Knowledge, Research & Innovation

Conference and Meetings

Conference 2014

This year, close to 1,000 orchestra professionals, volunteers and business partners gathered in Seattle for the League's 2014 National Conference. Here are some of the highlights.

Opening Session with Claire Chase (Video)
Closing Session with Alan Brown and Jesse Rosen (Video)

Pre-Conference Sessions

Thursday Sessions, 9:00am-10:15am

Thursday Sessions, 11:15am-12:30pm

Friday Sessions

Constituency Meetings
Volunteer Meetings

Opening Session

Welcome from Jesse Rosen, president and CEO, League of American Orchestras; Simon Woods, executive director, Seattle Symphony

Presentation of Gold Baton Award to Wayne Brown

Performance by Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra

Stephen Rodgers Radcliffe, conductor

Aaron Jay Kernis:

Dreamsongs For Cello and Orchestra

II Kora Song
Joshua Roman, cello soloist

Richard Wagner:

Dawn and Siegfried’s Rhine Journey from Götterdämmerung


"Cello Multitracks" (2010) by Gabriel Prokofiev (excerpts)

Joshua Roman. cello Gabriel Prokofiev, DJ "Cello Multitracks" is a dance suite for cello nonet; originally conceptualized as a multi-track work to be recorded by just one cellist. The four contrasting movements continue Gabriel’s interest in taking influences from both electronic dance music and older, more traditional classical forms. Recorded using a range of performance techniques which often forego conventional classical requirements, combined with the multi-track effect of eight of the parts recorded by Peter Gregson on the same instrument, a unique sound world is created: an impossible ensemble; acoustic yet also "post-electronica."

Keynote address by Claire Chase (Transcript)

Claire Chase, the flutist, cultural activist, founder of the International Contemporary Ensemble and 2012 MacArthur Fellow, gives the keynote address this year, sharing her unique perspective on rule-breaking new models that catalyze creativity and nimbleness in new organizational and artistic practices. With Edgard Varese’s 1936 statement that “music, which should pulsate with life, needs new means of expression” as a springboard, Chase imagines a 21st century musical ecosystem with invention as its engine and change as its guide. She will start her address with a performance of Varese’s groundbreaking 1936 flute solo, Density 21.5.

BMI and DCM, Inc. generously co-sponsored the Opening Session.

Closing Session

Address from Jesse Rosen: It’s About Time

Watch the address from Jesse Rosen, president and CEO, League of American Orchestras

If It Ain’t Broke, Break It: What 10 Years of Research and Experimentation Tells Us About Audiences, Creativity, and the Future of Orchestras (Transcript) (Presentation)

Arts researcher Alan Brown takes stock of the most significant trends re-shaping demand for the arts, and the groundswell of creativity and experimentation leading the orchestra field into the future. Drawing on a body of research on orchestra audiences and arts participation, the closing keynote will trace some of the field's most impressive gains over the past decade, and identify the key challenges to engaging the next generation of audiences and embedding orchestras in the creative life of their communities.

Alan S. Brown, principal, WolfBrown

The Potlatch Experience

Paul “Che-oke-ten” Wagner, Native flute player, along with Seattle Symphony musicians, will perform an excerpt from the Potlatch Symphony, co-created by Native Lands composer-in-Residence Janice Giteck alongside Native artists and community members. Attendees will learn about the experience from Native participants and Symphony musicians.

Paul Wagner, native flute
Paul Taub, flute, and professor, Cornish College of the Arts
Laura Deluca, bass clarinet, Seattle Symphony
Stephen Bryant, violin, Seattle Symphony
Ludovic Morlot, music director, Seattle Symphony

Concert Formats, Revisited

Musical tastes are constantly changing, as are the ways audiences prefer to experience concerts. Join us to take stock of the array of concert format experiments underway at orchestras today – and what it means to assess the impact of these programs. We’ll explore the role of capturing audience feedback in an artistically driven organization, and delve into assessment methods currently in use by orchestras that are leading the way.

View the PowerPoint presentation for this seminar.

Alan S. Brown, principal, WolfBrown; Howard Herring, president and CEO, New World Symphony

Getting More Out of Individual Giving

Fundraising today is challenging as ever. And while we have seen a shrinking base among institutional and corporate giving for cultural organizations, the good news is that there is real opportunity for growth in individual giving. Organizations that are able to make the essential transition from institutional to individual giving will do well. This session will unpack some very concrete best practices in growing your individual base.

View the PowerPoint presentation for this seminar.

Michelle Hamilton, Vice President for Development, Charlotte Symphony Orchestra; Stacy Wilson Margolis, vice president for development, League of American Orchestras; Amanda Sauer, Executive Director, Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra

Reaching Your Board’s Full Potential

Successful organizations are built on a strong governance foundation. It’s easy to get lost in the weeds, resulting in inertia. By focusing on what’s truly important – a board’s fiduciary, strategic, and generative work – your board members can take their governing and the orchestra to the next level.

Join us for this half-day seminar, roll up your sleeves, and learn from organizations that are excelling in governance effectiveness.

View the PowerPoint presentation for this seminar.

Susan S. Meier, senior governance consultant, BoardSource

Acting Up: Urgent Civic Priorities

Unlock your orchestra’s untapped potential to address the most pressing civic challenges and opportunities in your community. Explore how organizations like yours are finding the resources and courage to use the power of music to respond to public priorities like homelessness, hunger, our returning vets, and other issues that matter so much.

You will learn: 1) the steps needed to identify your community’s needs that can be served by your orchestra’s unique capacity;  2) real-time examples of orchestras delivering relevant civic impact; 3) recommendations for framing a discussion within your orchestra that can lead to action.

Warren W. Hyer, executive director, Central Ohio Symphony; Sandra Jackson-Dumont, Kayla Skinner deputy director for education & public programs, adjunct curator, Seattle Art Museum; Frederick P. and Sandra P. Rose chairman of education, Metropolitan Museum of Art; Sarah Johnson, director, Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall

Check This Out #1:Artistic, Education, and Technology Innovations

Check This Out is a fast-paced opportunity for those attending conference to get a quick snapshot of exciting work happening in a number of organizations. Each presentation will be approximately 6 to 8 minutes in length, allowing for several different presentations in a short time-frame. This session will introduce work in the areas of artistic and education projects as well as technology which have potential for replication and learning by the field at large. The goal of this session is to shine a light on innovative projects and ideas which are applicable and/or replicable for other organizations.

Presenters & Projects:

Jim Hirsch, executive director, Chicago Sinfonietta, How “Blue Ocean” programming grew single ticket sales by 30% in one year

Anthony Spain, music director, Northwest Symphony Orchestra, Connecting to your community through the music of local composers

Jeri Lynne Johnson, founder and music director, Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra, Citywide Side by Side Program

Cindi Hubbard, Arts Management Consulting,EarShot: New Music Readings and Composer-Development Projects

Natalia Staneva, executive director, New West Symphony, SymphoNet Young Artists Competition in collaboration with iCadenza

Carl P. Giegold and Dawn R. Schuette, partners, Threshold Acoustics LLC, Supporting Diverse Programming

Robert Zimmermann, CEO, Berlin Phil Media GmbH, Digital Concert Hall

Read descriptions of projects

Looking Forward - Acting Now

Longitudinal data from ten large orchestras in the Patron Growth Initiative revealed that just 10% of households accounted for almost 80% of patron-generated revenue over the seven-year FY05-11 period—and the 65+ age segment accounted for two-thirds of that revenue. These sobering statistics are compounded by rapidly shifting buying patterns and the potential reality of a post-fixed subscription (and more transactional) orchestra world.

This session will examine trends in subscription migration, single ticket sales, and donations by generational age cohorts and begin to project revenue replacement needs in the coming years. We’ll then tap into a panel for marketing, development, and artistic perspectives on the implications of this changing revenue picture, and discuss actions orchestras are and should be taking now to thrive as our audience and donor base evolves.

View the PowerPoint presentation for this seminar.

Anne DeVivo DeMesa, director of major and planned gifts, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra; Delta David Gier, music director, South Dakota Symphony Orchestra; Sherri Prentiss, vice president of marketing, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra; Kate Prescott, president, Prescott & Associates

Taking Measure in the Age of Social Media

This session looks at real-world next generation strategies for using social media and community data to understand and adapt to what your communities want.

Most of the ways we have been measuring the impact of the arts are ineffective, but now we have a much more effective tool. You can look at social media as a way to spread the word and build community, but it is so much more than that. Its real power lies in its ability to constantly “research” how people interact around what we do and teach us how to react. The most sophisticated media and technology companies have developed tools to measure their impact and adapt to how their “audiences” interact. Getting the data isn’t so hard, but you have to be aware of how to use it.

Doug McLennan, editor,

Achieving Impact: Funders' New Expectations

Today’s funding landscape requires us to artfully and effectively communicate our impact in new and meaningful ways. To attract the funders of tomorrow, we will need to speak to the issues that are important to a new generation, and demonstrate how we address community needs.

You will learn: 1) an overview of the current climate in fundraising and “hot” funding topics; 2) information directly from new funders about what does, or would, draw them to our industry; 3) what orchestras can do to remain essential to their communities and relevant to funders.

Liz S. Alsina, program associate, performing arts, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; Janet Brown, president and CEO, Grantmakers in the Arts; Lauren Nesholm, representative, Nesholm Family Foundation, and board member, Seattle Symphony; Heather Noonan, vice president for advocacy, League of American Orchestras

Check This Out #2: Audience Engagement, Development, and Marketing Innovations

Check This Out is a fast-paced opportunity for those attending conference to get a quick snapshot of exciting work happening in a number of organizations. Each presentation will be approximately 6 to 8 minutes in length, allowing for several different presentations in a short time-frame. This session will introduce work in the areas of audience development and in marketing and development innovations which have potential for replication and learning by the field at large.  The goal of this session is to shine a light on innovative projects and ideas which are applicable and/or replicable for other organizations.

Presenters & Projects in this order:

Anne DeVivo DeMesa, director of major and planned gifts and Brittany Lavalleur, manager of individual giving, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra,The Centennial Legacy Challenge

Robert Stickler, president and executive director, Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Yes:  Expanding the Charlotte SymphonyOrchestra family

Michelle Winters, director of marketing and public relations,OKC Philharmonic, Overture: Friends of the OKC Philharmonic

Renée Huang, director of public relations,Utah Symphony | Utah Opera,Digital Scavenger Hunt and Outside-the-boxPress Conference

Read descriptions of projects

Collaborating with Asian Communities

Seattle’s strong Asian presence is borne out by its geography. It is as close to Tokyo as it is to London. Immigrants from across the Pacific Ocean have been a part of this city from the very beginning, and today they, and their descendants, comprise 15% of the region’s population. This session will explore approaches to working with selected groups within Asian culture.

You will learn: 1) proven approaches to short and long-term partnerships; 2) cross-cultural collaboration techniques specific to Pacific Rim countries; 3) a new perspective about partnership needs through education, marketing, and artistic lenses.

Please also refer to this online toolkit, Engaging Diverse Cultural Groups.

View the PowerPoint presentation for this seminar.

Byron Au Yong, composer; Kelly Dylla, vice president of education and community engagement, Seattle Symphony; Pankaj Nath, vice president/relationship manager, JP Morgan Chase; Mayumi Tsutakawa, manager of grants to organizations, Washington State Arts Commission

Mind the (Generation and Diversity) Gap!

Whether you are a 20-something or a 70-something, you need to build the skills to put in motion the cultural and organizational adaptations required in our rapidly-changing country.

You will learn: 1) communication skills that can create more opportunities to draw talent close and help make your orchestra’s public value more evident; 2) a framework to create the kind of change needed for greater effectiveness in a cross-cultural world.

Salvador Acevedo, principal, Contemporanea; Jim Hirsch, executive director, Chicago Sinfonietta

Get a Grip on the New Music Education Ecosystem

The time for simply lamenting the end to public music education’s heyday is over (It’s been at least 40 years!). There’s real strength and power to what arts education is accomplishing in our nation’s schools. But it is, in fact, accessible to too few students. Learn how orchestras can take action, both through programmatic work and your advocacy, to create a sea-change in music education for future generations.

You will learn: 1) an understanding of how orchestras connect to the latest education trends, including Common Core and the new National Arts Standards; 2) the know-how to access data that supports the music education claims we make to funders and community leaders; 3) a re-imagined idea of how board, volunteers, staff, and musicians can make a real difference.


Scott Jones, senior associate for research and policy, Arts Education Partnership; Una McAlinden, executive director, ArtsEd Washington; Dalouge Smith, president & CEO, San Diego Youth Symphony and Conservatory; Susy Watts, planning, research, and evaluation consultant

Grassroots Fundraising: Partnerships Between Volunteers and Development

Volunteers, working in partnership with development staff, can make important contributions to your orchestra’s contributed revenue.

At this session we will explore ways to create and sustain productive partnerships. Whether in a large or small orchestra, healthy, professional relationships between these two groups can create a symbiotic relationship that is a win-win for all involved.

This session will include case studies presented by volunteer and development teams around successful partnership systems and projects, as well as time for Q&A and roundtable discussions to help you determine how you can apply these ideas and best practices to your own organization.

View the PowerPoint presentations for this seminar:

David Clark, president, business and professional committee, Los Angeles Philharmonic Affiliates; Michelle Hamilton, vice president, development, Charlotte Symphony; Stacy Wilson Margolis, vice president for development, League of American Orchestras; Elaine Mischler, volunteer, Madison Symphony Orchestra League; Casey Oelkers, director of development, Madison Symphony Orchestra; Melanie Sanguinet, manager of volunteer activities, Los Angeles Philharmonic Association; Mary Staton, president, The Symphony Guild of Charlotte, Inc

Orchestra Lab: The Spring for Music Experiment

How can we have inventive, challenging programs that build audience interest and investment in local markets?  Spring For Music (S4M,) the closest thing America has had to a national orchestra festival, presented 25 concerts, by 23 orchestras in annual week-long festivals in Carnegie Hall from 2011 – 2014. S4M became a how-to laboratory for building community to support artistically adventurous work. So what was learned from this experiment?

  • how unusual programming affects critical reception and audience interest
  • the kind of audience you get when you price every seat in the house at $25
  • how some orchestras successfully built their Carnegie Hall appearances as a season-long vehicle to build community and support at home

Sponsored by Akustiks.

Daniel J. Hart, executive director, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra; Kathleen Carroll, president and CEO, Toledo Symphony; Thomas W. Morris, artistic director, Ojai Music Festival; James R. Oestreich, former classical music editor, and currently writing for the New York Times; Jesse Rosen, president and CEO, League of American Orchestras

Play On! Learning from Passionate Amateurs

The “professional/amateur” (pro/am) movement is growing. Boomers, in particular, are eager to pick up their musical instruments, practice, get into the best shape they can, and make music. And, if they can make music with coaching from orchestra musicians, all the better!

You will learn: 1) details about successful pro/am programs in orchestras; 2) techniques for successfully implementing pro/am programs.

View the PowerPoint presentation for this seminar.

Carol Bogash, vice president of education and community engagement, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra; Ron Gallman, director of education programs/youth orchestras, San Francisco Symphony; Lowell Noteboom, chair, League of American Orchestras; former board chair, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (and amateur cellist); Alan Shen, music director, Puget Sound Symphony Orchestra; former conductor Microsoft Orchestra

Constituency Meetings

Board Members

Materials: Capitalization and Community, Presentation by Susan Meier

Development, Groups 1-2

Materials: Belief and Confidence, Success: What Works Now, Presentation by Ron Schiller, Aspen Leadership Group, Major Campaigns: Then and Now at the Seattle Symphony, Swedish Medical Center and the University of Washington: A study of comprehensive campaigns, the driver of their successes and applications to arts campaigns

Development, Groups 3-8

Materials: Belief and Confidence, Seattle Symphony presentation, Success: What Works Now, Presentation by Ron Schiller, Aspen Leadership Group

Education and Community Engagement

Materials: Arts Education for America’s Students: A Shared Endeavor, Statement of Common Cause: Orchestras Support In-School Music Education, From Design to Dissemination, Survey

Marketing, Groups 1-2

Materials: Looking Forward - Acting Now

Youth Orchestras/College

Materials: SYSO Partnerships Presentation, SYSO Partnership Matrix, Measuring the Impact of Youth Programs


Roundtables: Gold Book Awards Presentations:

For a full list of sessions and Conference related materials, visit

Who attended Conference 2014? View a list of delegates by organization, last name, or constituency.

Conference 2015

This year, over 1,000 orchestra professionals, volunteers and business partners gathered in Cleveland for the League's 2015 National Conference. Here are some of the highlights. Check back soon! This page will be updated regularly with videos and new session materials! Scroll down to see the videos posted to date.

Address from Jesse Rosen: The New Work of Orchestras (Transcript)
League Luncheon and Annual Meeting

Opening Session (VIDEO)
League Luncheon and Annual Meeting (VIDEO)
Closing Session (VIDEO)

Pre-Conference Sessions

Thursday Sessions, 8:45am-10:00am

Thursday Sessions, 11:15am-12:30pm

Friday Sessions, 8:45 am - 10:00 am

Constituency Meetings
Volunteer Meetings

Opening Session

Getting Real About Relevance: Our Value through the Eyes of Others

The question of relevance—how our orchestras can matter more in today’s world—burns in the minds of leaders across our field. During the opening plenary, we considered how orchestras can employ the music to address community needs. A panel of government, business, community, and artistic leaders shared their perspectives on the priorities of the constituents and stakeholders they serve; how orchestras can help provide what the public values; and how we can develop relationships with the community that enable us to be involved in meaningful ways.

View the PowerPoint Presentation.

Moderator: Michael Rohd, Director, Center for Performance and Civic Practice

Panelists: Christopher Alvarado, Executive Director, Slavic Village Development; Armond Budish, Cuyahoga County Executive; Beth Mooney, Chairman and CEO, KeyCorp; Alisa Weilerstein, Cello

League Luncheon and Annual Meeting

The League Luncheon and Annual Meeting included an address by President and CEO Jesse Rosen; an announcement about SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras; the presentation of the Gold Baton and Helen M. Thompson awards; and a performance by American Idol Season 6 Finalist Melinda Doolittle. It was emceed by Peabody Award winning broadcaster and producer, Elliott Forrest.

Address from Jesse Rosen: The New Work of Orchestras (Transcript)

News from SHIFT: A Festival of American Music (presented in cooperation with the League of American Orchestras) by Jenny Bilfield, president and CEO, Washington Performing Arts, and Deborah F. Rutter, president, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Presentation of the Helen M. Thompson Award by Jesse Rosen, president and CEO, League of American Orchestras to Jennifer Boomgaarden, executive director, South Dakota Symphony Orchestra

Presentation of the Gold Baton Award by Mark Volpe, managing director, Boston Symphony Orchestra to Anne-Marie Soullière, retired president, Fidelity Foundation

View the Powerpoint Presentation.

Closing Session

The Next Frontier is Center Stage: Enhancing the Relevance of Our Core Artistic Work

A quiet revolution has been underway for over a decade as orchestras experiment with ways to create deeper connections with communities. This mostly happens at periphery of our work, carried out by soloists, small ensembles or teaching artists, rather than the full orchestra. Now it’s time to connect what we’re learning by listening to our partners and answering their needs back to our core passion and strength—live symphonic performances that matter deeply to everyone in the room, including community members who normally do not attend.

We’ve made some promising starts. We asked some of the creative minds involved in compelling, community-connected artistic projects how they envisioned this work could evolve and amplify into relevant musical expression by the full ensemble.

Moderator: Eric Booth, President, Everyday Arts Inc.

Panelists: Delta David Gier, Music Director, South Dakota Symphony Orchestra; Martha S. Gilmer, Chief Executive Officer, San Diego Symphony;  Daniel Bernard Roumain, Composer/Performer/Arts Administrator, Sozo Artists; Joshua Smith, Principal Flute, The Cleveland Orchestra

Patron Growth, 2015 Edition: An Integrated Approach to Sales, Fundraising, and Loyalty (Two Day Seminar)

Taught by seasoned practitioners, Patron Growth, 2015 edition explored how to attract, incentivize, and earn a relationship with patrons; practical strategies for developing a robust patron base; constructive linkages between traditional marketing and development functions; assessment tools to evaluate underlying sales and fundraising; and the fundamentals to build patron loyalty and engagement.

View the PowerPoint presentation for this seminar.

Faculty:  Paul Hogle, executive vice president, Detroit Symphony Orchestra; David Snead, vice president of marketing, brand and customer experience, New York Philharmonic

Seminar for New Executive Directors 

You’re a new executive director, in your first couple of years on the job.  Not only are you navigating your way as the new CEO, but you are asked to be proficient in virtually every area of management, from fundraising and finance to board governance and human resources –and everything in between. This seminar offered an executive-level overview of the fundamentals of orchestra management to give new executive directors the skills to be effective leaders. Participants explored how orchestras are structured and how they function, as well as what is unique to their culture. Participants were also introduced to a number of best practices for working with board, staff, music directors, musicians, donors and community stakeholders. Attendees had the opportunity to share ideas and best practices, create practical take home action plans, and strengthen their collegial networks.

View the materials for this seminar.

Seminar Director: Melia P. Tourangeau, President & CEO, Utah Symphony/Utah Opera

Additional Faculty: Ross Binnie, Chief Marketing Officer, The Cleveland Orchestra; Dennis LaBarre, Board Chair, The Cleveland Orchestra; James Menger, Chief Financial Officer, The Cleveland Orchestra; Faith Noble, Controller, The Cleveland Orchestra;  Stacy Wilson Margolis, Vice President for Development, League of American Orchestras

Boards on Fire!

You need your board members to be strategic leaders, compelling ambassadors, and powerful fundraisers. This session explored obstacles in their way, and how to remove them, leaving participants with concrete, practical solutions that don’t cost any money, and don’t require any more time.

View the materials for this seminar.

Faculty: Susan Howlett, governance consultant and author of Boards on Fire! Inspiring Leaders to Raise Money Joyfully

Building a Culture that Values People, Places, and Purpose

In today’s changing environment, leaders must be adaptive and strategic thinkers, balancing long-term priorities while managing day-to-day concerns. Such times require that leaders act as agents of positive change, igniting creativity and innovation in their organizations. No matter what we do to put in place the best systems and thinking available to us, it is often the human factor that brings us up short. In complex organizations involving multiple stakeholders, how do we manage expectations, avoid burn-out, and handle conflict? How do we hire the right people for the right staff positions and hold on to them over time? And, most importantly, how do we leverage people’s talents and nurture a healthy organizational culture in order to propel our institutions forward productively?

View the PowerPoint presentation for this seminar.

Faculty: Anne Parsons, President and CEO, Detroit Symphony Orchestra; Pratichi Shah, Flourish Talent Management Solutions, LLC

Belief and Confidence: Creating an Environment in which Philanthropic Partnership Thrives

Everyone—including board members, staff, musicians, and volunteers—has an important role to play in building and sustaining a strong philanthropic culture throughout an organization. Engaging all stakeholders in this process is critical in building the belief and confidence necessary for productive philanthropic partnerships. Leaders from various orchestras shared their strategies and successes in developing long-term, effective fundraising efforts.

View the PowerPoint Presentation for this session.

Presenter & Moderator: Ron Schiller, Founding Partner, Aspen Leadership Group

Panelists: Scott Harrison, Vice President of Advancement and External Relations, Detroit Symphony Orchestra; Camille D. LaBarre, Managing Director, Metropolitan Opera; Henry Peyrebrune, Bass, The Cleveland Orchestra; Scott Showalter, President & CEO, Oregon Symphony

Building Bigger Pops Audiences

Orchestras are challenged to align pops programming with rapidly changing tastes. Yet some orchestras are finding success with new formats, new genres, and innovative presentation elements. These approaches have been successful in growing the pops audience. Our panel of artistic planners discussed what can make a successful pops season.

View the PowerPoint Presentation for this session.

Moderator: Shelly Fuerte, Popular Programming Consultant, SSF Consulting

Panelists: Andrew Kipe, Executive Director, Louisville Orchestra; Tommy Phillips, Director of Artistic Planning, San Diego Symphony; Heather Slater, Director of Artistic Planning, Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra; Carl Topilow, Music Director and Conductor, The Cleveland Pops Orchestra

Developing and Sustaining High Impact Community Engagement Programs

Music can serve as a powerful tool for addressing civic priorities. Yet effective community engagement practice requires orchestras to work in new ways—as artistic collaborators and facilitators of community creativity—and on long time horizons. This is true whether your orchestra is working with public schools, healthcare providers, community development corporations, tribal councils, or other agencies. This session explored relationship-building, co-design, and translation (between the arts and other fields) as key organizational and individual capacities to build when authentic community engagement is a goal.

View the PowerPoint Presentation for this session.

Speakers: Michael Rohd, Director, Center for Performance and Civic Practice; Shannon L. Scrofano, Director of Design, Center for Performance and Civic Practice

Recruiting, Developing, and Retaining Talent

Recruitment, development, and retention of talented personnel—from trustees to executive and artistic directors to staff and volunteers—are key determinants of organizational success. Yet orchestras devote few resources to talent development, and many underestimate the costs of turnover. This session explored strategies your orchestra can employ to improve its performance by developing and keeping good people.

View the PowerPoint presentation for this session.

Speaker: Pratichi Shah, Flourish Talent Management Solutions, LLC

Unleashing the Power of Collaboration

Teams in which all members strive toward a common goal are more successful. To that end, a number of orchestras are focusing on motivating musicians, artistic directors, staff, trustees, and volunteers to work together on an ongoing basis to secure their collective futures. We heard from members of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and The Cleveland Orchestra about what they have achieved thus far.

Moderator: John McCann, President, Partners in Performance

Panelists: Teddy Abrams, Music Director, Louisville Orchestra;  Phillip Wm. Fisher, Chairman, Detroit Symphony Orchestra; Gary Hanson, Executive Director, The Cleveland Orchestra;  Dennis LaBarre, Board President, The Cleveland Orchestra; Anne Parsons, President and CEO, Detroit Symphony Orchestra; Jack Sutte, Second Trumpet, The Cleveland Orchestra

Creating a Dream Board

Want to know how to recruit amazing leaders, retire others with grace, and get everyone on your board operating at a higher level? This session offered concrete tips for identifying, orienting, and sustaining extraordinary trustees you may not have realized you had access to before. 

View the materials for this session.

Speaker: Susan Howlett, Governance Consultant and Author of Boards on Fire! Inspiring Leaders to Raise Money Joyfully

Evaluating Impact

Sustaining and scaling community engagement and education programs supported by foundation and government funders requires not just delivering service but assessing outcomes. To do so well, data collection, evaluation, and reporting processes must be built into your programs from the beginning. In this session, participants explored what these activities require in terms of time, money, and expertise; how to integrate them into busy schedules and tight budgets; and why they are worth the investment.

View the Resource Guide for this session.

Speakers: Warren W. Hyer, Executive Director, Central Ohio Symphony; April Nelson, Staff Mediator, Delaware County Juvenile Court;  Lynne K. Schoenling, Magistrate, Delaware County Probate/Juvenile Court;  Dennie Palmer Wolf, Principal, WolfBrown

Driving Growth through Digital Innovation

Around the world, cultural institutions are forging bold new paths in digital culture. Among the results are larger and often younger audiences, deeper audience engagement, new community relationships, new revenue, renewed program vitality, and landmark artistic projects. We unpacked findings from a new study, Like, Link, Share: How Cultural Institutions are Embracing Digital Technology, which includes research on such organizations at the San Francisco Symphony, New York Philharmonic and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Lessons learned are relevant to orchestras of every size.

View the Like, Link, Share Study

View the PowerPoint Presentation for this session.

View the materials for this session.

Moderator: Sarah Lutman, Principal, Lutman & Associates

Panelists: Jane Alexander, Chief Information Officer, The Cleveland Museum of Art; Scott Harrison, Vice President of Advancement and External Relations, Detroit Symphony Orchestra;  Luke Ritchie, Head of Digital, Philharmonia Orchestra

Diversity Progress Report: Learn from Your Peers

The League’s Diversity Work Group has been studying the factors that contribute to low diversity within American orchestras and developing strategies, tactics, and tools that orchestras can employ—independently and collectively—to begin to move the dial.

Detroit Symphony Orchestra: A Case Study

Houston Symphony Orchestra: A Case Study

Chicago Sinfonietta: A Case Study

Speakers: Mark Hanson, Executive Director & CEO, Houston Symphony; Jim Hirsch, Executive Director, Chicago Sinfonietta; Carmen Morgan, Diversity and Inclusion Consultant; Anne Parsons, President & CEO, Detroit Symphony Orchestra

New Music for New Audiences: Connecting Ideas with Communities

Living composers can take us anywhere with their music. Giving voice to their visions on our stages is essential to the continued vitality of the art form. And, the creation and presentation of new music provides orchestras with authentic avenues for reaching new audiences and connecting with community. A panel of distinguished composers and administrators reflected on important aesthetic developments in American composition and how new work is playing an integral role in developing new audiences.

View the reading materials for this session.

Moderator: Daniel Bernard Roumain, Composer/Performer/Arts Administrator, Sozo Artists

Panelists: Elena Dubinets, Vice President of Artistic Planning, Seattle Symphony;  Clint Needham, Composer in Residence/Assistant Professor of Music, Conservatory of Music at Baldwin Wallace University; Paola Prestini, Composer

Check This Out: Innovations from Across the Field

This session featured snapshot presentations on innovative projects that you may replicate or adapt for your organization. It included multiple strands of orchestral endeavors, from audience building and artistic projects, to development and marketing, education and community engagement, and technology.

View the Project Descriptions for this session.

Presenters: Meghan Berneking, Director of Communications, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra; Eric Booth, President, Everyday Arts Inc., Elaine Cousins, Volunteer and Board Member/Vice President for Education and Community Engagement, Illinois Symphony Orchestra Guild of Bloomington-Normal; David Fisk, Executive Director, Richmond Symphony; Brenda Nienhouse, Executive Director, Spokane Symphony; Luke Ritchie, Digital Director, Philharmonia Orchestra; Todd Vigil, Director of Marketing, The Phoenix Symphony

How Well Financed is Your Orchestra?

Orchestras that are properly capitalized have the cash to do what they want to do when they want to do it. This session, led by Susan Nelson of TDC, helped participants explore where they stood and how to recognize whether they are undercapitalized or have a business model problem; how to conduct an honest appraisal of the bottom line; and how to understand your orchestra’s financial challenges more fully.

View the PowerPoint presentation for this session.

Susan Nelson, Principal, Technical Development Corporation

Making Music that Matters

The creation and presentation of great music is central to orchestras’ work. We are driven to share this music with others because we have experienced its transformative power. Yet to many Americans, our music seems irrelevant. Can the artistic choices we make—about what music to create and perform, when and where to play, and for and with whom—change their minds? Across the country, some orchestras are experimenting with using music to help communities address complex challenges by giving voice to the concerns of marginalized populations, expressing wonder at the beauty of the natural world, helping addicts recover from substance abuse, and more. This session offered strategies for helping the communities we serve leverage the power of live orchestral music to address complex challenges.

View the PowerPoint presentation for this session.

Speaker: Jesse Rosen, President and CEO, League of American Orchestras

Panelists: Delta David Gier, Music Director, South Dakota Symphony Orchestra; Sherri Prentiss, Vice President of Marketing, Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra & May Festival;  Mark Williams, Director of Artistic Planning, The Cleveland Orchestra

The Public Benefits and Value of Arts and Culture

In 2014, Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, Northeastern Ohio’s public arts agency, commissioned a study of the public benefits of arts and culture. Public funding for the arts depends on a broad recognition of a positive return on public investment. Not surprisingly, the research found that the arts and culture do generate substantial public benefits. It also found, though, that public value is not a static concept: it grows from individuals’ private experiences. Most significantly, the study found that shifts in cultural participation and in regional demographics provide a significant opportunity to help grow the value that all community residents derive from and ascribe to the arts by reinventing and expanding the roles arts organizations play in making communities more vital and lives more meaningful.

What are the challenges and opportunities that these shifts imply for orchestras eager to create value for audiences? What roles do board members, staff members, conductors and musicians need to play to keep orchestras connected to these core issues? How do we help orchestras navigate these changes successfully? This was a lively discussion about how this public value orientation plays out with artists, board members, and the public at large.

View the PowerPoint Presentation for this session.

View materials for this session.

Speakers: Karen Gahl-Mills, Executive Director, Cuyahoga Arts & Culture; Kjristine Lund, Board Member, Seattle Symphony & Principal, Lund Consulting, Inc.; Nick Rabkin, Principal, reMaking Culture

Constituency Meetings

Artistic Administrators

Materials: Presentation - Shana Mathur

Board Members

Materials: Bolstering Orchestral RelevanceConstructive Board Culture Presentation, Presentation - Kjristine LundPresentation – Susan Nelson


Materials: Patron Growth Presentation, Art of The Ask Presentation

Education and Community Engagement

Materials: Program Development Presentation

Executive Directors, Group 1

Materials: Patron Growth Presentation

Executive Directors, Group 2

Materials: Patron Growth Presentation, Integrated Media Agreement Presentation, Leading Change Presentation - Group 2

Executive Directors, Group 3-4

Materials: Patron Growth Presentation, Strengthening Board Engagement, Leading Change Presentation - Groups 3-4

Executive Directors Group 5-6

Materials: Patron Growth Presentation, Leading Change Presentation - Groups 5-6

Executive Directors Group 7-8

Materials: Thriving through Personal Leadership Presentation

Marketing, Groups 1-2

Materials:  Integrated Media Agreement PresentationPatron Growth Presentation, Presentation - Shana Mathur

Marketing Groups 3-8

Materials: Patron Growth Presentation, Creating an Emergency Response Plan

Public Relations

Materials: Integrated Media Agreement Presentation, Creating an Emergency Response Plan

Youth Orchestras/College

Materials: HR for Small Shops, Leading Change - Youth


Gold Book Awards:

Youth Leadership Council

Sharp Flat Loft Tours

Symphony in Flowers

Guild 101

Intermezzo Candelight Tour

Sky Ball Wine Pull

Scouting and Symphony: A Partnership:


Milestone Achievements Panel:

The Emerald City Soiree

Symphony Ball 2013 Concerto a Venezia

Houston Symphony Centennial Ball


New Members to Future Leaders – Secure Your Organization’s Future Leaders Here! (Board Game):

Membership Board Game

Membership Board Game – Develop Cards

Membership Board Game – Engage Cards

Membership Board Game – Mentor Cards

Membership Board Game – Potpourri Cards

Membership Board Game – Recruit Cards

Membership Board Game Instruction Sheet

Membership Board Game Handout


For a full list of sessions and Conference related materials, visit

Who attended Conference 2015? View a list of delegates by organization or last name.