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

In response to Yvonne's question to my Day 2 post:

Yes - we have started this type of idea of a "cultural incubator." A few years ago, the DSO renovated historic Orchestra Hall and added the Max M. Fisher Music Center that houses the Music Box Theater and The Jacob Bernard Pincus Music Education Center (the permanent home of the DSO's Civic Youth Ensembles). We also built an office building and parking structure on the campus as well. The "cultural incubator" concept came from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra's partnership with the Detroit Public School System and the Detroit School of Arts - a vision of Peter Cummings, Mark Volpe and Al Glancy.

As part of the capital campaign, the DSO purchased the lots directly west of our building and donated the land to Detroit Public Schools with the understanding that they would build the Detroit School of Arts. Detroit Public Television joined the partnership - adding a classical and jazz radio station as well as state-of-the-art television studios. This concept is unique - a symphony orchestra purchasing land, giving it to school system, the school system building a new high school for the fine and performing arts, and the community changed.

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Comments for Charles Burke

I look forward to hearing about this project 5-10 years from now, and whether other organizations will follow suit.
yvonne on August 25, 2019 at 3:10 PM
A project like this, which directly benefits the city's entire population with a high school, exemplifies a type of cultural leadership orchestras can provide. Have you noticed an increased desire for and committment to partnership from the Detroit Public Schools and others in the area because of this?
AaronFlagg on August 27, 2019 at 8:21 AM

Yvonne Caruthers's Statement (Click to Hide)

Yvonne Caruthers  

Yvonne Caruthers

Senior Editor

As an answer to Sarah Johnson, I want to talk about one of the programs I'm involved in producing here at the NSO. I started using projected images along with music in a chamber music setting years before we ever got to use them with the full orchestra. My education director was so taken with the idea that she too was anxious to try it out, but it took a change of administration before we could make the idea happen.

For the last 4 years, all of our children's concerts have used Image Magnification (IMAG) during the concerts. (For those of you who don't know, image magnification uses video cameras — we use two, one stationed on each side of the hall in the balcony in order to get the best possible camera angles of the musicians.) I work with our associate conductor, Emil de Cou, to illustrate his remarks using informational slides, and then switch over to IMAG when the orchestra plays.

For one of his programs, he chose a piece which the NSO commissioned, called March, by Jefferson Friedman. When Emil talked to the kids about the piece, I projected a photo of the composer on the screen hanging over the orchestra. (The photo saves time too - the kids could instantly see that he's a young man, a living composer. The photo happened to show him with a backdrop of NYC, so the kids also saw where he was from.)
The conductor mentioned a few musical highlights to listen for — as the musicians played those short demos, we switched to IMAG, which allowed the audience to see (and hear) which instrument would be playing one of those.

While the orchestra played the entire March, I was sitting backstage with the score, telling the cameras which instrument to focus on next. That way the audience could not only see the musicians playing but also make a visual connection to what they were hearing.

That sounds simple — making a visual connection to what they were hearing. Simple, but more powerful than you think. At one point in the score, Mr. Friedman asks for the percussionists to play on the copper bowl of an overturned tympani, an unusual sound and an unusual "instrument," so I made sure that we had a camera focused on it when that moment came in the music. I myself was stunned to realize that until I saw the instrument being played, I'd never been able to hear it in the overall texture of the music, even though we had rehearsed and performed the piece several times by then. If the image+sound is that important to someone like me, with years and years of trained listening experience, how much more important is it to the untrained listeners in our audience?

There were more surprises in store for me. We've been working with the same crew (two cameramen, a technician, and myself) almost the entire four years that we've been producing these "enhanced" children's concerts. Between concerts one day, one of the cameramen said casually, "I really like this music, where would I be able to hear it again?" He explained further that he wasn't ready to come to a subscription concert, but now that he knew what the different instruments sounded like and how they all fit together, he found himself listening to classical music on the radio, and that he wanted to explore the repertoire to see what other pieces he might like. He doesn't have the confidence to start buying CDs, and he likes live music, but where can he find an experience similar to what he got at our children's concert?

The other cameraman joined the conversation — he's been filming the NSO during our residencies for 12 years. He agreed, "Oh yeah, once I found out how hard it is to do what you [musicians] do, I was amazed that more people don't appreciate it. You guys are amazing!" (He was also stunned to learn on his first tour with us that we still practice — he thought that high level performers didn't need to practice!)

I keep thinking there ought to be a way to share what we do with more people, and in my opinion, IMAG is one of the easiest ways to do that. Maybe I'm an impossible optimist, but I hope Leonard Slatkin's not right that only 4% of the population will ever really be interested in what we do. I do believe the other 96% need a "translation" - education. (I'm checking to see where he got that number. Does anyone know if it's an ASOL statistic?)

Postscript: I attended (OK, I spied on) another orchestra's children's concert at which they also were using IMAG - however, the person they had backstage directing the cameras must not have been a musician. The cameras were rarely on the right person, and believe me, it makes a HUGE difference. There's nothing worse than having the camera focused on the oboe player (who's not even playing) while you're hearing a French horn solo, and then when the camera gets to the player just as their solo is ending, the audience is treated to another image of a player - not playing. The technology is there, the know-how is there, but it all has to be used wisely: not just for effect, or to be able to say "we offer an enhanced listening experience." I believe tools such as IMAG can actively contribute to the listening experience.

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Comments for Yvonne Caruthers

Yvonne, what a wonderful perspective you get to have on the IMAG concerts! Is there a way to share what you learned with your orchestra colleagues, including the staff? It sounds like the "technician conversation" could be fertile ground for learning about how better to share the music. A focus group of individuals like this could be quite revealing.
AaronFlagg on August 26, 2019 at 8:46 PM
Yvonne - I would love to see IMAG in action. The NAC was a pioneer in Canada in using what we call our NACOTRON - a giant screen flying on top of the orchestra that, with the help of five cameramen, captures the concerts in much the same way as you've described. Over 15 years ago, we struck up a wonderful community partnership with our local television provider - Rogers. They have done a stellar job for us and have contributed to the success of our Young People's Concert Series. We hire a script assistant who gets the score ahead of time and directs the cues with the cameramen during the concert. The results have been terrific.

The point that I'd like to make about the NACOTRON and our Young People's Concerts is that not only do they engage the children - but also their parents. The NACOTRON creates a safe space where parents who may not have had much exposure to classical music learn to appreciate the various instruments of the orchestra and the technical dexterity required of the musicians. The "up close and personal" feel to the concerts achieved through the NACOTRON helps to break down the barriers between musicians and audiences members.

Like many orchestras, we have learned that once our young audience graduates - we often lose their parents who are in the 30-40 age demographic we hope to cultivate. This year, we are going to offer a "YPC parent club" initiation package to other concerts at the NAC that we have carefully chosen. These concerts will be more accessible with talk-backs at intermission and meet and greets with musicians that we hope will continue to keep these parents engaged with classical music. We will also lower the ticket prices to acknowledge their babysitting costs. We'll let you know how it works.

gcimon on August 29, 2019 at 12:40 PM

Geneviève Cimon's Statement (Click to Hide)

Geneviève Cimon  

Geneviève Cimon

Acting Director of Music Education, NACO

In response to Yvonne's question about my Day 1 post:

The NAC Orchestra's "Reconnexions" program - as we like to call it - incorporates several components. For each tour, we offer up to 90 education events that include masterclasses, sectional rehearsals, student matinees featuring local artists, and Music Connections projects based on our composer teacher resource kits that link elementary schools together through broadband video connections. Claire Speed, our Education Director (on leave for 06-07), works almost full-time building relationships with all our partners the entire year leading up to our tour. She will have at least one and sometimes two pre-tour visits (one with an NAC musician) before the Orchestra arrives to assess the community's needs and resources. And she will usually organize a few broadband video-conferences where students can meet our Music Director Pinchas Zukerman and some musicians from our orchestra. These steps are essential to building a strong foundation upon which to base our programs for our partners and their communities as well as post-tour planning.

After the tour, we maintain these relationships by offering broadband video masterclasses with our NAC musicians from our Hexagon studio in Ottawa to promising young artists we've met on tour. Broadband masterclasses are a brilliant way, Yvonne, of staying connected with those you've met on tour. It is also a wonderful way to bring teachers together to discuss how symphony orchestras can help their music education programs.

We also maintain our relationships by inviting promising young artists to our NAC Summer Music Institute where we can usually provide free tuition and access to outstanding international faculty. Many young artists whom we've met on tour will return annually. We also look for ways to feature the exceptional young artists in our local programming with the orchestra.

Of course, there is nothing better than going back to the community and having that face-to-face interaction. Funding permitted, we will send NAC musicians back into communities (often one to two years after a tour) to offer masterclasses, recitals, and school visits.

Hope this answers your questions. I'd love to hear more about your residency programs.

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James Copenhaver's Statement (Click to Hide)

James Copenhaver  

James Copenhaver

Arts Consultant and former Executive Director/CEO, Colorado Symphony

In response to Yvonne's question about my Day 2 post:

If you go to , you can see the awards since 2002. Ours was in 2003 under Arapahoe County and at the time called ARK (Arts Reaching Kids). If you look at each year you can see the kind of models being investigated. By then, in 2002, Tucson schools got an award as well. The Tucson elementary schools have a very strong program, funded in part by the state of Arizona, which has demonstrated real results, particularly with Hispanic children. I believe the Tucson Symphony has been a part of this. You could contact Susan Franano their ED ( or 520-792-9155 x107) about this.

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Jon Deak's Statement (Click to Hide)

Jon Deak  

Jon Deak

Associate Principal Bassist and Creative Education Associate, New York Philharmonic

So enjoyed Aaron's and Yvonne's comments and Yvonne's description of featuring a live composer. I had some great experiences awhile back with Carole Wysocki and the NSO. I also want to mention that so much of what I learned about relating to a young audience I learned from Eric Bertoluzzi when I was resident with the Colorado. Later with Tom Cabaniss and Ted Wiprud, of Philly and the NYPhil.

We are currently in discussion with the American Sym Orch and ASCAP, inspired by Paola Prestini, in bridging that gap between the first inspiration of an elementary school kid when they discover the power of their own creativity and that time in high school when they have to go it in the big bad world. Exciting possibilities! and some crazy, wonderful, unexpected music along the way.

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Comments for Jon Deak

Your earlier post was so inspiring, Jon, about going into a school and letting kids create a piece of music. However, I know from personal experience that what you make sound so fundamental and joyful needs a VERY gifted teacher to make it happen. Not all of us possess that special skill (and I don't know whether Jon's innate ability can be taught to another adult...)

[Read Jon's reply to Yvonne in his Day 4 post. Read Sarah's reply to Yvonne's comment in her Day 4 post.]
yvonne on August 25, 2019 at 3:09 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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