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Category: Editor’s Choice

Alice Brandfonbrener, M.D.

0 Ann Drinan

I recently learned that Alice Brandfonbrener passed away on May 31 of this year (2014). I was deeply saddened to learn this, as I’m certain were many, many other musicians and members of the arts community who had come to know her over her 83 years. Here is a link to one obituary; here a

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Moving Forward

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As musicians it is quite natural for us to occasionally question our career decisions, but what if we are thrown a curve ball and something unexpected gets in the way of our well-ordered plans?  This is, in fact, what the author of this Editor’s Choice article faced at an early point in her career. How

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Dominant and Tonic: Rethinking the Role of the Music Director

0 Robert Levine

The recent death of Lorin Maazel caused me to remember an article I wrote for Harmony in 2001 about the role of the Music Director, in part because his selection as Music Director of the New York Philharmonic was discussed in the article. Maazel was, with Bernstein, one of the very first Americans to be

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Separate But Equal

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At Polyphonic we always look forward to receiving one of Peter Sachon’s articles. This one is from 18 months ago and in it Peter gives us good “food for thought” around orchestral programming. It’s worth revisiting again as an Editor’s Choice.  Click here to read Peter Sachon’s “Separate but Equal.”  

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How To Find a Balance

0 Ann Drinan

Back when he was Principal Flute of the Utah Symphony and President of AFM Local 104, Erich Graf wrote a fascinating and heart-felt article about how he learned to be both an excellent symphonic musician and an effective union leader. He talks about his own journey to self-discovery, begun by writing a Conscientious Objector letter, the

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Happy Birthday Polyphonic!

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This month Polyphonic.org turns eight years old! Thank you to all of our readers, contributors, and editors for making Polyphonic.org a great resource for musicians!  Enjoy one of our favorite renditions of “Happy Birthday” below:

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Being Orchestra Treasurer

0 Ann Drinan

While probably not as exciting as being John Malkovich, being your Orchestra Committee’s Treasurer can be a pretty interesting gig. As we enter the “homestretch” of our 2013-14 seasons, orchestras are reassessing themselves internally, and looking towards the future. If you’re Orchestra Committee Treasurer is “making noises” about stepping down, consider the possibility of your

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Why Orchestra Management is Hard

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In 2010 Robert Levine posted this blog on Polyphonic–”Why Orchestra Management is Hard.” Robert was referring to a blog of Joseph Horowitz and he took issue with some of his points. But that isn’t why I’m making this blog an Editor’s Choice. I love the xtranormal video link that Robert included in the last sentence.

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Robert’s Rules, according to Robert

0 Ann Drinan

I read a first draft of Robert Levine’s primer on Robert’s Rules of Order at a break in rehearsal — my colleagues refused to believe that an article about parliamentary procedure had caused me to laugh out loud. But indeed, Robert’s description of how to use Robert’s Rules to run an orchestra meeting is very

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Michael Kaiser’s Arts in Crisis Symposium

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Michael Kaiser has been called “the turnaround king” because of his success with several arts organizations, including the Kansas City Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theater, and London’s Royal Opera House. Indeed, his 2008 book is titled The Art of the Turnaround: Creating and Maintaining Healthy Arts Organizations. In this article from

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Learning from the Past

0 Ann Drinan

As we all celebrate the end of the 15-month lockout of the Minnesota Orchestra and welcome their return to performances next month, I’d like to remind the orchestral community that another orchestra suffered a 14-month lockout back in the early 90s, and has learned a lot by that experience. My own Hartford Symphony was locked

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2013 Recap: Top 10 Most Popular Posts!

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All of us at Polyphonic.org want to thank you, our readers, for making 2013 a great year!  This past year you joined over 63,000 people who visited Polyphonic.org a total of more than 92,000 times! Below are the top 10 most popular posts of the year from Polyphonic.org based on number of views! #1: Bringing

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Marketing a “Difficult” Concert

0 Ann Drinan

All orchestras want to “stretch” and offer repertoire that challenges both the players and the audience — that strengthens the symphonic art form and moves us into the future. But selling these concerts to our regular patrons can be very challenging. Orchestras with liberal return policies find subscribers giving in their tickets to the “stretch”

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Alias: A New Kind of Ensemble

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In 2007 we posted an article entitled, Alias: A New Kind of Ensemble.  Looking back with 20/20 hindsight it can easily seen that Alias was, and still is, part of a trend—a movement among musicians to form “alternative ensembles.” In an effort to understand more about this trend, the Eastman School of Music recently inaugurated

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“New” Business Models

0 Robert Levine

As I mentioned in a recent blog post, the phrase “new business model” is far too often used as shorthand for “paying musicians less” – ironic given that paying people less is a very old business model indeed. It’s probably a phrase that should be abandoned simply because it’s been so contaminated. Yet there are

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The Memphis Model & the Director of Innovations

1 Ann Drinan

A few years back, the Memphis Symphony was suffering a misunderstanding about their operational structure that became known as “the Memphis model.” Musicians around the country were under the impression that Memphis musicians were working in the office as part of their musician contracts — a “service conversion” situation. When I went to investigate, I

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Paul Boulian: The Economic Reality of Orchestras

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For this Editor’s Choice I decided to look back at some interviews we recorded in years past. There are some real gems here. The one I chose to feature this time around is a conversation between Paul Boulian and Greg Sandow discussing the economic reality of orchestras. Though it was recorded in February 2009, it

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New York Philharmonic Young Peoples’ Concerts

0 Ann Drinan

In 2009 I attended a New York Philharmonic Young Peoples’ Concert, conducted by my friend and colleague Delta David Gier, and was exceedingly impressed by the quality of the concert — it’s concept, execution, script, dancing, repertoire choices, etc., but mostly by how incredibly good it was. I asked David Gier and Tom Dulack, the

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Explorations of Teamwork: The Lahti Symphony Orchestra

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My Editor’s Choice for this time around is a look-back to a 2002 article in Harmony by Tina Ward and Robert Wagner.  In it they write about their experiences with the Lahti Symphony Orchestra. It’s an inspiring story about a small town orchestra in Finland that, at that time, was making big waves in its

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How Hard Substantive Change Really Is In This Business

0 Robert Levine

In light of the recent settlement of the SPCO’s long lockout, it’s worth revisiting the events of 2003, when the SPCO embarked on a radical departure from past practice regarding institutional governance. Five perspectives are provided; those of the mediators/facilitators, Fred Zenone and Paul Boulian, that of the President and CEO, Bruce Coppock, that of

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(Re)Envisioning the Orchestra: An Interview with Eric Jacobsen, Conductor and Founding Cellist of The Knights

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If you have been visiting Polyphonic.org over the past couple of months, you’ve probably seen the announcement of the Paul R. Judy Center for Applied Research that has been established as part of the Eastman School of Music’s Institute for Music Leadership. More specifically Center is now part of the Orchestra Musicians Forum and its

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An Orchestra in the Movies

0 Ann Drinan

It’s time for another Editor’s Choice, and it’s 90+ degrees here in Connecticut, with the humidity soaring off the charts. Too hot to consider something serious, so I thought I’d draw your attention to a fun article I wrote a few years ago when the New Haven Symphony (NHSO) and yours truly were in a

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From One of the Masters: Basic Principles of Orchestra Management

0 Robert Levine

It’s conference season again, and musicians attending the League of American Orchestra’s annual conference this week in St. Louis will have the chance to learn some of the basic principles of orchestra management from one of the masters, former San Francisco Symphony and St. Louis Symphony CEO Peter Pastreich. Those not lucky enough to hear

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What Were They Thinking?

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What Were They Thinking? For most music students the transition to the professional world does not usually happen abruptly. A switch is not thrown and voila, you’re a pro. The normal course of events involves a period of time when some gigs are well paid , some not-so-well and some not-at-all. It’s these not-so-well and

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Sphinx Founder Aaron Dworkin’s Personal Story

0 Ann Drinan

In sorting through my mail last evening, I came across the Sphinx spring newsletter, with a lovely photo of Sphinx founder Aaron Dworkin and his wife Afi Sadykhly Dworkin. I noticed with interest that Sphinx has honored Stanford Thompson, among others, with a Medal of Excellence. Stan was a graduate of the first class of

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Improving the Orchestra’s Revenue Position: Practical Tactics and General Strategies

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My Editor’s Choice for this go-round is from 1997—sixteen years ago. Here’s a little background just to put it in context. Our website, Polyphonic.org is part of the Orchestra Musician Forum, that was created in 2004 when Paul R. Judy made a gift of the financial and intellectual assets of the Symphony Orchestra Institute to

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The Role of the Orchestra Librarian

0 Ann Drinan

Karen Schnackenberg of the Dallas Symphony has been a contributor to Polyphonic for many years. I’d like to pay tribute to her in this Editor’s Choice blog post. The article I’m calling attention to was about librarians as copyists, and included some comments from my own librarian in the Hartford Symphony, Ron Krentzman. When should a

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Ron Bauer’s Course on Orchestra Finances

0 Ann Drinan

As I was thinking about which article (or series of articles) to spotlight in my Editor’s Choice, I thought of Ron Bauers and all that he did for orchestras in his role as a financial analyst and an avid musician/AFM member. And then I saw that Ray Ricker has also selected a financial article to

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Musicians and Home Office Tax Deductions

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This is the last in our series, “Things a Musician Should Know about Taxes.” As usual, William Hunt is our resident Polyphonic.org  tax expert. Not only is he a superb violinist, he also has an MBA in finance from the Simon School at the University of Rochester. I don’t know of anyone more knowledgeable than Bill

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Depreciation of Musical Instruments

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It’s tax time, so here’s our second Editor’s Choice in this series of tax related articles. William Hunt is our resident Polyphonic.org  tax expert. Not only is he a superb violinist, he also has an MBA in finance from the Simon School at the University of Rochester. I don’t know of anyone more knowledgeable than Bill

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Beneficial Tax Treatment for Qualified Performing Artists

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It’s tax time, so for the next few weeks the Editor’s Choice will feature tax related questions. William Hunt is our resident Polyphonic.org  tax expert. Not only is he a superb violinist, he also has an MBA in finance from the Simon School at the University of Rochester. I don’t know of anyone more knowledgeable than

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A Bold Experiment

1 Robert Levine

Events in the Twin Cities this season have both horrified and fascinated those who care about orchestras and orchestra musicians. Events of such magnitude usually have a backstory, and the months-long lockout of the musicians of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra has a very rich backstory indeed. In 2002 and 2003, the board, staff and

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An Indexed Financial Model for Symphony Orchestras

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This article by Michael Drapkin was first published in October of 2011. In it, Michael describes a different orchestra financial model–how the financial stakeholders of an orchestra i.e., the musicians, staff, conductors could share in the economic success or failure of their orchestra. There is definite risk/reward here, if instituted by an orchestra it would

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NAC Orchestra’s Community Engagement Programs

0 Ann Drinan

Many orchestras are designing outreach programs, in order for their musicians to become more involved with their community. One of the more successful community engagement programs is that of the National Arts Centre Orchestra (NAC Orchestra) in Ottawa. In 2006 Polyphonic published two articles about NAC Orchestra’s outreach to Canada’s aboriginal population. NAC tours nationally

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If I were a musician, what would I want to know about management?

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Peter Pastreich held the position of Executive Director of the San Francisco Symphony for 21 years, retiring in 1999. By all accounts that I’ve seen or heard, he is one of the most respected orchestra managers—maybe it’s because he’s retired now. Anyway–the article that follows is an account of his 2009 presentation at the League

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Gary Race on How To Prepare an Educational/Outreach Presentation

0 Ann Drinan

Back in the 1990s, Gary Race worked with the National Symphony’s Education Department to assist NSO musicians in devising quality educational and outreach programs for in-school and community performances.  In 2006, Polyphonic asked Gary to write a series of articles, explaining his approach to creating innovative, interesting and informative presentations. Gary’s set of articles, “Getting

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Are Three Legs Appropriate? Or Even Sufficient?

0 Robert Levine

Henry Fogel was one of the best orchestra CEOs of the past thirty years, and his understanding of the intricacies of orchestral governance is profound. I learned a great deal from this article, even though I didn’t agree with all of his conclusions, and I think his insights about how our institutions function still ring

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Why They’re Not Smiling: Stress and Discontent in the Orchestra Workplace

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If you checked out my previous Editors Choice blog, you will remember that the research of Richard Hackman revealed that orchestral musicians are not so happy in their jobs. Quoting Hackman, It’s a bit ironic. Players in symphony orchestras are near the top of their professions—they are among the handful of talented musicians who actually

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Life and Work in Symphony Orchestras

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In the 1996 Summer issue of The Musical Quarterly [80(2), pp. 194-219], J. Richard Hackman, a professor of psychology at Harvard University, and Jutta Allmendinger, a professor of sociology at the University of Munich published a large-scale study of 78 professional symphony orchestras from four nations. Over the years, within the orchestral world, their study

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Things Are Seldom What They Seem: The Wisdom of Dr. Alice Brandfonbrener

0 Ann Drinan

Dr. Alice Brandfonbrener is arguably the pre-eminent physician in the world of music medicine.  Several years ago, Polyphonic asked her to write an overview of her experience with common musician injuries, and give her advice to instrumentalists about finding the proper diagnosis and care. She responded with a somewhat whimsical article, quoting Little Buttercup from

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A Map To Reading And Finding Topics In Harmony: Eight Years of Research, Studies, and Articles

0 Robert Levine

I have long had a soft spot in my heart for Harmony, which was the house journal of the Symphony Orchestra Institute. In part this was because the founders of SOI had the same curiosity about how orchestras really functioned as I did, and gave free rein to their curiosity in soliciting articles for Harmony.

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Do As I Say: Music Conservatory Culture and its Contribution to Discontentment Among Professional Orchestral Musicians

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Today we add a new feature to Polyphonic.org–the Editor’s Choice.  Since we launched our site in 2006, we have a accumulated a vast amount of content. In addition, we also have the articles that were published in Harmony, the periodical of the Symphony Orchestra Institute. Much, if not most, of this content is still relevant

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