it seems. “Who turned up tonight prepared to sing?” was a question asked by soprano Lauren Flanagan at an Opera America ‘in conversation’ evening I attended, as she made the point that her career was built on making the most of any opportunity to perform.
There is a sense now that opera can be made anywhere and everywhere. Houston Grand Opera’s ‘Song of Houston’ creates musical-dramatic works that ‘tell the stories of Houstonians in collaborative community and educational projects’. All of this is creating work that is intended to speak to and with America.
According to the Opera America website, the most frequently-produced operas in the 2009-2010 US season were: Figaro, La bohème, Carmen, Tosca, traviata, Madam Butterfly, The Magic Flute, Hansel and Gretel, The Elixir of Love and Don Giovanni. We may not wish to supplant these works, but does this mean they cannot be supplemented?
One positive thing you’ll note about the contemporary American opera scene is the number of new commissions. A question mark may be placed over how many of these may ‘embed themselves in the culture’, to borrow Reale’s phrase. But even that aspect is being worked on.
‘We’ve sometimes called ourselves The Workshopping Opera Company,’ says Charles Jarden, General Director of American Opera Projects, ‘because even though there are other companies that commission new work, ours is a systematic development process. [The works we accept are] evaluated, results are measured, the product is looked at before it moves to the next step.’ But the key feature here is probably the degree of audience feedback. Jarden says AOP is modelled on practices in theatre and film. So ‘readings, early readings in front of an audience…The film industry actually started this way too, with focus groups – “Did the ending work for you?” “Should the baby be thrown out the window at the end?” And we kind of impose that on creators. They know when they come to us that if the feedback is that this is not landing, we may stop the project.’
American Opera Projects currently has 15 projects listed on their website, all in varying stages of development (from libretto readings to workshopped scenes…); several of the works they have developed have now successfully been staged by name-companies – Tarik O’Regan’s Heart of Darkness at Covent Garden, Stephen Schwartz’s Séance on a Wet Afternoon (Santa Barbara Opera and New York City Opera), and Jorge Martin’s Before Night Falls with Fort Worth ‘That’s been the change in the last five years, that companies are now coming to us and saying, “You guys have the expertise, you have the resources, you also have the New York caché of how to do it in a milieu that is well-suited to it, and you have the theatre industry people here.” Stephen Schwartz [composer of Broadway musicals Wicked, Godspell and Pippin] came to us…’
But AOP doesn’t just workshop specific submissions. Composers and the Voice could be considered an investment in opera composers. At the end of a year-long process of familiarisation (the composers with the capabilities of voices; the participating singers with the creators’ work and methods), composers and librettists produce 3-5 minute solo works (accompanied by piano) for each of the basic vocal categories: coloratura soprano, lyric soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, baritone and bass. AOP’s monodrama series champions a neglected form. We heard two works in different stages of development, The Wanton Sublime by Tarik O’Regan and Anna Rabinowitz and Daniel Felsenfeld and Will Eno’s Nora in the Great Outdoors, a dramatisation of what happens to Ibsen’s Nora after she has left Torvald’s Doll’s House. I was struck by composer Felsenfeld’s interest in what happens next, after the resolution of the action. To him, this moment of reflection is the operatic moment, the moment demanding a bursting into song. It struck me as a very perceptive comment from someone investigating opera at its most fundamental level.
It isn’t just about creating big operas, clearly. Just as Houston Grand Opera draws strength from its community with the ‘Song of Houston’ project, AOP draws strength from Brooklyn – encouraging locals to write songs and performance pieces about their community (I Hear American Sing), or aiming to commission settings of all Brooklyn-ite Walt Whitman’s poetry.
Jarden’s vision of opera companies is once more allied to this idea that opera can develop anywhere and everywhere, a view that I have heard made a number of times now: ‘Why not use opera companies more like the old-fashioned tailor? We are the experts. If you want a piece of music for your high school graduation ceremony, come to us. We’ll find a composer and we’ll create it. It won’t be off the rack. If you want a monument in your town, come to an opera company. They’ll create a music event around that for your ceremony. The company now has community worth….’
The situation in America vis-a-vis opera looks dangerous. There is talk of big companies on the verge of collapse. But I wonder if the situation is more one of dissolution, dispersal and reinvention – there is more happening at the grass-roots level, and there is sometimes tactical retreat to a lower tier. The commissioning of Muhly’s Dark Sisters has been hailed by Anne Midgette of The Washington Post as a ‘…validation for the once-conservative Opera Company of Philadelphia [a co-producer] which has over the years launched a series presenting offbeat works in a smaller theatre…’ Alex Ross in The New Yorker (May 9, 2011) hopes that New York City Opera will ‘adopt a shaggy, rebellious attitude’.
A country with so much drama and so rich in sound (as I write I hear a baseball game being cheered in Spanish) will always, surely, have some sort of native opera. This is what strikes an Australian overwhelmed by the sheer size of the response to a perception of crisis. Perhaps doors will slam shut, but such is the energy here that it’s possible to be hopeful (in Daniel Felsenfeld’s words) about what happens next.
Gordon Kalton Williams © 2011
In 2012 the Canberra Symphony Orchestra (CSO) celebrates 62 years in our nation’s capital by bringing professional, large-scale symphonic concerts of to the ACT and region.
Since 2007, Dr Nicholas Milton has held the position of Chief Conductor & Artistic Director of the CSO and his creating, inspiring leadership has dramatically raised the artistic and commercial success of the organisation. Proportionally, Canberra’s orchestra leads the professional symphonic ensembles in Australia for new and renewing subscriptions as well as individual ticket sales.
CSO annual seasons are framed around the core Llewellyn Series of concerts, each of which is performed over two evenings with over 2200 people sharing the exciting experience of this dynamic orchestra.
In addition, single concert events such as the Shell Prom Concert, the ACTEW Grand Gala and the music/dance production of Matinee Magic during the Floriade festival are capacity concerts, with the 2012 Symphony In The Park being enjoyed by 13,500 people as part of the Canberra Festival.
Through our free music education concert series, Noteworthy, the CSO has reached 26,000 students in the ACT since 2007 and Noteworthy Outreach takes experiential music sessions to schools for children with disabilities.
As an integral part of the cultural fabric in the ACT, the CSO also works closely with the diplomatic community in Canberra to present the world through music to the multicultural population of our national capital.
The program is taught by international conductors, including course director Christopher Seaman and in 2012, Arvo Volmer and Marko Letonja. Symphony Services International’s Conductor Development program represents a major investment in Australian talent and in 2012, for the first time, is welcoming applications from international conductors interested in auditioning.
Christopher Seaman is course director of the Conductor Development program. A regular guest conductor of Australian and New Zealand symphony orchestras, he devotes a number of weeks each year to teaching and directing our training programs.
To download the brochure and apply online, go to the application page.
Annual Report 2010.pdf (1.8mb) Click to download a copy of Symphony Services Australia’s Annual Report for 2010.
The April 2011 issue of The Podium (issue #3) contains the following items:
You’d almost expect musical innovation in the East Bay area of San Francisco. Harry Partch, who conceived music with 43 tones to the octave, was born in Oakland in 1901 and, though a hobo for much of his life, regarded the Oakland/East Bay area as his preferred stomping ground. In 1946 Dave Brubeck, fresh from the army, went to an all-girls’ school here, Mills College, specifically to study with Darius Milhaud. Gertrude Stein, whose family moved here in 1878, reputedly said of Oakland, “There is no there there.” But the city has made a defiant feature of the novelist’s statement, so the area is probably not as empty as this statement could be taken to mean.
My wife, Kate, and I been here seven weeks now, stomping up and down ourselves between downtown Oakland and the university precinct of Berkeley, and to be frank, have hardly set foot in ‘the city’, as East Bay denizens refer to San Francisco. We’ve barely felt the need to. There is so much going on over here.
Oakland, named after the giant Californian oaks that once covered the area, is to a large extent the maritime part of San Francisco. Writer Jack London used to meet his seafaring mates at a saloon made out of the hull of an old whaling ship down on the water’s edge. The main claim of Berkeley, the city that lies to the northeast, and considers itself ‘here’, is its famous university, established in 1868. Here the much-walked and leafier streets are full of cafes hosting students taking advantage of complimentary wi-fi to finish their assignments.
But it’s the music that’s the focus of this report, and if you look at what’s going on in the area, it might include at any one time something like Ensemble Mik Nawooj performing Music for the Integrated World, a free public lecture by Leon Botstein (President of Bard College, NY, and Music Director of the American Symphony Orchestra) or the Vienna Philharmonic’s ‘first appearances in the Bay Area for 20 years’. But I’d like to portray this area with a tale of two resident ensembles – the Oakland East Bay Symphony Orchestra and Berkeley Symphony.
Berkeley Symphony was founded in 1969 as the Berkeley Promenade Orchestra by Thomas Rarick, a protégé of Sir Adrian Boult. At first the orchestra sought new audiences by dressing in casual clothes and performing in unusual locations. When Kent Nagano became Music Director in 1974, he changed all that. The Symphony concentrated on new works (Messiaen and Frank Zappa came to perform with them), swapped back into formal wear and moved its principal venue from the First Congregational Church to the 2,015-seat Zellerbach Hall on the UC Berkeley campus. The orchestra’s third Music Director, Joana Carneiro, continues the commitment to new works, including, notably, fostering the work of young Bay Area composers.
The orchestra has an establishment of 50 strings plus woodwind, brass and percussion. In Nagano’s day, many of the musicians were Berkeley professionals, doctors, professors. That percentage has changed. The personnel is now more likely to be drawn from the Bay’s huge pool of roving professional musicians. As with the Oakland East Bay Symphony, musicians are paid on a per service basis, which consists of rehearsals and performances and some in-school instruction. Nearly seventy-five percent of the orchestra’s funding is contributed income, from donors like Kathleen G. Henschel, Meyer Sound or The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, with the rest generated from ticket sales. But the Orchestra also plays regularly for Cal Performances, the major entrepreneur on the Berkeley campus. (For Cal Performances in future weeks, it will thus be accompanying the Royal Danish Ballet. It recently appeared with Lorin Maazel in two presentations of Britten operas (Albert Herring and The Rape of Lucretia) from the Castleton Festival of Opera.)
I met the orchestra’s Executive Director, James A. Kleinmann, at a café on University Avenue, during a break in the orchestra’s preparations for their final concerts of the year. I started by asking him about an unusual feature I’d noted on their website. It lists a dramaturg. Yes, says Kleinmann, ‘Chloe Veltman [who is also the Bay area correspondent for The New York Times] interviewed Joana Carneiro for the League of American Orchestras’ magazine after Joana was appointed music director. They began talking about how it would be really nice to have someone who could provide a greater sense of context for the works being programmed, someone who could look at the points of connection between programs and composers, ultimately someone who could partner with Joana in some of the programming ideas but initially really focusing on how to create public points of engagement for the audience outside of what you experience when you’re sitting in the hall from 8 o’clock to 8.45, and from 9 o’clock to 9.50.’
But Veltman doesn’t actually provide editorial input into new works. The Orchestra also has a creative advisor, composer Gabriela Lena Frank, who is heavily involved in the orchestra’s commitment to new music. Along with meatier-than-the-average subscription concerts Berkeley Symphony has a series known as ‘Under Construction’.
‘“Under Construction” goes back probably about 15 years,’ says Kleinmann. Each year, two “emerging” local composers are selected to take part. From the moment of selection they are able to talk to either Joana or Gabriela about what they are composing. They compose ten minute works which are presented and discussed in concert in January. They then have two months to consider revisions and improvements coming out of that initial airing. The Music Director and Creative Advisor meet with the composers ‘fairly regularly’ says Kleinmann. ‘And every time we have a [regular] concert we use that as an opportunity to gather Gabriela and Joana and the composers together even if we’re not leading into an “Under Construction” concert.’
Kleinmann notes that this project is not cheap. ‘On a single reading session we’ll spend $10,000 and that’s not even a full orchestra,’ But clearly Berkeley Symphony feels the commitment is worth it and it is, after all, part of Berkeley Symphony’s brief. As Kleinmann says, sounding a note of slight dismay: ‘Orchestras don’t workshop. Theatre companies and opera companies workshop. But orchestras let someone write a piece, and when that composer decides it’s done, it just gets rehearsed, premiered in one week and that’s it.’
You probably wouldn’t expect to find a better place than Berkeley to trial new works. At the Under Construction concert I went to one Sunday night, the audience sat mum for the first 30 seconds of question time at the end, until Gabriela Frank said, ‘Oh come on, this is Berkeley!’ In response, one of the audience members asked a very good question about whether composer David Coll retained in his head through all the subsequent months of revision the train sound that had first inspired his work, Act. (The answer was yes.)
But I asked Jim Kleinmann about this tradition of enquiry and innovation and he said: ‘It’s the spirit and the nature of what it’s meant to be part of California. It’s the landscape, the way the land meets the water, the fact that we were “the frontier”, [there was the] Gold Rush, anyone could come here and make their opportunities happen. And it’s all true. It’s where Silicon Valley comes from. When Facebook decides to become an international brand, it moves to Palo Alto. Twitter comes out of here, and Intel and Hewlett-Packard. They’re technology companies, but there’s also the Green Movement, the influence of people like John Muir, the Sierra Club. I think people are drawn here because of the spirit.’ This orchestra may draw its core audience from a radius of only 10 miles (Berkeley and nearby Oakland), but they inject an energy and vitality into a demanding local scene beyond their size.
As you head south down College Ave and Broadway to the CBD of modern Oakland, the atmosphere becomes less academic, less sedate. Perhaps less middle class, but the number of people jogging (that most ‘young professional’ of pursuits) around Lake Merritt on a dazzling winter Saturday belies that. One of the FAQs on the Oakland East Bay Symphony’s website asks: “Is downtown Oakland dangerous?” and when we first arrived in the Bay Area someone told us that Oakland is the fifth most violent city in the United States. But we caught the bus downtown for one of the night-time concerts, and what struck us mostly was what I can’t help noticing as an Australian meeting Americans at ‘the public interface’: exceptional courtesy and cheerfulness and good humour. (Australians behind a counter may say, ‘No worries’, but you wonder why there might have been any in the first place.)
Oakland has surely seen grander days. A few of the old buildings are admittedly empty and spruiked, with no intended irony, as ‘great rental opportunities’, but one of the classics is Timothy L. Pflueger’s 1931 Paramount Theatre, a wonderful old ‘dream palace’ that is now the Oakland East Bay Symphony’s home.
The Oakland East Bay Symphony’s website blatantly states that a symphony orchestra ‘improves the community’s economy and quality of life’, and points out that for every $1 spent on an arts organisation in a community, another $1.50 will be spent in the community. The OEBS’s mission is overtly to serve theirs. Why wouldn’t it be? According to Jennifer Duston, the Executive Director, ‘We’ve been cited by the League of American Orchestras as having the most diverse audience of any orchestra in the country.’ According to the 2010 census, Oakland’s population is roughly a quarter each of African-Americans, Whites, Hispanics and Asians. ‘We enthusiastically embrace our role as a community-service organisation,’ she says, ‘through both the artistic offerings that we provide as well as the education and outreach offerings.’
Perhaps what is most interesting is how the serving of this community results in more than the standard orchestral fare. This year’s season has seen Carlos Santana appear as soloist in the premiere of jazz drummer Narada Michael Walden’s The Enchanted Forest (a work written for the New Visions/New Vistas Commissioning Program supported by the James Irvine Foundation). The Orchestra has also presented the West Coast premiere of Grammy Award-winning jazz pianist and composer Billy Child’s Violin Concerto with Regina Carter; and will shortly present another New Visions/New Vistas premiere, Fade to Orange, by bandleader, composer and drummer, Scott Amendola. Later in the year, the OEBS will give a concert performance of the Kurt Weill/Langston Hughes/Elmer Rice opera, Street Scene. Well-known classics are interwoven with these innovations. The orchestra doesn’t list an Artistic Administrator on its masthead, though. ‘That is Michael,’ says Jennifer Duston of Michael Morgan, their Music Director, who is like a one-man lynchpin of the wider region with titled positions at the Oakland Youth Orchestra, Sacramento Philharmonic and Festival Opera at Walnut Creek.
We went to a concert one Friday night. ‘Welcome to the Paramount!’ beamed the front-of-house staff. This was the second of two concerts that the OEBS have scheduled, at the suggestion of an Orchestral staff member, to coincide with Nowruz, the Persian New Year, so important to the many Iranians who live in the South Bay. The program consisted of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto featuring three American-Iranian musicians (Tara Kamangar, Cyrus Beroukhim, and Arash Amini) sandwiched between the compositions of three generations of American-Iranian composers – Behzad Ranjbaran, Ahmad Pejman and Omid Zoufonoun. So how was such a program received? We sat up the back of the circle in $20 seats where we could see the 3,040-seat theatre fill to near-capacity. There were standing ovations for the Beethoven and the final work on the program, a particularly effective work for kamancheh and orchestra by young local composer, Omid Zoufonoum.
Any orchestra would have been happy with the reception. I asked Jennifer Duston, though, if these audiences came back for other concerts. ‘That’s a question that orchestras that do such specific cultural programming ask themselves. To some extent you are absolutely developing additional new audiences for other programs, but we also recognise the fact that when we do these concerts not all of the attendees will come back. And that’s okay. We’re just thrilled to be reaching new audiences and the reason we do it is not solely, or even specifically, to build audiences for the other concerts. It’s just such an important part of our mission to create programs that attract as many different communities as we can.’
And for that reason among many, probably, the OEBS and Berkeley Symphony invest heavily in education. One third of the OEBS’s budget is spent on education through their MUSE (Music for Excellence) program that covers Young People’s Concerts, Ensembles in the Schools, the In-School Mentor and Instrumental Instruction and the Young Artist Competition. Lucas Hopkins, a saxophonist who received an Honourable Mention in the 2010 Young Artists Competition, performed an extract from Paul Creston’s Saxophone Concerto before the concert that we saw, to an audience that had remained behind after the pre-concert talk. Berkeley also devotes a huge amount of its activity to educational work. With its interactive on-campus concerts, classroom visits and springtime’s ‘I’m a Performer’ concerts, it reaches 4,000 students in all eleven schools of the Berkeley Unified School District. ‘For example,’ says Kleinmann, ‘at Malcolm X Elementary, we have classroom visits for all the grades K through 5 every year. And then we also have a concert in the Fall to introduce the kids to the orchestra. For the older kids we’re trying to introduce them to more developed concepts about tempos and rhythm and composition techniques, and in the Spring the kids are working on their own instruments – either they’ve made their own or are playing real instruments – and we actually have them play with the orchestra.’ And just to give an example of how the area is serviced by the same pool of musicians weaving together the strands of various careers, Tom Horgin, who is listed on Berkeley Symphony’s orchestra list as Principal Trombone, is also the OEBS’s Education Director, as well as second trombone.
It’s interesting to consider that both these orchestras present such innovative programs, though dependant to a far greater extent than Australian orchestras on box office and donations. I noted that the OEBS website actually tells potential donors what they’ll get for their contribution – for a $50-99 donation you get advance program notes and subscription to OEBS’ newsletter E-llegro, plus the opportunity to attend an Open Rehearsal. OEBS, like other arts organisations in the area, works hard to make itself felt in the community.
I asked Jennifer Duston her final thoughts:
These are certainly challenging times for non-profits and arts organisations, in this country. But I think we can flourish and do well when we, in fact, serve our community and find our niche in them. And it’s going to be different for every orchestra because every community is different. I think that the success that OEBS has had over the years is really more than anything else due to the fact that we have a mission of community service and our community, as diverse as it is, comes together around this little symphony orchestra.
Which tends to make me want to be defiant. If you want to know how much is going on in the East Bay area, pace Gertrude Stein, there is plenty there.
Gordon Kalton Williams © 2011
For further reading, check out also:
Association of California Symphony Orchestras (ACSO)
by Rhoderick McNeill
None of Australia’s important composers have captured the national imagination like our sporting heroes. They are not commemorated on Australian postage stamps or our money. Nevertheless, in recent years it has been possible to hear and purchase commercial recordings of the major Australian orchestral works of our time, including music by Sculthorpe, Meale, Dean, Vine, Edwards, Broadstock and Koehne. In contrast, older Australian works that pre-date 1970 are little-known. This neglect may be partly due to the lasting influence of music commentators from the late 1960s and the 70s. Sympathetic to the modernism emerging in the 1960s, they criticised the derivative element within older Australian music, especially the perceived influence of so-called British ‘pastoralism’. This view has not been displaced, despite the trends in musical fashion towards tonality, modality and ‘neo-romanticism’ of the past 30 years. Ironically, the important modernist works of the 1960s are also overshadowed by recent developments and share the neglect of the pre-1960s repertoire. It’s time to re-evaluate Australia’s concert music for orchestra. In this article I want to bring to your attention a number of Australian orchestral compositions that we should hear and celebrate.
Australia’s most famous composer is probably still Percy Grainger (1882-1961), but he spent a very limited period of his adult years in his home country and could be equally claimed by the US and Britain as their own. In the first half of the 20th century Australia was well-served by a number of British-trained composers who spent more time in their adopted country than Grainger did. George W.L. Marshall-Hall’s (1862-1915) ‘larrikin’ behaviour overshadowed his legacy as an educator and conductor in Melbourne for over 20 years and his own compositions, which include two mature operas and two symphonies. The second, in E flat of 1903, was performed at the London Promenade concerts by Sir Henry Wood in 1907 as well as receiving several local performances. Marshall-Hall’s musical language is redolent of Brahms, Wagner and his teacher, Parry and conveys the energy and optimism of the early years of Federation, especially in the well-crafted first and second movements.
A fellow student of Holst and Vaughan Williams, Fritz Hart (1874-1948) lived in Melbourne from 1909 until 1935. Although predominately an opera composer (Riders to the Sea is available in a modern edition), Hart wrote two large-scale symphonic works while in Melbourne. The symphonic suite The Bush (1923) is redolent of Holst’s The Planets in its mixture of modality, impressionism and masterly orchestration. Hart’s Symphony (1934) has never been performed and a performing edition of the score and parts should be a priority in Australian music studies.
Edgar Bainton (1880-1956) lived in Sydney from 1934 until his death. There, both his second and third symphonies were composed and premiered. They are impressive achievements. The compact, one-movement Second Symphony of 1940 demonstrates affinities with Vaughan Williams’s Job and the colourful symphonies of Bax. Symphony No.3, a larger four-movement work, was completed only weeks before Bainton’s death in 1956. Its troubled, elegiac tone resolves into a serene epilogue summative to both the rest of the work and the style of Bainton’s generation.
Percy Grainger is the best-known of the Australian-born composers who achieved prominence in Britain and the United States. However, his large-scale works for orchestra were few, although The Warriors, composed in response to an offhand comment by Beecham, is arguably his greatest achievement. Arthur Benjamin’s (1893-1960) neglect in Australia is astonishing given the brilliant finish and style of his music. His Symphony (1945) is his finest work and shows his mastery of extended tonality and symphonic continuity. Hugh Clifford, a Victorian who studied with Hart, became an important music administrator in the BBC. Clifford composed a powerful four-movement symphony in 1940 which demonstrates similarities in idiom with Walton. The work was performed first in a BBC Australia Day broadcast in early 1945, but despite one or two performances in Australia has been largely neglected here. Peggy Glanville-Hicks wrote her most important scores, including three operas The Transposed Heads, Nausicaa and Sappho while based in New York as a US citizen, including her long stint as music critic to the New York Herald-Tribune, and in Greece.
What about the Australian-born and based contingent of composers from the early 20th century? Alfred Hill‘s (1869-1960) finest achievement was his series of string quartets that he completed in the late 1930s. Eleven of these he transcribed as symphonies during the last decade of his long life. Although the craftsmanship and melodic ability instilled by his Leipzig training is convincing, Hill’s capacity for more powerful expression was limited. Perhaps his finest orchestral achievement is his 1940 Viola Concerto, which unashamedly proclaims its affinities with Bruch and Brahms and is a worthwhile addition to the limited Viola Concerto repertory. Margaret Sutherland (1897-1984) excelled in chamber music and her music demonstrates a mixture of neo-classicism, impressionism (she studied with Bax) and the harmonies of Bartók. Of her orchestral music, the most worthy of note is her tone-poem The Haunted Hills, which she described as ‘a sound picture written in contemplation of the first people who roamed the hills’ and the Violin Concerto.
The first major Australian orchestral composition to gain national and international acclaim was John Antill’s symphonic ballet Corroboree, a suite of which was premiered by Eugene Goossens in 1946. The full ballet was staged across Australia during the 1950s. Although Antill studied Central Australian Aboriginal culture through the writings and illustrations of ethnographers Spencer and Gillen as background to the work, Corroboree is not based on Aboriginal melodic themes. Its use of clapping sticks and contrabassoon sets an evocative Australian flavour from the outset. Corroboree is unmistakably modern in idiom and its exciting, cumulative rhythmic drive has been likened to the Rite of Spring. Antill’s three-movement Symphony on a City of 1959 is also worth hearing and demonstrates a wider stylistic range.
The establishment of symphony orchestras in each Australian state following World War II was an important stimulus for new orchestral works. In 1951 the Commonwealth Jubilee Composers’ Competition drew 36 Australian entries with four local symphonies making the final cut of 11 works. Robert Hughes’s Symphony was awarded Second Prize as the best Australian entrant. A closely-argued and sinewy three-movement symphony, it so impressed Sir John Barbirolli that he commissioned a new work from Hughes for the Hallé Orchestra in 1957. The Sinfonietta is an energetic and colourful score of some 18 minutes’ duration. Both it and the symphony in its 1971 revision into four movements deserve revival. A new edition of the symphony score and parts was prepared by Dr Joanna Drimatis during 2008-9.
Matching it in importance are the Symphony in E by Dorian Le Gallienne (1915-1963) and Symphony No. 2 by David Morgan (born 1931). More progressive than Hughes’s idiom, Le Gallienne’s symphony was composed in 1953 following studies with Gordon Jacob in Britain. Its four movements are marked by powerful drive and linear clarity in the outer movements that recalls Rawsthorne, and a mysterious and sylph-like scherzo which sounds like no other composer. The work has never been published or recorded commercially. Morgan composed his first two symphonies between 1949 and 1951 while still in his teens, and his second symphony was a finalist in the competition. The four movements are redolent of composers like Barber, Britten and Tippett, but maintain an intriguing individual voice culminating in a powerful fugue and blazing climax. Morgan continued to compose prolifically: of the generation of Sculthorpe and Williamson he is the most unfairly neglected composer in Australia. Raymond Hanson’s Symphony (1951) in one extended movement is another fine work worthy of investigation – its extended tonality is not dissimilar in idiom to Honegger or Hindemith.
During the 1960s a new generation of Australian composers influenced by post-war European modernism emerged – the early works of Sculthorpe, Butterley, Sitsky and Meale were hailed as bringing Australian composition up to date. However this important development also eclipsed the work of contemporary composers who demonstrated for the first time in Australia a real mastery of earlier European neo-classical styles. In hindsight, the work of Malcolm Williamson shows a sense of polish and sophistication well in advance of his contemporaries. Perhaps he was considered unfashionable because of his eclectic palette of serialism, harmonies adapted from Messiaen, jazz and popular music idioms as well as neo-classical drive and pulse. Impressive scores include Symphony No.1 ‘Elevami’, his ballet The Display (still remembered also for the huge lyrebird tail worn by the premier danseur), the Sinfonia Concertante and the Violin Concerto.
Also eclectic, George Dreyfus was arguably the first Australian-based composer to digest the idiom of Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements and rework it to his own purposes in his Symphony No.1 of 1967. This is a ‘watershed’ work that on the one hand connects to the Australian symphonic tradition of the 1950s as expressed by Hughes and Le Gallienne, and on the other looks forward to the return of tonality, pulse and audience accessibility that one finds in the symphonic works of Vine and Edwards from the late 1980s and 1990s.
Despite their neglect, Australian composers produced a body of work that is worthy of comparison with mid 20th century American and British symphonic composers that are increasingly appreciated through recent recordings. We have complete cycles of Schuman, Piston, Diamond and Harris symphonies from America; Frankel, Rawsthorne and Arnell symphonies from the UK. Why not a series of Australian symphonic works that brings new life to the important works of Hart, Bainton, Hughes, Le Gallienne, Sutherland and Williamson?
Rhoderick McNeill © 2011
Rhoderick McNeill is Associate Professor of the Faculty of Arts, University of Southern Queensland
Annual Report 2008
Click to download a copy of Symphony Australia’s Annual Report for 2008.
- The Accidental Necessity: ABC involvement with the Australian orchestras – by David Garrett
- 10% – 25% discount on hire of Symphony Services Music Library top 20s
- Associate Profile: Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra
- Symphony Services Music Library announces new hire charges for 2011 – better value than ever
- Foreign Correspondence – Notes from international conferences
View Podium #2 here.
Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra (APO) is the resident orchestra of New Zealand’s biggest city, and has achieved iconic status in its 30 year history. The orchestra was formed in 1980 when 19 players from the collapsed Symphonia of Auckland founded a cooperatively-run orchestra. APO is now supported by Creative New Zealand, the ratepayers of Auckland, The Auckland Philharmonia Friends, Guild and Foundation, a board of trustees, donors and a large number of trusts, organisations and companies.
The APO gives over 70 concerts per year and accompanies the NBR New Zealand Opera, Royal New Zealand Ballet, Auckland International Film Festival and international touring artists. It partners the Michael Hill International Violin Competition and Auckland Arts Festival The orchestra is proud of an education program that annually reaches 25,000 students who participate in a range of programs covering hip-hop and rock to contemporary and classical. In 2011 the orchestra will commence an education program based on Venezuela’s El Sistema.
A major supporter of contemporary New Zealand music, composers-in-residence since 1990 have included Ross Harris and Gareth Farr. 2011 will see the premiere of Ross Harris’s Fourth Symphony (APO has commissioned all three of his previous symphonies), and the premiere of New Zeibekiko, a major work by current composer-in-residence, John Psathas. The orchestra’s Music Director is Eckehard Stier. Roy Goodman is Principal Guest Conductor.
President Guo, vice presidents, ladies and gentlemen, I am honoured to be here today and am grateful for the opportunity to tell you a little about the education and outreach activities of the Australian orchestras. But first, I should introduce my company, Symphony Services International. Some of you may have heard me speak at the China Symphony Development Foundation conference in Hangzhou earlier this year – back then, we were known as Symphony Australia. Since then, we have expanded our scope to offer a wide range of services and products to orchestras not only in Australia but around the world. Asia is becoming an important market for us.
Like here, the Australian orchestral sector comprises many levels and types of orchestras. The Members of Symphony Services International are the six professional state orchestras based around the country and I am pleased that some of my colleagues from these orchestras are here today. In addition, we have Associates including the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the Canberra and Darwin Symphony Orchestras, opera orchestras and also orchestras from Asia and New Zealand. I am delighted to acknowledge our Associates Philharmonia Taiwan, the National Symphony Orchestra of Taiwan….
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Australia now has six fully-professional symphony orchestras, all of whom are Members of Symphony Services International, but their existence was not inevitable. So how did it happen? David Garrett looks at the early history and the role of some visionaries.
There was no historical necessity that a broadcasting organisation, the Australian Broadcasting Commission (as it then was), should become the builder and presenter of orchestral music in Australia, and yet this was what happened. The ABC provided the biggest stimulus to the creation of an Australian orchestral culture. A national broadcaster created a national vision out of what may have been haphazard and uneven. How did that come about?
When the ABC was set up by the Australian government in 1932, there was agreement among those concerned that the most serious gap in Australian musical life was the lack of permanent, full-time, professional orchestras.
There had been two near misses: Marshall Hall’s Melbourne University Orchestra before World War I, and the NSW Conservatorium Orchestra under Henri Verbrugghen in the early 1920s, but neither led to anything permanent. And radio stations had studio bands, but these were little ensembles mainly restricted to broadcasting.
Many believed that radio, with public funding, should do something about the orchestral situation – at least by building a listening public for orchestral music, and perhaps by developing symphony orchestras.
The standard general historical books on this subject tend to give the impression that the ABC moved right from the start to developing orchestras of its own. In fact, there was uncertainty, there were changes of direction, and the eventual outcome owed much to the vision of some key people.
The ABC was not the only proponent of orchestral development, because there were orchestral concert giving bodies in existence. There was, especially, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, a recent amalgamation of the Melbourne University Orchestra and the predominantly amateur MSO, under the musical leadership of conductor and music educator Bernard Heinze.
But there was a clash of interest. The effects of this conflict delayed the ABC’s development of its own orchestras, but its resolution probably helped make its orchestral policy truly national. The clash was a Melbourne-Sydney rivalry – not for the first time in Australian affairs!
On the one hand, the ABC, headquartered in Sydney, wanted to get away from the previous Melbourne domination of broadcasting, and wanted to take new initiatives. They came up with an ad hoc publicity-driven plan for a visiting conductor, Malcolm Sargent, to conduct a ‘National Orchestra’ formed by the ABC for his concerts, in 1933.
The Melbourne people, represented on the ABC’s governing Commission by Heinze’s friend Herbert Brookes (then ABC Vice Chairman) opposed the Sydney plan, which they saw as competing with their orchestra.
Sargent cancelled his tour through illness, and although the ABC brought out another British conductor, Sir Hamilton Harty, in 1934, by that time Brookes had persuaded the ABC to something more like Melbourne’s view. The ABC should not take its own orchestral initiatives, but support existing orchestral organisations (by supplying its own studio musicians, for example), in return for broadcast rights. The emphasis was to be put back on the ABC’s main purpose: broadcasting.
So from 1933 on the ABC was supporting orchestral activity and supplying some of the visiting soloists and conductors. Beginning with singers Ezio Pinza and Elisabeth Rethberg, and the Budapest String Quartet, the ABC was presenting a mix of recitals and collaborating in orchestral concerts. By the late 1930s the conductors brought to Australia by the ABC included Sargent and Georg Szell, the instrumentalists Artur Schnabel and Arthur Rubinstein. It looked as though the ABC was to be – somewhat surprisingly – a concert entrepreneur; a key supporter of orchestral organisations perhaps, but not yet an owner (and guarantor) of orchestras.
But this policy direction proved unstable, and gradually broke down. Why?
- the ABC’s own studio orchestras were the main permanent professional orchestras, and the ABC’s providing them to ‘outside’ organisations was more and more crucial to the viability and standards of the concerts;
- the outside bodies could not balance costs and revenue without increasing ABC support;
- the professionalism of ABC staff became more and more important to the bodies with which it was dealing; and
- ABC staff found managing orchestras and concerts rewarding, and wanted to do more of it, under ABC management.
But note: the ABC had become the vital player. Its policy broke down because its role increased.
An astute observer of the Australian musical scene, Thorold Waters, observed as early as 1934 the inevitability of an ABC takeover. He compared the relationship of the increasingly centralised, managerial ABC and the fragile community-based orchestras with the lion lying down with the lamb. But it took some time for the ABC and the musical community to become clear about what needed to be done.
At this point in the story, personalities become even more important. Heinze and Brookes began to see that even their own Melbourne Symphony Orchestra could not prosper without decisive support from the ABC. Though Heinze was opposed to ‘visiting conductors’ and ‘national orchestras’, he realised that if the ABC adopted a policy of concurrent orchestral development in all Australian capital cities, Melbourne would get its share. Furthermore, there would be an increased need for resident conductors, and Heinze, as the most plausible local, could maximise his conducting opportunities.
In the year 1934, the ABC got a new chairman, W. J. Cleary, Sydney-based like his predecessor, but with a national vision. Contact with Brookes and Heinze confirming his personal conviction, Cleary shaped a new ABC policy. If the ABC’s mission to lift the standard of Australian musical life was to be fulfilled, the concert activity would need to go hand in hand with a quantum leap in ABC orchestral development.
In 1935 Cleary, relying on the advice of Heinze (now ABC Music Advisor, as Brookes had always wanted) led the ABC to make a substantial increase in the numbers of its studio orchestras in all centres. In Sydney and Melbourne the orchestras’ permanent strengths were expanded to 45 and 35 players respectively, Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth’s orchestral strengths went to 17, and Hobart’s to 11.
Cleary knew this would tilt the balance decisively towards the ABC players being the dominant element in all the orchestras. At the same time, Cleary encouraged ABC staff to press forward in Sydney to replicate something like the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra pattern of public support for orchestral subscription concerts – using social contacts and prestige or the cachet of ‘Celebrity Concerts’ with the likes of Pinza and Rethberg to build audience, for example.
The year 1936 was to see two related consolidations – the ABC launching orchestral subscription concerts, and the orchestras to play for them being based on the new, larger professional nuclei.
However, 1935 had seen the arrival on the scene of the last of my important personalities, Charles Moses, the legendary ABC General Manager often credited with founding the ABC ‘system’ of orchestras and concerts. Moses himself, however, acknowledged the decisive role played by Cleary, who not only identified the 35 year-old Moses’s potential and persuaded the Commission to appoint him General Manager, but also taught him many of the management and policy skills Cleary had honed in previous roles as General Manager of Tooth’s brewery, then NSW Commissioner for Railways. Both Cleary and Moses had the true amateur’s predisposition towards music of the ‘high art’ character the ABC in those years put first. But Moses’ interest in music developed along with Cleary’s mentoring, and this is a sign of the very important role of music in the ABC’s role as a broadcaster, and in the careers of its senior executives.
Orchestras, for their institutional formation and survival, need the vision and executive skills of men such as Cleary and Moses, who seized an opportunity at a crucial moment in the history of Australian music and broadcasting. The ABC took the lead, everywhere except in Melbourne, in building the subscription audiences which made their further expansion into orchestral management seem justified. From 1936 the future of Australia’s orchestras was shaped by their being part of the ABC. The ABC was a broadcaster, but it was also a concert entrepreneur. The combination of administrative and entrepreneurial skills in Charles Moses, and the organisation he increasingly shaped, was invaluable. A statement he made to ABC staff in 1938 shows the hard-headedness Moses brought to the artistic vision of a broadcasting organisation on the way to becoming one of the biggest concert organisations in the world:
“As you are aware, the Commission’s concert activities are the subject of more attacks from press and public than any other aspect of our work. The management of concerts is a business, and I want you to consider yourself the manager of a business. Every detail of expenditure must be carefully watched…[and] justified…[I want you to report the] fullest information of every detail of cost.”
After World War II the ABC led by Moses established full-time professional orchestras in every capital, all run by the ABC, and thus federally supported, but also with state and municipal government support. For close on 50 years Australia’s professional symphony orchestras were ABC orchestras, and their concerts were ABC concerts.
When we think back over events in the past 15 years, resulting in the eventual divestment of the orchestras from the ABC, and consider what may yet happen in the future, with Symphony Services International (ABC Concert’s successor) now looking beyond these shores, it is worth remembering the decisive role played by the ABC in the development of fully-professional symphony orchestras in this country. Inevitable this development was not. Neither was the role of a broadcast organisation, though there are parallels, notably in Canada, Belgium and New Zealand. Former Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating, while describing the ABC as a ‘dead hand’, stifling its own creation, admitted that the ABC, for orchestras, was the giver of life. The ABC showed a way of forming and managing symphony orchestras at a professional level. It made sure that all Australia’s capital cities had such an orchestra. Even now that the orchestras are no longer ABC orchestras, the ABC provides broadcasting outlets which can only help orchestral music continue to thrive.
Ironically, what started on the pretext that it was needed to provide broadcasts has now returned to what it might have been had the ABC not become a concert presenter: the only relationship between the ABC and the orchestras and their concerts is that it broadcasts them.
David Garrett ©2010
The above article is a digest of David Garrett’s PhD thesis on the evolution of the ABC’s musical policy, including involvement with symphony orchestras.
With thanks to TSO and ASO Players Association for photos. More images of the ASO can be found at asoheritage.com
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
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
Madame Guo Shan President of Alliance of Asia-Pacific Region Orchestras
One of the key benefits that Symphony Services International offers to its Associates and Members is annual Summits. These are get-togethers of similar people from within professional orchestras across Australia and the region. In 2010 we hosted three Summits – for orchestral librarians, Chief Executives and Artistic Administrators.
A key feature of each Summit is an inspiring guest speaker, someone that the group would most likely otherwise not have the opportunity to hear. We’ve been delighted with the feedback we’ve received from this year’s participants, and hope to build on that to make the 2011 offering even more exciting.
Our first Summit, for Orchestral Librarians, took place on 25 October in the Board Room of the Sydney Opera House. It was attended by the librarians of the six Member orchestras as well as four of the Associate orchestras (Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra, Australian Chamber Orchestra, Melbourne Chamber Orchestra and Orchestra Victoria).
Following a welcome address by Kate Lidbetter, the invited guest speaker Clare Mirabello from TressCox Lawyers presented the first session entitled “Getting music copyright right: a practical overview” which not only clarified essential concepts and information about copyright in music but also discussed topics relevant to print music and performing rights. Many of the participants were able to obtain advice on specific issues during the question time.
Vi King Lim, Manager of the Symphony Services Music Library, presented the second session Creating new editions: the role of orchestral librarians as editors which examined and highlighted the editorial nature of many of the tasks performed by orchestral librarians when preparing scores and parts for use. He also used the opportunity to showcase Goodear Editions, SSI’s newly-launched publishing arm, as an example of practical music editing with the orchestra in mind.
The third session of the day took the form of an open forum on resources used by orchestral librarians. Peter Alexander, Opera Australia Librarian, chaired the discussion which looked at printed and online resources and catalogues for checking instrumentation, duration, publisher information, percussion requirements, etc., as well as networking options for orchestral librarians.
The Summit concluded with a tour of the Music Library at SSI and many of the participants also enjoyed a convivial dinner together at a restaurant in Walsh Bay.
On the following day (26 October), the Music Library staff and the Member orchestra librarians held a day-long meeting in the SSI Board Room to discuss operational and logistical aspects of SSI’s provision of library services to the Member orchestras. In addition to positive feedback about current service levels, some useful suggestions for improvements were put forward and an action plan was compiled to effect changes and refinements to current systems and policies of the Music Library. As a new service to the Member orchestra librarians, remote browse access to the Music Library’s live collection was rolled out with the Member orchestra librarians who received a hands-on tutorial on HLMSW at the end of the day.
Chief Executives and Artistic Administrators
Deliberately timed to coincide with the Berlin Philharmonic’s tour to Sydney, the Chief Executives and Artistic Administrators met at the beautiful APRA board room and conference space in Sydney on Tuesday 16 November.
The morning session was shared, with a presentation from Cathy Milliken, the Australian-born Director of Zukunft@BPhil, or ’Future@BPhil’, the inspiring and exciting education program of that orchestra. Cathy outlined the many ways that the Berlin Phil engages with the local community, in particular children, and how the orchestra endeavours to engage young people from all cultural backgrounds in its educational activity.
It was clear how much the orchestra and its management values the program, and what an integral part of the orchestra’s activities Zukunft@BPhil is. Cathy explained that the program had been set up by Music Director Sir Simon Rattle, and that his stamp is all over the design and implementation of the activities. Clearly the orchestra sees its investment as vital, with five staff working with Cathy and an international reach, as evidenced by the REMIX Mahler activity being run with Year 11 and 12 students in Sydney during the orchestra’s tour. The two-week creative project involved improvisation, composition and musical exploration through the music of Mahler. The project culminated in the students performing their work at the Sydney Opera House alongside the Berlin Philharmonic, a truly amazing opportunity.
Following Cathy’s presentation, the Executive Director of the Major Performing Arts Board of the Australia Council, Tony Grybowski, spoke informally with the group. He updated participants on issues such as the appointment of a new federal Minister for the Arts and his staff and advisers, where the funding model review is up to, and ways that orchestras can best articulate their needs and issues to government and funding bodies. Words that stood out included ‘relevance’, ‘vision’, ‘artistic leadership’ and ‘renewal’. Tony answered a range of questions and joined participants for lunch.
In the afternoon, the groups separated to consider issues of individual relevance. The Artistic Administrators, with representatives from the six symphony orchestras plus the Australian Chamber Orchestra and Auckland Philharmonia, discussed sharing educational product, pooling resources for collaborative commissioning of composers, ways forward with commercial engagements and ways to jointly market and promote their activities. SSI’s Artist Services Manager, Alison Saunders, updated the group on recent changes in the immigration process, best practice in issuing contracts and itineraries, research into ways to share information digitally and airline carry-on baggage policies that have recently been affecting violinists.
Meanwhile, the CEOs had representatives from those same orchestras, plus the Canberra and Darwin Symphony Orchestras, Orchestra Victoria, the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra and the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra. They discussed industrial relations and sharing of information, how orchestras can best support each other, interesting models of employment around the world and an update on the situation for orchestras and other music organisations in the UK and US, given different but equally worrisome financial and funding situations in both of those countries.Participants then stayed on to enjoy a drink together, and many headed off to hear the magnificent Berlin Philharmonic perform its opening night concert to a full house at the Sydney Opera House.
Feedback from participants of all Summits has indicated that the events were extremely productive and beneficial.
It is anticipated that the CEO and Artistic Administrator groups will meet annually in this format, while other groups will be convened on a biennial or triennial basis. SSI is investigating the demand for Summits involving Orchestra Managers, Education Managers, Marketing and Publicity staff and so on. The sky’s the limit when it comes to sharing information! Already the Librarians have decided to meet again in 2012, this time in Melbourne. We look forward to sharing the outcomes of that meeting with you in due course.
2010 ABC Symphony Australia Young Performers Awards Stage III Finals.
2001 / Willow and Wattle / Orchestra: MSO
2002 / Symphonic Variations on a Theme of Paganini Orchestra: TQO
2004 / Sinfonia Chaconnissima / Orchestra: MSO
1997 / The Little Gecko / Orchestra: SSO
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From 1-3 July 2010, our colleague David Garrett attended a conference hosted by the Institute of Musical Research, University of London, titled The Symphony Orchestra as Cultural Phenomenon. David kindly agreed to provide us with a report on the sessions he attended.
The full program of the conference can be accessed at:
David presented a paper at the conference titled ‘A Happy Coincidence? – Broadcasting, the ABC and the first permanent orchestras’. Of his summary of the conference, David writes:
I have grouped my quotations and comments according to the degree of general interest presented by the sessions, rather than the order in which they occurred. Since the majority of papers were historical in approach, the keynote addresses and papers on more general subjects come first, followed by the nuggets from more specific papers, and a wash-up of the rest.
AT A GLANCE:
David lists the following as key points coming from the conference.
- The conference was originally planned to focus on British orchestras. International scope recognised that the comparative approach is often lacking in British scholarship.
- ‘Orchestras are things that have things done to them’ – by administrators, by programmers, by organisations, by sponsors.
- Fundamental to our orchestral enterprise is finding the right words to define it. ‘Quality will prevail’ is insufficient to ensure survival.
- The notion of ‘Classical’ music derives from the 19th century ritualising of the public concert – emotional constraint, disciplining of bodily behaviour.
- The main criteria for the values, attitudes and practices of classical music: use of acoustic sound, and transmission in written form.
- The symphony orchestra represents the conditions of the past at the highest level of organisation: ‘the most active negotiator between the historical values of an art form and the challenges of new forms of sound production, organisation and transmission’
- Who now ‘owns’ the symphony orchestra? Or who thinks they do? The orchestral management, the grant givers, the audiences, or the politicians? Does public subsidy imply public culture?
- ‘LSO Live’, the first label of this kind. Nobody gets paid at the time, and the proceeds, when they come, are divided. A Listening Committee monitors the editing and approval. Who has the final artistic say?
- Atlanta Symphony (Robert Spano Musical Director from 2001): ‘Atlanta School’ of composers (including Michael Gandolfi, Osvaldo Golilov, Christopher Theofanides…). Tonality and tunes; popular and world culture resonances. The presentation and marketing tactics include:
- performing existing and known works
- a video of the composer and Musical Director shown at the concert
- repeat performances in future concerts/tours/education
- ticket sales up 5% when an Atlanta composer is performed.
- Belgium, the radio and the symphony orchestra – parallels with Australia and the ABC in the 1930s. Public broadcasting as employer and as disseminator of ‘modernistic’ music. The first permanent orchestras in Belgium were radio orchestras.
- Hallé Orchestra under Harty in the 1920s: especially the importance of recordings for that orchestra’s profile –and making printed programs with brief notes free from 1929.
- Louisville Orchestra (Kentucky USA) New Music Project from 1948 for more than a decade. One new work in every symphony concert, plus a recording on the orchestra’s own label.
Duncan Boutwood (a convener of the conference) revealed that the original plan was to focus on British orchestras. The widening to international scope was a recognition that the comparative approach is often lacking in British scholarship. Subjects of papers covered France, the UK, Belgium, Serbia, USA, Vienna, China, Italy, Australia, and Venezuela.
I had a watching brief to look out for ‘the orchestra in Asia’. The one paper I attended on that theme I found disappointing, even in its treatment of a limited subject.
One of the keynote speakers, David Wright of the Royal College of Music, made valuable contributions throughout the conference discussions. Commenting on my paper, and another concerned with orchestras within a national broadcasting network (in Belgium), Wright was reminded that ‘orchestras are things that have things done to them’ – by administrators, by programmers, by organisations, by sponsors. Most of the papers addressed orchestras as things in themselves, not always in context. It struck me that those used to orchestras in a very public context (government funding through broadcasting) tend to think about orchestras in the way described by Wright.
Perhaps of most basic theoretical interest was the paper by Francis Maes (Ghent University): ‘Negotiating the Values of Classical Music: Towards a Definition of the Symphony Orchestra as a Cultural Actor’. Maes argued that fundamental to our [orchestral] enterprise is finding the right words to define it. The age-old wisdom that quality will prevail is insufficient to ensure survival. Policy makers present the enterprise in terms of social accountability and aesthetic value. To a certain extent these terms are resisted within the orchestral world because of the pressures they create for standardisation.
The notion of ‘Classical’ music, with its assumed value judgment (‘Classical’), derives from the 19th century bourgeoisies’ ritualising of the public concert – some relate this to an ethic of emotional constraint, disciplining of bodily behaviour. Maes argued that the terms should be defined from the angle of practice: ‘classical’ are the products of human activity from the past, timeless models of excellence. They rely on the conditions of the past [e.g. the instruments, acoustic media, and written transmission, as opposed to new technology]. For classical music these differ most from the technology of the contemporary music world. Exclusive use of acoustic sound and transmission in written form should be the main criteria for the values, attitudes and practices associated with classical music.
Transmission is now possible WITHOUT INSTITUTIONAL INTERMEDIARIES. The survival of the symphony orchestra (as of the opera house, piano, and chamber music) is due to continuity of practice, achieving a degree of permanence. The repertoire is explained by practice.
The symphony orchestra is the most advanced organisational response, representing the conditions of the past at the highest level of organisation. ‘In contemporary culture, the symphony orchestra is the most active negotiator between the historical values of an art form and the challenges of new forms of sound production, organization and transmission’.
David Wright’s keynote address was ‘The Symphony Orchestra in an Age of Public Subsidy: Paying the Piper and Calling the Cost-effective Tune in Post-war Britain’.
In the light of the receipt of public subsidy, who now ‘owns’ the symphony orchestra, or who thinks they do: the orchestral management, the grant givers, the audiences, or the politicians? Does public subsidy imply public culture? ‘For all the autonomy suggested by its freestanding musical identity, the symphony orchestra’s existence is defined by economic environment and cultural context’.
An Australian hears strong resonances in these questions.
Wright’s paper explored the Keynesian Post-war consensus underpinning the Arts Council: stimulation of demand should widen taste, and result in a reduction of public subsidy. Audiences become consumers. These hopeful assumptions were undermined by recordings, and radio: there was a decline of concert life.
Arts Council involvement in orchestral standards: intervention through public subsidy, promoting patrician cultural values. A perennial dilemma of funding was how intervention would affect the four London orchestras? It was assumed four was too many, but there was never agreement on which, if any, should go.
Reasons for Subsidy:
- More concerts
- More attendance (lower prices)
- Employment of musicians
- Cultural imperative
- Educating the public
- Adventurousness in programming
- Expert knowledge
This approach made orchestras clients of the Arts Council: ‘vassals’ – even after the Thatcher-era shift to business sponsorship. Removal of subsidy would cause an orchestra to go under. It removed the direct relationship between commodity – provider – consumer.
Orchestral subsidy came to be hard-wired, but was contingent on cultural and social circumstances. The public left in droves; there is decreasing awareness of the ‘theatre of live performance’; concert attendance has become exceptional rather than routine. In the past a ticket was admission to a forum, for assimilation, or rejection. Repeated performances of new works are a luxury rarely encountered.
‘Absence of philosophy, abundance of politics’
Interesting, particularly in the light of the ‘Live’ labels ventures of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Sydney Symphony was a paper by Ananay Aguilar – an intern for a time with ‘LSO Live’, the first label of this kind. The background was the decrease of [paid] studio activity. Clive Gillinson was General Manager of the London Symphony Orchestra when it was set up at a time of decreased studio recording. Nobody gets paid at the time, and the proceeds, when they come, are divided. Aguilar sat in on the recordings under Gergiev of all the Mahler symphonies.
For studio recordings, the Musicians Union-agreed terms had been 3 x 3 hour calls for every 1 hour recorded. For ‘LSO Live’: 1 rehearsal, 1 concert, 1 patching 1 hour 30 min recording. Only repeated concerts are recorded.
A Listening Committee monitors the editing and approval. Recordings are still considered necessary for international profile [‘calling card’], and it was argued that recording in performance helps flow, spontaneity, focus, adding up to the possibility of greater authenticity. Unfortunately Aguilar was excluded from the editing process, where the crucial artistic questions arise. Discussion centred on this. Who has the final artistic say? She did reveal that Gergiev wasn’t involved in the editing…
Laura Jackson, Music Director, Reno, Nevada was formerly assistant conductor at the Atlanta Symphony (Robert Spano Musical Director). Her paper, given by video, was preceded by Mark Clague’s scholarly introduction, telling how in 2001 Spano brought into being what has since been called an ‘Atlanta School’ of composers (including Michael Gandolfi, Osvaldo Golilov, Christopher Theofanides… ) Adherence to tonality and tunes, popular and world culture resonances make this music an intellectual entry point for audiences.
The presentation and marketing tactics include:
- performing existing and known works
- a video of the composer and Musical Director shown at concert
- workshopping, last minute editing and changes, collaborative rehearsal
- repeat performances in future concerts/tours/education
- supporting composers’ ongoing work and careers
- orchestra and community raising money (coterie of donors)
The idea is support of ‘living composers’ and linking their music to the city. Ticket sales go up 5% when an Atlanta composer is performed.
The extension by Jackson to her own orchestra in Reno was less interesting.
Some insights, very selective given space, from other papers:
In ‘Creating an audience in 19th century Chicago’, Mark Clague showed how attempts were made to link civic pride with concert attendance – donor Charles Norman Fay’s guarantee of a 50 week season (1860s-1880s) also gave conductor Theodore Thomas absolute artistic control. Fay hoped, largely in vain, that the popular outdoor ‘Garden’ concerts would feed audience to the ‘subscription’ concerts. Clague commented on the instability of late 19th century orchestral life: recent (ie late 20th century) stability was not typical.
Belgium, the radio and the symphony orchestra brought some parallels with Australia and the ABC in the 1930s. But Australia lacked the cultural tension between Flemish and French speakers (both papers were on the Flemish). Nor was there the near-artistic dictatorship of a single man, Paul Collaer, who spearheaded the cause of modern music, and took it to the Radio as head of musical programming from the mid-1930s .The focus on modern music alienated many listeners and was aimed at ‘the high bourgeois francophone elite of Brussels’
The importance of the public broadcaster as employer and as disseminator of ‘modernistic’ music was stressed by Kristin van der Buys. Lieselotte Goessens explored how this centralisation of music and other programming replaced a previously incoherent policy, while disadvantaging Flemish programming. (Incidentally, note the pronunciation of her name – the way we pronounce [Eugene] Goossens, but he should be (G)Hoessens). )
Radio orchestras in Belgium originated in public broadcasting – which shaped their policy. The first permanent symphony orchestra in Belgium was the ‘Grand orchestre symphonique’ of the National Radio Institute (1936), which gave its concerts primarily for broadcast, with a studio audience.
Another comparison/contrast with Australia: the role in Yugoslav symphonic orchestra development of a composers’ competition in Belgrade from 1935. This was a Serbian initiative, to match Slovenia and Croatia, but not connected with radio, as was the ABC’s composer competition in 1932-3. The orchestras in Ljubjlana, Zagreb and Belgrade were opera house orchestras with occasional symphonic concerts.
Jane Evrard and the Orchestre feminin (Paris) was about an all-female string orchestra (1920s-30s) and the first female conductor in France. Evrard had acted in films and projected a hyper-feminine image. The orchestra did sterling work for new and for ‘old’ music, and gave opportunities for woman players. It did not survive their recruitment into orchestras during World War II (as in Australia). I found interesting the assumption that such an orchestra would have a conductor.
From the papers on the New Symphony Orchestra (UK), and on the Hallé Orchestra under Harty in the 1920s: I found especially interesting the importance of recordings, even then, for that orchestra’s profile – and the Hallé’s making printed programs with brief notes free from 1929.
The reputation of the Louisville Orchestra (Kentucky USA) is based on its New Music Project from 1948 for more than a decade. A visionary benefactor (Farnsley) and the musical director (Robert Whitney), with the help of a large Rockefeller Grant secured by Farnsley (who helped found the National Endowment for the Arts) enabled one new work in every symphony concert, plus a recording on the orchestra’s own label. The project was ‘a patchwork of artistic experimentation’, often bringing for the orchestra tension with financial sustainability, and some alienation of the local community.
Orchestral alternatives I found more entertaining than insightful. The Baroque Orchestra: Balancing Commodification and Counter-culture argued that the main ensembles in the Early Music movement in Netherlands beginning in the 1960s – the Orchestra of the 18th Century and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra – were ‘first positioned as socially progressive, but this was problematised by recording, and especially the marketing of recordings’. But Maes had commented earlier in the conference that the modern Early Music movement began largely in the recording studio
The really terrible orchestra and the politics of musical failure looked at three orchestras:
- Cornelius Cardew The Scratch Orchestra (c1969)
- Portsmouth Sinfonia (Gavin Briars) 1970s (Classical Muddley 1981)
- The Really Terrible Orchestra (Alexander McCall-Smith 1995-)
Criteria were the humor(?) of bathos, a stance of anti-professionalism, and a quintessentially British ‘Pythonesque’ aura. The first two orchestras were, to different degrees, experimental, with artistic aims – both to the left in politics – that they foundered over. The third relates more to amateurism and an aristocratic tradition of incompetence: dilettantism, leisure; the opposite of perfectionism. The paper could have discriminated more between values in varying forms of amateurism. One comment queried ‘failure’, since these orchestras achieved what they set out to do – ‘foibles rather than failure’.
Symphony Services International today announced an excting new venture. Download the Media Release
Annual Report 2009
Download a copy of Symphony Australia’s Annual Report for 2009.
Tristram Williams maintains a busy international career as a soloist, ensemble musician, improvisor and educator. He has appeared as a soloist in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Britain, USA, China and many times around Australia, including the Australian premiere of Peter Eötvös’ trumpet concerto Jet Stream in Melbourne in 2006.
He was appointed Associate Principal Trumpet of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra at 21, before resigning in 2006 after seven years to concentrate on other projects. He has performed as acting Principal Trumpet with most of the Australian Orchestras, and in 2004 was invited by Markus Stenz to play Principal Trumpet in the Guerzenich Orchester’s 100th Anniversary concert of their premiere of Mahler’s Symphony No.5 in Cologne. He is a member of the Australian New Music ensemble ELISION, and plays in a trumpet/electronics duo, DIODE.
He is currently Lecturer of Trumpet at the University of Melbourne. His teachers have included Armando Ghitalla, Håkan Hardenberger, Reinhold Friedrich, Markus Stockhausen, Daniel Mendelow and John Kellaway. He is a laureate of major international trumpet competitions in Brussels and Eindhoven, and was awarded a prize from Karlheinz Stockhausen at the 2006 Stockhausen Interpreters Course.
A finalist in the 2004 Symphony Australia Young Performer Awards, Benjamin Kopp has performed as soloist with Orchestra Victoria and the Melbourne, Sydney and West Australian Symphony Orchestras, and has collaborated with conductors Vladimir Verbitsky, Brett Kelly, Marco Zuccarini and John Harding.
Currently based in Switzerland, he has performed at numerous international summer schools and festivals including the International Musicians’ Seminar Prussia Cove, Academie de Lausanne, Lenk Sommerakademie, Melbourne International Festival of the Arts and the Salzburg Mozarteum Summer School, where he was selected to perform as soloist at the Wiener Saal and Mirabell Palace.
He has been awarded scholarships by foundations such as the Australia Council, IMS Prussia Cove, Ian Potter Foundation, Sydney Conservatorium and the Lenk Sommerakademie. From 2004-2006 he was a full scholarship holder at the Australian National Academy of Music under the tutelage of Rita Reichmann. During this time he won the ANAM Concerto Competition and was selected for the Best Concertos of 2004 concert.
He completed his Bachelor of Music at the Sydney Conservatorium with teacher Daniel Herscovitch. He has also studied with Jennifer Hammond, John Perry, Bruno Canino, Christoph Lieske, Mark Gasser, Margaret Hair and Adrian Oetiker, and performed in masterclasses for Gary Graffman, Piers Lane, Angela Hewitt and Michael Kieren Harvey, among others.
He has given recitals with Mats Lindstrom and Alexander Baillie and in 2005 his piano trio were finalists at the Australian Chamber Music Competition. His solo and chamber music performances are regularly broadcast on ABC Classic FM, 2MBS FM and 3MBS FM. His recent recordings on the Hush CD helped raise funds for the Royal Children’s Hospital. He also appears on an album of Australian piano works with Jennifer Hammond.
Shaun Lee-Chen has been a member of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra since 2006. He completed his Bachelor of Music (Performance) at the University of Western Australia in 2000 with First Class Honours, studying with Paul Wright and Pal Eder. Upon graduation, he was the recipient of numerous prizes including the University of Western Australia
Graduates prize for most outstanding music graduate and the Lady Callaway medal for music. In 2001 he was accepted into the Australian National Academy of Music’s Advanced Performance Programme. He has appeared as soloist with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra and performed on numerous broadcasts on ABC Classic FM. As a chamber musician he has performed with various ensembles including the West Australian Piano Trio and appeared with various period performance ensembles on both violin and viola.
Jessica Foot began playing oboe at the age of 10, under the tutorage of Sue Taylor. She continued her studies with Anne Gilby, and with Eve Newsome whilst completing a Bachelor of Music Performance at the Victorian College of the Arts in 2004. During this time Jessica was awarded the Friends of the VCA Encouragement Award. Since 2006 she has been a scholarship holder in the Advanced Performance program of the Australian National Academy of Music, studying with Jeffrey Crellin.
Maintaining a strong interest in all types of performance, Jessica has performed as soloist with the Melbourne Youth Orchestra and Melbourne New Orchestra, and she has given recitals for the Music Lovers’ Society of Victoria since 2006. She was Principal Oboe with the Australian Youth Orchestra in 2006 and took part in the orchestra’s European tour in July 2007. She attended National Music Camp in 2005 and 2006, and has also played with Orchestra Victoria, the Australia Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra, and Melbourne Youth Orchestra. An enthusiastic chamber musician, Jessica has been involved in a number of projects including AYO’s contemporary ensemble New Music Now and the ANAM Chamber Orchestra, who recorded Schoenberg’s Chamber Symphony No.1 for Melba Recordings. Throughout 2006-7 she was a member of the ANAM wind quintet Ensemble Bain-Nu, which performed the Schoenberg Wind Quintet at the Australian Festival of Chamber Music in 2006, as well as taking part in the contemporary music series at the 2006 Melbourne Arts Festival.
Jessica has participated in lessons and masterclasses with prominent oboists in Australia and abroad, including Thomas Indermühle, Stefan Schilli, Alexei Ogrintchouk, Jacques Tys, and Diana Doherty. Through the support of AYO’s Dorothy Fraser Travelling Scholarship, she plans to continue her studies in Germany this year.
Rebecca Chan began her musical studies at an early age on both violin and piano and has been performing since the age of four. At 15 she began studying at the Melbourne University Conservatorium with William Hennessy whilst completing degrees in Medicine and Arts. Since 2004 she has studied with Alice Waten at the Australian National Academy of Music. She has also studied and performed with other numerous international and local visiting artists, both in Melbourne and overseas, including Felix Andrievsky, Oleh Krysa, Boris Kuschnir and Daniel Gaede, Igor Ozim and Paul Roczek. Rebecca has won major prizes at eisteddfods and has also been a prizewinner in the Gisborne International Competition and the Hephzibah Menuhin Memorial Award. She won the Melbourne University J.S. Bach Prize and was a finalist in the 2005 Dorcas Maclean Scholarship. She is a two-time winner of the ANAM concerto competition and has been invited to perform solos with a number of orchestras including Orchestra Victoria, the Australia Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra, ANAM orchestra, Melbourne University Chamber Orchestra and Melbourne Youth Orchestra, resulting in several live and national broadcasts.
A keen chamber musician, Rebecca has been a member of the Australia Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra since 2004 and a regular casual member of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra since 2005. She has collaborated with or been tutored by notable ensembles including the Borodin, Artemis, Petersen and Henschel Quartets. As a member of the Hamer Quartet she has performed in concerts and festivals both in Australia and overseas and been awarded several prizes and grants. Rebecca is one of the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s 2008 Emerging Artists.
Maxwell Foster began music lessons as a young child and at the age of eight entered the Queensland Young Conservatorium of Music where he studied under Jenni Flemming. He has won many prizes including the award for the best performer in the Redland Bay Eisteddfod (2005), winner of the intermediate section of the Queensland Piano Competition (2005), winner of the 15 years and under section of the Petrof Pianoforte Competition (2005), and winner of the 2005 Brisbane Boys College Concerto Competition. In 2005 he was invited to perform with the St Lucia Orchestra.
After completing his AMusA at 13, Maxwell moved to Melbourne for tuition with Rita Reichman and to attend the Australian National Academy of Music. He is a boarder on scholarship at Scotch College where he plays viola in the school’s strings group and in their senior orchestra, and he is an enthusiastic participator in chamber music activities.
Maxwell has been a state finalist in the Yamaha Piano Competition twice, first representing Queensland and then Victoria.
His busy schedule this year has included solo recitals and a concerto performance with Melbourne’s Pro Musica Orchestra.
Ji Won Kim attended the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School (VCASS) before continuing her studies in Europe and obtaining a Bachelor of Music with high distinction from the Vienna Hochschule in 2004. At the University of Melbourne in 2008, she completed a Master of Music with high distinction under the guidance of Nelli Shkolnikova. She is currently studying with Alice Waten at the Sydney Conservatorium.
Ji Won Kim’s awards include the 2005 International Johannes Brahms Competition, and second prize in both the Lisbon SIC International Violin Competition and the Slovenia Bled International Competition. She has also won the Stephanie Wohl Wettbewerb in Vienna and the Hephzibah Menuhin Memorial Award in 2007.
Ji Won Kim has performed as soloist with the Melbourne Youth Orchestra, Swietokrzyska Philharmonic (Poland), Antonio Scontrino Orchestra (Italy), Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra, Daegu Symphony (Korea) and the Anton Bruckner University Orchestra. She was a finalist in the Strings Category of the 2008 ABC Symphony Australia Young Performers Awards, where she performed with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Vladimir Verbitsky. She has participated in music festivals in Salzburg, Lisbon, New York, Tokyo, and Sion with musicians such as Boris Kushnir, Sergei Kravchenko, Zakhar Bron, Aaron Rosand, Mauricio Fuks, Ruggiero Ricci and Erich Gruenberg.
President Guo, vice presidents, ladies and gentlemen, I am honoured to be here today and am grateful for the opportunity to tell you a little about the Australian network of professional symphony orchestras, and about Symphony Australia. I have worked for 20 years as an arts administrator in Australia, including eight years as Artist Development Manager of Symphony Australia. I have now been Chief Executive Officer of Symphony Australia for 18 months. During that time Symphony Australia has begun a very exciting period of growth and development. This should be good news for orchestras in Asia. Symphony Australia aims to grow into a company that provides a wide range of services and products to orchestras not only in Australia but around the world. We hope that Asia will become an important market for us in the near future; when Australians look beyond their shores, what they see first is Asia.
I would like to share with you all something of the history of our orchestras. Though our vast country was first settled by Europeans 222 years ago, we have orchestras, those very- European institutions, only recently. Since the 1930s, Australia has had just six full time professional orchestras. These were created by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation or ABC, Australia‟s national broadcaster which provides television and radio services to the country. The orchestras were created as radio broadcast orchestras, but in recent years they have become commercial entities that are funded by the Australian government, as well as sponsorship, ticket sales and other means of generating income. Symphony Australia was once a division of the ABC, but today is an independent entity. We provide services such as access to the music library, artist development, tour management and liaison, and program notes – on a national basis. This is far more cost effective and sustainable for each individual orchestra and avoids duplication in many areas.