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Category: Uncategorized

The Baton and the Jackboot – Then and Now

0 Tony Woodcock

Berta Geissmar was a doctor of philosophy, a musician, and an author. The poignant image she creates of Germany before National Socialism is one where culture and, in particular music, was absolutely at the forefront of life.

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Millennial America

2 Peter Sachon

Orchestras need to offer compelling reasons for millennials to make live symphonic music a part of their lives.  After all, millennials are the largest generation in human history, and at nearly 90 million people they will very soon make up the vast majority of our orchestras’ stakeholders, constituents, audience, staff members and supporters – and

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Minnesota Orchestra board steps up

1 Robert Levine

Michael Henson will be leaving the Minnesota Orchestra: The Minnesota Orchestra announced Thursday night that its president, Michael Henson, whose decision to seek a substantial pay cut from its musicians led to a bruising 16-month lockout when they resisted, would be leaving his post at the end of August. The departure of Mr. Henson could

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Machiavelli wasn’t a Finn

2 Robert Levine

The former battlefield known as the Minnesota Orchestral Association continues its explorations of the very outer limits of the envelope: Musicians returned to playing concerts for the Minnesota Orchestra this weekend, but the turmoil that has followed the organization for more than 16 months resurfaced Saturday. After a homecoming concert Friday at Orchestra Hall, musicians

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Lessons from the Great Strad Robbery

1 Robert Levine

As anyone who’s picked up a newspaper in the last few days probably knows, the Stradivarius on loan to Frank Almond, my orchestra’s concertmaster, was recovered last week and the alleged thieves detained by police: Salah Salahadyn, 41, and Universal Knowledge Allah, 36, arrested this week, are each charged with robbery, as party to a

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In Memoriam

0 Robert Levine

It’s always humbling to write the annual In Memoriam feature for Polyphonic, but never more so than this year. The number of highly accomplished people associated with our field who were also remarkable human beings will be daunting for anyone who’s considered what their own obituary might look like. Many of those who left us

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Are orchestras “hostile” to women conductors?

0 Robert Levine

The attitude of professional orchestras to conductors of a certain gender is a perennial favorite of arts journalists, if not yet an actual Internet meme: Example of Internet Meme: not intended as a reflection of the author’s real feelings The latest example of such journalistic favoritism is an article on the BBC website a few

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Kitschmastide (with examples)

0 Robert Levine

Polyphonic has Been Absolutely Inundated (OK; a few requests on Facebook, but this is a business where self-promotion seems to require the kind of spin that would make tennis balls spiral off into the next county) with requests for examples of what I was referring to in my previous post. So here goes. One of

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‘Tis the season

1 Robert Levine

…for lousy Christmas carol arrangements. What is it about Christmas music that leads arrangers into the ugly back alleys of kitsch? Is it simply that it takes a genius to make a good arrangement of a good tune? Copland’s handling of the great Shaker hymn tune in his Appalachian Spring would suggest that. (Speaking of

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11/22/63

0 Robert Levine

Some historical events are burned into the memories of everyone who lived through them. For my generation, the first such event – and, for me, still the most shocking – was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy 50 years ago today. I was in 8th grade, about six weeks short of my 12th birthday,

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Bringing Down the Sky: From Great to Good in Minnesota

3 Michael Manley

I. The Tornado and the Plow Horse I recently plugged the words “Salieri” and “Festival” into Google, which limped back with a meager Salieri Opera Festival of 2010, presented by Fondazione Fioroni in Verona, Italy. Curious, I added “2013” to the search, and Google came back with only three results, none of which led to

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Intimidation

1 Tony Woodcock

What’s the most intimidating experience you have ever had? A one-on-one with an aggressively demanding boss? An IRS audit? Being pulled over by a traffic cop?

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Did You Mean to Do That? — A Traveler’s Reflections

0 Tony Woodcock

I love sitting in studio classes, experiencing that unique relationship between a master teacher and a student. It always feels like a privilege to hear and see the trust that has been generated and to feel the intensity of the learning and teaching model.

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On Star Wars and the Baby Boomers

0 Peter Sachon

It was recently announced that John Williams will compose the music for Star Wars: Episode VII.  This is great news for fans of his music all over the world, and it could be great news for smart orchestras too.  A new Star Wars movie is the sort of cultural event that has largely untapped possibilities

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Red line in Minnesota gets redder

0 Robert Levine

I promise that some day I will post on something other than the Minnesota Orchestra labor dispute. But, at the moment, it’s the most important thing happening in our field. The news yesterday from the Northern Front was not encouraging. The first item was that Minnesota Orchestra management has apparently set a kind of deadline

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The Role of the Orchestra Committee vs. the Local

0 Ann Drinan

An interesting musician session at the League’s June conference featured a panel discussing “The Role of the Orchestra Committee and the Local Union.” The panelists were Robert Levine, Principal Violist of the Milwaukee Symphony, Senior Editor at Polyphonic and former Chair of ICSOM; Tom  Jöstlein, Associate Principal Horn of the St. Louis Symphony, and Chris

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Final thoughts on the 2013 AFM Convention

0 Robert Levine

I now know how Charlie Brown would have felt had, just once, Lucy let him actually kick the football. He would have felt a stunned disbelief that what he had long wanted to happen – and what should have been happening all along – finally did happen. I don’t know what he would have felt

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An historic day for the AFM

0 Robert Levine

Read about it here.

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When Vampire Squid meets orchestra

2 Robert Levine

One of the best metaphors in recent years was coined by Matt Taibbi, who wrote one of the great articles on the financial crisis of 2008: The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it’s everywhere. The world’s most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face

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No Time At All

0 Peter Sachon

Just like Rip Van Winkle, American orchestras have been asleep for twenty years. Season after season of the same repertoire, played again and again for generations until the idea of an orchestra participating in modern musical life seems outrageous. Last week, the League of American Orchestras focused their annual conference around the idea of “Imagining Orchestras in

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2013 ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming

0 Ann Drinan

The League of American Orchestras announced today the winners of this year’s ASCAP awards for adventurous programming. ASCAP and the League present the awards each year during the League’s conference to orchestras of all sizes for programs that challenge the audience, build the repertoire, and increase interest in music of our time. The winners for

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Nashville – WTF?

0 Robert Levine

The situation in Nashville is beginning to seem worrisome: Foreclosure proceedings have been initiated against the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, and an auction of its landmark Schermerhorn Symphony Center has been scheduled for June 28. Formal notice of the foreclosure was issued by Bank of America, the lead lender on the $82.3 million still owed on

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Île de Saint-Louis: An Homage for Henri Dutilleux (1916–2013)

0 Tony Woodcock

It was the First Symphony (1951) of Henri Dutilleux, a composer who was entirely new to me then. I came to know the work well and it started me along a road of discovery of one of the finest composers of the 20th Century.

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New boss same as old boss

0 Robert Levine

This really shouldn’t have been a surprise: After a season marred by a bitter contract dispute and a musician lockout, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra got some positive news Tuesday, May 7.The committee looking for a new president for the organization unanimously recommended the return of former SPCO president Bruce Coppock, who was president and

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Where no orchestra has gone before

0 Robert Levine

The Minnesota Orchestra has once again made history; this time with a public threat by its music director to leave unless things are settled very soon: Osmo Vänskä says he will resign as music director of the Minnesota Orchestra if the ensemble loses a prestigious engagement at New York’s Carnegie Hall because of the current

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The AFM is still wrong about the League

3 Robert Levine

It’s hardly a secret that the relationship between the League of American Orchestras and the AFM and its symphonic player conferences has become publicly contentious since the beginning of the Great Recession in 2008. The latest manifestation of that is an article in the March 2013 edition of the International Musician written by Joel LeFevre,

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St. Paul settles

0 Robert Levine

After an extremely confusing few days reading the press coverage of whether or not a deal brokered by St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman would be accepted by the musicians, it appears that it was: The agreement came even as the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Board was meeting in executive session to discuss canceling the rest

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News from the North

2 Robert Levine

There have been been several developments in the Twin Labor Disputes in the State Least Likely To Experience Labor Disputes (Or At Least Not-Nice Ones). None of them offer much visible hope for quick resolution of either situation. On the Minnesota Orchestra front, Graydon Royce of the Minneapolis StarTribune, who has done as good a

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A Timpanist’s Memoirs

0 Ann Drinan

Thomas Akins, Principal Timpanist with the Indianapolis Symphony from 1965 to 1991, has published his memoirs, Behind the Copper Fence: A Lifetime on Timpani. His book is filled with reminisces about his many years with the Indianapolis Symphony, his training as a timpanist, including seven summers (1960-66) in the League’s Institute for Orchestral Studies with

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Fun with Financing in Nashville

0 Robert Levine

Some rather alarming headlines have appeared in the past few days in the Nashville Press, the best of which was WDEF’s Nashville Symphony Mired in Debt: The Nashville Symphony is in danger of defaulting on $102 million in bonds that were used to build the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. Symphony CEO and President Alan Valentine told

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21st Century Musicians: New Pathways

0 Tony Woodcock

We are all prone to plateau in our endeavors, because we don’t have such constant critical prodding and feedback. So our tennis, golf, snooker, running, weightlifting attain a certain level, but then get stuck.

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Ghosts

0 Tony Woodcock

Why do we love terrifying ourselves? I am sure we’ve all experienced those spine-tingling moments as a child telling the most frightening stories late at night when parents are asleep.

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The Coolest Band in the World

0 Tony Woodcock

The Berliners’ model should lead us all to imagine more flexible and responsible organizations that have music as their mission, and the community as their foundation.

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Big Tent Thinking

3 Peter Sachon

History is filled with people who have tried to define art.  They have all been wrong, and there is no reason to suspect we are any better at it than they were. Changes to what experts call “Art” happen all the time.  There was a time when people questioned whether photography constituted fine art.  Some

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Are dinosaurs falling? Are deficits “structural”?

0 Robert Levine

NPR had a story yesterday morning on Morning Edition that, rather than commit what used to be considered journalism, rounded up the usual suspects on the subject of whether orchestras in their current form are unsustainable (come to think of it, he said/he said different is what’s considered journalism these days): 2012 will go down

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So, who’s your funder? And other crazy questions…

0 Katie Wyatt

Question: What have you learned in the past few years about about obtaining sustainable funding? In this monthly blog, I’ll start with a question, and take on issues of leadership and relevance in advancing the cause of music and social change.  I’d like to start with an example I’m very familiar with – the model

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Can an Alien Save the American Orchestra? –Thoughts on “The New Model”

0 Michael Manley

American Orchestras, so we are told over and over again, are on life-support. Audiences are aging or dwindling; “operating expenses” (often a euphemism for “musician salaries and benefits”) are rising; fundraising has reached a ceiling; Apple and Amazon exist; people just aren’t as “educated” about classical music as they were; public music education programs are

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The Empire strikes back

1 Robert Levine

The shockwaves from the Minneapolis Star Tribune article on Monday are still reverberating, judging by today’s response from the Minnesota Orchestra board leadership. It’s quite revealing, both of the board’s real position and of some of the thinking behind it. It’s also full of half-truths and rather creative constructions placed on their actions and those

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Cooking the books

11 Robert Levine

This is a pretty amazing story: For four years, the Minnesota Orchestra board has walked a tightrope between managing public perceptions about its financial health and making its case to cut musicians’ salaries. As early as 2009, board officers were discussing how much money to draw from investments, and the advantage of reporting balanced budgets

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Osmo joins the party

0 Robert Levine

It’s been a bad week for the management of the Minnesota Orchestra, and this very public letter from their Music Director was was likely the cherry on the cake: Dear Members of the Minnesota Orchestra Board and the Musicians of the Orchestra: In the last few years, the Minnesota Orchestra has truly established itself as

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Is a tree embarrassed if it doesn’t hear itself fall?

4 Robert Levine

This is pretty amazing news: The locked out musicians of the Minnesota Orchestra today announced former music director Edo de Waart, and former concertmaster Jorja Fleezanis will join them for two concerts in mid-December. The news comes one day after management cancelled all concerts through December 23rd citing lack of progress in concert talks. Meanwhile

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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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Hartford Symphony & Chorale on Chinese Television

0 Ann Drinan

I visited SymphonyNOW this morning, the League’s news website, and was pleased to see a video featuring my music director, Carolyn Kuan. I’m a violist with the Hartford Symphony in Connecticut. For our opening concert set last week, we performed four concerts of Beethoven’s Ninth paired with the Yellow River Cantata, written by Xian Xinghai

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Minnesota nasty

0 Robert Levine

Minnesotans are known for being averse to conflict, generous to arts and educational groups of all kinds, and generally plain-spoken (unless, of course, such speaking would lead to conflict). So, on top of the ongoing Minnesota Orchestra lock-out, this comes as a shock, even if not a surprise: The Twin Cities’ distinctive status in the

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Didn’t work

0 Robert Levine

The Los Angeles Philharmonic has pulled the plug on its attempt to emulate the Metropolitan Opera’s successful series of live broadcasts to movie theaters: When the Los Angeles Philharmonic launched its series of live broadcasts to cinemas in 2011, the organization touted it as an innovative program intended to broaden the popular reach of the

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Norman thinks it’s “The Rulebook”

0 Robert Levine

In a post rife with reader comments, Norman Lebrecht thinks the top European conductors are shunning American orchestras because of the current wave of strikes, or because they don’t like rules, or… something: Stumbling into the new season, Minnesota has become the third orchestra to lock out its musicians, after Atlanta and Indianapolis. In San

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Dumb s**t conductors say

1 Robert Levine

Leonard Slatkin has been guilty of cluelessness in public again (a previous example can be found here). He’s actually quite reminiscent of a certain candidate for President currently out on the hustings; he goes along saying quite sensible stuff and then runs completely off the rails and reveals his true beliefs: …Relations between the musicians

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10,000 lakes, one fish, and no settlements

1 Robert Levine

And not a lot of truth from employers in the Land of the North Star either, it seems: Musicians for the Minnesota Orchestra say management is threatening to lock them out at midnight Sunday unless there is a contract agreement by then. Orchestra musicians say they will vote on a management contract proposal on Saturday.

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On the fungibility of musicians

3 Robert Levine

One of the uglier memes being spread by the proponents of the Great Attempted Orchestral Downsizing of 2012 is that cutting the pay of musicians won’t damage the quality of the orchestra because everyone is replaceable. A recent post by Chicago lawyer Kevin Moen summarizes it perfectly: Perhaps most disturbing, however, is the response from

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Musicians as managers

1 Robert Levine

My orchestra managed to startle a fair number of people the other day: In a surprising development, principal trumpeter Mark Niehaus has been named the new president and executive director of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, the MSO announced Wednesday. Niehaus succeeds MaryEllen Gleason, who has resigned after two seasons as the MSO’s executive to pursue

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On governance

1 Robert Levine

Recent news about the negotiations in Atlanta, St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Indianapolis have caused a great deal of discussion amongst orchestra musicians. Some online discussion got me to thinking about the role of governance in all of this, and how at least three of these situations are directly related to governance issues and misconceptions.

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Tears, Elf Kings, and Michael Jackson

0

Anderson & Roe is not your typical virtuoso piano duo. In addition to breathtaking arrangements, they’ve built their career by making spectacular videos. 
Though they’ve been featured on The Savvy Musician Blog before, their latest v…

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Ruggiero Ricci: A Tribute

0 Tony Woodcock

By Tony Woodcock The great American violinist Ruggiero Ricci died this week at the age of 94.  I had the great privilege of seeing Ricci perform many times and of working with him on countless occasions. The first time I saw him live I was a boy of 14 with very “sophisticated” tastes.  His programme,

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League Plenary Session, June 6, 2012

0 Ann Drinan

The first plenary session opened with a performance by the Oklahoma youth Orchestra, conducted by Dr. John E. Clinton, playing excerpts from Carmen by Georges Bizet and Sarsen by Hilary Tann. Jesse Rosen, League President and CEO, welcomed the delegates to the opening plenary session at Myerson Symphony Center. He commented that “youth symphonies are

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League Conference: June 6 Musicians' Session

0 Ann Drinan

Comments from the Wednesday Afternoon Musicians Session at the League of American Orchestras’ Conference, June 6, 2012 The Dallas hall (Myerson Symphony Center) was built in 1989 – “all the money Ross Perot didn’t spend on his presidential campaign was spent on the hall.” Most people in the session were symphonic musicians; one composer said

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League of American Orchestras' Conference

1 Ann Drinan

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

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Who bears the risk?

0 Robert Levine

Deep in the weeds of yesterday’s NY Times story on the Philadelphia Orchestra’s reorganization plan was this little tidbit: The reorganization plan would call for unfunded pension liabilities to be transferred to the federally backed Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, which has assumed responsibility for two of the orchestra’s defined-benefit pension plans. The corporation puts the

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That was quick

0 Robert Levine

Chalk it up to the speed of light – or the speed of bits over the Internet. On Monday: Opera News, 76 years old and one of the leading classical music magazines in the country, said on Monday that it would stop reviewing the Metropolitan Opera, a policy prompted by the Met’s dissatisfaction over negative

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Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau

0 Robert Levine

Alex Ross may have said it best: A monumental, vastly influential figure is gone. I can’t help feeling shock at the news — a world without Fischer-Dieskau seems foreign and unnerving. He links to several other appreciations, as well as a fascinating – and sad – interview Fischer-Dieskau gave in 2005. Fischer-Dieskau was an artist

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Women in the Symphony Orchestra

1 Ann Drinan

Recently Carter Brey, principal cellist of the New York Philharmonic, interviewed his colleague Evangeline Benedetti, who retired from the orchestra’s cello section in 2011 after 44 years. I found the interview extremely interesting, as Ms. Benedetti was only the second woman to receive tenure in the NY Philharmonic, and had to wait to receive notification

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Settlement in Louisville – at least for now

1 Robert Levine

Finally some good news from Louisville: After 20 months of contentious negotiations, the Louisville Orchestra’s musicians and its management have reached a one-year labor agreement that will allow for a 30-week season beginning this fall, and both sides are optimistic that a long-term deal will be reached by next spring. The deal, announced Wednesday onstage

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Why a Flanagan?

0 Robert Levine

While there’s been some public discussion about the Flanagan book, as I mentioned here, there’s been almost none about its genesis, with one exception that I’ll discuss below. This is unfortunate; how and why an analysis originates can be very informative about the substance of the analysis. So I will try to rectify that and

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Introducing Jake Runestad

0 Ann Drinan

A few weeks ago I got a call from concert pianist Jeffrey Biegel, who wanted to tell me about a new consortium commissioning project he’s working on. At the end of a rehearsal with the Minnesota Orchestra, a young composer approached him about a piece he’d like to write for piano, chorus and orchestra. Jeffrey

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Miracles of Modern Science

0 Robert Levine

Japanese scientists have succeeded in making violin strings out of spider silk: Shigeyoshi Osaki at Nara Medical University in Japan has studied the properties of spider silk for 35 years. In the past decade he has focused on trying to turn the silk into violin strings, even taking lessons on what was required of a

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The Perilous Analysis of Symphony Orchestra Finances

1 Robert Levine

The Flanagan Report has recently been resurrected by its author, Robert Flanagan of the Stanford Graduate School of Business, as a book, recently published and currently being promoted by the Yale University Press. The promotion has not yet paid off in reviews outside our field, but is beginning to cause reactions from industry groups. The

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Games (if not fun) in Louisville

0 Robert Levine

The most recent attempt by the board and management of the Louisville Orchestra to appear to be trying to settle what has turned into the orchestral equivalent of WW3 was to propose an interesting form of arbitration; one that would have required the Louisville Orchestra musicians to agree in advance to several provisions that they

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Best line of the century

0 Robert Levine

The situation in Louisville continues to make for colorful reporting. Today’s development was that the Music Director of the Kentucky Opera, Joe Mechavich, is bowing out of this week’s production of Merry Widow because the company hired replacement musicians instead of the musicians of the Louisville Orchestra: …“Given these circumstances, I am unable to continue

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Why there are no solo viola careers

0 Robert Levine

The major function of Twitter appears to be enabling people to write things that, after 24 hours or so of reflection, they probably would rather not have written. Case in point is an outpouring of frustration on the part of the violist Jennifer Stumm, who wrote on her Twitter feed last week: Bigwig last night:

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What a good board looks like

0 Robert Levine

It’s axiomatic in the non-profit sector that, more than any other single factor, it’s the quality of the board of directors that determines whether institutions succeed or not. Of course, it’s axiomatic that the way to make money in the market is to buy low and sell high. That doesn’t mean it’s helpful advice. But,

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Of models old, new, and broken

0 Robert Levine

There’s been lots of chatter in the arts blogosphere the past few days over “the model,” most prominently in the email publication You’ve Cott Mail for January 11, which cited a number of online commentaries on the subject, including a very good one from Drew McManus at Adaptistration. But the commentaries invariably miss crucial points

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About that Strad vs modern violin study thingy…

1 Robert Levine

My colleague Frank Almond did a very thorough take-down of the whole thing here: “These instruments were loaned with the stipulation that they remain in the condition in which we received them (precluding any tonal adjustments or even changing the strings), and that their identities remain confidential. All strings appeared to be in good condition.”

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Diversity and the theater world

2 Robert Levine

Tom Loughlin, who is chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance at SUNY Fredonia and has considerable performing experience in professional theater, takes on the diversity issue in his world and comes to some conclusions that could fairly be called politically incorrect: According to The Broadway League 2010-11 Demographic Report, the Great White Way

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Journalist in need of Fisking

1 Robert Levine

It’s hard to read most of the arts reporting in this country and not wonder what else the media gets wrong. The latest example of this, an article on the Dallas Symphony’s current situation titled How Long Can The Dallas Symphony Afford To Play In The Red? popped up yesterday: That the symphony is in

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A different view of orchestra economics

0 Robert Levine

In Los Angeles at least, one observer believes it’s all about the parking: Anyone scanning Disney Hall’s debut calendar in the fall of 2003 would have noticed the size of that first season’s schedule, 128 shows in all. That’s a weighty number for a new hall—one might have assumed it was chosen by venue management

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NLRB says we can be unionized – for now

1 Robert Levine

In what may be the last NLRB decision in a long time, a few days ago the Board ruled that musicians in several per-service orchestras were employees and not independent contractors, and thus could force their employer to recognize their union as bargaining agent: The National Labor Relations Board has found that musicians playing for

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O sweet mystery of life

0 Robert Levine

…or one of them at least – is what conductors actually do. I thought it was all about the hair; Justin Davidson thinks it’s more than that: “Knowing the score”—the expression implies mastery, but it doesn’t suggest the sustained and solitary study that’s required to achieve it. There are a few miles of roadway that

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Of choirs and orchestras

0 Robert Levine

There was a story the other day on our local public radio story that got me thinking about one of the key differences between choirs and orchestras: their relationship to the beat: We revisit our conversation with classical choral composer Eric Whitacre, who has just been nominated for a Grammy for his latest CD “Light

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For the musician with self-esteem issues

0 Robert Levine

This study is about visual artists, but I think it should apply to us as well: According to some scientists, even human beings are just trying to make it in the animal kingdom, and everything we do can be traced back to basic survival. Man hunt, man fight, man eat, man… paint? In 2000,Geoffrey Miller

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Darth Vader vs. the Jedi Cellos

0

Ok, ok, I admit it. I’m a complete Star Wars geek.  But even if you don’t know Chewbacca from Midi-Chlorian, this epic video by The Piano Guys is not to be missed.  You won’t be disappointed.
Here’s what they have to say about…

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Re-Imagining the Orchestra

0

The fact that many American orchestras struggle to survive is no secret. In the past few years, top-tier ensembles in Philadelphia, Syracuse, Honolulu, Detroit, Louisville, Dallas, and New Mexico have cancelled concerts, issued pay cuts, declared bankr…

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Who represents whom – and when?

0 Robert Levine

Drew McManus rather raised the profile of the current controversy in Colorado with his post last Friday: Since the Denver Post published an opinion piece written by former Colorado Symphony Orchestra (CSO) board members Heather K. Miller and Bruce Clinton, the field has been abuzz with backchannel discussion over the tone of the letter (in

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More on the Colorado flap

0 Robert Levine

Reactions to the opinion piece written by former Colorado Symphony board members Heather Miller and Bruce Clinton have been quick and generally angry. They fall into three lines of thought; the first was best summarized by Drew McManus at Adaptistration, who wrote: …But the question that should cross your mind at some point while reading

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Michael Kaiser was right

0 Robert Levine

I don’t find myself in agreement with Michael Kaiser very often, but he sure hit the nail on the head when he wrote this a few days ago: It is difficult to see a way out of a chronic deficit, and board members — who are volunteers after all and rarely sign up for a

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Deep Song

0 Tony Woodcock

Amy Winehouse’s death just a few months ago was a great tragedy and has deprived us of a unique voice and creative spirit. Her career was brief, meteoric, self-destructive and full of moments of amazing achievement. The response that she was able to command from her fans was at once affirming and provocative and in

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Why the Louisville plan will fail

2 Robert Levine

It’s taken this long for people in the orchestra business to really come to grips with what appears to be the reality of the Louisville situation, which is that the Louisville Orchestra is now run by people who are the board and management equivalents of Dr. Strangelove. This, I think, is because no one could

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Through the worm hole

0 Robert Levine

The management and board of the Louisville Orchestra have apparently transported themselves to an alternate universe – one without unions, labor law, or audiences: Citing a breakdown in negotiations with its musicians, the Louisville Orchestra said Monday that it would “begin the process of hiring permanent replacements for our musicians” as early as next week.

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Justice for extras

2 Robert Levine

Drew McManus analyzed the effect of the new collective bargaining agreement in Philly on the relative compensation of the Philadelphia Orchestra musicians in a post at Adaptistration. His conclusions were not positive: Philadelphia Orchestra’s recent agreement places it firmly below traditional peers, including the Cleveland Orchestra. For the first time in the history of the

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Remembering Len Leibowitz

0 Robert Levine

The memorial service for Len Leibowitz was held on Sunday afternoon on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It was moderated – if that’s the right word – by Steve Flamhaft, a lawyer who had grown up with Len in Brighton Beach and had gone to high school, Bucknell and law school with him as

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Philly out of the AFM-EP Fund?

0 Robert Levine

This is potentially a very big deal: The American Federation of Musicians and Employers Pension Fund (the “Fund”) said today that an agreement reached by the Philadelphia Orchestra Association is the culmination of a strategy to avoid its obligation to pay the Fund contributions of up to $35 million it owes for benefits earned by

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How to kill a mediation

0 Robert Levine

Something quite unusual happened in Louisville last week; a mediator called one of the parties to the mediation a liar in public. It was, of course, phrased more diplomatically than that: Mediator Henri Mangeot presented both sides with a contract proposal Thursday that was ultimately accepted by the orchestra’s board and management, but rejected by

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Louisville: a local view

0 Robert Levine

This was sent as a letter to the Louisville Courier-Journal but not published. Unfortunate, as it is a very thorough look at the situation from an experienced local observer: One really doesn’t know whether to laugh or to cry in response to Chuck Maisch’s column about the Louisville Orchestra that appeared in the Courier-Journal on

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How to Sell New Music

0

They say some new music is too wierd for audiences. They say it could never sell. They say people only like the tunes they already know and love, written by good faithful Europeans centuries ago.
Well, I say humbug. That all depends on presentation. In…

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Some real innovation for a change

0 Robert Levine

Kudos to the Los Angeles Philharmonic for doing something both important and innovative: The Los Angeles Philharmonic has seized the initiative in guiding a national teaching program based on El Sistema, the Venezuelan-based movement that weds music teaching and social work. The orchestra announced on Tuesday that it would open an office, host yearly conferences

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The bottom-up theory of institutional accountability

0 Robert Levine

Buried in an article in yesterday’s Courier-Journal article about the state of the Louisville negotiations (which are being mediated by Ralph Craviso, as discussed in this post) was this gem: In an essay that appeared on the Forum page in The Courier-Journal last month, orchestra board president Chuck Maisch laid responsibility for the orchestra’s woes

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Leonard Leibowitz, DILC: 1938-2011

1 Robert Levine

Len Leibowitz, whose tenure as ICSOM Counsel was so long and distinguished that his name tag and table tent at ICSOM Conferences, by popular consensus, read “Leonard Leibowitz, Distinguished ICSOM Legal Counsel,” died this morning in Boca Raton, Florida. He had suffered from a string of serious health issues in recent years, but – as

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Nixon goes to Louisville

0 Robert Levine

The appointment of Ralph Craviso to mediate the Louisville Orchestra labor dispute has caused some head-scratching in the orchestra industry, a public example of which was Drew McManus’ post of a few days ago: The only question in my mind upon hearing the news was “What, was Governor Scott Walker busy?” Word on the street,

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MacArthur whiffs again

1 Robert Levine

There’s an old saying in our business that contains a great deal of truth: The only thing you need to know about competitions is that Mozart never won one. I remembered it this morning when I read of the latest winners of the MacArthur Fellows (better known as recipients of “Genuis Grants”). It was an

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The San Francisco Story

1 Robert Levine

San Francisco Classical Voice, the online publication covering  the Bay Area classical music scene, has a fascinating article on how the San Francisco Symphony became a powerhouse: With the opening of Davies Symphony Hall 30 years ago, the San Francisco Symphony marked the beginning of a well-planned and brilliantly executed ascendancy into the elite rank

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Louisville managemen set to make two more bad decisions

1 Robert Levine

According to WFPL, the management of the Louisville Orchestra has two more chances to screw things up this week: After months of talks with no agreement, Mayor Greg Fischer joined contract negotiations with the management and musicians. Last week, he announced that an anonymous donor had come forward to pay for a nationally-recognized consultant to

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Put things in your ears you should

1 Robert Levine

… at least according to the BBC: The BBC has published a report warning the musicians in its five orchestras that they are at risk from damaging their hearing. The 48-page report, written by the BBC’s safety manager, includes a number of recommendations for players who want to protect themselves against noise while rehearsing or performing.

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American Orchestras: Endangered Species?

0

This panel discussion was hosted by New York City’s classical radio station WQXR on April 18, 2011, following the announcement that the Philadelphia Orchestra was declaring bankruptcy.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Panelists include:

Anne Parsons, Presi…

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What a difference a week makes

1 Robert Levine

Last week, the Kentucky Opera seemed very interested in having an orchestra in the pit for its upcoming production of Carmen: The opera’s general director, David Roth, said opera administration is talking with the local branch of the musicians union, American Federation of Musicians Local 11-637, so that it can contract its members to perform

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An unusual source for replacement workers

1 Robert Levine

It’s not surprising, in the wake of the Louisville Orchestra management’s cancellation of most orchestral activities scheduled for September and October, that the Kentucky Opera, which uses the Louisville Orchestra, would be looking for musicians to replace LO musicians. Their choice of partner, on the other hand, is straight from the Twilight Zone: The opera’s

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Louisville CEO surprised that AFM will support picket line

1 Robert Levine

…or so yesterday’s article in the Louisville Courier-Journal would suggest: The Louisville Orchestra has cancelled its September and October concerts because of the ongoing contract dispute with musicians, particularly their New York-based union’s threat to fine those who show up for work. “While we believe that local musicians wish to perform, the musicians’ bargaining unit

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Louisville management arms Tsar Bomba

4 Robert Levine

The largest man-made explosion in history occurred on October 31, 1961, when a Soviet bomber dropped a thermonuclear device yielding 50 or so megatons on the Mitysushika Bay testing range in the Soviet Artic. The device, known as Tsar Bomba, was actually capable of twice that power. The fireball and blast wave could be seen

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League Conference: George Cohen on Negotiating

0 Ann Drinan

George H. Cohen, formerly AFM counsel, is now the Director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS), which was founded in 1947. He gave this presentation to a large roomful of managers, with about 10 musicians present. It was a pleasure to hear his biting wit take on a serious issue. George came out

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2011 League Conference: Peter Pastreich on Orchestra Management

1 Ann Drinan

Peter Pastreich, former Executive Director of the San Francisco and St. Louis Symphonies and currently Executive Director of Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Peter is a well-known management consultant in the orchestra field. Peter is often asked to consult by musicians, and likes to help musicians to think about these issues. I published an article based on

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Guest Bloggers: Quartetutopia by Nicholas Kitchen

0 Tony Woodcock

[Nick Kitchen is the founding first violinist of the Borromeo Quartet, ensemble in residence at NEC. In addition to receiving the Artist Diploma from NEC, the quartet has gone on to win the 2007 Avery Fisher Career Grant, Lincoln Center’s … Continue reading

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League Conference: New American Music Innovation Panel

0 Ann Drinan

Panel members: Patrick Castillo, Director of Artistic Planning, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra; Delta David Gier, Music Director, South Dakota Symphony; Paul Gunther, Principal Librarian, Minnesota Orchestra; and Aaron Kernis, composer. Aaron Kernis spoke first – he is the founder and leader of the Composers Institute in Minneapolis. A bit of history: he was part of

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League Conference: Plenary Session Speeches, Part 2

0 Ann Drinan

Deborah Borda, President and CEO, Los Angeles Philharmonic, was the third speaker at the June 7th plenary session. She presented an interesting view of technology and innovation in her remarks titled “Toto, We’re Not in Leipzig Anymore.” First she explored the importance of innovation and being able to identify which innovations are important. In 1879,

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Guest Bloggers: A conversation with Dr. Tom Wolf

0 Tony Woodcock

“Many financial approaches have been tried over the past 50 years to improve the financial condition of orchestras. Yet, the industry as a whole appears to be in the worst shape it has ever been in…If orchestras are to assume … Continue reading

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League Conference: Plenary Session Speeches, Part 1

0 Ann Drinan

The opening Plenary Session on June 7 presented three speakers discussing “Creating an Environment for Innovation.” Larry A. Wendling,  Ph.D., VP of the Corporate Research Laboratory at the 3M Center in Minneapolis opened the session with a historical video of the evolution of 3M from a failed mining company to a highly successful, large multi-national

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Guest Bloggers: Colin Thurmond and Rich Chwastiak

0 Tony Woodcock

AcousticaElectronica AcousticaElectronica. Quite a mouthful to say, but then again – quite an idea. The concept of the show was simple. Blend the virtuosity found in the classical concert hall with the energy of the late-night dance club.   The show … Continue reading

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Jesse Rosen's "Red Alert" Speech at Conference

0 Ann Drinan

The Plenary Session on Wednesday morning, June 8, was titled Red Alert and began with a most interesting address by Jesse Rosen, President and CEO of the League. Below are highlights from Jesse’s speech; his speech will be published separately as an article. You can watch a video of the entire plenary session by clicking

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When Bruce Willis meets Richard Wagner

3 Robert Levine

Heard on a small Indiana public radio station: Next, we’ll hear the overture to “Die, Meistersinger!” by Richard Wagner.

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When the Audition Has No Winner

8

“Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry, but I don’t think we can choose a player for our orchestra from these candidates.” Has anyone you know heard words similar to those recently? I wouldn’t be surprised if you said “yes” because it’s been happening across the country with increasing frequency for several years now. A couple weeks

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Finalmente!

0 Tony Woodcock

This blog has spent a great deal of time and space and generated considerable commentary and debate on the subject of the future of Orchestras in this country. The current situation is well-documented – orchestras going out of business completely … Continue reading

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2011 League Conference

0 Ann Drinan

I attended the 2011 League of American Orchestras Conference in Minneapolis last week (June 7 – 9) and have much to tell about what I experienced. I’ll be turning my notes into blog posts over the next few weeks, letting you experience a bit of what Conference is all about. One of the most frustrating

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A tribute to Fred Zenone

0 Robert Levine

It is only one measure of the unique position that Fred Zenone held in our field that both the League of American Orchestras and ICSOM are honoring his memory at their respective conferences this summer. I was asked to make the presentation of the Gold Baton, the League’s highest recognition, to Pat Zenone, Fred’s widow,

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Guest Blogger: Marie Montilla NEC Abreu Fellow '11

0 Tony Woodcock

[On June 2, NEC celebrated the graduation of our second class of Abreu Fellows, the training program we undertook as the result of Maestro José Antonio Abreu’s TED “Wish to Change the World.”  The Fellows now go out into the … Continue reading

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Upcoming

0 Tony Woodcock

In my last posting on the American orchestra crisis, I promised to create a virtual symposium on the complex issues.  I proposed inviting musicians, orchestra managers, union representatives, consultants, funders, students to weigh in with their thoughts. I have issued … Continue reading

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Orchestras Part V

0 Tony Woodcock

I had originally contemplated writing just the four previous posts on orchestra models. But given the currency of this topic both here and abroad, I felt it obligatory to summarize and reiterate some of my points. I also wanted to … Continue reading

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Discoveries

0 Tony Woodcock

Ever since I arrived in the U.S. in the 1990’s, I have been a subscriber to The New Yorker, which, at its best, is one of the most fascinating reads of the week. The magazine has been the vehicle for … Continue reading

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What a crisis looks like

0 Robert Levine

Anne Midgette at the Washington Post points us to a country where the orchestra industry is shedding jobs at a pace über alles: According to the book  Musical Life in Germany,  an informational publication put out by the German Music Information Center (MIZ) that just landed on my desk, there were 168 publicly financed

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A cautionary fable

0 Robert Levine

One fine day, a sailboat (not the M/V Minnow, although their experience was relevant) set sail from port with its trusty crew for a nice sustainable sail across the ocean. The weather was beautiful. As the crew gained confidence in their ship and the conditions, they raised more sail until their trusty S/V AmericanOrchestra was

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A crisis of analysis

4 Robert Levine

Tony Woodcock gave us a classic example of the “dinosaurs falling from the sky” genre of industry analysis on this blog last week. Before I try to dismantle his analysis, I should say that I don’t think he’s entirely wrong. Certainly the field has faced an unprecedented challenge since the beginning of recession in 2008.

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Flash Mob of Bach's B Minor Mass at Union Station, New Haven CT

1 Ann Drinan

This YouTube video features several of my colleagues from the New Haven and Hartford Symphonies as they participate in a “flash mob” at the train station in New Haven on Friday afternoon, April 29th at 6:10. The purpose was to advertise the upcoming performance of Bach’s Mass in B Minor in late April by the

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American Orchestras: Yes, it's a crisis

2 Tony Woodcock

“I am convinced that if the rate of change within an organization is less than the rate of change outside, the end is near.” – Jack Welch  In the last twelve months the Honolulu, Syracuse, and New Mexico Symphonies have … Continue reading

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Getting displaced by an orchestra that doesn't exist

0 Robert Levine

This business about cheap Russian touring orchestras is getting out of hand: The Web site photograph depicted an elegant array of orchestra musicians in a glowing hall. A video clip showed an earnest young conductor leading players in a Tchaikovsky symphony. Below the picture, an official biography described the “Tschaikowski” St. Petersburg State Orchestra as

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Business Model Session on Monday, April 25

0

With thanks to Andrew Taylor for initiating and planning this session, please join Nina Simon, Andrew and me on Monday (details below) for a discussion of new, innovative and old business models in the arts and culture sector.  I hope to see you …

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How to Miss the Titanic

0 Tony Woodcock

[This is the second in a series of posts in which I will talk about the current, troubled, state of professional musicmaking and offer some glimpses of possible solutions for the future.] The first time I heard the London Symphony … Continue reading

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Emily can't save the (Philadelphia) Orchestra

0 Robert Levine

We did a kiddie concert with the Platypus Theatre today. The show, Emily saves the Orchestra, had a very timely feel to it, being a show about a monster by the name of Boardus Dismemberus Cacophonus who hates music and wants to put an end to the orchestra. I wasn’t the only person on stage

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Special Forces Commando Unit

0 Tony Woodcock

[This is the first in a series of posts in which I will talk about the current, troubled, state of professional musicmaking and offer some glimpses of possible solutions for the future.] The other night I attended one of the … Continue reading

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Arts Entrepreneurship — The Class

0

Last weekend I attended the annual conference of the Association of Arts Administration Educators.  There I heard that the arts entrepreneurship “movement” is spreading rapidly in higher education.  This has to be of concern, as the “it” is s…

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The Great Disconnect Revisited

0

Years ago I wrote an article (I can’t even remember for what publication) called The Great Disconnect. It focused on the tragic separation and total lack of communication between the professional presenting world and the K-12 arts education world.&nbsp…

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Downsizing for stability?

0 Robert Levine

The Syracuse Symphony board is giving up because it’s just too damned hard: Syracuse Symphony s board of trustees will file Chapter 7 bankruptcy, likely next week. Interim Executive Director Paul Brooks made the announcement Tuesday following a 2  hour SSO board meeting. Board chair Rocco Mangano, seated next to Brooks in a conference room

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The National Anthem

0 Tony Woodcock

This is a story I have been planning to tell for a long time. A tale of romance, passion, and great expectation and how this all crashed upon the rocks of government bureaucracy. But let’s start at the beginning. In … Continue reading

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It’s 42!

0 Tony Woodcock

The extraordinary news from Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, that the 82-year-old librarian, Joseph Havashvilli of the city’s 380-year-old conservatory of music, had concealed for the last sixty years, Mozart’s Symphony No. 42, has amazed the music world. Musicologists have … Continue reading

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A question to which I don't know the answer

1 Robert Levine

Playing an instrument well is really, really hard. Playing together with other people is not much easier. But playing the dynamics on the page is quite easy. So why do so many people in orchestras do so well at the first two and so badly at the last one?

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Bloopers

0 Tony Woodcock

We all know the maxim “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” Well I believe this to be inaccurate.  The truism should be: “The road to Hell is paved with good ideas.” Because it is all those brilliant, … Continue reading

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Duende

0 Tony Woodcock

I have always made it a policy not to miss an opportunity to hear great artists at the end of their careers. Interestingly, it was a young pianist years ago who crystallized for me the preciousness of artistry enriched by … Continue reading

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Arts Entrepreneurship — Two Curricular Tracks

0

So I’m in the final planning stages for my course in Arts Entrepreneurship (starts March 30), and I have come to the conclusion that I will teach and present materials and activities in 2 different tracks: those for the social entrepreneur, and those f…

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The Musician's Union: A Contrarian Point of View–Sort of

0

Here’s a blog posted on March 15, 2011 by Columbus Symphony bassoonist, Betsy Sturdevant on her blog.  In it she makes some interesting observations about unions in general, and the Musician’s Union in particular.  Good food for thought.  What do you think? Musician labor unions: the pros and the cons Labor unions formed in the

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“Mr. Kreizsky, meet Mr. Woodsky”

0 Tony Woodcock

Yakov Kreitzberg, the Russian-born, American-trained conductor was Music Director and Artistic Director of the Monte Carlo Philharmonic, Principal Guest Conductor of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra, and outgoing Chief Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra and Netherlands Chamber … Continue reading

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Pushing Boundaries

0 Tony Woodcock

“As far as boundaries are concerned, we are always looking for new ones.” * A little while back I attended a class by Hankus Netsky who heads up our Contemporary Improvisation Department. This is the department Gunther Schuller created in … Continue reading

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Trust the Power of the Young

0 Tony Woodcock

Back in 2006 when I was being recruited by NEC I found myself being interviewed by countless people – faculty, Board members, staff, donors, community. You name it and I met them. At the time I was transitioning from a … Continue reading

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Bringing the violin to a huge new demographic

0 Robert Levine
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Arts Entrepreneurship — Lack of Imagination, Lack of Chutzpah?

0

I will soon be teaching a new course called Arts Entrepreneurship here at Drexel.  I’ve been preparing for this on and off since last summer.  In addition to reviewing literature and current thinking on the topic I have been looking at offeri…

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A Way to Move Forward

0 Tony Woodcock

A few weeks ago I wrote a piece about the DSO’s stalemate and many people have since asked me to share my ideas about a possible new model that might reverse current trends and create sustainability. But before I do … Continue reading

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The Intertoobs can barely keep up with this story!

0 Robert Levine

According to Drew McManus at Adaptistration, DSO management is claiming that, contrary to the most recent Detroit News article, they have no plans to hire replacements or to invite striking musicians to cross the picket line and return to a “newly assembled group of players”: Today’s article in The Detroit News by Lawrence Johnson, “DSO:

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Backs to the wall

0 Robert Levine

It’s axiomatic in collective bargaining that negotiating committees have a moral obligation to lead, and that the key leadership act is recommending approval or rejection of a proposed settlement. It appears that the DSO negotiating committee took that lesson to heart: The negotiating committee of the striking Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians recommended Thursday that its

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Progress in Detroit?

0 Robert Levine

Apparently. The Detroit Symphony Orchestra and its striking musicians continued to make slow-but-steady progress in indirect talks this morning and afternoon, according to DSO executive vice president Paul Hogle. “If we were not making progress,” Hogle said “we wouldn’t continue even with indirect talks. And we are absolutely willing to meet face to face when

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Not quite as much fun as the real thing, though

0 Robert Levine

A critic’s take on tantric orchestra musicianship.

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Still talking in Detroit

0 Robert Levine

… which is good news. Where there is life talk, there is hope: The two sides in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra strike were in last-minute talks Friday evening trying to avert cancellation of the rest of the 2010-2011 season. The DSO board had earlier stipulated an agreement had to be in hand by 5 p.m.

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When Die Walküre meets Den Schneesturm

0 Robert Levine

…the blizzard wins. Here in Milwaukee we’re having the first day of rehearsals canceled for snow that I can remember. We had a run-out to Green Bay canceled due to snow a number of years ago, but given that traffic was moving at 25 mph on the freeway and Green Bay was 100 miles away,

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Dinosaurs falling from the sky in theater-land?

1 Robert Levine

The head of the NEA seems to think so: Count on Rocco Landesman to stir the pot. Speaking at a conference about new play development at Arena Stage in Washington on Thursday, Mr. Landesman, the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, addressed the problem of struggling theaters. “You can either increase demand or

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This isn't good….

0 Robert Levine

This morning’s news from Detroit is discouraging: Prospects for productive talks in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra strike seem to be taking a turn for the worse. After an executive committee board meeting Wednesday, management released new figures casting doubt on whether the organization could meet the financial burdens of its current proposal. For their part,

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Devastating Impact

0

I recently purchased an Internet radio, so am now about to access (without charge) my favorite public radio stations from throughout the US.  One theme that I hear on all of them is that proposed public (government) funding cuts will have a devast…

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Musicians Can Now Sell Directly on Facebook With This New App

0

If you have a band and are trying to get your name around, Moontoast might be something to consider.  They’ve come up with an app that allows musicians to connect with their fans and sell directly on Facebook.  Check out the article here:
http://ma…

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What's the difference between practicing and child abuse?

1 Robert Levine

It’s not very often that practice techniques make the Wall Street Journal. It’s even less often that they become the stuff of vitriolic debate, but that’s what’s happened in response to this: A lot of people wonder how Chinese parents raise such stereotypically successful kids. They wonder what these parents do to produce so many

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Arts in the suburbs

0 Robert Levine

Anne Midgette had an interesting piece in Friday’s Washington Post on the boom in arts facilities in the DC area: If the 1970s saw an increase in performing arts organizations, the 1990s and 2000s have seen a notable increase in places built to house them. The boom is reflected nowhere better than in the Washington

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Orchestras aren't about "peace"

1 Robert Levine

I’ve been trying to figure out just what exactly bugs me so much about this: Music can change the state of the world, stop conflict and bloodshed, and bring peace to war-torn regions. If that sounds far-fetched then you haven’t met Russia’s famed maestro Valery Gergiev. “The power of music can be (a) very quiet

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A good idea

1 Robert Levine

This is interesting: The St. Louis Symphony Orchestra has announced the first recipient of the Mabel Dorn Reeder Honorary Chair: It’s associate concertmaster Heidi Harris. The chair, announced in July 2010, was established with a $2 million endowment from the Mabel Dorn Reeder Foundation. It is awarded, based on “excellence in artistry and leadership within

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Happy New Year

0 Robert Levine

2011 has got to be better than 2010, which really sucked. Some good news is already emerging, though. The Nashville Symphony is back in its home after months of repairing flood damage, while the musicians of the Louisville Orchestra won a significant victory in bankruptcy court when the judge refused to set aside their collective

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Hello, World

0

It’s the first week of 2011 and this is the start of my new blog, Street-Wise Lesson of the Week. Many of the posts that you will read here in the coming weeks, months, and hopefully years, will come from my new book, Lessons From a Street-Wise Professor: What You Won’t Learn at Most Music [...]

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Ten Work Items for 2011, Task #10

0

What a revelation it has been to experience the vast arts world, after my most recent 14 professional years totally immersed in the field of music (not all classical at Eastman).  During these years, because of the press of senior management and s…

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Ten Work Items for 2011, Task #9

0

For years, and I mean years, I prided myself on my being able to stay on top of advances in technology.  I saw it as an amazing tool to advance communications, increase efficiency, and provide creative possibilities for education in the arts.&nbsp…

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Ten Work Items for 2011, Task #8

0

I spoke to this task in 2 recent blog entries, to concern about the effects of government support.  Let’s make it a priority to re-examine our positions vis a vis government involvement.  We’ve really got to, as we’re on a slippery slope now….

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Ten Work Items for 2011, Task #7

0

Who makes iconography decisions in your arts organization?  If you are the leader, it better be you.  I have recently advised a number of student research papers that examine alignment between mission, program and iconography, and I’m appalle…

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Ten Work Items for 2011, Task #6

0

Let’s break down, get rid of the artificial barriers between not-for-profit arts and commercial arts.  This artificial designation does us no good, as it causes internal sector strife, and confusion and misunderstanding among the public.
There’s p…

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Ten Work Items for 2011, Task #5

0

Number 5 is short and sweet, like Five Golden Rings! 
Let’s practice what we preach.  Let’s approach our work with creativity, and with an appetite for risk.  Although my interpretation of his work may be over-simplified, Robert Pe…

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Ten Work Items for 2011, Task #4

0

This one will be no surprise to readers of this blog.  Let’s really work on exploring and then considering organizational designs other than the 501c3.  Yes, the 501c3 offers a number of seductive characteristics, but it is also expensive to …

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Ten Work Items for 2011, Task #3

0

Let’s make a commitment to creating and nurturing cooperative ventures, not just within our inner circles, or our comfort zones, but those that stretch us artistically and those that make our entities more efficient.
Face it: we’re very, very conservat…

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Recollections

0 Robert Levine

Sunday morning I got up early to catch a 7:00 AM flight to Washington DC to attend the memorial event for Fred Zenone. As I had ample time between arrival and the beginning of the event, I decided to take the train, which got me to within a 25-minute walk of the church. After changing

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Another great moment in press coverage

0 Robert Levine

Did you know that there are acoustic termites? Me neither: The vacant Ford Auditorium, once home to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and a hot spot for pop music concerts, famous speeches and theatrical productions before it closed in 1990, is expected to be demolished as early as May… Built in 1955, the auditorium was revered

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A Tale of Two Audiences

0

A Tale of Two Audiences Let’s talk about programming, shall we? Any music director of an American orchestra, when programming a season, is striving to create balance. What does the orchestra need to play in order to grow artistically? What does the audience want to hear? What do they need to hear in order to

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Fred Zenone

0 Robert Levine

Sir Isaac Newton, generally regarded as the most influential scientist in human history, once said “if I have seen further, it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Those of us who make a living playing in orchestras stand on the shoulders of giants as well. One of them, Fred Zenone, died on

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Why conductors live longer

0 Robert Levine

It’s not because they make more money, or have all that power, or gets lots of aerobic exercise from moving their arms so much. Apparently it’s because they get to stand up while working: In academic papers with titles such as, “Your Chair: Comfortable but Deadly,” physicians point to surprising new research showing higher rates

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YouTube Symphony–Year Two Coming

0

Here’s an article that appeared in the Entertainment section of the Los Angeles Times last week. The author says she is cynical and that is apparent, but I’m even more cynical about the article itself.  It’s definitely representative of “old school” thinking.  See if you agree. Culture Monster All the Arts, All the Time The

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A Musician's Friend–Mark Morris Gets It

0

Here’s an interview with Mark Morris, the well-known choreographer, that appeared recently in the Boston Globe. In the first part of the interview he hits the nail on the head in his answer to the question, “Why is live music so important to you in performance?”  Ballet and dance company musicians out there, remember this

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MacArthur gets one right

0 Robert Levine

Some of the choices that the MacArthur Foundation has made in the past when awarding their “genius grants” to people in our field have struck me a little… odd. A few years ago, a MacArthur award went to Marin Alsop, and I remember feeling at the time that it might have had more to with

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The Lakota Music Project

0

Yesterday the South Dakota Symphony played its Lakota Music Project at Crazy Horse Memorial near Custer, SD in the Black Hills. http://crazyhorsememorial.org/info/‘lakota-music-project’-highlights-native-americans’-day-at-crazy-horse/ It was Native American Day in South Dakota (Governor George Mickelson renamed Columbus Day in the 1990, part of his Common Ground initiative). The Lakota Music Project has been over five years in

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Actions have consequences

0 Robert Levine

… as Sarah Chang has just been sharply reminded. My personal definition of “grown-up” is someone who not only understands that actions have consequences but doesn’t complain about the fact. Very, very few people pass that test consistently. But one of the times it is most often forgotten in our industry is during labor disputes.

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A bad excuse to get out of a tough dilemma

2 Robert Levine

Sarah Chang has canceled her Detroit recital scheduled for Monday, according to the Detroit Free Press: Some of the e-mails Chang told DSO management she received through her Web site, www.sarahchang.com, crossed the line from expressing displeasure to physical threats and career intimidation. Chang’s Los Angeles-based manager Jenny Vogel declined comment. DSO president Anne Parsons

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Sarah's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad dilemma

0 Robert Levine

Orchestra strikes always cause collateral damage, from lost work for stage hands to lost income for restaurants. The strike in Detroit looks to hurt someone aside from the usual suspects, though. The DSO was supposed to have its opening concerts of the season this weekend with soloist Sarah Chang. Of course the concerts are off

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America's other professional orchestras

1 Robert Levine

When asked about the difference between American and European orchestras, most observers would first point to the fact that American orchestras receive comparatively little government funding. A segment on NPR’s All Things Considered yesterday reminds us that there is actually quite a lot of government funding of large-ensemble performance in the US – and how

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What happened in Vegas…

0 Robert Levine

is now online! To be more precise, an analysis of what happened at the AFM Convention in June has been published in Union Democracy Review, the newsletter of the Association for Union Democracy, and can be read here. Also at that address are links to articles on some of the issues that dominated the Convention.

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Baltimore and Alsop Might Be On To Something

1

In my February 1, 2010 blog I wrote about the Baltimore Symphony’s plans for a  fantasy camp, (my words) for adults, and how the amateur musicians would be working with the pros of the orchestra.  It is the brainchild of Marin Alsop and apparently it has legs.  Two hundred fifty amateur musicians, now called “Rusty

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Detroit implements

2 Robert Levine

While not unexpected, this is not good news: Eleventh hour talks on Friday to head off a work stoppage at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra failed to settle a rancorous labor dispute between management and musicians…No further negotiating sessions are scheduled and DSO President Anne Parsons said Friday afternoon that management is now implementing the terms

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What's Detroit about?

1 Robert Levine

Anne Midgette writes (or, more fairly, implies) in the Washington Post that the Detroit negotiations center on …a proposal that involves not only a hefty salary cut, but a formal redefinition of the job of an orchestral musician, making outreach, teaching, and chamber concerts a part of the deal. As Stryker points out, most musicians

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And now for something completely different…

0 Robert Levine

The bad news arrived on such a regular basis this summer that it was a shock to see two bits of very good news arrive last week with a day or so. The first item was news of a startlingly successful fundraising campaign by the board of the New Jersey Symphony. The NJSO is an

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Internal disconnects

0 Robert Levine

Orchestras are different in lots of ways from most institutions in our society. But there are commonalities. One was brought home to me today when I read a blog post by a UC Berkeley prof on the tension between academics and university administrators: …university administrators and ordinary academics have totally different ideas of what counts

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Another take on gender discrimination

0 Robert Levine

Strings magazine has an article on gender discrimination in its most recent issue that’s worth a look. While the writer, Rory Williams, focuses on the ongoing saga of how many women have really been hired by the Vienna Philharmonic, there is also quite a bit on the situation in the US as well: The latest

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Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln…

0 Robert Levine

… how was your summer? While not as bad as Mrs. Lincoln’s, the summer was a downer for the orchestra industry. I’ve long suspected that orchestras were trailing indicators for the health of the economy as a whole, which is to say that orchestras get sicker and get well later in an economic downturn than

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Bloggers On Vacation

0 Stephen Danyew
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Polyphonic On Campus: Coming This Fall

0 Stephen Danyew
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The Richardson Symphony and Buddy Rich–What's the Connection

0

Some of you may be following the plight of the Richardson (Texas) Symphony Orchestra and its musicians.  They’re embroiled in a bitter dispute that has led to the RSO being placed on the International Unfair List of the American Federation of Musicians. What this means is that as long as the orchestra is on the

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Polyphonic On Campus: Coming This Fall

0 Stephen Danyew
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Brahms and Ravel on the Vuvuzela

0 Ann Drinan

Ralph Locke, a musicology professor at Eastman, sent Polyphonic a link to a pretty amusing video: I think you’ll enjoy this.  The narration, gestures, etc., are all perfect — a kind of tongue-in-cheek critique of typical classical-music presentations.

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League Conference: Diversity Panel

0 Ann Drinan

Friday morning again had multiple sessions, each presented twice. The Diversity panel, moderated by Beth Wilson, Director of Student Musician Development at the Atlanta Symphony, showcased the ASO’s Talent Development Program (TDP),  a program for talented young African-American and Latino classical musicians in the greater Atlanta community. The panel included Edie Bostic, TDP Trustee and

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Polyphonic On Campus: Coming This Fall

0 Stephen Danyew
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League Conference: Atlanta Symphony's War Room

0 Ann Drinan

Friday afternoon was for Symposia – six simultaneous sessions, each repeated once. “The Atlanta Symphony War Room: A New Approach to Collaborative Decision Making” featured Robert Spano, music director, John Sparrow, vice president for orchestra initiative and general manager, and Charlie Wade, vice president of marketing. Again, my notes may not be verbatim but hopefully

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How not to behave at work

0 Robert Levine

This should serve as a warning to all of us, even though principal players are possibly more prone to this disorder simply due to the interaction of human nature and hierarchies. Please note that it’s definitely NSFW (not safe for work, although most of us don’t have the problem of having computers at work, of

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League Conference: Digital Media Rights Session

0 Ann Drinan

Thursday morning started off with a session about digital media rights, moderated by John Sparrow, VP of Orchestra Initiatives in Atlanta. The panel: Jonathan Brill, Executive VP of Opus 3 Artists; Joe Kluger, Partner at WolfBrown and former President of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and Robert Levine, Principal Violist of the Milwaukee Symphony [and a Senior

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League Conference: Russell Willis Taylor – How to put your organization out of business

0 Ann Drinan

Thursday afternoon’s general session began with a performance by the ASO brass quintet. Jesse Rosen then recounted an experience he had playing bass trombone in the NYU orchestra. He was preparing his part for Brahms’ Requiem and was pleased to see that he had a lot of notes, including a few melodies. At the first

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AFM Election Results

0 Robert Levine

Election results from the AFM Convention can be found here.

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League Conference: Musicians' Session

0 Ann Drinan

On Thursday we had a musicians’ session, with Bob Wagner moderating. Bob is the principal bassoon of the New Jersey Symphony, a board member of the League, and former ICSOM rep and Orchestra Committee chair of the NJSO. There were perhaps 15 of us: we talked about a lot of things: I asked about the

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Live-blogging the AFM Convention

0 Robert Levine

Orchestra musicians are fortunate that what happens to their union is important enough that they should care about it; most American workers are not so lucky in having a collective voice of any kind. So for those of you who do care about what’s happening in – and to – the AFM, I’m live-blogging the

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League Opening Session Part 2

0 Ann Drinan

The keynote speaker at the conference opening session on Wednesday, June 16, was Ben Cameron, program director for the arts at the Doris Duke Charitable Fund. He is the former executive director of Theatre Communications Group. Excerpts from his address follow (he’s a very fast talker so this is not verbatim): According to Bill Moyers,

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League Conference Opening Day

0 Ann Drinan

The League of American Orchestra’s annual conference opened on Wednesday, June 16. Musicians, conductors, artist administrators, and music publishers were invited to an open rehearsal of the Atlanta Symphony at Woodruff Arts Center for the Atlanta School of Composers concert to be held on Friday, followed by a luncheon with comments by Music Director Robert

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Michael Kaiser's 10 Commandments

0 Ann Drinan

Michael Kaiser, CEO of the Kennedy Center and author of The Art of the Turnaround: Creating and Maintaining Healthy Arts Organizations, has been travelling the country, speaking in all 50 states about how non-profit arts organizations can weather the current economic downturn. On June 10 he came to Connecticut; I attended his New Haven session

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League Conference in Atlanta

0 Ann Drinan

The League of American Orchestras’ annual conference is next week in Atlanta, June 16 to 19. I’m attending and will be blogging every day about what’s going on. Reminder that any musician in a member orchestra (which I’d imagine includes all professional orchestras) can attend the League’s conference for free, registering as a musician. They

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Musician Performance Rights–Pending Legislation to Benefit Musicians

0

Yesterday I received another email from AFM President Lee.  Unlike the video the previous day, which had a “please join the union message,” this one was all business.  It tells of the legislation before Congress right now that would benefit musician’s works that are played on terrestrial radio.  Here’s part of the email. One of

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Reinforcing The Image of the AFM– Old, Dated and Out of Touch

0

Today I received an email from Thomas F. Lee the President of the American Federation of Musicians.  I suppose that it went to all AFM members for whom they have email addresses.  It begins: Dear Member RICKER: I am pleased to announce that the Federation is developing a series of videos to educate musicians and

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60 Minutes on El Sistema USA

0 Ann Drinan

On Sunday, May 16, 2010, CBS’ news magazine 60 Minutes featured a segment on Gustavo Dudamel and El Sistema USA, in particular YOLA (Youth Orchestra LA) and the Baltimore Symphony’s OrchKids program. Gustavo Dudamel is, of course, the new Music Director of the Los Angeles Philhamonic, and the segment shows him at his first rehearsal

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El Sistema Conference: YOLA

0 Ann Drinan

The conference was hosted by the Los Angeles Philharmonic to showcase their YOLA project: Youth Orchestra LA. On Friday we were bused to the Expo Center, which most of us assumed was some sort of civic center. Instead, it turned out to be a huge Parks and Recreation campus in South Central LA (now referred

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El Sistema Conference: Abreu Fellows

0 Ann Drinan

The highlight of the conference for most people was the presentation on Friday morning by the Abreu fellows, where nine of the ten fellows described their two months in Venezuela during February, March, and April, 2010. (Dan Berkowitz was hired by the LA Philharmonic to head up their YOLA program before the fellows’ trip to

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El Sistema USA Conference Day 1

0 Ann Drinan

The conference opened this morning (May 6) with an extremely interesting panel discussion on Musicians as Educators: The Many Faces and Approaches of Teaching, moderated by Eric Booth, with panelists Robert Gupta, the youngest violinist ever accepted in the LA Philharmonic and an avid teacher, David Malek, an Abreu fellow, and Arlen Hlusko, cellist, student

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El Sistema USA Conference in LA

0 Ann Drinan

Polyphonic will be publishing a lot of information about the El Sistema USA project, covering many of its myriad facets, in the next month. I arrived in Los Angeles last night for “Composing Change: YOLA and the El Sistema Movement” conference. Today’s session, hosted by the League of American Orchestras, will be moderated by Eric

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Something sure is broken in Honolulu

0 Robert Levine

I don’t know that this has ever happened in an orchestra bankruptcy before: U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Faris yesterday denied the Honolulu Symphony Society’s request to extend the period in which it alone could submit a plan for its reorganization. The decision allows the symphony’s musicians and other parties to submit competing plans for the

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The potential of online media

0 Robert Levine

For anyone who still believed that there was significant money to be made in selling recordings online, this chart will come as an unpleasant reality check. A dissenting point of view can be found here. Fortunately, more and more people in our business are realizing that the real value of electronic media to our institutions

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Step away from the cell phone…

0 Robert Levine

A discussion has erupted on another online forum regarding the use of cell phones at auditions. My orchestra has had some very limited discussion about a related issue; the use of electronic devices by committee members, albeit in the context of doing anything at auditions other than listening. But that discussion (which manifested itself in

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On Indispensability

0 Robert Levine

“The cemeteries of the world are full of indispensable men,” Charles de Gaulle once famously remarked. A rather public discussion of whether music directors can be indispensable is happening over the physical health of James Levine and its impact on the institutional health of the Metropolitan Opera and the Boston Symphony. At some point the

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Kenneth McKellar

0 Robert Levine

Most orchestra musicians, in addition to loving the repertoire they play (or most of it, at least), like other music as well – although just what they like varies greatly from person to person. My secret vice is Scottish folk music. So I was saddened to hear that the great Scottish tenor Kenneth McKellar died

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NY Times thinks running an orchestra is a real job

0 Robert Levine

I don’t know if the New York Times has done this kind of profile on an orchestra musician yet; we may need to be content to see one on an orchestra manager. At least they picked a good one to profile: In early 1990, I got a call from the New York Philharmonic, which was

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Hiring outside the box

0 Robert Levine

The Atlanta Symphony board has decided to hire someone without all that old-fashioned orchestra management baggage: The heavy odds were for an insider — a career symphonic administrator who’d already led one of the nation’s top orchestras and was looking for a lateral move. Instead, the board of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra is naming Stanley

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The dystonia horror show

0 Robert Levine

Musicians don’t talk much about focal dystonia; perhaps it’s a superstitious avoidance akin to trying to ward off the Evil Eye. For dystonia really is a horror show; arguably the leading career-killing disorder of all.

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Another explanation for gender imbalance

0 Robert Levine

It’s often forgotten that the core concept behind the World Wide Web (as opposed to the Internet, with which the Web is often confused) is the hyperlink. A hyperlink is that underlined word or phrase or image on a Web page on which one clicks to go there and find out more. The power of

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Oh Those Dress Codes

3 Ann Drinan

I read with interest the thread that went through Orchestra-l recently about many symphony musicians who feel that orchestras just dress too formally to relate to their public. Well, I have the absolute opposite opinion — many of us dress way too informally. Yes, white-tie and tails are an anachronism from another century and perhaps

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What happened in Charleston?

1 Robert Levine

The board of the Charleston (SC) Symphony has decided to call it quits for this season: A significant drop in fundraising dollars, exacerbated by the recession’s “strong headwind” has forced the Charleston Symphony Orchestra to suspend its operations, effective immediately, board president Ted Legasey said Sunday. It is the first time in the orchestra’s 75-year

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More on Vienna

0 Ann Drinan

So the Vienna Philharmonic finally recognized that women really can play the violin (or whatever instrument) and appointed a woman as Concertmaster. In honor of this occasion, which shouldn’t really have to be an occasion (if the Vienna Philharmonic lived in the same decade, or even century, as the rest of us), I asked a

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Pain in Baltimore

0 Robert Levine

Coverage of the impact of concessions on musicians is not usually as explicit as in this article by Tim Smith for the Baltimore Sun: Musicians of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra have agreed to take yet another salary hit in an effort to help the organization weather the continued effects of the recession. The players accepted

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Healthcare reform and orchestras

1 Robert Levine

There doesn’t seem to have been anything in the press or blogosphere about the effect of healthcare reform (as of last night, and pending the signature of the President, the law of the land) on orchestras. One would think that the effect of HCR on 0.00002% of the national economy would be bigger news. No

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Gender and orchestras – another datapoint

0 Robert Levine

A fascinating article in the latest edition of Allegro, the official publication of Local 802 (NYC), adds some more data to the subject of gender balance in orchestras: Each year for Women’s History Month we crunch the numbers to see how our male and female members are represented on various contracts. The data below is

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Musician Plays Violin as Surgeons Operate on His Brain

0

Here’s a wonderful, positive story about Roger Frisch, the Minnesota Orchestra Associate Concertmaster, who underwent brain surgery at the Mayo Clinic to correct tremors.  His story was featured  on national news with Diane Sawyer.  Find it here. http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/video/fiddling-brain-10142847

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Reading the tea leaves in Detroit

0 Robert Levine

Breaking news on the Detroit Symphony today: Talks to renegotiate the Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians contract have ended without a deal, a surprise since a spokesperson for the musicians earlier said that they were “expecting and hoping” to be part of the solution to the DSO’s budget crisis. “The DSO management team and orchestra are

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Oops

0 Robert Levine

The New York Times raises the question of just who benefits from a benefit concert at Carnegie Hall: Christoph Eschenbach will conduct Sunday at the benefit featuring the Chinese pianist Lang Lang, top, and Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra. Even if the event’s nearly $200,000 worth of tickets sell out, less than $8,000 from the sales will

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The Cult of Youth

2 Robert Levine

Mathew Gurewitsch had an interesting article the other day in the New York Times on The Cult of Youth: IN the world of the contemporary symphony orchestra, youth is not so much a stage of life as it is a battle cry. Youth orchestras! Young conductors! At times it begins to seem that nothing else

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NHMF and the Union

0 Robert Levine

The March 2010 edition of the International Musician, the official publication of the AFM, contained news of the AFM’s most recent success in influencing a recalcitrant employer: Several managers and directors of New Hampshire Music Festival (NHMF) have left their posts, following overwhelming opposition to their plans to implement a “new artistic model” for the

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Klemp, you talka too muich

0 Robert Levine

That was the punch line of what is likely an apocryphal story about an interaction between the great German conductor Otto Klemperer and an Italian principal oboe. Sadly, Klemp is not alone. It must be hard to be a conductor, and I don’t mean that sarcastically. But one of the hardest things – judging by

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Does the Vienna Phil discriminate?

0 Robert Levine

The Vienna Philharmonic is touring the UK, and The Independent has re-visited the question of whether the orchestra discriminates on the basis of gender or national origin: Bernstein called it “that unbelievable orchestra, which plays like one hundred angel-fingers growing out of my hands”. Yet once Stravinsky immolates into silence, pause, for before you is

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I Get By with a Little Help from My Friends

0

The article that follows my comments is from The Minnesota Daily, the newspaper of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis/St. Paul.  It’s the first in a series profiling drug use on the UMinn. campus, and they start with music students. Since the readers of Polyphonic.org are familiar with the orchestra world, it will be no surprise

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He has a dream

0 Robert Levine

The General Director of the San Francisco Opera has a vision for the future of the company, and it’s…a multi-storied annex? David Gockley has a dream, and it’s to transform a parking lot behind the Veterans Building into a multi-storied annex for the San Francisco Opera. Of course, like any dream, there is a reality

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It's an ecosystem, Maestro

0 Robert Levine

Riccardo Muti, who last week taught us (and the Met Opera orchestra) about Verdi, this week is teaching us about the value of some American orchestras: The Riccardo Muti era at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra officially began Thursday at Symphony Center, as the CSO’s 10th music director announced plans for his first season. He did

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Nice little pension plan you got there…

0 Robert Levine

It’d be a a shame if something happened to it. Oh wait… something just did: The Pension Protection Act of 2006 requires the funding “zone status” for defined benefit multiemployer plans like the American Federation of Musicians and Employers’ Pension Fund (the “Plan”) to be certified each year by the plan’s actuary. The actuary for

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Resistance is apparently futile

0 Robert Levine

This article on composer/programmer David Cope and the compositional software he’s created is absolutely amazing: It was here, half a dozen years ago, that Cope put Emmy to sleep. She was just a software program, a jumble of code he’d originally dubbed Experiments in Musical Intelligence (EMI, hence “Emmy”). Still — though Cope struggles not

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New Article: Selling Bartok's Blackbeard's Castle

0 Ann Drinan

We’ve published another article — about an amazing marketing success with a program that should have been hard to sell. Now, of course, our own Robert Levine, with Ilana Setapen, was featured on the first half playing the Mozart Symphonie Concertante, so that must have done it right there! But seriously (no offense meant, Robert…),

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The hottest seat

1 Robert Levine

My BBB Charles Noble wrote a good post the other day on the perils of being an assistant principal string player: This morning, at the dress rehearsal for this weekend’s classical program, my principal had to leave midway through the rehearsal for personal reasons. It took place during the middle of the first movement of

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TMI and the cult of personality

1 Robert Levine

The other New York Times piece to which I referred in the last post was on Manfred Honeck, music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony, and focused to a remarkable extent on his religious beliefs: Manfred Honeck, the music director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, is a Roman Catholic who prays before every concert, sometimes in

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Conductors and the cult of personality

0 Robert Levine

Two conductor profiles in the New York Times in recent days highlight the dangers of thinking that conductors are special people. The first was on Riccardo Muti, and was an unadulterated puff piece: Realizing that the Met musicians might not have been familiar with the opera, he occasionally paused to clue them in on the

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New Article: Spokane Symphony's Endowed Chair

0 Ann Drinan

Julie Ayer, author of More Than Meets the Ear, How Symphony Musicians Made Labor History, a history of the founding of ICSOM and symphonic unionism, has written a very moving tribute to her mother and sister, both violinists in the Spokane Symphony. They overlapped in the orchestra for 12 years, and both held the 4th

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Better seen than heard

0 Robert Levine

Norman Lebrecht thinks conductors should STFU: By some intuitive affinity or massive failure of imagination, both Gramophone and BBC Music magazine asked ’10 leading Mahler conductors’ to explain in their current issues what his symphonies mean to them. Three maestros – Zinman, Jansons, Tilson Thomas – took part in both features. The rest included most

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Why we won't die of Baumol's Disease

1 Robert Levine

I was at work one night a few weeks ago, waiting for the 3rd movement of the Shostakovich 1st cello concerto to end (no slap at our soloist, Johannes Moser, who played wonderfully, but it’s a long sit with no need to count), when, for some unaccountable reason, I began to think about Baumol’s cost

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What Do You Consider Success?

0

I visited the website, Extra Criticum. As it states on the homepage, “performing arts pros trade opinions, ideas, questions and obsessions.” The bloggers published here cover a wide range disciplines in the Arts, so it’s not just a music site. And I was interested in a posting by Rolando Teco, since he writes about “success.”

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Devil's Trill: A Murder Mystery for Classical Musicians

0 Ann Drinan

While wandering through the local Barnes & Noble recently, I noticed a violin on the cover of a book called Devil’s Trill in the Staff Picks section. On reading the inside back cover, I saw that the author, Gerald Elias, is indeed the violinist I knew at Yale who left New Haven to join the

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Apologies

0 Robert Levine

Did you know that getting flu shots doesn’t actually mean that one can’t get the flu? Me neither. We’re doing Petrouchka this week. It’s my least favorite of the big ballets that Stravinsky wrote almost 100 years ago, I suspect because it’s the most programmatic. But it works wonderfully well as a ballet, as this

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Another Take on Not-For-Profits

0

Because I teach the course, “Entrepreneurship in Music” at the Eastman School, I am frequently asked for advice from students who are contemplating setting up a business entity for their chamber group.  They often begin the discussion by saying that their plans are to set up a 501(c)3 (not-for-profit).  They usually say something like, “That

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The future of classical recording – Part 1

0 Robert Levine

In my previous two posts on the state of the classical recording business here and here, I talked about Anne Midgette’s observation that even top-selling classical recordings aren’t notching up impressive sales numbers: The dirty secret of the Billboard classical charts is that album sales figures are so low, the charts are almost meaningless. Sales

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About that Salome next season…

0 Robert Levine

This might be related to why orchestras seem to have so much trouble in the Sun Belt: “It was like an invitation to a date,” says Sarasota artist Pablo Rodriguez of his painting, “Modern Venus,” which he installed in early January in the Sarasota Orchestra’s Harmony Gallery as part of his exhibit, I’ll Be Seeing

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Something to Divert You from Today's Game

0

Here’s a Ciara Pressler blog from fracturedatlas.org.  Makes sense to me.  And so timely. . .

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Hard duty

0 Robert Levine

This past week has been one meeting after another devoted to various personnel issues (not, thankfully, any terminations, in case you were wondering). The cumulative effect on me has been that I feel as if I’d gone 5 rounds or so with the front line of the Green Bay Packers. Orchestras are villages. We orchestra

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Technology and recording sales

0 Robert Levine

One of the problems with looking at historical trends in recording sales is that such sales are driven to a significant degree by technological change. Over the 100 or so years since the first recording of an orchestra was made, there have been constant improvement in the technologies for both producing recordings and playing them

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What he said

0 Robert Levine

Alex Ross of the New Yorker wrote an absolutely brilliant summary of the recent studies by the League of American Orchestras and the National Endowment for the Arts on the state of classical music audiences. It’s in print in the magazine’s February 8th issue, which is unfortunately behind a paywall. But Ross blogs about it

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Stick a fork in it?

0 Robert Levine

Ann Midgette of the Washington Post writes about the current state of the classical CD business. It’s not good: The dirty secret of the Billboard classical charts is that album sales figures are so low, the charts are almost meaningless. Sales of 200 or 300 units are enough to land an album in the top

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The Cleveland Orchestra strike: underlying issues

0

A shared vision On February 2, 2005, Gary Hanson (ED/TCO) paid a visit to the storied offices of the AFM at 1501 Broadway in the heart of NY’s theater district. TCO was in town, set to play Carnegie Hall that evening. Hanson was clearly asking the AFM for forgiveness rather than permission – the meeting

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An Orchestra Fantasy Camp–What A Great Idea

1

Fantasy camps for adults have been popular for years—auto racing, cooking, all types of sports, you name it. For music there are camps for cabaret singers and jazz musicians, and now one for those who want to experience orchestral music-making. The article that follows below tells how the Baltimore Symphony and their Music Director, Marin

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Opera in the Market

0

A good example of marketing.

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Seattle settles

0 Robert Levine

Seattle Symphony management and musicians have reached a tentative agreement: The 23-month, three-season contract — which could be extended for an additional eight months — would immediately cut musicians’ pay by 5 percent until the end of this season, with the current pay scale resuming in 2011. Musicians also would pay a greater share of

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How AFM members can help in Haiti

0 Robert Levine

UnionPrivilege, which is a benefits program run by the AFL-CIO for members of its member unions, is matching contributions made by union members for earthquake relief. Details are here.

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Reboot in New Hampshire

4 Robert Levine

Apparently the New Hampshire Music Festival is doing a pretty thorough 180-degree turn: Less than two weeks after abandoning pursuit of a new artistic vision and restructured orchestra, which sparked bitter controversy last summer, the Board of the NH Music Festival shuffled directors and management when it met last week.

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A tiny perfect strike

0

It was a tiny perfect strike. (Torontonians and expat Gary Hanson will get the reference. The rest of you can Google David Crombie.)

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Learning From The NFL

0

There’s a music blog on ArtJournal.com called Creative Destruction, but no author is indicated.  Instead this descriptor appears under the link, “Fresh ideas on building arts communities.”  I was curious so I checked it out and found that the blogger is John Thomas Dodson.  He’s a conductor.  You can find out more about him here.

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An unhappy customer

0 Robert Levine

A left-leaning political blogger in Philadelphia, age 37, is not happy with his concert-going experience: I go to about half a dozen concerts per year, and the problems the orchestra faces are pretty obvious to me. Their marketing is horrible, their ushers and ticket sellers treat people like crap (not all, of course, but many),

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Sandow on Ricker on diversity

0 Robert Levine

Most readers of this blog will know of Greg Sandow, if only for the work that he’s done for Polyphonic. But he’s done a great deal of other stuff, including writing a blog for ArtsJournal.com. He recently did a post on something that Ray Ricker had written for this blog, and it’s worth reading in

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Thought for the day

0 Robert Levine

Musicians are the only people who use “and” as a noun: Do you want us to do a crescendo on the and of three?

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Such a versatile instrument – Part 2

0 Robert Levine

From our colleagues in Minnesota:

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Some thoughts about auditions

0 Robert Levine

Auditions are a big subject; Polyphonic did a virtual discussion panel on the topic about three years ago and barely scratched the surface. We had two days of violin auditions at the beginning of the week, which gave me both a lot of time to think and some material to think about. So I thought

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Bragging a Little–Thanks Robert

0

Over the past couple of months, many of you have followed the plight of the musicians of the New Hampshire Music Festival here on the Polyphonic blog.  Senior Editor and Blog-Meister, Robert Levine did an outstanding job of bringing the musician’s case to the broader public, and was undoubtedly instrumental in the favorable outcome for

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Reactions to Cleveland

0 Robert Levine

The Cleveland strike, and the rapidly-ensuing settlement, were the subject of more coverage in the media since… the last round of Big Five orchestra strikes. And the coverage was pretty much the same; talk of how the strike was symptomatic of fundamental issues with the health of orchestras (it wasn’t), talk about how the musicians

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Cleveland strike is over

0 Robert Levine

It seemed to me that this might be a short strike; in the end, it came as close as a strike could be to not being a strike at all. The only work canceled was a concert in Bloomington IN, which will likely be re-scheduled. What is reported about the settlement makes it sound like

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More on Cleveland

0 Robert Levine

The Cleveland strike was still ongoing as of late Monday night, at least according to Google News. The New York Times had a long article on the subject by Daniel Wakin, which seemed generally balanced and well-informed. It did include this tidbit, though: Many of the nation’s top orchestras have reduced staff positions and administrative

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Nepotism, Diversity and the Audition Process–This Could be an Opera Plot

0

I’m going to riff a bit on Robert Levine’s January 15th blog post, Sometimes it’s hard to have a screened audition, where Robert points out the absurdity in the New York Philharmonic’s decision not to identify clarinetist, Burt Hara, who was playing what most musicians would call a trial week.  The NY Phil is looking

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Cleveland on strike

0 Robert Levine

At least for Monday: Oboist Jeffrey Rathbun says he and the other musicians are “sorely disappointed” management hasn’t acknowledged sacrifices they’ve made in their last two contracts or their offer to continue to work for the next contract year with no increase in salary or benefits. The musicians’ contract expired last summer. The musicians say

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Such a versatile instrument

0 Robert Levine

You’ve probably already seen this; it’s been doing the rounds at lightning speed. But, if not…

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Mein Vaterland, Mein Gott!

0 Karen Schnackenberg

I had a library nightmare over the holidays, and I don’t mean that figuratively.  You know those performance anxiety nightmares players can have over a particular piece that’s difficult or a recurring worst-case scenario?  Well, instead of dreaming my hand wouldn’t stay on the violin fingerboard or I couldn’t identify the proper chords on the

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Sometimes it's hard to have a screened audition

0 Robert Levine

The New York Times reported yesterday on an odd incident at the New York Philharmonic: During a run of concerts that included Rachmaninoff’s Second Symphony at Avery Fisher Hall, ending on Tuesday evening, the Philharmonic declined to identify a substitute principal clarinetist even though the music director, Alan Gilbert, had singled him out for a

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Tab dump 1/14/2010

0 Robert Levine

An interesting career path. An even more interesting career path. A good argument for screened auditions. The NY Times likes opera in popcorn palaces too. The CBC Radio Orchestra is born again as an Internet broadcaster. The Cleveland residencies are crossing paths with the Cleveland negotiations.

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The model's not broken

0 Robert Levine

The symphonoblogosphere has been abuzz with stories about the labor troubles in Seattle and Cleveland, and these are indeed big stories. But there are other negotiations hanging fire as well. Unless I missed something, the Met management’s proposal to cut salaries by 10% has still not been resolved, while Detroit’s been having an extremely difficult

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Popcorn and Der Rosenkavalier

0 Robert Levine

I had been wanting to see one of the Met’s new HD-in-theaters productions, but not quite enough to trek half-way to Chicago to the nearest theater that carried them. Recently, though, one of our local movie theaters began carrying the live HD productions, and our new music director, Edo de Waart, was asked to do

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More on Your Brand—Know Your Image

0

For a professional musician this is important.  Your image lives within the minds of the market, and not within your wishful thinking. You can try to put forth the image that you want, but your audience (in the broadest sense of the word—co-workers, contractors, conductors, producers, etc.), actually creates that image. Image, Identity and Positioning—What’s

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The ultimate downbeat

0 Robert Levine

I glad I didn’t have to try to follow this guy; not only would I have messed up, but I would have felt a little… violated as well.

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Tab dump 1/7/2010

0 Robert Levine

This kind of bullsh*t ought to be beneath the dignity of all involved. Come on, folks; isn’t running an orchestra hard enough already? Interesting idea. The League goes virtual. I wish I wrote this well. A post worth reading in full. But what’s the hourly rate?

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NHMF hits the Reset button

1 Robert Levine

I’ve been forwarded the text of a letter from the board of the New Hampshire Music Festival which would suggest a course reversal on their part: The Board of Directors met on December 17th to review our artistic goals and the options available to us to achieve them starting with the 2010 season. After a

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Seattle and the Union

0 Robert Levine

Negotiations in Seattle seemed to have reached a rolling boil, judging by this article. Equally interesting is a recent post by Zachary Carstensen, a Seattle arts reporter, on the situation: However, just before the start of the 2009-2010 season, my own opinion of the orchestra’s health began to shift. The SSO had only just begun

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On vacation

0 Robert Levine

We are on a winter hiatus (Hiatusmas?) until January 4th or so. Stay warm and remember that whatever program it is you’re doing over and over and over again will eventually end – at least for 11 months or so.

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Tab dump 12/21/09

1 Robert Levine

By a not-so-odd coincidence (it is December, after all) some of the autograph of Messiah is now available online. Check out the end of the Hallelujah chorus and notice the absence of any tempo change in the last two bars. This is very sad. And why would Costa Rica own instruments in the first place

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On doing yet another run of mediocre Messiahs

0 Robert Levine

Handel’s Messiah is one of the monuments of Western culture. So why is virtually every performance done by American orchestras so mediocre? Our industry talks a wonderful line about “world-class” and “excellence.” (No doubt some orchestra mission statements throw in praise of applehood and Mother pie as well). But when it comes to Messiah, the

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What is a Brand and is Yours a Good One?

0

What is the first thing you think of when the company Coca-Cola is mentioned—how about Apple or Mercedes? These are all strong brands that have distinct images associated with them. As a musician you also have a brand. You, Inc. means something to those who want to hire you. Let’s think about that in business

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Thinking like the audience

0 Robert Levine

I linked yesterday to a Huffington Post article by Michael Kaiser which was both interesting and frustrating: …money concerns truly have begun to overwhelm artistic decisions in too many arts organizations. The fear that the organization will not survive has driven many arts organizations to produce safer, more accessible, and, unfortunately, more boring art, especially

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Tab dump 12/14/09

0 Robert Levine

New Hampshire Music Festival musicians have filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge against management with the National Labor Relations Board. The Cleveland posts A Deficit. Nobody thinks there was a magic ingredient in Strads anymore; nonetheless, people still insist on debunking the idea. ICSOM Chair Bruce Ridges talks about stuff with Polyphonic senior editor Ann

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Another Antidote for the Music Major’s Bridge to Nowhere—Create You, Inc.

0

All musicians don’t have to be performers.  Though they may start by singing or playing an instrument, some musicians transition to composing or studying music history or theory.  An amateur does this for recreation and fun.  A professional may do that too, but the difference is this: professionals are paid for what they do (and

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Make Music a Part of Your Life and Never Make Life a Part of Your Music

0

I suppose that most of the readers of the Polyphonic blog are aware that Leonard Slatkin suffered a heart attack 5 or 6 weeks ago.  I don’t usually pay much attention to reports like that, but since I’m just about the same age as Slatkin, I read his account of the incident with great interest. 

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Dear Diary

0 Robert Levine

One of the unintended side-effects of helping to negotiate a new contract for one’s orchestra is the history that one learns along the way. This makes sense if one thinks about it; negotiations (especially regarding non-economic items) are often attempts by one or the other side to remedy problems that were often unforeseen when the

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Antidote for the Music Major’s Bridge to Nowhere—Use Your Legos

0

Legos.  You know what they are, little pieces of plastic that have an interlocking system that allows the user to combine them in an infinite number of ways.  With Legos you can make things like buildings or vehicles.  If you don’t like what you make, you can continually try to improve it by rearranging the

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Tab dump 12/7/09

0 Robert Levine

Norman Lebrecht writes a really good column. Why would someone do this? My orchestra gets an endowment gift for a really good purpose. My orchestra also got nominated for a Grammy. Alex Ross thinks Dudamel is the real thing. The next step is records that spin really fast and need to be changed every five

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Tab dump 12/6/09

0 Robert Levine

Would this be called a gaggle of oboists? Happy birthday. Would have been more impressive without the pay cuts. Some coverage didn’t even bother to mention the musicians’ concessions, although they did, of course, feel the staff’s pain. The Chicago Lyric Opera orchestra has a new contract after threatening to strike. New Mexico Symphony musicians

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I've got mail

1 Robert Levine

In a blogging career lasting about 5 years now, I’ve learned not to expect much feedback. It’s not because people don’t read blogs about orchestras or the AFM – the two topics I write about – because the traffic stats show otherwise. And it’s not that people don’t care, because otherwise why would they take

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I Don't Know, I Still Prefer a Clarinet

0

University Turns iPhones Into Musical Instruments NEW YORK (Reuters) – Welcome to an orchestra of the 21st century. iPhones are being used as musical instruments in a new course at an American university. Students at the University of Michigan are learning to design, build and play instruments on their Apple Inc. smartphones, with a public

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An important election you didn't know about

0 Robert Levine

Most orchestra musicians don’t pay much attention to union politics. That’s OK: most politics in the AFM is not worth paying much attention to. But there was an election the other day that’s worth noting. The two largest locals in the AFM are Local 47 (Los Angeles) and Local 802 (New York). Both are dominated

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College Music Performance Majors—A Bridge to Nowhere?

0

Music educators have been doing a fantastic job. The level of musicianship of college-age music majors continues to rise each year. Jazz players are entering as freshmen at skill levels equal to graduate students of years past, and “classical” musicians always seem to raise the bar with their technical prowess. Of course, one can always

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The New (Model) Hampshire audition system

1 Robert Levine

At the beginning of the 2009 New Hampshire Music Festival season, the Festival’s musicians were informed that they would be required to re-apply for their positions in the orchestra if they wanted to return for the 2010 season. It’s hard to overstate just how unusual this is in our business. “Unprecedented” would not be too

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Tab dump 11/30/2009

0 Robert Levine

Pascal Rogé does good and does smart at the same time. Thanks on behalf of all of us. The Toronto Symphony posted a surplus for last season. Musicians in the Sarasota Orchestra have a lot of community support in their current labor dispute. The recession is hurting artists. (Did you think otherwise? Me neither.) This

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Not Your Regular (Taped) Nutcracker

0 Karen Schnackenberg

This weekend DFW area musicians began protesting the Texas Ballet Theater’s Nutcracker performances which will run in both Dallas and Fort Worth – without an orchestra.  For those of you who have been following this fiasco, you know that we have been protesting the TBT’s performances sans live music for more than a year now.

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Lead Like the Great Conductors

0

Israeli conductor Itay Talgam uses leadership on the podium as a metaphor for leadership in business. Some good stuff here, worth watching, especially the last clip of Bernstein.

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A local view of the NHMFC

1 Robert Levine

In addition to the comments in response to the posts on the New Hamspshire Music Festival cluster***k, I’ve received a number of private emails. I’ve requested, and received, permission to quote extensively from an email sent to me by a local observer with many connections to the Festival. Anyone likely to read this knows that

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What Happens Backstage Stays Backstage

1 Karen Schnackenberg

Well, except for the parts I’m going to tell you!  No names of course.  LOL. Seriously, performers have to be able to trust orchestra librarians to handle backstage situations with professionalism, courtesy, discretion, and, above all else, help when they need something.  It wouldn’t be right to betray that trust, so I won’t — the

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Musicians to the ice floes, please

0 Robert Levine

If one single factor underlies the turmoil at the New Hampshire Music Festival in the minds of the musicians and the external support group SOON, it appears to be the fear that Festival management intends to replace the orchestra with another group; a NYC-based orchestra called The Knights. Circumstantial evidence suggests that the fears have

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Always the Last One Out

0 Karen Schnackenberg

It’s just the way things are.  The orchestra librarian is the last one out of the building. Although the percussionists and stage hands might try to dispute this claim, they don’t stand a chance.  Oh yes, they obviously have their fair share of packing up after performances (it is how I got to know my

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Tab dump 11/22/09

0 Robert Levine

Orchestras, like Google, can make money out of Internet searches – just not as much. Conductors can blog too. Conductors can also do bad and illegal things. So can some managers. Michael Hovnanian did not enjoy his very large Midwestern orchestra’s week with Christoph von Dohnányi. It’s possible to write a concerto for just about

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When the excellent becomes the enemy of everything

6 Robert Levine

While doing some research on the New Hampshire Music Festival situation, I came across a blog post by Henry Fogel that I found both interesting on its merits and quite relevant to what’s been going on at the NHMF. Back in May on his blog on the ArtsJournal site, Henry wrote about becoming Festival Director

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Not quite as nice as endowing them, but still…

0 Robert Levine

A local insurance company has recently bought chairs for the musicians of the Winnepeg Symphony: Thanks to long-time corporate sponsor Wawanesa Insurance, the Winnipeg Symphony proudly introduced new orchestra chairs earlier this season. “These chairs were specially designed for each WSO musician, taking into account their respective height and ergo-dynamic requirements. We went the extra

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This actually might work for Bach

0 Robert Levine

I’m thinking last movement of the C major sonata, not the Chaconne, of course. (Hat tip to BBB Charles Noble):

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A webcast worth watching

0 Robert Levine

Tomorrow (Friday, Nov. 20), the NEA is sponsoring a meeting on Artists in the Workforce. It will be webcast live at 9 AM EST. The info page on the NEA website is here.

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A Coup-de-Festival

2 Robert Levine

A friend of mine alerted me last week to a recent series of events at the New Hampshire Music Festival. I’ve been trying to make sense of what I’ve read in news articles, on the Festival musicians’ website, and from a outside organization of dissident supporters called SOON (Save Our Orchestra Now). The only adequate

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Tab dump 11/18/2009

0 Robert Levine

I think the principal violist should sit to the conductor’s immediate left. Mozart’s life in 5 seconds, as seen by Hollywood. Lots of people still want to be opera stars. I’m glad one orchestra recognizes that technology might make the audition process better (and greener). Norman thinks that the Met is a wuss. He doesn’

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And Omaha Beach was a skirmish

1 Robert Levine

The Indianapolis Symphony just reported a substantial deficit: A year of declining contributions and ticket sales left the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra with a $2.8 million deficit. Symphony officials say its current budget has been cut by $3 million, to $26 million, in part through a 12 percent pay cut accepted by musicians in a new

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Concert or Show?

0

This past week the Broadway show “Chicago,” was in Rochester. It was the national touring production, and I contracted it and also played it. It’s a great show. Those Bob Fosse choreographed dance segments are spectacular. What a genius that man was. His choreography is unmistakable. Talk about having a style! The music is 1920’s

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Tab Dump 11/17/2009

0 Robert Levine

A common feature on blogs is a “tab dump.” It’s a play on the old programming term “core dump”; a printout of the contents of a computer’s memory intended to help figure out why a program blew up.

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A Librarian's View From the Audience

0 Karen Schnackenberg

As a non-playing orchestra librarian (well, mostly anyway), I don’t get to hear the orchestra on stage as much I did when playing more often and in the midst of the music.  Yes, we always have the monitor on so we “hear” the rehearsals and concerts, but that’s clearly not the same as either participating

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Nerds? You Betcha!

0 Karen Schnackenberg

When I wrote the following on “From the Orchestra Library” I didn’t realize Robert had posted the video of a young accordion virtuoso playing the last movement of  Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto back in September.  So, here’s a little view into orchestra librarians’ minds when they see such a thing:

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Trombone for dummies

0 Robert Levine

I’m a relative newbie to FaceBook, and continue to be amazed by what gets put up there by friends (both real ones and the FaceBook kind). I’ve seen wonderfully funny things, very suggestive self-portraits, blow-by-blow accounts of childbirth, and countless examples of Too Much Information. If blogging is the Internet’s Ego, then Facebook is its

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Are orchestras like newspapers?

0 Robert Levine

Anne Midgette, Washington Post music critic, has her own take on the Michael Kaiser article of a few days ago: Michael Kaiser, in the Huffington Post, has this week addressed the elephant in the living room: some orchestras are not going to make it. There are striking parallels between orchestras and newspapers in this recession.

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Being the Best that We Can Be

0 Karen Schnackenberg

Every year I look down in late August when we start our season, and by the time I am able to look up and catch a breather, it’s almost the end of October.  And every year I say it’s not going to happen this year, that I will take more time to get out of

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What Opera Needs is More Drums

0

No explanation needed. Forgive me, but I’m just the messenger. And he’s got more of these. . . .

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A Wizard experiment in Oz

0 Robert Levine

An orchestra in Australia is doing some interesting things in terms of trying to sell tickets: apparently they don’t: [Orchestra Victoria's] evolution has made it unique in Australia. It was established as a theatre orchestra by the Elizabethan Trust in 1969 but while its Sydney counterpart, the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra, spends all its

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Of business models and the breakage thereof

0 Robert Levine

Every crisis creates its own buzz phrases. Hurricane Lehmann and the resulting economic meltdown has created a suitably scary one for our industry, and I’m hearing it more and more: “the model is broken.” The latest manifestation is an article by Michael Kaiser, president of the Kennedy Center in Washington DC, on the Huffington Post

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Changing US Demographics and Classical Music

5

Here’s a personal observation and some thoughts. When my wife and I visited the Netherlands a couple of years ago we were fortunate, at Judy’s persistence, to get tickets to the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam. We started a couple of months early trying to book tickets online, but they were “sold out.” Knowing that

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From under a rock emerges A Strategy

0 Robert Levine

The announcement on Friday of the previous weeks’ vote by the Honolulu Symphony board to file for bankruptcy included this charming piece of thinking: “Given its current and projected financial status, the Society cannot continue to sustain a 64-piece orchestra,” Mechling said. “We cannot continue with business as usual”… “In order to do this we

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iWHAT?!

0 Robert Levine

A recent post by David Pogue on his NYT blog highlighted some medically-oriented iPhone apps. Though not designed with musicians in mind, this free app might be very helpful to musicians of all kinds in monitoring the state of their hearing: uHear™ is a unique hearing loss screening test application available for download to the

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Dept. of Homeland Obviousness update

0 Robert Levine

If the person who wrote the headline for this article went to J-school, they should get a complete refund on their tuition: Honolulu Symphony Bankruptcy Disturbs Musicians Musicians Fear Uncertain Future HONOLULU — News of the Honolulu Symphony’s bankruptcy announcement is sending shock waves through the community.

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Honolulu Symphony files for moral bankruptcy

0 Robert Levine

The truly shocking part of this announcement is the fourth paragraph (italicized): The Honolulu Symphony Society Board of Directors announced on Friday that it has decided to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The announcement comes after more than a week of uncertainty. The chairman of the Honolulu Symphony’s board of directors told KITV, that as

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Musicians Business Challenge—A Highly Competitive and Large Talent Pool

0

OK, so we all agree that it’s tough out there in the real world. Nobody argues with that, but we don’t let it get in our way. Successful people in music are drawn to the music itself. It may sound corny but music and performance can be very addictive. The music profession calls us, and

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Yet more trouble for Honolulu

0 Robert Levine

Things look bleak in Honolulu, even after a $1.8 million gift in September: The chairman of the Honolulu Symphony’s board of directors told KITV on Wednesday, that as of last Friday, the symphony did not have enough money to make its payroll. Peter Shaindlin said he hopes to make an announcement about the symphony’s future

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2 Guys + 1 Guitar = Mozart

0

Someone sent me this several weeks ago, and I just stumbled upon it again while straightening up my very cluttered desktop. I used to do a variation of this with beginning clarinet students to demonstrate how good breath support made for good finger technique. They would blow into the clarinet and I would finger it.

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Musician’s Business Challenge—Reduced Resources

0

We read about orchestra financial pressures all the time. Musicians demand a decent wage and when communities and boards have difficulty supporting them, an impasse results. Of the 51 ICSOM orchestras , there are ten with minimum scales over $100,000. Not surprisingly these orchestras are in large metropolitan cities like New York, Boston, Chicago and

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Great Performances Without all the Fuss and Bother

0

Recently I wrote about several “apps” that allow users to virtually play an instrument. The Nov 1st issue of the NYTimes has a longer article about a similar idea: “Orchestra Hero”. Written by Michael Gordon, a composer, it’s an enthusiastic endorsement of the art form we all know and love, but which is unknown to

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Another diaspora story

0 Robert Levine

A couple of weeks ago I linked to a story about one of the many musicians who formed the great diaspora of Jews from Europe during and after the Nazi era. Here’s another one: The Lost Cellos of Lev Aronson. Its sounds like the title of one of those wistful, purposely sentimental novels that seem

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Greg Sandow is Riffing

0

Many of you may follow the writings of Greg Sandow in his Arts Journal Blog.  If you do you will know that for the past couple of years Greg has been writing a book, and presenting it piece by piece in his blog.  This project went dormant for a period of time, but now he’s

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How many basses does it take to make a video?

1 Robert Levine

I’d bet it takes quite a few, if this is the video:

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The Musicians Business Challenge—Changing Demand

0

Ask any musician ten years older than you how business is, and he will probably say, “It’s OK, but it was much better ten years ago.” If that same person asks the identical question to another musician ten years older than he is, he will probably get the same answer.  “It’s OK, but it was

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The Naxos nexus

0 Robert Levine

This joint venture seems like a very good idea for both parties: …Naxos of America will begin physical and digital distribution of the renowned Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s premiere record label CSO Resound.

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This wouldn't work for Bruckner either

0 Robert Levine

…but it’s pretty amazing nonetheless. In case you were thinking it was faked, this video will show you how it was done.

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The boss is the best organizer

0 Robert Levine

It’s good to be reminded now and then of what an orchestra looks like in the wild, and why virtually every professional orchestra in the known universe is unionized: Musicians, however, look to a conductor for musical guidance, and they say [Illinois Symphony Music Director Karen Lynne] Deal simply doesn’t do enough homework to provide

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The Musician’s Business Challenge

1

Over the next couple of weeks I’ll put on a businessman’s hat and look at a young musician’s career from that perspective.  What are the challenges facing this person as he or she steps into the profession?  One might say a musician’s challenge is to utilize and evolve the skills obtained in school in order

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Executive experience?

0 Robert Levine

A candidate for the position of King County (Seattle) Executive is touting her executive experience rather than her decades as a local TV news anchor, and basing the claim on having been board chair of the Seattle Symphony: In her campaign for King County executive, Hutchison has highlighted her 2 Ω years as chairwoman of

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Saving money by pissing off the patrons

0 Robert Levine

Concerts get cancelled all the time, but usually not high-profile concerts conducted by the music director two weeks in advance of the concert: The Honolulu Symphony board has done something unprecedented that will shock some patrons while possibly giving encouragement to people who have written big checks for the orchestra. It has canceled a concert

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Now that's what I call a union

0 Robert Levine

Show business can indeed pay well: After you practice for years and get to Carnegie Hall, it’s almost better to move music stands than actually play the piano. Depending on wattage, a star pianist can receive $20,000 a night at the 118-year-old hall, meaning he or she would have to perform at least 27 times

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Pianist goes to jail too

1 Robert Levine

Performing in prisons has almost graduated to the status of trend: Baltimore Symphony Orchestra guest pianist Simone Dinnerstein plays an usual venue this morning at 11: The Maryland Correctional Institution for Women. The world-renowned pianist, who has played Carneige Hall and the Kennedy Center, also will answer questions from inmates/audience members after she performs works

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GUEST BLOGGER Yvonne Caruthers–Slatkin's response

0

Leonard Slatkin responded via email (see yesterday’s blogpost) to my request for information about the article on his website. I have excerpted his comments: “The article was written the day after the Met[‘s recent production of] Tosca was trashed.   How come opera directors can get away with mangling the instructions from a composer, but the

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GUEST BLOGGER Yvonne Caruthers–Leonard Slatkin weighs in on booing at the Met

0

The new Music Director of the Detroit Symphony, Leonard Slatkin, has been having a bit of fun lately. Maybe other orchestras will take up these measures as well, to give audiences an unusual concert-going experience. Tomorrow I’ll post Maestro Slatkin’s comments about his ideas.

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GUEST BLOGGER Yvonne Caruthers–Thoughts on Baby Einstein, etc

2

The question keeps getting asked: should you play music to your unborn child to increase their intelligence? How about tapes of a 2nd language? There’s a whole industry out there that preys upon new parents–if you aren’t doing something for your child, you’re not doing enough. I find it ironic that classical music is often

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More non-rigorous thinking about the arts

0 Robert Levine

This study proves far less than it claims to: In a report to be released on Monday the nonprofit Center for Arts Education found that New York City high schools with the highest graduation rates also offered students the most access to arts education. The report, which analyzed data collected by the city’s Education Department

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GUEST BLOGGER Yvonne Caruthers–Will Apple Save Classical Music?

0

A few years ago conductor Leonard Slatkin stated that John Williams had saved the orchestra. Why? Because at a time when Broadway shows were moving more and more toward the use of synthesizers and recorded music, Williams was writing film scores for large orchestras. Slatkin maintained that producers (and audiences) having Williams’ sounds in their

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Chicago Symphony goes to jail

1 Robert Levine

…although not for insider note trading, which is not yet illegal. Addressing the annual meeting of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association on Wednesday, [Riccardo Muti] revealed several initiatives he has planned with the orchestra once he settles into his new post in September 2010. And one of them involves at-risk youth. The most innovative is

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The diaspora personified

0 Robert Levine

Nazism was such an evil phenomenon that attributing any positive effects at all to its influence feels morally reckless. But a story like this is a reminder of how much vitality was brought to the classical music scene in North America by Jewish musicians who left Europe to escape war and genocide: A conversation with

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A guilty pleasure

1 Robert Levine

I generally enjoy playing (and even listening to) Rachmaninoff – but I usually don’t respect myself the next morning for having done so. This week, though, might be different. We’re doing the Rachmaninoff third concerto (“Rock 3″, in tribal parlance) and the second symphony. I’m finding it makes a huge difference in how interesting Rachmaninoff

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Dog bites man

0 Robert Levine

My favorite headline of all time was “Something went wrong in jet crash, experts say.” The headline and article below, while not reaching quite that level of sublime obviousness, is still strikingly… obvious: Economy took toll on symphony’s artistically bright year The economy has been playing the role of Scrooge, causing the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s

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Guest Blogger–Yvonne Caruthers starts on Monday

0

When we started the Polyphonic blog we said we’d have guest bloggers from time to time.  Well, the time is now.  For one week, beginning next Monday, October 19, Yvonne Caruthers will share some musical observations on our blog. Yvonne has been a cellist with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington DC since 1978, and

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How the CD business could have been saved

0 Robert Levine

If only the folks at the record companies had the marketing chops of whoever put together this little campaign:

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Thinking different about Pops

0 Robert Levine

In the wake of the well-publicized downsizing of its guest artist roster for the 2009-10 season, the Minnesota Orchestra is going local to replace its principal pops conductor as well: The Minnesota Orchestra has named Sarah Hicks as principal conductor of pops and presentations, filling a vacancy left when Doc Severinsen retired two years ago.

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Do orchestra managers make too much?

0 Robert Levine

Due largely to the appointment of Allison Vulgamore as President and CEO of the Philadelphia Orchestra, manager compensation is currently enjoying its 15 minutes of fame (although I doubt whether she is enjoying the spotlight on her current and future paystubs). The Philadelphia Inquirer has speculated on the subject, as has the New York Times,

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Save Your Love—Don’t Give it Away

1

In the music world there will always be someone who is willing to do something more cheaply than you.  Students are typically in this category.  Look at the music scene around any music school.  Students will be playing for their dinner, or coffee if it’s a coffee house or for the door.  Musicians are eager

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The Fall Classic

0 Robert Levine

You thought I was talking about baseball? Tonight is the last concert in our fall tour, one of my favorite annual orchestra events. Every year at about this time we go up north and play a few concerts, mostly in places to which we’ve been going for years.

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Change we can believe in

1 Robert Levine

Surprisingly, the date on this was September 23 and not April 1: The Detroit Symphony has announced plans for a completely revamped season, starting with its concerts this week. The programs will not be changed, at least the ones advertised, but the manner in which the works are performed will be altered. To begin, the

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This week's concessions

0 Robert Levine

Indianapolis… Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra musicians will take a 12 percent reduction in salary this season, followed by incremental increases in the second and third years of a newly ratified three-year contract. …Terms include salary increases of 2.7 percent for the 2010-11 season and 7.8 percent for the 2011-12 season. Musicians have agreed to greater individual

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Are conductors ovepaid?

1 Robert Levine

Yes and no. Both writers make good points. I find myself more in agreement with the “no” side, however. In the end, it’s the same as with most leadership positions. Good conductors are worth every cent of what they’re paid. Bad conductors are worth nada. The more interesting question is about the value of all

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Noises off week in Wisconsin

1 Robert Levine

So we’re in Marinette – right across the river from Menomonee, Michigan, the Banana Belt of the Upper Penninsula (where Yoopers come from) – playing a concert at Blesch High School, where the signs say “Catch the Blesch Spirit!” (and no I’m not kidding). We’re well into the slow movement of the Mendelssohn “Italian” symphony

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Play ball!

0 Robert Levine

Anne Midgette riffs on the propriety of performing the National Anthem at concerts: Does it have a place? It can seem slightly odd. The concert hall is aglitter with expensive evening gowns and tails; the audience is seated; the lights go down; the conductor comes out; and suddenly the lights come up and everyone stands

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Cello humor

0 Robert Levine

I’m glad that a) this kid isn’t a violist, and b) that I’m not on his radar screen.

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The boss is the best organizer

0 Robert Levine

It’s good to be reminded now and then of what an orchestra looks like in the wild, and why virtually every professional orchestra in the known universe is unionized: Musicians, however, look to a conductor for musical guidance, and they say [Illinois Symphony Music Director Karen Lynne] Deal simply doesn’t do enough homework to provide

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Don’t dilute your product in order to make money

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Here is a little followup to my last post about starving artists.  In talking to Maria further, she made another interesting observation.  In her opinion, a mistake that many artists make in trying to figure out how to make money, is to underestimate their audience.   She commented that some musicians seem to think that if

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Management by waving (sticks) around

0 Robert Levine

The Globe and Mail apparently believes that conductors have something to teach the corporate world: As a rookie conductor, Roger Nierenberg thought his job as leader was to tell people what to do. But in 14 years as director of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra in Florida, he learned that being overly controlling is destined to

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Noises off

1 Robert Levine

So there we were, in the middle of the introduction to the first movement of the Beethoven 7th on Saturday night, when we heard a loud noise from backstage that sounded as if someone had dropped a kitchen sink from a very great height. I’ve played thousands of concerts, but never heard anything quite like

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Department of Conductorial Humor

0 Robert Levine

Overheard at work this morning: Keyboardist: Edo, did you say something to the piano? Conductor: More like to the pianist. But the piano will follow you. And all these years I thought the Dutch were a humorless sort. Edo has proven to be quite the opposite. What’s more impressive is that he uses the humor

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Orchestra (but not money) can go to Cuba

0 Robert Levine

US policy towards Cuba has claimed another victim: The New York Philharmonic scratched its planned trip to Cuba at the end of October because the United States government was barring a group of patrons from going along, the orchestra said on Thursday. Without them and their donations, the Philharmonic said, it could not afford the

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American Orchestras Summit at the University of Michigan

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Several organizations, including the League of American Orchestras and the University of Michigan School of Music, have banded together to present, “American Orchestras Summit at the University of Michigan: Creating Partnerships in Research and Performance.”  The conference purpose is to attempt to launch a permanent dialogue between the scholarly community and the symphonic community.   As

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Philly hires a new CEO

0 Robert Levine

It’s official: Allison B. Vulgamore, president of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra since 1993, will take over the Philadelphia ensemble at a time when it has been badly shaken by financial turmoil. She is expected to start work as president and CEO no later than Feb. 1. “I think that we have found a leader who

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A rather blunt headline

0 Robert Levine

The press in Montana does not mince words.

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Fun with audition ads

0 Robert Levine

I’ve been reading audition ads in the International Musician for a long time now, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that caused me to scratch my head quite as hard as the one placed by the Philadelphia Orchestra in the September 2009 issue of the IM for “Viola Substitute Pool.” I’ve seen ads

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Maybe we're doing OK after all

0 Robert Levine

A view from across the Atlantic: In my article on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra last week, I said that in recent years more than a dozen US orchestras had ‘gone to the wall’. I am glad to say this was wrong. 13 orchestras did in fact file for bankruptcy protection between 1986 and 2008, but

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Halls are hazardous workplaces

1 Robert Levine

Among other problems, you could fall into dark holes and break things: A Florida Panhandle conductor is recovering after falling 14 feet into the empty space below a moveable orchestra pit on the opening night of an opera he had written. David Ott fell Friday after the debut of “The Widow’s Lantern,” an original work

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Starving Artists

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The two-time grammy winning jazz composer Maria Schneider is a friend, and in conversations we have had she expressed  an interesting take on the stereotypical starving artist.  She theorizes that part of the reason record companies are able to make huge profits while the artists often make so little, is because many musicians have the

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A notable retirement

0 Robert Levine

My Google search for orchestra news has turned up a large number of articles on the retirement of Boston Symphony principal harp Ann Hobson Pilot. It’s a newsworthy event; I believe she was the first African-American principal player in a major American orchestra, and one of the first African-Americans in any American orchestra at all.

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Subscribe not?

0 Robert Levine

The current economic model for our industry is built largely on the subscription model best described by the late, great Danny Newman in his book Subscribe Now! So this news was shocking even to your been there, done that blogger: Gustavo Dudamel, the new music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, may be the hottest

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Might not work for Bruckner

0 Robert Levine

…but for Tchaikowsky, this kid is amazing.

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MPope3

0 Robert Levine

This caught my eye: His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI will release “Alma Mater– Music From The Vatican” featuring Marian hymns, prayers, chants, etc., including “Regina Coeli”, by California (USA) based record label Geffen Records owned by Universal Music Group (UMG), which is a subsidiary of Vivendi. Pope, accompanied by the choir of the Philharmonic Academy

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Times a'changing in the Olde Countrie too

0 Robert Levine

American orchestras are not the only ones feeling the need to adapt to the new millenium: Traditional concerts with overtures, concertos and symphonies will continue to exist in years to come, according to the managing director of the German Orchestra Association, Gerald Mertens, but not at the exclusion of everything else. “There will also be

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Leadership by waving something other than a baton

0 Robert Levine

There was one of those scary “model your leadership on the collaboration between conductor and orchestra” blog posts in the Baltimore Sun the other day: Musicians took furloughs and pay cuts that came to a 12.5 percent reduction in compensation. Administrative folks took pay cuts of up to 15 percent. But none of this would

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Found Another One

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Another musical expert does his magic and raises the level of instrumental technique to a higher level.  Music education at its finest. View it and weep (or laugh). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4B38odAqpY&feature=related

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Ship-jumping on the rise?

0 Robert Levine

John von Rhein had a rather odd column in the Chicago Tribune today on principal players moving around: The recent news that Mathieu Dufour, principal flute of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 1999, has also accepted that position with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, apparently on a trial basis, for the 2009-10 season, got me thinking

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The arts to subsidize insurance industry profits?

0 Robert Levine

Evidently the fact that nonprofits employ 10% or so of the US workforce has escaped the attention of those in Congress writing health care reform legislation: Nonprofit organizations say they are upset that Congress and the Obama administration have not addressed their rising health care costs in the various health care proposals being floated on

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Let's Form a Union

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This past spring I received an email signed by a dozen or so Eastman students. It was sent to Eastman School jazz students and faculty. This group had met out of frustration. It seems that within the student jazz community at Eastman, there has not been much discussion or communication between them about how to

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Government subsidies, American-style

0 Robert Levine

I know we don’t have much in the way of government subsidies for the arts in this country, but this is ridiculous: Officials with art and cultural groups in Philadelphia say they are angered by the state’s decision to expand state sales taxes to their businesses. Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance director Peggy Amsterdam said Pennsylvania

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Debt is dangerous stuff

0 Robert Levine

It appears that nonprofits have been emulating for-profit enterprises in some of the wrong ways: Far from being conservative stewards of their assets, many nonprofits engaged in what some experts call risky financial behavior. “They did auction-rate securities, interest-rate arbitrage, complex swaps — which backfired on them the same way it would backfire on any

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Doing business with the Met

0 Robert Levine

Buried in a long piece in the New York Times on the “new Met” were the following tidbits: Since Mr. Gelb took over, the Met budget has increased by about $60 million. The box office is up, but meanwhile personal and corporate donations, which the Met depends on to balance its budget, are down, thanks

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Another orchestra for Lincoln Center

0 Robert Levine

In ICSOM/AFM/Local 802 circles, the New York Philharmonic, Met Opera orchestra, NYC Opera orchestra, and NYC Ballet orchestra are known collectively as the “Lincoln Center orchestras” for obvious reasons. It appears that they’re about to have some company: Call it Cleveland on the Hudson: The Cleveland Orchestra is setting up a multiyear residency at the

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In a world of hurt

0 Robert Levine

A recent recent blog post by Philadelphia Inquirer critic Peter Dobrin contains the kind of analysis I wouldn’t want to read about any orchestra, much less one of our flagship bands: It’s a year today since Philadelphia Orchestra president James Undercofler announced his decision to not seek the renewal of his contract, and it’s been

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From the Department of Great Headlines

0 Robert Levine

I have a Google search for orchestra news that occasionally comes back with some… interesting results.

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Talk is cheap, and so are plans

0 Robert Levine

A Grand Unified Theory of Arts Funding may be unveiled sometime in the medium future in Columbus: A long-awaited and often-promised blueprint for the arts in central Ohio could finally be in the offing. Arts, business and political leaders say an overall cultural plan for the community — outlining new strategies for funding sources, entrepreneurship

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The most interesting conductor in the world

0 Robert Levine

Dos Equis, the Mexican beer company, recently ran an ad campaign around a character they dubbed “The Most Interesting Man In The World” (my favorite ad was this one). It was, among other things, a take-off on how the press love to anoint individuals, or institutions, as the “best” or “worst” or “sexiest” or pretty

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On being overly picky at auditions

0 Robert Levine

My brother-in-bratsche-blogging Charles Noble writes on his Daily Observations blog about an audition that happened in Portland, where he is assistant principal violist of the Oregon Symphony. He’s not happy about what happened to some of his freelance colleagues: There was an orchestral audition that took place this weekend at the local opera company. It

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How to do a concert hall right

0 Robert Levine

Evidently the answer is to build it in a major German city: Into a skyline dominated by the cranes loading and unloading the thousands of tons of goods that pass through its port each day, Hamburg is erecting an ambitious concert complex topped by an undulating clear glass roof.

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Welcome

3

So this week Polyphonic.org kicks off a daily blog feature, and I begin my maiden voyage into organized cyber writing.  I’ll be joined by two Polyphonic Senior Editors—Ann Drinan and Robert Levine, but from time to time we will also have guest bloggers.  We’ll try to have something new up each day, and since Polyphonic

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