Nashville, TN: 2007 National Conference Address by Michael Manley.

Good afternoon. My name is Michael Manley, and I’m honored to represent my colleagues Lisa Bryington, Kareem George, Stephanie Trautwein, and Katie Wyatt. We are the Orchestra Management Fellowship Program class of 2007.

Late last May, we began our year at the League’s conference in Los Angeles. Of the many performances given at Disney Hall that week, perhaps the most riveting came from the theatre and opera director Peter Sellers. His mandate to make orchestras essential—to our cities and towns, to our communities, and most especially to our time—had the passion and sweep of a great aria. His words were a thunderclap which echoed throughout our year—make orchestras matter now.

It was a fitting start to a year of transforming change. During our Fellowship an array of institutions, from the Chicago Symphony to Starbucks, launched their own in-house record labels. State-of-the-art concert halls debuted in Orange County, California; Miami, Florida; and right here in Nashville. Classical music thrived on i-tunes and Tower Records died. And as local classical radio stations signed off, Sirius and XM satellite radio offered 24/7 programming on channels dedicated to pops, classical, opera, Broadway, jazz, and even film music.

The League of American Orchestras embraced this culture of transforming change through their visionary strategic plan. The essence of the plan: make orchestras matter now.

Transforming change, and urgency of purpose—this is the terrain on which we journeyed during our Fellowship year. On that journey, we learned that the Fellowship is also a mirror. When the 2007 Fellows hold our collective 60-month, 16-institution experience up to the light, what do we see? What guideposts will help ensure that we make orchestras matter now?

Lisa Bryington sees the importance of a clearly-defined reason for being, a resonant vision for the future, and the use of strategic thinking to support strategic planning. The plan is the road, not the vision.

For Kareem George, it is in embracing conflict as a necessary part of institutional progress and change. Conflict may not be resolved, but it must not be avoided. With courage, skill and empathy, conflict can be managed. For Kareem, the art of leadership is the art of managing conflict to achieve results.

I see visionary leaders living in ambiguity as they strive to make their orchestras matter now. Leadership is not about being the smartest person in the room—it is having the humility and honesty to lead amid uncertainty. Herman Melville wrote, "It is better to fail at originality than succeed in imitation." Orchestras which matter now are constantly risking the failure of originality.

Stephanie Trautwein is inspired by truly interactive orchestras which are breaking down the wall between audience and musician. Players speak from the stage, sharing their stories as well as their artistry with the audience. Patrons are involved in choosing a new conductor, or sitting down with a composer to shape a new work. For Stephanie, orchestras which matter actively engage audiences—they are not dioramas, but ecosystems.

Katie Wyatt is inspired by orchestras which view community engagement as a renewable resource. She sees arts institutions which contribute to the success of their peer arts groups achieving the greatest civic value. For Katie, orchestras that matter now understand that true success is shared success.

We extend our deepest gratitude to the League, the executive directors, staffs, and musicians of our 15 host orchestras, the Aspen Music Festival and School, and to the many leaders and professionals throughout the field who have shaped our year and our future. We welcome the 2008 Fellowship class—Ashleigh Milner, Emma Murley, Carolyn Nishon, Martin Sher, and Brandon VanWaeyenberghe—who are currently beginning their transformational journey at the Aspen Music Festival and School.

Very special thanks to Allison Ball of the League, who has served as our coach, advisor, travel agent, den mother, and psychotherapist this year.

The Fellowship is a gift, and a community. As we now join this family of alumni Fellows in the field, we look forward to working earnestly, creatively and passionately to "make orchestras matter now."