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Changing Times, Changing Orchestras

Pete Checchia
The Philadelphia Orchestra
At a Philadelphia Orchestra LiveNote Night, college students receive help using the Orchestra's new LiveNote app.

The 800 members of the League of American Orchestras come from across the country. They include big, small, and medium-sized ensembles, and related arts and cultural organizations. Jesse Rosen is the president and CEO of the League. He spoke with WRTI’s Meridee Duddleston about some of the things happening around the nation as orchestras reinvent their approaches to concerts and audiences. 

Rosen says all the changes in American life and society mean lots of changes for orchestras. How, what, and when audiences want to experience music are just a few facets of a score of new considerations. 

The current environment is one in which everything from program notes to pictures projected at a performance is under scrutiny.  

Jesse Rosen, president and CEO, League of American Orchestras, on the changing environment and some orchestras' responses.

Radio Script:

As music lovers around the country read about and debate the future of American orchestras, WRTI’s Meridee Duddleston reached out for some perspective.

MD: Technology, changes in audience preferences, demographic shifts, philanthropic shifts, financial realities – all of these are pushing the country’s venerable cultural institutions to evolve. Orchestras are in a period of adaptation. And that raises the question: How will the most fit survive?

Jesse Rosen is head of the League of American Orchestras. He says along with a move from simply receptive to more interactive audiences, - think, The Philadelphia Orchestra’s LiveNote app -  orchestras are responding to the desire for a warmer, personal connection to the group of people sitting on the stage dressed in black.


JR: We see lots of work being done by orchestras to bring the musicians to life – whether it’s having them out in the lobby talking with the audience, or video profiles on the orchestra’s website.

MD: Rosen says a younger and more diverse crowd wants time to socialize and alternative formats like the New World Symphony’s late-night concerts in Miami Beach – a model picked up in Charlotte, Dallas, and Detroit, to name a few.

JR: Following the performance. the space converts into a club-like atmosphere. People dance and drink and visit – that kind of thing.

MD:  The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has a fantasy camp, and a program called “Rusty Musicians” where amateurs get to work with professionals. In a period of upheaval, he sees the glass as half full…

JR:  The reason I’m optimistic is that orchestras are aware of what’s going on. They’re paying attention. And they are adapting their practices. And they are trying out new things.  They’re experimenting. They’re innovating.

MD: And that, says Rosen, will enable American orchestras to sustain and continue their health and relevance to American society.