I attended the 2011 League of American Orchestras Conference in Minneapolis last week (June 7 – 9) and have much to tell about what I experienced. I’ll be turning my notes into blog posts over the next few weeks, letting you experience a bit of what Conference is all about. One of the most frustrating parts is when they break into “Toolboxes” and have 15+ sessions happening simultaneously. I’m always interested in way more than the two I can attend.
The theme of the conference was Innovation. This can mean so many different things, depending upon where you sit. It’s a buzz word for many musicians, meaning that they’ll be asked to do non-traditional, non-playing work that they resent or just refuse to do. It’s essential for most managers, meaning that without thinking of new approaches to so many things, the bottom line is probably in trouble. But I think it’s just common sense.
Our art form has survived, pretty much intact, for centuries, and I don’t see that it will fundamentally change much in the near future — orchestras will still be performing the great works of the masters and lots of other really interesting works along the way, in our concert halls, during the foreseeable future. But what will change is the way the orchestra connects to the community. And this was the subject of many, many of the sessions at Conference. But just exactly what does “community engagement” mean? Something different for every orchestra, I believe.
We can no longer sit back and expect the audience to just show up, because they inherited their seats in the hall from their parents, because it’s the correct social thing to do, because it’s just “done.” We need to find a way to convince others to join the symphony family, and the League’s conference was a long discussion about just that.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting about the sessions I attended, and I’m awaiting transcripts of the major addresses from the League and others. Check back often for a musician’s take on what was presented last week, and for lots of facts and trends in the industry.