“A World More Embracing”: essay by League President and CEO Simon Woods examines orchestras in the present moment and proposes new roads forward

Posted on: November 17, 2020

Simon Woods (center) with Seattle Symphony musicians during his time as the orchestra’s CEO. Photo: James Holt, Seattle Symphony.

“After more than 30 years working with orchestras, I was honored earlier this year to accept the position of president and CEO of the League of American Orchestras,” writes Simon Woods in an essay in Tuesday’s (11/17) Medium. “But back in March, I had little idea of what I would inherit as I stepped into my new virtual office a couple of months ago. It’s not hyperbole to say that our working lives will never be the same again after 2020. As a result of COVID-19, arts organizations large and small are fighting for their lives, while individual artists and administrators are fighting for their livelihoods. The long-overdue racial reckoning of 2020 has layered on a profound re-examination of our entire field. And the Presidential election has reminded us all of the polarization that runs through American society and the acute divergence of views about how we should move forward as a nation…. Amid crisis, it’s hard to look over the horizon to see what the future might bring. Music and extraordinary artistry across our field will always nourish us. But as we cast around for hope, I want to suggest that we turn to new possibilities that might lie ahead. Humanity is resilient, and the arts are resilient. Orchestral music has survived for centuries, and it will thrive again. But it will thrive differently—and the opportunity in front of us now is to fashion a future that is richer and far more embracing than where we’ve come from.” Read Woods’ complete essay here.