The League of American Orchestras held their annual conference in Dallas last week. The conference presented three plenary sessions, several Toolbox and Perspective meetings with multiple sessions from which to choose, and constituent meetings (e.g., Marketing Directors, General Managers, Board, Volunteers, Musicians, etc.).
The League also offered Orchestra Leadership Academy Seminars (for extra tuition) on Tuesday and Wednesday on a variety of topics: Navigating Conflict; The Patron Growth Model: An Integrated Approach to Sales, Fundraising & Loyalty; Think SMART: Aligning Money & Organizational Strategy; Building the Right Board for Fundraising Effectiveness; Communication Tools for Effectiveness in Stressed Environments; Community Partnerships and Public Value: Music Programs in Healthcare Settings; Inclusion & Diversity in Orchestras; and Keeping the Energy Going: Personal Renewal for Senior Leaders.
I arrived Wednesday morning and attended a luncheon at Myerson Symphony Center for musicians, conductors and composers, sponsored by Sciolino Artist Management. Many in attendance at the luncheon had earlier attended an open rehearsal of the Dallas Symphony. Maestro Jaap van Zweden addressed the group and answered questions about the hall (wonderful acoustics), the sound of the string section (much improved under his leadership was the consensus), and the difference between European and American orchestras (the latter learn music much faster), among others.
The building (Myerson Symphony Center) is named after Morton Myerson, a business associate of Ross Perot and former President of Electronic Data Systems. Perot offered a major gift to ensure the hall met the standards of architect I. M. Pei and the acoustician Russell Johnston of Artec Consultants. The concert hall is named for Eugene McDermott, co-founder of Texas Instruments. The hall and the building are quite stunning.
A musician constituency meeting followed the luncheon, moderated by Robert Levine and then the first plenary session. I will describe the major sessions in detail in later posts this week.
At the first plenary session, a union (Jimmy Settles, Jr.) and management (Marty Mulloy) representative from Ford Motor Company told the story of their collaborations in negotiating their most recent labor agreement.
The Dallas Symphony and Maestro Jaap van Zweden presented a concert Wednesday evening, with Jennifer Koh performing the John Adams Violin Concerto. Also on the program were Wagner’s Prelude and “Lieberstod” from Tristan und Isolde, Steven Stucky’s Rhapsodies, and Strauss’ suite from Der Rosenkavalier.
Wednesday began with the second plenary session, focusing on innovations. Brent Assink of the San Francisco Symphony spoke about their American Orchestra Forum, and consultant Jeff DeGraff presented a lively keynote about implementing innovation. Another consituency meeting (this time combining many constituencies) brought Jimmy Settle and Marty Mulloy back to explore more of what happened at Ford. The panel also included Bruce Ridge, ICSOM Chair, Carla Lehman-Tatum, ROPA President, and Robert Levine, Polyphonic Senior Editor and President of the Milwaukee local. A most interesting conversation ensued.
After lunch the League presented the first of two Toolbox sessions — several sessions were repeated later in the afternoon, after an all-delegate reception hosted by Cirque de Symphonie (including a performance by their bronzed strong men). I attended a discussion with Robert Flanagan, author of The Perilous Life of Symphony Orchestras (given twice) and an update on El Sistema USA.
The other Toolbox sessions available included: Budgeting for Reasonable Goals; Changing the System (cultural changes to impact the community); Creating Legendary Loyalty Programs; Expanding the New Music Family (consortiums and commissioning clubs); Arts Participation (creating opportunities for active participation), given twice; How Live Music & Sports Share Entertainment Challenges; Inclusion and Diversity; Think SMART (a new League tool for orchestras - a Strategy and Money Alignment Readiness Tool), given twice; YouTube Symphony Orchestra; Contracts, Calamities and Compensation (liability protection); Conversation with Marvin Hamlisch (he was in town for a Pops concert); Marketing Strategies; Kickstarter 101; and Public Value Essentials (how orchestras improve public life).
Thursday evening the Fort Worth Symphony and Miguel Harth-Bedoya gave a concert at Myerson Symphony Center, with Chee-Yun performing Kevin Puts’ Violin Concerto. Also on the program were Jennifer Higdon’s Loco and Dvorak’s Seventh Symphony.
Friday morning began with the League Annual Meeting at an 8 AM breakfast meeting, where several awards were presented and Jesse Rosen, President and CEO of the League, gave his annual address. Delta David Gier, Music Director of the South Dakota Symphony, received ASCAP’s John S. Edwards Award for Strongest Commitment to New American Music, Michael Tilson Thomas, Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony, received the Morton Gould Award for Adventurous Programming, and Osmo Vänskä, Music Director of the Minnesota Orchestra, received the Leonard Bernstein Award for Educational Programming. Click here for a list of all ASCAP winners (download the PDF file to see the entire list). Mei-Ann Chen, Music Director of the Memphis Symphony and Chicago Sinfonietta, received the Helen M. Thomspon Award.
After another constituency meeting, several Perspectives sessions were open to all delegates. I attended Orchestras Ascending, with representatives from Detroit, Columbus and Phoenix talking about coming out of very hard times. The two-hour session was moderated by Fred Miller and presented an excellent discussion. (More to come later this week.)
Other Perspective sessions: Check This Out! (innovative projects); Deepening Community Engagement; Inventing the Future (curated by young staff members and artistic leaders); and a Conducting Masterclass with Miguel Harth-Bedoya and the Ft. Worth Symphony.
The final plenary session was after lunch and featured a performance by members of the Dallas Symphony’s Young Strings program, performing a work by alumnus Stamos James Martin. The Gold Baton was presented to Helen J. DeVos, and Clive Gillinson, Executive and Artistic Director of Carnegie Hall, spoke about an integrated approach serving both music and our communities. Unfortunately I had to leave to catch my plane and did not hear Clive’s address.
The Dallas Symphony presented a Pops concert with Marvin Hamlisch and Michael Feinstein on Friday night.
All in all, a most interesting (and exhausting) conference. About 15 musicians attended the first constituent session on Wednesday; more may have been at the conference. A reminder that registration for the conference is free for any musician who plays in a League orchestra. Next year’s conference will be in St. Louis.
I’ll provide more details on some of these sessions later this week.