Essentials of Orchestra Management 2019 Program Summary

Essentials of Orchestra Management is an immersive ten-day seminar that prepares orchestra professionals to be effective administrators and leaders. This residential program on the campus of the University of Southern California provides an in-depth overview of orchestra management, builds career networks, and offers participants a unique opportunity to obtain what’s necessary to become an innovative and successful leader in the arts. It’s referred to by many as the gold standard of orchestra management training.

Essentials is an immersive experience and the bonds that are made among the cohort each year yield a well cultivated network of peers and mentors.

The cohort learned how to advance orchestras as diverse and inclusive organizations ready to fulfill their unique role in the cultural context of their communities.

Led by a faculty of currently active orchestra executives, musicians, and leadership experts, the seminar is designed to address both theory and practice, integrating the faculty’s extensive practical experience and professional knowledge in the course curriculum.

The 2019 Core Faculty included (from left to right) Alexander Laing, principal clarinetist, Phoenix Symphony | Jennifer Barlament, executive director, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra | Scott Faulkner, bassist, Reno Philharmonic; former executive director, Reno Chamber Orchestra, Essentials associate director | Simon Woods, chief executive officer, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Essentials director.

Throughout the seminar, participants engage with and build their basic knowledge of core business and operating practices in American orchestras. They also develop leadership abilities to work productively among competing imperatives and with a wide range of constituent groups, including patrons, musicians, staff, boards, and partner organizations.

Through the artistic lens, Essentials participants deepen their knowledge of orchestral performances and learn to speak about orchestral music with understanding and insight. Sessions on artistic planning, artistic leadership, and building sustainable audiences catalyze participants’ creativity and ability to engage with artistic issues with confidence and skill.

In 2019, participants experienced outings to Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Hollywood Bowl.

This year, the League introduced a new partnership with the Eastman School of Music to develop case studies that examine complex issues that American orchestras have dealt with in recent years.

Over several days, the participants immersed themselves in the many facets that led to the decisions outlined in the respective cases featuring the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Louisiana Philharmonic, and the Phoenix Symphony.

Group learning and role playing activities are key to the Essentials curriculum. The case studies offered numerous opportunities to explore, discuss, and synthesize the information from the cases in group settings.

Through a variety of opportunities to discuss, reflect, and share ideas with each other, the cohort optimized the critical thinking skills necessary to identify, diagnose, and resolve strategic challenges in the orchestral field.

For faculty, the cohort, and League staff as well, the Essentials of Orchestra Management Seminar is a highlight of the year.

Throughout the Essentials of Orchestra Management Seminar, the energy and passion for serving orchestras is palpable. You might say, that for those ten days, you couldn’t find a room of professionals anywhere else in the US who were thinking more deeply about the health and future of American orchestras.


Photos by Abigail R. Collins

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