Christopher MillardMaurizio Ortolani  

The NACOcasts: Podcasting is changing the way orchestras communicate with audiences

Christopher Millard & Maurizio Ortolani
May 21, 2019

Editor's Abstract (Click to Hide)

Orchestras are constantly exploring new technologies that can enhance the audience's appreciation of their concerts, from multi-media concert experiences and digital program notes to new web experiences. Since February 2006, the National Arts Centre Orchestra of Ottawa Canada has been producing bi-monthly 30-minute podcasts featuring their upcoming programs. Polyphonic has been featuring the NACOcast of Gustavo Dudamel on our home page for the past month.

I recently had a fascinating conversation with Chris Millard, host of the NACOcasts and principal bassoon of the NAC Orchestra, and Maurizio Ortolani, NAC's New Media Producer. They discussed the origins of the podcasts, how they put them together, and the technology they use. Thus far they've produced about 30 podcasts on a wide range of topics; click here to explore their offerings and listen, and read on to experience a behind-the-scenes view of the NAC studio.

- Ann Drinan

An Interview with Chris Millard and Maurizio Ortolani

Ann Drinan: What are your backgrounds?

Chris Millard: I was principal bassoonist in Vancouver for 29 seasons, and I took over the principal chair in Ottawa during the 2004-05 season. I studied at Curtis.

Maurizio Ortolani: I have a fine arts background. I managed a few festivals in Ottawa, and then started a consulting company to help arts organizations with their Internet communications strategies. I became the NAC’s New Media Producer in 2000.

AD: Chris – how did it come about that you host these NACOcasts? Did you have any prior experience in radio or interviewing?

MO: Can I answer that? … I attended a NACO performance where Chris was the featured soloist in the Mozart Bassoon Concerto, and I saw Chris address the audience. Jaime Laredo was conducting, and the two of them talked about the performance during the concert. Chris’ preparation, eloquence and charisma were extremely impressive and I thought, “We have to get this guy doing a podcast.“ It has been a huge success; he does excellent research, he writes well, and he hosts the shows like a pro.

CM: The hard part is keeping on top of it – my biggest problem is having the time and coming up with ideas for new programs.

AD: How did the show originate?

MO: We envisioned it as an outreach vehicle – we wanted to use the emerging technology of podcasting, which has such great potential for an organization like ours. We were actively looking at designing a podcast program around the orchestra, and we came across Chris’ talents.

Chris Millard and Maurizio Ortolani Chris Millard and Maurizio Ortolani in the NACO broadcast studio (click to enlarge)

We also have a French language music podcast, BaladOCNA, hosted by Marjolaine Laroche (NACO’s assistant principal bass), about the day-to-day life of the orchestral musician. She took a short break, but it’s coming back this spring. And we also produce a podcast for the NAC’s English Theater program with Peter Hinton, for French Theater with Paul Lefebvre, and for our NAC Orchestra tours and festivals.

Marjolaine’s French podcast series is very different in character from Chris’ NACOcasts, which are studied and thoughtful (as well as funny). The French series is irreverent, off the cuff, and more spontaneous, totally in keeping with Marjolaine’s personality.

AD: Chris, do you have artistic autonomy? Do you get guidance from NACO staff or can you make all programming decisions?

CM: I have complete autonomy. I certainly get suggestions from the staff – I use some and not others. The original intent was to make the podcasts be concert promos that contained meaningful content about artists and repertoire. I realized quickly that I didn’t want to just put up advertising pieces for concerts. Anyone can do that, and a lot of what we hear are basically promos. I really felt that I didn’t want the podcast to become a way to fill the hall – I wanted to engage audiences. Since I’m already preaching to the converted, why not give them something more in-depth? I use the podcasts to delve into the music.

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