The word on the street is that American Orchestras are hurting. In 2009 both endowments and audiences have shrunk. This fall we’ve seen the Cleveland Orchestra announce a new residency with the Lincoln Center Festival in New York City and an innovative Friday concert series aimed at a younger crowd. Both moves are intended to reach new audiences and generate new revenue.
In Sunday’s Washington Post, Anne Midgette explores another audience-boosting tactic — the new, celebrity, conductor. Without doubt, the biggest hype of the season surrounds the arrival of Gustavo Dudamel in Los Angeles. Also this fall, the New York Philharmonic has welcomed maestro Alan Gilbert. It is still too early to tell whether new blood has increased the audience in these cities, but they have reason to be hopeful. Midgette points to Pittsburgh (Manfred Honeck) and Dallas (Jaap van Zweden) as recent examples of orchestras reenergized by new music directors.
However, not every big name conductor delivers big audience, and, opines Midgette, audience is just one measure of success:
What does “success” actually mean for a music director and an orchestra? Does it lie in artistic excellence? The musicians’ excitement about their leader? Better ticket sales? A strong community presence? These things do not necessarily go hand in hand. And a new music director does not necessarily create them.
While a music director’s success may be measured by each of these aims, Midgette wisely concludes that both the nature of success and a music director’s path to it are illusive:
Ultimately, the goal for a music director is “someone who can inspire musicians and audiences on a consistent basis,” said former Philadelphia Orchestra president Kluger. But that inspiration is as individual and hard to pin down as any other form of human attraction. “I can’t tell you,” Kluger said, how it happens. “But I know it if I see it.”
Read the article here. ClevelandClassical.com wonders, what success stories do you see in 2009? What are the characteristics of a successful orchestra? Let us know your thoughts.