BY DAVID RIVA
Daily Arts Writer
Published January 24, 2010
Business and art have always shared a close relationship. Wherever there’s a creative idea, there’s a financial backer and institutional hoops to jump through. This tension between administration and expression is especially prevalent in orchestral music.
University Symphony Orchestra
Tonight at 8 p.m.
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Tomorrow at 8 p.m.
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American Orchestra SummitTomorrow and Thursday
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From the perspective of Music, Theatre & Dance Professor Mark Clague, this dilemma is a “manifestation of the same set of longstanding issues: How does an elite Germanic tradition connect with a broad community of listeners in the United States and why and how do we pay for it?”
Questions like these lie at the core of the American Orchestras Summit, which will bring participants and panelists from around the country to the University Wednesday and Thursday.
Topics like “Re-Conceptualizing the Symphony” and “Leveraging History: Lessons from the Past” will be examined in a panel discussion format with four or more speakers per topic. Breakout sessions and open discussions will also take place.
According to Clague, a co-organizer of the event, the idea was overly ambitious from the start, but the response has been overwhelming.
“When we described the Summit on our Web page as a ‘landmark’ event, it was really wishful thinking,” he said. “We convinced a handful of big names in arts administration to join us and, of course, had the benefit of the presence of (Chicago Symphony Orchestra) Emeritus Conductor and pioneering contemporary composer Pierre Boulez.
“Things just snowballed from there.”
Michael Mauskapf, a Rackham student, is looking forward to a fruitful dialogue among attendees.
“We are hoping to have an open, honest and productive conversation about how these issues from the past and present might inform what orchestras do in the future, and what current successes are happening today,” he said.
Additionally, Mauskapf is anticipating potential solutions including “some practical and actionable projects that orchestras and academics can enact immediately to improve the health of the industry and of cross-disciplinary partnership.”
Clague is also enthusiastic about prospective pairings, noting that Thursday will be devoted to collaboration and connection.
“We will ask each participant to sign on to some new project,” he said. “(The University’s) American Music Institute has two ideas.
“One will be a study of success in the U.S. orchestral scene, (because we usually) focus on learning from the failures, for some reason. ... The other will be a composition competition to create new versions of the American national anthem in celebration of the bicentennial of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ in 2014. We'll also announce the participation of two big-name composers.”
The importance of the Summit does not lie solely in its institutional function. Many have deep personal interests because of their passion for orchestral music.
“I've played in orchestras since before college as a trumpet player, and I still play today,” Mauskapf explained. “I also study the orchestra. Most important, however, I love the orchestra as an audience member, so I want to see it succeed and flourish past my lifetime.”
Clague looks to posterity when considering the Summit’s implications.
“I want our students to have these jobs in the future and our audiences and kids to get to enjoy this music,” he said.