Jesse Rosen Column

Provocative Choices for Orchestras

Two striking visions of the future came my way last week. First was a presentation by Elizabeth Merritt, the keynote speaker at the League of American Orchestras National Conference in Saint Louis, themed “Imagining 2023.” The second came from Claire Chase in the form of her commencement address to students at Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music. More

Keynote address by Jesse Rosen at 2013 National Conference of the League of American Orchestras

Imagining 2023

League President and CEO Jesse Rosen delivered the following remarks on Tuesday, June 18 at the Opening Session of the League of American Orchestras’ 2013 National Conference in St. Louis.

Don’t you just love the Gateway Arch? What a stunning symbol of optimism and the pioneering spirit of America! It is indeed a gateway through which we create our future, and a shining upward surge toward new heights. Eero Saarinen, who designed this arch, also designed the wonderful Kleinhans Music Hall, home to the Buffalo Philharmonic. Finland has given us great architects as well as great musicians. More

Elizabeth Merritt, keynote speaker at the 2013 League of American Orchestras National Conference

The Future Is Now

Are innovation and experimentation becoming the norm for orchestras, rather than the exception? This is the provocative topic to be covered by Elizabeth Merritt during her keynote address launching this year’s League of American Orchestras National Conference in St. Louis on June 18. The session, “Imagining 2023,” is the first of two sessions featuring Merritt, founding director of the Center for the Future of Museums, a think tank that generates ideas, proposals, reports, and dreams about what museums might be. In the Conference’s closing session on June 20, “Taking It Home,” Merritt will participate in an interactive panel discussion during which orchestras will reflect on what their organizations might look like in 2023. More

The Buffalo Philharmonic performs Gliere Symphony No. 3 at Carnegie Hall, May 8, 2013. Photo of Carnegie Hall by Jeff Goldberg-Esto; photo of JoAnn Falletta by Cheryl Gorski

Sounds From Upstate

When faced with a project that appears a bit too ambitious, sometimes all it takes is a little extra push. That certainly seems to be the story behind the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra’s May 8 Spring for Music Festival program at Carnegie Hall, which pairs Russian composer Giya Kancheli’s “Morning Prayers” from Life Without Christmas with his elder countryman Reinhold Glière’s massive Symphony No. 3, “Ill’ya Muromets.” Naxos had previously tried to enlist the BPO to record Glière’s 110-minute-plus work, Music Director JoAnn Falletta recalls, “and we had been hesitant only because of the size and endurance of the piece.” But keeping in mind the Spring for Music imperative of adventurous programming, and the BPO’s affinity for Russian music, Falletta decided the Glière was the perfect piece to play to the orchestra’s strengths while also challenging them. More

Exterior of the new Mariinsky II Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia. The back of the original 1860 Mariinsky Theatre, across the Kryukov canal, is reflected in the new theater's windows. Photo by Natasha Razina

Mariinsky: Take Two

In St. Petersburg, Russia, the long-awaited opening of the new Mariinsky Theatre this week has the city in a bit of a frenzy. The theater has been ten years in the making, and in addition to the giddy opening-week excitement there is a feeling of palpable relief that it’s finally finished. There are also quite natural and inevitable comparisons with the beautiful green original Mariinsky Theatre, just across the Kryukov canal, with all of that building’s  history and splendor. This modern, more ordinary-looking hall serves as a second, additional performance space for operas and ballets by the Mariinsky company, and it is a more practical space. In fact, there has been a lot of discussion in St. Petersburg on whether the design is too plain-looking or not. As company director Valery Gergiev and the hall’s architect, Jack Diamond, explained repeatedly, the idea of the hall is to feel comfortable and not too fancy, and keep all the excitement focused on the acoustics and on the stage: they want something that works. More

Students at Newark’s University Heights Charter School at their first combined rehearsal with Jeffrey Grogan, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra’s Education and Community Engagement Conductor.

How Do You Spell “Violin”?

There’s nothing quite like the buzzing energy of a roomful of excited fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-graders, at least to judge from a recent visit to the University Heights Charter School in Newark, New Jersey. Last week, students at the school got to show off what they could do with their new violins—which they had had for all of three weeks, since starting a new music program. The 25 students in the pilot program, a partnership with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, receive free violin lessons three days a week after school More

League Volunteer Council

Fifty Years of Service

This year’s League of American Orchestras’ National Conference in St. Louis will feature the usual rich variety of learning, creative thinking, and networking with peers in the industry. But the Conference, which runs June 18-20, will be particularly memorable for one set of League members: volunteers. In addition to seminars, events, and meetings customized just for volunteers, this year the League will honor its national Volunteer Council for 50 years of outstanding service, helping orchestras across the country. More

Close-up of cellist Inbal Segev performing the concerto she commissioned from Avner Dorman

Concerto Quest

When commissioning a new work from a living composer, one of the first tasks for an orchestra is finding the composer. But what if you are a soloist who wants to hire a composer to write a concerto for you to perform with orchestras? In that case, the critical step after selecting a composer is finding orchestras to play with. Cellist Inbal Segev accomplished something unusual when she successfully commissioned a cello concerto from Avner Dorman and found four orchestras willing to sign on to perform it this year. More

The Florida Orchestra and Music Director Stefan Sanderling. Photo by J.M. Lennon

The Bard in Florida

If, as Shakespeare said, all the world’s a stage, then for one month this winter all of St. Petersburg was a Shakespeare stage, thanks to the Florida Orchestra. The orchestra had slated a number of Shakespeare-related works for its regular concert programming this season, but in a stroke of inspiration, it collaborated with a dizzying range of local arts organizations to forge a month-long, city-wide arts festival centered around the Bard of You-Know-Where. More

Baroque oboist Kristin Olson has expanded her reedmaking business, Reed Lizard, with the support of a Jonathan Madrigano Entrepreneurship Grant.

Musician as Business Owner

In today’s economy, the age-old mantra of “practice, practice, practice” may not be enough to fully prepare musicians for a career, and in response emerging artists are taking advantage of an increasing number of entrepreneurship training opportunities at music conservatories. One closely watched program that got underway in September is supporting five innovative projects by Juilliard students and alumni during the 2012-13 season. The Juilliard School’s Jonathan Madrigano Entrepreneurship Grants provide up to $4,000 to current students and recent graduates to fund business projects, More

Southern Arizona Symphony Music Director Linus Lerner, center, with musicians during the orchestra's tour of China

Sounds from the Red Rocks

“Think global, act local” could very well be the mantra of Tucson’s Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra. Led by Music Director Linus Lerner, the ensemble has been especially busy this season. In late December and early January “SASO”—as Lerner affectionately refers to the group—took its second trip to China, performing in five cities, and is now gearing up for its first recording project on April 16 and 17, which will be made up entirely of works by local Tucson composers. What’s more, each of SASO’s five programs this season features a piece each by five of the composers on the CD—Jay Vosk, Brian Goodall, Richard White, Bruce Stoller, and Pete Fine. More


Maestro Showcase

How do conductors on the rise gain attention? How do orchestras find gifted conductors? In the highly competitive world of orchestral conducting, simply getting exposure can be challenge enough. The League of American Orchestras’ Bruno Walter National Conductor Preview offers one answer to that challenge with a showcase of new talent. On March 13, six conductors led Florida’s Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra at this year’s Conductor Preview, before an audience of music-director search committee members, artistic administrators, and artist managers and agents from across the country. Each participant had 40 minutes on the podium, allowing industry professionals to check out rehearsal technique and abilities. More

One Woman in a Hundred: Edna Phillips and the Philadelphia Orchestra

Harpist in the Lions’ Den

“ ‘Today girls’ eyes glaze over when they hear about my being the first woman in the Philadelphia Orchestra, but they wouldn’t be so blasé if they knew what it was really like,’ Edna Phillips said with a wry laugh in 1990, when she asked me to work with her on the writing of her memoir.” So writes Mary Sue Welsh in her preface to One Woman in a Hundred: Edna Phillips and the Philadelphia Orchestra (University of Illinois Press, 241 pp., $35.) More

Breakout Session at the League of American Orchestras' Essentials of Orchestra Management program

Exploring Essentials

Many call it “orchestra boot camp.” It’s the League of American Orchestras’ Essentials of Orchestra Management course, a ten-day training program for the next generation of orchestra executives. Essentials is an action-packed tour through every facet of running an orchestra, from leadership and artistic vitality to operational models and community engagement. The long-running program gives emerging orchestra managers keen insight into the real-life opportunities and challenges that orchestras face, and a direct connection to the movers and shakers in all facets of today’s orchestra world. More

The Erie Chamber Orchestra in action at concerts and educational events throughout the community in Erie, Pennsylvania

Erie Renewal

At the far northwestern corner of Pennsylvania lies Erie, a city of just over 100,000 roughly equidistant from Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Buffalo. Those not from the area may be surprised to learn that Erie is home to not one but two orchestras: the Erie Philharmonic and the Erie Chamber Orchestra. Though Erie’s economy is significantly smaller than during its years as a major iron-and-steel manufacturing hub, it fully supports both groups: the Philharmonic, founded in 1913 and still going strong, and the smaller Erie Chamber Orchestra, founded in 1978 by Bruce Morton Wright. The Erie Chamber Orchestra has a very specific mission: to present high-quality classical music to the community for free. Since its founding the orchestra has stuck with that mission, performing nine concerts each season, mostly in local churches and schools. More

ACO coLABoratory

Composers Playground

There’s an old adage that creativity can’t be rushed. The American Composers Orchestra is testing that theory this season with “coLABoratory: Playing it Unsafe,” a series of five workshops from November to April that give five adventurous young composers free reign to experiment with new ideas. It’s a rare opportunity for composers not only to have works read by a professional orchestra, but also to develop those ideas with the same musicians over the course of an entire season. On December 11 at The New School’s Mannes College of Music, Raymond J. Lustig, Dan Visconti, and Du Yun each took turns testing—and re-testing—various ideas More

Yannick Nézet-Séguin made his Carnegie Hall debut on October 23, 2012 leading The Philadelphia Orchestra in Verdi’s Requiem. Photo by Chris Lee

Chemistry Lessons: Nézet-Séguin and The Philadelphia Orchestra

The silence was electrifying. After 90 minutes of the high-powered Sturm und Drang of the Verdi Requiem, conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin held stock-still on the podium—and the musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra froze, too, instruments in the air. And they held it and held it and held it.  The Carnegie Hall audience—notoriously noisy New Yorkers, who cough and shift and rustle all the time—was stone-silent for what felt like an eternity. Nézet-Séguin began to move, the musicians lowered their instruments. And the place exploded. More

Thomas N. Akins, Indianapolis Symphony Principal Timpanist 1965-90. Photo by Michael Vaughan

Best Seat in the House

“Someone once said that a major league baseball umpire had the only job where one was expected to start perfectly and improve from there,” writes Thomas N. Akins in his new memoir Behind the Copper Fence: A Lifetime on Timpani, self-published last fall and available at “I beg to differ. Holding a chair in a major symphony orchestra, especially a principal chair and most especially the principal timpani chair, brings with it the same demands. Simply put: they don’t pay us to miss!” More

The Oberlin College Choir performs under Jason Harris at NYC's Brick Church. Photo by Michael Lynn

Oberlin in The City, part 3

Two weeks later they’re still feeling the buzz. The Oberlin Conservatory’s 2013 Illumination Tour took place January 15-19 with students and faculty in residence in New York City, collaborating with a handful of renowned alumni on four concerts throughout the city. The residency kicked off with the Oberlin Faculty Jazz Ensemble performing standards and originals at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola on January 15. On January 18, the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble, led by Timothy Weiss, headed to the DiMenna Center for Classical Music to give the world premiere of John Zorn’s The Tempest with Joshua Rubin (Oberlin class of ’00) on clarinet. Also on the program were three works by Oberlin alumni More

The Oberlin College Choir rehearses at Oberlin Conservatory. Photo by Will Roane

Oberlin in The City, Part 2

From the cornfields of Ohio to the East Coast’s bustling musical metropolis. The Oberlin Conservatory’s 2013 Illumination Tour took place January 15-19 with students and faculty a in residence in New York City, collaborating with a handful of renowned alumni on four concerts throughout the city. The residency kicked off with the Oberlin Faculty Jazz Ensemble performing standards and originals at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola on January 15. On January 18, the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble, led by Timothy Weiss, headed to the DiMenna Center for Classical Music to give the world premiere of John Zorn’s The Tempest with Joshua Rubin (Oberlin class of ’00) on clarinet. Also on the program were three works by Oberlin alumni More