WQXR’s latest podcast from their Conducting Business series, which focuses on issues affecting the classical music landscape, includes a discussion about the state of American orchestras and the current rash of labor disputes. The panel includes host Naomi Lewin, Graydon Royce, music critic at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Jesse Rosen, president and chief executive of the League of American Orchestras, and me.
Since the programs maintain a run time of approximately 30 minutes, not all of the conversation makes it into the final version and one fascinating bit that fell short of that threshold tied together a discussion thread that started off with one of the host’s initial questions asking about whether or not orchestras would benefit from improved governance at the board and executive level.
Toward the end of the program, Royce made a comment about his observation that the LA Phil is doing better than other orchestras, in part, because of the revenue stream provided by their Hollywood Bowl programs.
Royce’s observation made me recall the Philadelphia Orchestra bankruptcy and how that group listed, among other items, as reason for their bankruptcy a series of failed initiatives originally designed to create new revenue streams and/or stabilize large expenses. For example, the Philadelphia Pops merger, the now defunct recording label, the Kimmel Center residency, and more.
When you bring all of this back to the host’s original query about the quality of governance, juxtaposing LA aside Philly is a good illustration for just how much influence having the right people, in the right place, doing the right things has on an orchestra’s current fortunes.
My thanks to WQXR, host Naomi Lewin, and producer Brian Wise for inviting me to be a part of the panel discussion and kudos to fellow panelists Graydon Royce and Jesse Rosen for helping build an interesting conversation.