Virtual Discussion Panel
:: Engaging the Community
:: August 21 - 31, 2006

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Charles Burke's Statement (Click to Hide)

Charles Burke  

Charles Burke

Director of Education, Detroit Symphony

Why can't we fill the gap? If we do not step-up to fill the gap, who will? Why shouldn't this be the role of an orchestra? This is really our problem and we have to solve it. If not, the audience will migrate to other entertainment options.

We have proven that we are more than an orchestra in many cases - we have chosen to take on new roles very successfully. At many large orchestras (including my own), we build new concert halls, office buildings and serve as economic drivers for redevelopment and tourism. However, we do not truly put the same type of institutional effort into arts education advocacy.

Advocacy means many different things to different people - there is a big difference between being an advocate that meets and talks about the issues, and actually creating innovative advocacy systems that lead to hard and measurable outcomes. If cultural institutions do not fill the gap - who will? I believe that we must use our organizational capital, board, staff, musicians and strategic community partnerships to mobilize school administrators, legislatures, school boards and local governments to create innovative opportunities in arts education. If we can raise money to build a hall - why can't we raise money to create cultural incubators within school systems? Why can't a large orchestra serve as a "cultural foundation" that provides funding for a school pyramid (from elementary to high school) - engaging the parents, students and community leaders?

The institution can be the catalyst for arts funding and creative partnerships (churches, universities and other non-profits) for arts-education. This is being done on a limited basis in a non-arts related manner by the Skillman Foundation with the "Good Schools Initiative." For example, if a school partnership program (sending orchestra musicians into schools) costs an organization $40,000 dollars a year in artistic and staff time/fees, wouldn't the money be better spent guaranteeing that two elementary schools have a shared general music teacher and every child has music on a weekly basis? What if the funding was raised by a local church combined with resources from a university with a music education department and a symphony orchestra? Wouldn't this create real connection with diverse communities and change the perception of the role of a symphony orchestra?

I find it interesting that smaller orchestras seem more connected with the community than the large orchestras (my own included). Simply stated, the large orchestras need to do more - we need to reach more people and use our organizational capital to fill the gaps. Education and long-term in-depth engagement are the most important elements of audience development. If we don't step up, no one else will. Ultimately music education, and hence our audience, will cease to exist

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Comments for Charles Burke

Terrific ideas, Charles! These are the sorts of innovative ideas I was hoping this forum would generate...Has the Detroit Symphony been able to put these programs into place (such as the Skillman that you mentioned)?

I think smaller orchestras are more in touch with their communities because the entire community's funding sources are more limited.

Read Charles' reply in his Day 3 post.
yvonne on August 23, 2019 at 5:10 PM
Mr. Burke,
Your comments are on the money and I commend you for your creative concepts. As public funding for our schools are whittled away, more and more arts education, along with other non-traditional academics (anything but the three R's) suffer. The void must be backfilled by those who have the passionate interest to maintain its vibrancy. One challenge we recently faced with our local orchestra had to do with Union contracts, which "bankrupt" a creative idea from going forward. Sometimes, we must ask ourselves whether the strict guidelines established when unions were created some fifty years ago are still relevant in today's high tech, fast moving, global societies. I would challenge all musicians to look at the world as it really is and not as how they would like it to look, then "Go do the right things for the right reasons."
williammelver on August 24, 2019 at 9:03 PM
With regard to williammelver's comment I would be interested to know more about exactly which provisions within union contracts bankrupt "creative ideas." I would also be interested to know exactly who williammelver believes comprises the unions if not the orchestra musicians themselves. Does this mean he's singling out orchestra musicians as the root of his perceived problems?

I also wonder if he's ever bothered to talk to his local symphony's players committee or local union president - or even send them a letter - expressing his concerns. What is this world reality williammelver is referring to and what exactly he considers is "the right thing."

Universally condemning unions - i.e., orchestra musicians - as the source for keeping what he believes are "creative ideas" from coming to fruition is ignorant at best and deliberately injurious at worst. Personally, I don't think my orchestra should be spending as much on participating in public school music initiatives as we are. We need audience members now and I think the money would be better spent if it were directed toward improving our marketing.

Yes, there's always the argument that we want an audience for tomorrow but I've been doing this for a long time and I always remember being a part of a symphony that had education programs that reached out to local public schools. If those programs really build our audience for tomorrow why didn't those initiatives from 20 years ago build our audience for today? Music critic, Greg Sandow put it better than I can in something he wrote awhile back at his blog:

... One of the musicians said we needed to restore music education in our schools, and the audience applauded. From the warmth of the applause, it's easy to see that the classical music audience is worried that classical music might disappear, and that restoring music education is a warmly favored remedy.

I hope, then, that I won't offend anyone when I say that it's not a remedy at all. For one thing, it'll take too long. Suppose music education is restored, in all its glory, in schools all over America, starting in September. Suppose these music classes build a new classical music audience. How long will that take? Decades! (Especially if, like many people, you believe that people don't fully join the classical music audience until they're in their fifties.) Classical music could be extinct by then.

And how, exactly, are we going to restore music education? Where will school systems find the money for it? How will they transform themselves into institutions that will give classical music a high priority? We can campaign for these things, of course, but then we're knee-deep in politics, engaged in a massive political task. What if we fail? Then we're really stuck.
gregoryrichards on August 25, 2019 at 10:25 AM

Yvonne Caruthers's Statement (Click to Hide)

Yvonne Caruthers  

Yvonne Caruthers

Senior Editor

There are several things that struck me as I read the first postings of my fellow panelists:

Aaron Flagg's comment that for many orchestras it seems like an afterthought to include outreach in their mission statement. I see that played out when our education programs are funded so meagerly but top conductors and soloists earn huge fees. It reminds me of the old bumper sticker: "It'll be a great day when the Pentagon has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber and the schools have all the money they need."

Genevieve Cimon's comment that "re-connection" is vital after contact has been established — I want to know how that is done in NACO. During my orchestra's residencies, I often start what I think could be a very rewarding relationship with a group of students or teachers, but there's not a way for us to continue that relationship. Do any of you have a good plan in place to "re-connect" (or stay connected, so that you don't have to "re"-connect) with people you meet during residencies?

Jim Copenhaver's mention of a federally-funded program that I've never heard of, but the name alone is tantalizing: PEAK!

Aaron Dworkin's desire to have more minorities playing in orchestras, thereby making concerts more attractive to minority listeners. Here at the NSO we've made a huge commitment in some areas to addressing that issue. We can't change the orchestra's audition process at this time, but at our Summer Music Institute (for high school and young college students), minority enrollment is quite high, and I'm hoping our Education Director, Carole Wysocki, can join us for discussion soon to tell you how she achieves that. I have to believe that more minorities in college, university, and conservatory programs will soon translate into more minorities in orchestras of all sizes throughout the country.

That having been said, I want to also add that I love folk music from China and I don't have a drop of Chinese blood in me, so I think there is something in the music that attracts listeners to various types of music, regardless of their ethnic/racial background. We all like what we know best, but we also like what appeals to us, even when we don't know where it's from or what it "means" (think about the first piece of abstract art that you were attracted to).

Sarah Johnson's comments about what we can't do, chiefly that we can't make up for the fact that music educators aren't in most schools on a daily basis anymore. In my opinion, that one fact probably hurts us all more than any other single factor. I find myself thinking about it every time I perform for a school group, or a group of interested adults. They don't know what "forte" means, what a "movement" is, or what a "concerto" is, so I'm very careful to explain every detail that I'm trying to get across. I also make a point to show audiences musical examples. Most people say "I can't read music," but once they have it explained in a simple fashion, most of them enjoy looking at the music anyway, seeing the shapes of the lines, the density of the notes, and extremes of register. Going back to my sports analogy — I've never played football, but after someone tells me what a "field goal" is, I understand a televised game a little bit better.

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Comments for Yvonne Caruthers

If you don't mind, Yvonne, I'd like to add what I know about that situation, since I know the parties very well.

One big reason the Kennedy Center/NSO's Summer Music Insitute has such a high black and latino involvment is directly due to its Young Artist of Color Program led by Dr. Leon Neal. He is a violist in the Washington National Opera/Kennedy Center Opera House and is a consultant to the Institute.

In 1993, James Wolfensohn, the chair of the board at the Kennedy Center, asked Dr. Neal to recruit minority students to apply to for the Summer Music Institute. He works directly with Carole, pre-screens applications, and personally visits programs around the country, including the Music Advancement Program and Pre-College Division at Juilliard, which is where I met him.

In fact, I know a few students who won't have known, let alone auditioned and won the opportunity to participate in the Institute, without his efforts.
AaronFlagg on August 23, 2019 at 10:05 AM
Thanks, Aaron. I was hoping Carole would have time to join the discussion, but it's good that you were able to outline the procedure. I've been so impressed with all the students at the Summer Music Institute, and I know it's true that a lot of them wouldn't have been there going through the "usual" procedures, if only because they didn't know about them.
yvonne on August 24, 2019 at 3:10 PM

James Copenhaver's Statement (Click to Hide)

James Copenhaver  

James Copenhaver

Arts Consultant and former Executive Director/CEO, Colorado Symphony

Yvonne has asked me to elaborate on my reference to the PEAK program in Monday's post. In October 2004, Englewood (Col) Public Schools and Englewood Arts (a 501(c)3 organization in Englewood) was awarded an $813,000 grant from the United States Department of Education, Office of Innovation and Improvement, to conduct a three-year study of the impact that integrating art into elementary school curricula has on academic performance in reading and writing. The project is entitled PEAK (Progressive Education in Art+Academics for Kids).

The PEAK project is based on the premise that involvement in the arts improves academic achievement. According to recent research in brain development, the arts have a unique way of providing learners with opportunities to simultaneously develop and mature multiple brain systems, including integrated sensory, attentional, cognitive, emotional and motor capacities, which are the driving forces behind all other learning (Arts with the Brain in Mind, Jensen, 2001).

Teachers in the three participating schools are trained and supported by professional artists to incorporate arts integration techniques into the reading and writing curriculum. Students participate in weekly arts residencies that pair classroom teachers with music, dance and visual art or theatre professionals, receive instruction in playing the piano and/or the recorder, and have opportunities to participate in after school music and theatre programs.

Currently, 20 classroom teachers and three art and music teachers are participating in the PEAK project, working with approximately 600 students. They are joined by professional artists provided by Englewood Arts from the David Taylor Dance Theatre, Museum of Outdoor Arts, and Up Close and Musical in developing and implementing the curriculum.

Let me give two examples of using music and dance to enhance learning. In order to help young students understand unfamiliar text structures, such as those in the book Who Bop? by Jonathan London in which the words are written in circles and swirls, students are asked to draw lines on a paper that represent the melody line as they listen to a selection of music. The curves and swirls that they draw are compared and contrasted to the way the text appears on the page. Then, the music specialist introduces the concept of melody and notation to represent the curves and swirls. As a result, this integrated lesson gives children the opportunity to make connections between unfamiliar text and melody lines, which supports learning in both reading and music.

A second example is using dance movements to illustrate and reinforce the meaning of punctuation in a grammar lesson. Such integrated lessons enhance basic learning, broaden the child's ability to assimilate information, and provide a connection that is likely to last for a lifetime.

The PEAK program is a partnership between Englewood (CO) schools and Englewood Arts that provides and compensates the artists for their services. We are in the third year of the program and will see the first hard evaluation data in September.

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Comments for James Copenhaver

Thanks, Jim.

Do you know if there have been similar grants elsewhere in the country?

Read Jim's reply in his Day 3 post.
yvonne on August 23, 2019 at 5:13 PM

Aaron Flagg's Statement (Click to Hide)

Aaron Flagg  

Aaron Flagg

Executive Director, Music Conservatory of Westchester

Several panelists have eloquently expressed our collective desire for engagement/outreach efforts to have a lasting impact on individual musicians, the community, and the orchestral institutions involved. I'm glad to read Ann's reference the MetLife Awards for Community Engagement in writing about her personal satisfaction and some community results at the Hartford Symphony. Again, administered by the League, these annual awards honor some really in-depth projects being done by small and large orchestras around the country. You can read about them at .

I personally mourn the fact that there are no longitudinal studies documenting the impact of orchestra education programs on future audiences. Similarly, it would be helpful to have a study measuring the impact on job satisfaction experienced by musicians who participate in these programs versus those who do not, as well as any impact on arts education policy in the communities involved.

One exciting result I'd like to share is that three years ago the New York City Department of Education (DOE) decided to create a new set of standards for K-12 arts education. A broad group of cultural institutions including the New York Philharmonic and the Brooklyn Philharmonic were invited to join a group including city arts specialists to create a "Blueprint for Teaching and Learning in the Arts." As a member of the advisory panel who helped write the music document and train teachers, I was proud to see the DOE recognize the expertise and contribution of orchestras to arts education in schools by inviting them to the table to create and ultimately help roll-out to city music teachers a new set of arts education standards that valued community resources like orchestras. I extend this success to ask, are our orchestras being invited by our cities to economic development meetings or job fairs?

Another key component touched on by my colleagues is the manner in which these efforts are designed. Are we telling or asking? Are we empowering their creativity or just showcasing our own? Does the discussion of engagement occur in the early planning stage of tours and season programming meetings or as we pack the double basses and print the programs? I see a similarity in the recent negotiation discussion where panelists were quick to differentiate between management picking musicians to serve on committees and the orchestra choosing their own representatives. The sensitivity around this was clear. Do we bother to ask what community need might a partnership with our orchestra meet? What do community members value? Dare we let our community have a hand in choosing repertoire? I am reminded of the Pittsburgh Symphony's "Audience of the Future" program where high school students conceive, plan, pick the repertoire for, and implement an entire concert. What youth development, what job training!

Finally, I'd like to question the message orchestras send to their community by the structure used for their engagement activities. There are many different models used to deliver education and community work, including

1. Service conversion in the contract (CBA) with the orchestra's regular musicians.

2. Separate agreements for the orchestra's musicians, which compensate for training sessions and the engagement efforts.

3. A completely separate roster of musicians and/or teaching artists who are "non-orchestra" musicians but are perceived as "musicians from the orchestra" and paid a separate scale from the orchestra. (e.g., Los Angeles, New York, & Brooklyn)

Quick story: I played extra with the Brooklyn Philharmonic at a time when there were "two" Brooklyn Philharmonics (much like the Duke Ellington Band today). One did the education work, and one did the main concert work. I played in both and noticed a different contractor, conductor, many different musicians, and a different scale. After one side-by-side in a high school, we got word that moving forward the main orchestra would be doing all the education work. Although I gather there were many reasons, one cited was that the education scale had gotten so high. The interesting fact was a majority of the "second" orchestra members, including the contractor, were African-American and Latino, as were a majority of students in the schools visited.

My questions are:

1. Do the orchestra's musicians know and support the way their orchestra implements its engagement efforts?

2. To what extent should outreach work be part of the job description and audition process for orchestra members in the future (e.g., Kalamazoo, MI)?

3. Do we respect the skills needed in education and community building efforts enough to support professional development in these areas?

I look very much forward to hearing feedback on these issues.

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Sarah Johnson's Statement (Click to Hide)

Sarah Johnson  

Sarah Johnson

Director of Education and Community Partnerships, The Philadelphia Orchestra

In response to Yvonne Caruthers' statement:

I love your comments about the World Cup games, and the comparison to orchestra concerts. There are, as you said, significant differences between these two events, but the degree to which people engage with the games is pretty incredible. It's interesting to look at the analogy, try to put one's finger on what it is that so thoroughly engages people in sporting events, and then invent something similar in the concert experience.

Is the key hook the competition aspect? Or the fact that so many have participated in sports themselves that they can really understand and appreciate the level at which the games are played professionally? Is it that they want to follow these people who have been made into heroes in the public eye?

I agree with you that education is a big part of it, and I would like to push the envelope beyond the educational moments that happen before or after concerts. (Those preconcerts, conductors or musicians speaking from the stage before a new work, and performances in schools and community are all important!)

I am interested in trying to provide some concerts that are more akin to the World Cup broadcasts, in that they are more visually engaging, and they provide audience members with a variety of "entry points" or hooks for better understanding what's happening when they hear the performance.

We have an Access Concert series in Philadelphia, in which we first explore a piece of music, through video, slides that include all different kinds of images, dialogue through multiple voices, including musicians, conductor, host, and audience talking about the piece, live musical demonstrations, etc. Sometimes we create slides with visual cues that go up during the performance to remind audience members about a particular upcoming moment to listen for in the music. We also try to create some participatory or interactive moment in each concert.

After the exploration part, we play the work complete. We are entering into the second year of these concerts - we do four a year right now, and we're seeing ticket sales pick up and a significantly younger audience purchasing tickets. I believe that some people want this different kind of concert experience, and that we should provide it - it doesn't preclude doing performances the way we always have, but it provides people who are curious listeners an opportunity to learn more.

I would love to hear from others about successful concerts they've seen in this vein, or experiments that haven't worked so well.

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Comments for Sarah Johnson

Sarah - I too have been curious about the competitive hook in classical music. I agree with you that competitions offer models for audience education that are worth considering for our orchestral concerts. Many of the big competitions (e.g., the Cliburn) have over the years grown exponentially and expertly in the area of audience education and engagement. They have perfected extensive audience development tools to nurture their audience's desire to be an integral part of the music-making process. Many competitions will offer opportunities for audience members to host and sometimes interact with performers - getting to know intimately the personal drive and vision of the musician that compels them to strive for artistic excellence. They have opportunities to learn more about the music in a non-threatening way by attending lectures led by expert musicologists. They can socialize with their fellow-audience members and learn from each other as they evaluate the various performers they have heard in a competition. And finally, there is the excitement of being present at an event that will select a winner - perhaps a future "great."

Whether or not we think competitions should be left to the sports arena or not - the fact is that audiences feel welcomed within this highly interactive model.

I attended one of your Access Concerts when the NAC Orchestra performed at the Kimmel Centre a few years ago. It was a new music concert and was very intimate. I enjoyed the small venue and interaction between the composer, musicians, and audience. I look forward to seeing how these concerts evolve in the years to come.

gcimon on August 29, 2019 at 12:58 PM

Leonard Slatkin's Statement (Click to Hide)

Leonard Slatkin  

Leonard Slatkin

Music Director, National Symphony Orchestra

In reply to Aaron Flagg's comment on Day 1 :
Although I understand the need to reach out to a broader constituency, I still maintain that what we do appeals primarily to a smaller percentage of the population and to that end, we need to secure that base first, even though I see the general makeup of the audience changing. I still do not anticipate much more than 4% of the population as regular concertgoers. Attempts to bring in new audiences with presentations such as scores from video games and NFL scenes are one-off affairs. These should not be intended to entice listeners into musical realms in which they are not comfortable.

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Comments for Leonard Slatkin

I wish and think that if there was an arts tv network thats main focus was on classical music and opera that a new audience could be found for orchestras. All day long great performances of symphonies in their entirety or movement selections. Opera and chamber music selections of vigorating performances; Mahler Mondays for example. Commercials with great artists such as pianists, violinists, singers, poets, writers, conductors, such as yourself Mr. Slatkin, talking about music for 30 seconds with demonstrations and clips. Sampling their work in a brilliant format that entices the viewer to tune in at 8 o' clock on Friday night. I could envision a daily lineup of Mozart and Bach to the Strausses and beyond that everyday people could watch and listen to as to broaden their sense of understanding of classical music and what it is. They just don't yet, is how I see it.
WagnerViolist on September 8, 2019 at 10:20 PM

Jon Deak's Statement (Click to Hide)

Jon Deak  

Jon Deak

Associate Principal Bassist and Creative Education Associate, New York Philharmonic

[Jon has been traveling in Europe and having a few Internet problems - I just received this from him. Ann Drinan]

I just wanted to say I've been reading the statements and comments so far, while on the go in Europe. It's clear that all the panelists are working mightily to reach the communities they serve, and that audiences and children all over cannot but benefit from our efforts.

My own tactic generally comes under the heading of "letting the community teach us." I so much want to expose kids, especially, to the great orchestral classics and the contemporary, but I am even more interested in what THEY want to express, create, play, write, shout. Clearly there are many approaches, but I am so convinced of the infinite depth of the expressive capacity of the orchestra and live ensembles that in my Very Young Composers program, I generally make a deal: In exchange for giving you (the public school child, for example) the tools with which to create for the orchestra, we will agree to perform exactly what you compose, and no fooling with your stuff, nor editing. Can't notate well enough? We'll do it for you, as long as you tap, sing, play, talk, yell out exactly what it is and is for, down to the last eighth note, raw from your gut. Deal?

Yes, this is a big risk, this so-called "blank slate" method. I don't even let them use the computer until later in the process. But this way, we don't have to worry so much if we are feeding them the proper, culturally relevant music. We are learning it from them. - With such joy! When they need the instrumental skills, we will give them to them as they are needed. (And they ARE needed!)

This is only the barest sketch of what really goes on in this type of process, but over the eleven years I, and now a number of us have been involved, thousands of miraculous little gems of the heart have been created, loved, and performed. More about this later, and back to the discussion at hand tomorrow.

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Comments for Jon Deak

Jon, so good to read your comments! Empowering the audience's creativity is exactly what the Very Young Composers Program is all about. Orchestras have such a powerful, but often under-utilized platform with which to encourage others to dream and to do. The look of pride and ownership on those kids faces as they sit on the stage at Avery Fisher Hall while you and your colleagues play their notes is quite powerful.
AaronFlagg on August 24, 2019 at 9:53 PM
Jon - I love the idea of "letting the community teach us." I would be interested in knowing more about the musical gems you've inspired. So many of us have programs where we encourage creativity amongst novice composers - others of us commission young composers - and every now and again a really interesting work is created. Sadly, they usually get one reading. I would be interested in seeing the creation of a section - perhaps through Polyphonic - of works by young composers that merit repeat performances.
gcimon on August 29, 2019 at 12:46 PM


General Comments on This Discussion (Click to Hide)

We invite you to send us short descriptions of programs that have worked in your orchestra that have successfully engaged your community. And please consider writing an article for us -- we hope to document lots of outreach/educational programs that really made a difference.
AnnDrinan on August 22, 2019 at 9:06 PM
Thank you Ann and Yvonne for putting together this virtual discussion. Thank you to all who have contributed to this worthwhile discussion. Questions raised are so very important. Seattle Symphony's Community Engagement program, ACCESS (Artistic & Cultural Community Engagement with the Seattle Symphony) is a recent recipient of ASOL & MetLife Foundation best practices award. Community partnerships are at the heart of this program: Seattle School District, Washington Music Educators Association, Viva La Musica, Langston Hughes Cultural Arts Center, Youngstown Cultural Arts Center, and Seattle Symphony Community Engagement Council, a fluid inclusive think tank. As James Copenhaver in his Day 1 post described, "community engagement reflects a two-way interactive dialogue." It is adaptive learning situation. A renewable, sustainable development of a diverse musical eco-system of which the symphony is integrated into the daily musical lives of its community. Perhaps even a variant of the "cultural incubator" that Charles Burke describes. Community engagment will look different for each project, every year as resources and "what is important" to our communities shift. However, there seems to be ever deepening ties that bind us to each other.
NancyGosen on August 28, 2019 at 3:42 PM
Is there a direct correlation between diversity in school & youth symphony training orchestras and our audiences? What about musical experiences in the home and primary grades and participation in school & youth symphonies? Any thoughts on this?
NancyGosen on August 28, 2019 at 6:42 PM

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