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Rachelle Schlosser, Director of Media Relations
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New York, NY (June 14, 2012) –  Representatives from labor unions and managements participated in candid conversations about building productive relationships at the League of American Orchestras’ 67th National Conference, June 5 – 8, 2012 in Dallas, TX. Nearly 1,000 professionals and volunteers from across the orchestra field attended the event, which also featured performances by the Dallas and Fort Worth symphony orchestras.      

Calling on delegates to “put the interests of our orchestras ahead of any single constituent interest,” League President and CEO Jesse Rosen introduced opening-session speakers Jimmy Settles Jr. of the United Auto Workers and Marty Mulloy of the Ford Motor Company, who described how they built a relationship that led to an innovative collaborative process and a landmark agreement for the auto industry. Watch video >>

The following morning the two speakers were joined by Bruce Ridge, chairman of the International Conference of Symphony Orchestra Musicians;  Carla Lehmeier-Tatum, president of the Regional Orchestra Players Association; Robert Levine, president of Milwaukee Local #8, American Federation of Musicians and principal viola of the Milwaukee Symphony; Melia Tourangeau, president and CEO of Utah Symphony/Utah Opera; and Brent Assink, executive director of the San Francisco Symphony, for a wide-ranging facilitated discussion of how to bridge differences and improve working relationships, followed by questions. Among the issues raised were how to move beyond painful history and how to productively engage between negotiations.

In remarks following the League’s annual meeting Mr. Rosen announced some improvement in orchestras’ overall financial picture; the percentage reporting deficits dropped from more than two-thirds in 2010 to less than one-half in 2011. “But this is not the time to take your foot off the gas pedal,” he told delegates. “We must keep moving forward, and that means actively embracing and promoting change.”  He announced that 40 orchestras will be working with a new planning and fiscal management tool developed by the League with Technical Development Corporation. Other changes he encouraged were the rethinking of community roles and actively embracing diversity.

In other keynotes, innovation expert Jeff deGraff challenged delegates to take big risks; San Francisco Symphony Executive Director Brent Assink reflected on innovation on the heels of the San Francisco Symphony’s centennial season and year-long American Orchestra Forum project; and Carnegie Hall Executive and Artistic Director Clive Gillinson encouraged orchestras to move from “looking inward to looking outward” toward new ways of serving their communities.

Among the working-group sessions, one called “Check This Out” featured innovative projects including Pacific Symphony’s O.C. Can You Play With Us?; The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s New Membership initiative; Caminos del Inka, whose artistic director and founder, Miguel Harth-Bedoya, is also music director of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra;  Madison Symphony Orchestra’s HeartStrings; Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s Live from Orchestra Hall Webcasts; and New World Symphony’s New Ears, New Eyes – What New Audiences Are Telling Us.

In a session titled “Inventing the Future,” young leaders explored today’s imperative for both musicians and orchestras to combine artistic identity and civic responsibility, and to more actively focus on connecting people with music in their lives.  In “Orchestras Ascending,” three orchestras that have experienced severe challenges – Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and Phoenix Symphony – described how they met them and how they are now rebuilding.

In addition to the orchestral concerts, four gifted young conductors participated in a conducting master class given by Miguel Harth-Bedoya with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra. The Conference also included a world-premiere performance of Dallas composer Stamos James Martin’s Do They Dream? given by participants in the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Young Strings program. Young Strings is celebrating its 20th year of discovering, developing, and promoting the musical talents of outstanding African-American and Latino string students in the City of Dallas.   

Grants and Awards

Mr. Rosen announced the launch of the $1.5 million Getty Education and Community Investment Grants Program, which will help orchestras strengthen educational programs and community engagement work.  

A variety of awards were presented during this year’s Conference.  Mr. Rosen presented the Gold Baton, given since 1948 for distinguished service to America’s orchestras, to philanthropist Helen J. DeVos.  Mrs. DeVos has shared her love of music on both local and national levels, and is an honorary member of the board of the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra and the League of American Orchestras.  She and her husband have supported the League for more than thirty years through their Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation.  Among the initiatives they have supported are the League’s strategic planning process and capital campaign, and a special fund that assisted Conference delegates with travel expenses early in the economic downturn. The Helen M. Thompson Award was presented to Mei-Ann Chen, music director of the Chicago Sinfonietta and the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, in recognition of her achievements at both orchestras.

Twenty-four American orchestras were honored with the 2011-2012 ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming.  ASCAP and the League present the awards each year to orchestras of all sizes for programs that challenge the audience, build the repertoire, and increase interest in music of our time.  Nine outstanding orchestra volunteer projects received Gold Book Online awards of excellence from the League’s Volunteer Council.   

The Conference marked a “graduation” for the members of the 2011-12 Orchestra Management Fellowship Program, David Filner and Ian Harwood. The 31-year-old leadership training program launches promising orchestra management leaders with a year of League-organized training and residencies with host orchestras. The 2012-13 Fellows who will begin their assignments are Agnieszka (Eska) Laskus and Agnieszka Rakhmatullaev.  More information on the Orchestra Management Fellowship Program can be found here:  OMFP Info.

Further details about the League’s 67th National Conference can be found here:  Orchestra League's 67th National Conference. The League of American Orchestras is grateful to all of its sponsors and funders for their support of the 2012 National Conference.  Complete list of Conference sponsors.

The League of American Orchestras leads, supports, and champions America’s orchestras and the vitality of the music they perform. Its diverse membership of approximately 850 orchestras across North America runs the gamut from world-renowned symphonies to community groups, from summer festivals to student and youth ensembles. The only national organization dedicated solely to the orchestral experience, the League is a nexus of knowledge and innovation, advocacy, and leadership advancement for managers, musicians, volunteers, and boards.  Its conferences and events, award-winning Symphony magazine, website, and other publications inform music lovers around the world about orchestral activity and developments.  Founded in 1942 and chartered by Congress in 1962, the League links a national network of thousands of instrumentalists, conductors, managers and administrators, board members, volunteers, and business partners.  Visit americanorchestras.org.


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