Monday, June 15, 2015

Capturing Awe and Ideas at the National League of American Orchestras Conference, Cleveland 2015

"You can not manufacture awe," said Martha Gilmer,  Chief Executive Officer, San Diego Symphony, at the national conference.

Jackie Riddle Jackson and Marin Colby represented the Orchestra of Southern Utah (OSU) at the recent national conference for the League of American Orchestras.  They heard one of the "big five" American orchestras in legendary Severance Hall, the Cleveland Orchestra.  They learned from leaders in orchestras from around the world how to use music to create celebration and how to improve OSU as an integral part of  Cedar City.

"Orchestras function as a community and they also serve as a symbol of for the city," said Jackie.  She had attended the national conference in Seattle last season and in comparing the big city halls with our Heritage Center she said, "Our hall is amazing in comparison".  OSU is fortunate to have a beautiful concert hall for performances with good acoustics.  Jackson was impressed with how the Cleveland orchestra used the deep stage to accommodate both the orchestra and opera cast.
Severance Hall in Cleveland, Ohio for opera performance during League of American Orchestras national conference.
 Marin met Jay Shulman, the son of the composer Alan Shulman.  He was pleased that we had recognized his father's 100th birthday with a performance of the Variations for Viola in our R. L. Halversen concert last season.  Video at

Jackie Jackson in Cleveland at the national conference.
 Conference sessions explored orchestra leadership, community engagement, and challenged the participants to use innovation.  As Jackie said, "The orchestra should engage all of the musicians and reach out to the community to create a dynamic value in the music presented."
Ideas from other orchestras at conference.
 Marin found many new ideas for the building the orchestra.  She was especially interested in the "friend raising" idea of bringing a friend to performances.  How can we share our music with more of the community?  Last season we involved the Enterprise High School Choir and Veterans.  This coming season we are cooperating with the Canyon View High Band and Orchestra as well as Polynesian dancers.  OSU continues to look for opportunities to reach out to new audiences.
Jerry Waddell and Video Ideas continue to promote OSU and the Spanish Trail Suite at the exhibitor's hall at the national conference.

Spanish Trail Suite featured on NEA site:  OSU performs the Sunrise and Celebration from this piece on Nov. 8. The Orchestra of Southern Utah is also featured on the Video Ideas presentation of the Holst's Planets which incorporates video from NASA.
Ideas for orchestra and dinner
 Part of the challenge for any organization is finding sustainable funding to meet the mission.  Marin and Jackie searched out ideas that are applicable to OSU.  Even though we are a low budget orchestra we do nationally recognized programming, having had six opportunities to present at national conferences.  Sponsors are always welcome.  Contact Emily Hepworth, Manager, for more information at 435-233-8213 or
An orchestra creating a soundtrack for classic movie.
 Although OSU has performed music for silent movies this would be an even greater challenge to play for one of the classic movies with sound.
Cleveland also hosts the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame so the orchestra musicians gleaned ideas from these exhibits.
 There continues to be a healthy discussion in the orchestra world about what music should be performed.  There is a trend back to more melodic and audience friendly music because the great classics continue to stand the test of time.  How can an orchestra be more relevant to the community and the times?  Music provides comfort and challenges the imagination.  As Leonard Bernstein said, "This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before."  The full story is at

Cleveland professional base ball was included with the orchestra conference. 
Marin Colby at the baseball game.

The League of American Orchestras provided tickets to professional baseball as part of the Conference.  Marin and Jackie met an orchestra leader from New Zealand at the game who told them that after a massive earthquake she realized the orchestra was particularly essential to rebuilding of the community.  Music continues to be a vital force in her community despite the damage from the natural disaster.

Applying lessons from sports marketing to music marketing.

 Orchestras are also a team sport.  The musicians have to cooperate and work together to create music.  "Even tuning a chord requires coming to an agreement," said Jackie.  Some businesses use the orchestra as a model of efficient teamwork because the individuals have to work together towards a common goal.  One of the challenges of modern professional musicians is economic survival because some of them are playing in two or three orchestras plus teaching and still having a hard time meeting expenses. The cost of instruments and training also figures into the dynamic.  For OSU the expenses of music, hall rental, and other costs have been accomplished through the generous support of donors and the community.  "We are pleased to offer a quality orchestra for Cedar City," said Emily Hepworth, Manager.  "OSU appreciates community involvement in helping us keep music live and vital for our area."