American Orchestras Summit at the University of Michigan

Several organizations, including the League of American Orchestras and the University of Michigan School of Music, have banded together to present, “American Orchestras Summit at the University of Michigan: Creating Partnerships in Research and Performance.”  The conference purpose is to attempt to launch a permanent dialogue between the scholarly community and the symphonic community.   As stated in their call for proposals, “While orchestras and universities share many goals from great music making to transformational education, collaborations between academics and institutions of performance are infrequent and fleeting. On January 26–28, 2010, a landmark conference concerning the American orchestra will be held at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor to address the division between practitioners and scholars. Its goal is collaboration by leveraging the tools of academic research to address questions of mutual concern to musicologists, organizational theorists, cultural leaders, arts administrators, musicians, and other stakeholders. We will explore two issues in particular: 1) organizational structures and strategies— past and present—that have aided (or hindered) orchestras’ success and 2) the symbiotic relationship between an orchestra and its community. We hope that by considering the institutional history and practices of the American orchestra, we can better understand and address the challenges and opportunities of the present.

The conference will include several keynote addresses, panel discussions, position papers, and concerts. Confirmed speakers include Larry Tamburri (President, Pittsburgh Symphony), Robert Birman (CEO, Louisville Orchestra), Joseph Horowitz (consultant and author), Paul Ganson (Detroit Symphony Historian), Henry Fogel (Dean, Roosevelt University), Jesse Rosen (President, League of American Orchestras), Leonard Slatkin (Music Director, Detroit Symphony), and Pierre Boulez—who will be leading the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a performance of Bartók’s Bluebeard Castle.”

The subject matter isn’t new, but the combination of scholars, orchestra CEO’s and conductors is.  And at least with the Chicago Symphony there it won’t be all talk and no music.  From past experience at these sort of things, I’d wager that more questions get raised than answered.  But we should keep trying.  For more information we are directed to: , (but when I went there I got an under construction notice.)

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Ramon Ricker

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