Rebrand wizards: Orchestras are ‘a dusty old-world art for the elite’News
The phrase comes from a marketing agency that has just done a rebranding job on the San Francisco Symphony (did anyone notice?). The agency appears to believe its description is a fair representation of the artform in 2021.
In 2018, the San Francisco Symphony reached out to COLLINS at a crucial moment in reimagining its future. As its famed maverick Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas closed out his extraordinary 25-year tenure, the organization was laying the groundwork for its reinvention. This included experimenting with new programmatic approaches, subverting the hierarchical nature of both itself and the industry through a DEI-focused organizational overhaul, and — in a move that stunned the global music community — passing the baton to visionary conductor and composer Esa–Pekka Salonen, offering Salonen something quite seductive for any artist: a blank canvas to reimagine the symphonic experience for the 21st century.
Together, symphony staff, executive leadership, musicians, and the Board of Trustees worked to create an experimental blueprint that repositioned classical music for the modern era. The seeds of this show up in a groundbreaking artistic leadership model: one that diversifies the idea of a single artistic figurehead into the brainpower of a collaborative partnership. With the launch of the 2020-21 season, eight partners from a variety of cultural perspectives and disciplines will envision programming, including Bryce Dressner of the band The National, AI entrepreneur Carol Reiley, bassist Esperanza Spalding, classical vocalist Julia Bullock, experimental flutist Claire Chase, violinist Pekka Kuusisto, and composer and pianist Nicholas Britell.
This inclusive approach builds on the ethos of the organization, demonstrating a vested interest in dismantling the “elite” narrative that risked making the culturally curious feel unwelcome. The alternative experience of SoundBox, for example, sells out in just a few seconds, appealing to both long-time members and young newcomers with its informal, intimate, and industrial environment where musicians easily mingle with the audience. The symphony’s educational initiatives as the sole providers of music education to the San Francisco Unified School District only further demonstrates this commitment to widespread interest…
Read on here, if you can bear it.