Music classes at Plaza Music Center in Brooklyn

Critic: How Not to Reach New Audiences

What’s the best way to find new audiences for classical music? Not through music-education programs, according to a June 27 column by Anne Midgette, classical-music critic of the Washington Post. More

World premiere at Augusta's Miller Theater of The Three Faces of Eve, 1957

Miller High Life

The Miller Theater in Augusta, Georgia has a storied history: since opening in 1940, it has featured first-run movies in a gleaming Art Moderne setting; legendary actors have trod its stage; the Oscar-winning film The Three Faces of Eve had its world premiere there in 1957; rock groups have raised a ruckus; and local theater, ballet, and opera troupes have performed. But as Augusta’s downtown succumbed to suburban flight and hard times, the Miller fell into disuse, and closed in the 1980s. Now the Miller may be poised for a comeback, thanks to a partnership between two local nonprofits: Symphony Orchestra Augusta and Augusta Landmarks. More

New York Philharmonic at the Park Avenue Armory. Photo by Chris Lee

Surround Sound

Sometimes in New York, a little extra space can go a long way. On June 29 and 30, the New York Philharmonic got a lot of extra space when Music Director Alan Gilbert took the orchestra across town to the Park Avenue Armory for the orchestra’s final program of the season, “Philharmonic 360.” The Armory takes up an entire city block, and the Philharmonic used the 55,000-square-foot Drill Hall for a program built upon the theme of “spatial music,” featuring as a centerpiece Karlheinz Stockhausen’s rarely performed Gruppen for Three Orchestras, with other spatially inflected works, More

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Maestro Demystified

It could be argued that no American-born conductor on the scene today has played a greater role in the nation’s orchestral life during the past 30 years than Leonard Slatkin, now in his fifth season as music director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra with a distinguished record of leadership at two other major organizations, the St. Louis and National symphony orchestras. All three music directorships, and a host of other experiences in music, inform his new book Conducting Business: Unveiling the Mystery Behind the Maestro (Amadeus Press, 311 pages, $27.99). As Slatkin writes in the “Praeludium” to this book More

Chelsea Tipton conducts the Philharmonic Orchestra of Gran Canaria in Las Palmas, Spain, with Sting (right) and members of Sting’s touring band, July 2011. Photo by Quique Curbelo

Sting’s Behind-the-Scenes Conductor

Rehearsing and conducting concerts is the central activity for an orchestra conductor, and one that doesn’t vary much, the world over. But Chelsea Tipton II, music director of the Symphony of Southeast Texas, has been spending his summer in an unusual role: rehearsing but rarely performing with a series of local orchestras during the Symphonicity tour of Europe by rock musician Sting. 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

Excerpt from The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, vol. 5 entry on "criticism," pages 36-50.

Where Are Tomorrow’s Music Critics?

Everyone has an opinion. And when it comes to arts criticism, there are now more and more media outlets where those opinions can be expressed. But amidst all the quick-hit reviews and snarky witticisms, how do we give young people the training and skills to approach the arts from a more considered, complex perspective? Rather than watch by the sidelines as writing about classical music falls into what he describes an “appalling state,” Stephen Rubin decided to take action. Rubin—president and publisher of Henry Holt & Co. and a former magazine and newspaper journalist who profiled many classical musicians—became benefactor of the Stephen and Cynthia Rubin Institute for Music Criticism. 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

Social-media collage

The Networked Orchestra

Experts run your marketing department. A CFO with post-graduate degrees handles your money. And your musicians are at the apogee of artistry. But when it comes to your orchestra’s digital-media initiatives, who does the work? Until recently, it might have been the intern. But things are changing—fast—and what was once relegated to the sidelines or handled ad hoc is now a central means for connecting with audiences, communities, and the larger world. More

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China Odyssey

In late November, I travelled to Beijing at the invitation of the China Conservatory for a weeklong residency. It was a densely packed schedule of chamber music coaching and orchestral readings, as well as performances by the China Conservatory Orchestra. More

Mandolinist and composer Chris Thile

Concerto on 8 Strings

Mandolin doesn’t get much play in the classical-music world, apart from a certain well-known concerto by Vivaldi. But back in 2009, Chris Thile got attention by composing—of all things—a mandolin concerto in classical three-movement form. The mandolinist and singer may be best known from his years with the Nickel Creek acoustic trio and his current band, Punch Brothers, but rather than writing the bluegrass-tinged piece that many expected, More


Orchestra Boot Camp

Violins were dusted off. Tubas were taken out of the closet. Clarinets were re-assembled. And 53 amateur musicians gave their instruments—and chops—an intense workout at the Minnesota Orchestra Fantasy Camp, where they rehearsed alongside members of the Minnesota Orchestra for two days, September 15 and 16, culminating with a performance of Borodin’s Polovtsian Dances on the orchestra’s season sampler concert. More

John Morris Russell high-5's a Cincinnati Pops fan outside Music Hall. Photo: Mark Lyons

Pops 2.0: Questions for John Morris Russell

If the term “pops” conjures up ebullience, energy, fizz, then John Morris Russell should fit in just fine as the new conductor of the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. Russell is following the late Erich Kunzel, whose name and avuncular presence were synonymous with the Cincinnati Pops for decades. That left a large gap to fill, or big shoes to step into, or a major baton to carry—pick your metaphor—but Russell seems ready to handle the job with aplomb, a ready laugh, and the gift of gab. He’s no stranger to Cincinnati, More


Middle Eastern Musical Tapestries

Genre crossover is one of the hot trends in concert music today. One of the rising stars in this rapidly expanding category is the young Arab-American composer Mohammed Fairouz (shown with members of the Alabama Symphony Youth Orchestra), who skillfully incorporates Middle Eastern musical elements into More

Madison Symphony Orchestra Co-Concertmaster Suzanne Beia, violinist Laura Burns, Principal Violist Chris Dozoryst, and Principal Cellist Karl Lavine work with children in the MSO's HeartStrings program

HeartStrings, By the Book

How effective is music as medicine? Very effective, to judge from feedback about a program Wisconsin’s Madison Symphony has operated since 2005. The Madison Symphony is making a strong case for the healing power of music with HeartStrings, a music-therapy-based program for people with developmental disabilities, long-term illnesses, and dementia. And they’re showing other orchestras how, with a new toolkit just published. More

Giancarlo Guerrero leads the Nashville Symphony

58 Orchestras. 50 States. One Score.

We’ve all seen it: the new composition that is commissioned with great expectations, premiered with great fanfare, reviewed with great discernment—and then vanishes, seldom to be heard again. But over eighteen months between 2008 and 2010, one work—Joseph Schwantner’s Chasing Light…—was given more than 70 performances. More

Lisa Wong, M.D., with her violin at a rehearsal of the Longwood Symphony Orchestra, where she recently stepped down as president. Her book “Scales to Scalpels” was released this spring by Pegasus Books. Photo: Tom Kates

Harmonic Treatment

The Longwood Symphony Orchestra is no ordinary ensemble. It takes its name from “the main street of the Boston medical district where many of our players have their ‘day jobs,’ ” writes Dr. Lisa Wong in Scales to Scalpels: Doctors Who Practice the Healing Arts of Music and Medicine (Pegasus Books, 284 pages, $27.95). Many of those players’ stories are captured movingly in the book, which was written in collaboration with Robert Viagas, More

San Francisco Symphony and Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas perform an "American Mavericks" program and Executive Director Brent Assink delivers the keynote address at the American Orchestras Summit in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Our Orchestras, Our Communities

Last month, arts administrators, educators, and musicians from all over the country gathered at the University of Michigan’s School of Music in Ann Arbor to talk about the future of American orchestras. From March 20-23, American Orchestras Summit II (the first Summit was held in 2010) examined the cultural, social, and professional roles of orchestras, focusing on what’s working in the industry today and sharing ideas old and new that are succeeding. Among the issues addressed in Michigan were productive collaboration, serving audiences and communities, and the training of the professional musician in the 21st century. More

The New York Philharmonic’s push notifications alert fans to new content, like this recording featuring Anne-Sophie Mutter.

Anatomy of an App

Once upon a time, if you wanted to attend an orchestra concert, your evening might go something like this: look up a box-office phone number on a physical brochure to purchase tickets; ask friends for recommendations for a dinner spot; dub the symphony you’re about to see from your record player 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