Interesting article by Daniel Wakin of the NY Times about the NY Philharmonic’s latest developments. I’m interested in this b/c I look at my own Jazz ensemble like a symphony orchestra, as far as its function in society as an artistic institution. The article raises an issue all-too-often on my mind: the “uncertainty over the role of orchestras in our society”.
Rather than just complain about this situation though, I’m looking for a new meaningful role for the orchestra/Jazz band/musician/live music/art/etc. to fill. Even though live music is being rapidly replaced by DJs and pre-recorded music, it’s not time to melt down our musical instruments into scrap metal. I believe there will always be a need for live music, even though the role of the music itself may change to parallel the changes in the world. (…Think about sailing, which until a couple centuries ago used to be the fastest, most advanced means of travel available. The advent of much faster motorized ships did not signal the end of sailing; rather, many people now sail for sport, recreation, or to learn a skill, etc.).
Wakin writes that some orchestra executives believe “fundamentally… that they must make their ensembles more relevant to the community”. I think that’s a good start. Emphasizing education “that has been draining out of school systems” is also smart, but I wouldn’t go as far as the Detroit Symphony may in changing their players’ job descriptions. Other new practices like incorporating YouTube, social events, etc. show that boards of directors are willing to try new approaches. Particularly the role of cultural/diplomatic ambassador, as the NY Phil played in recently touring North Korea, is something that should be a bigger part of artistic institutions. I’ll keep researching and brainstorming to find more bold and creative contexts where using the (Jazz) orchestra is the best (or only) logical choice.