Turning talk into action at American orchestras

Posted on: June 29, 2010

“You can always count on leaders of American orchestras to talk grandly about change every couple of decades,” writes Andrew Adler in Sunday’s (6/27) Courier-Journal (Louisville, Kentucky). “They have a lot more trouble turning that talk into action. … The League of American Orchestras has produced another call to re-vision. At its 2010 National Conference in Atlanta, delegates were asked to rank their desire for change on a scale of 1 to 5. Overwhelmingly, they selected ‘4’—just short of the most-radical recommendation available. Forgive me for not shouting whoop-dee-do. I don’t expect much to emerge from this. … There is less agreement about what alternatives these orchestras should pursue. We love to invoke ‘21st-century relevancy’ without having the slightest notion of what ‘relevancy truly means. Is it to entertain? To educate? Here in Louisville, we have an orchestra that hasn’t changed all that much.”

In his final blog on orchestrarevolution.org League President and CEO Jesse Rosen writes, “There was a different kind of energy at Conference this year. I was heartened by the readiness to engage with some of the really tough issues that would have been taboo only a few years ago. We witnessed provocative, alert, constructive thinking about some of the most intractable problems in our field. It was as if people’s experience has caught up with the messages about the need for change that have been in our system for a while. … Is it just talk or will it make a difference in how orchestras behave? … Every orchestra will need to come to its own understanding of the distinct path it needs to follow in order to stay artistically vital and financially sound in today’s climate. When challenges are as complex and interconnected as those orchestras are confronting, progress may feel elusive. But these days, individual orchestras across the U.S. are experimenting with innovative responses to those challenges. And in the field’s spirit of readiness we see new opportunities for orchestras to work together to find creative solutions to common concerns.”

Photo by Jeff Roffman

Posted June 29, 2010