Tag Archives | League of American Orchestras

Conducting Studies as Research?

William_Christie_ConductorI was recently at a conducting conference in Oxford, UK, designed by academics for academics.  Beyond giving a paper concerning technical issues with live-streaming concerts and the inherent challenges of new strategies in audience engagement, it was, for the most part, an uninteresting conference populated by college and conservatory conductors (both instrumental and choral educators) – some of whom I must say have very peculiar ideas as to what constitutes conducting as a communicative musical artform.

There was one session, however, in which the very wonderful conductor, William (Bill) Christie, was interviewed about his career and work in historically informed productions and research into Baroque French Opera.  This session alone was worth the price of admission, so I was glad that I went to the conference in the final wash-up.

But the conference, as it went on, made me give thought to the very vast differences there are between conductors who work as conductors in the professional music industry (arcane as it is) and others who spend inordinate amounts of time and energy undertaking “research” into what is referred to as, ‘Conducting Studies’. Continue Reading →

Orchestral Musicians: Evangelists For Our Art or Violin Operators?


Catherine Arlidge

This is the title of a wonderful Op-ed. piece in the Fall, 2015 issue of’ ‘Symphony‘, the magazine of the League of American Orchestras.  It’s worth reading and I suggest you do.  What I want to draw your attention to here, is just one brilliant paragraph on p.23 of the article in question.  Written by Catherine Arlidge, sub-principal second violin with the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, she offers an alternative to orchestra governance models (governed and self-goverened) by analogy to the John Lewis retail chain of stores in the U.K. (John Lewis is a store somewhat like David Jones in Australia).

Catherine suggests: “However could there be a third way, a “John Lewis” vision of our U.K. orchestras following the example of the successful John Lewis retail chain, where players and staff are employed and are members? There may not be profits to share, but there would be a vision to share and a collective sense of ownership. If we could combine the best qualities of both orchestral governance models, we could create a structure that serves our art better.  Looking to the future, one key factor of sustained solvency for our orchestras will be “invest-ability.”

With the imminent website launch of the Australian Discovery Orchestra (ADO) on Tuesday this coming week (October 6), Catherine has just outlined the ‘exact’ long-term governance model aspirations for the ADO – not as a venture that relies on Government hand-outs or the strictures of Not-For-Profit structure – but an organisation that is totally entrepreneurial with high-level aspirations of “invest-ability”.  The only difference to Catherine’s model is that the ADO is made up of ‘members’ (from the outset) who are not employed in full-time orchestral practice.

So Catherine, I am a fan, not only of your far-reaching vision but because your ideas are born of being a highly experienced (and highly credentialed too, I might add) orchestral musician, and not orchestral administrator who will only think inside the box (because the box is the walls in which they operate). Kudos.

More soon,


Jesse Rosen Keynote Address Scores 10-out-of-10

I think this is one of the finest keynote addresses I’ve heard in the orchestral music sector. An address at the League of American Orchestras’ 2015 Conference in Cleveland, Jesse Rosen, president and CEO outlines his ‘top-ten’ critical issues (acknowledged reference to David Letterman) as the future imperatives of American Symphony Orchestras.

Given the breadth of contextual 360-deg. understanding that Mr. Rosen exhibits, it is a pity that the Tier-A orchestra managements in the U.S. do not attend this component of the League’s annual conference; having their own private conference immediately proceeding this event. The pity is that much of what Mr. Rosen proposes with alacrity and abiding sense, is clearly falling on deaf ears with some of the ‘majors’.  How can you tell?  Just look at their websites for programmng in the coming year.  Conversely, look at the Tier-A orchestras that are clearly starting to sharpen their pencils in committing to true community engagement and re-invigorating their repertoire choices (i.e., NYPhil. stand-up and take a bow).  You can almost hear the life being breathed back into these institutions as they shrug off the accumulated dust of tired old war-horse programming in favor of more balanced, curated, and audience-centric choices of music from which to choose.

Moreover, it is fascinating that the greater buy-in to evolving orchestra practice seems to come from the lower-tier orchestras possessing less resources, less financial security but a more demonstrable and energised will to evoke change.  These orchestra are serious champions and they extend from Nebraska to Alabama and everywhere in between.

More soon,