When I started at Sinfonia Cymru in 2006 I thought my job might take me to Merthyr or maybe Mold but certainly not Miami. Yet in October this year, I travelled to Miami Beach to see how the New World Symphony (NWS) does things and to share a little bit about what we do too.
It all came about at the 2016 edition of Classical Next in Rotterdam, an increasingly inspiring gathering of likeminded people who love classical music and are passionate about maintaining its relevance in the 21st Century. Here I met John Kieser, Executive Vice President and Provost of NWS, and it was immediately clear that we had much in common. I had to go and see this for myself.
I wasn’t alone. My partner in crime was fellow Association of British Orchestra’s Board member Catherine Arlidge, CBSO violinist, presenter and so much more. Like me, Cath wanted to experience NWS first-hand so we spent five days getting to know the musicians, staff and, not least, the New World Centre, the orchestra’s home.
New World Symphony is an orchestra that consists solely of graduate musicians in the early stages of their careers, but unlike Sinfonia Cymru, it is a large symphony orchestra of 87 musicians or ‘Fellows’ as they are called. Each Fellow joins the orchestra full-time for up to 3 years and gains hugely diverse experience both on and off the concert platform supported by state of the art technology that facilitates distance learning and performance, recordings and broadcasts and a lot more besides.
There are also Entrepreneurship and Leadership components to the annual Fellowship programme and it was this which intrigued me the most as there are many similarities with Sinfonia Cymru’s Curate initiative. We share the same belief that orchestral musicians are exceptionally creative individuals and should be given opportunities to drive their own artistic ideas forward. When this works, for me at least, it is the most rewarding thing of all but it is difficult sometimes too. NWS describes itself as ‘a laboratory for the way music is taught, presented and experienced’ and I think the word laboratory is key here. They are open to taking risks and learning from the challenges and as such recognise that their organisation is constantly evolving. They think the same way we think.
A highlight of our trip was a WALLCAST. This is a live concert projected onto the 7,000ft outside wall of the New World Centre for audiences to enjoy state of the art visuals and surround-sound sitting in the SoundScape Park perhaps with a picnic. Despite the torrential rain at times, this was a great way to experience classical music with camera work that drew you right into the orchestra as they performed Til Eulenspiegel with fantastic exuberance. I am not sure if the concept would ever work in Wales, but it was an unforgettable experience all the same for many reasons!
I’d like to thank John for hosting us and Howard Herring, President and Chief Executive Officer, all the Senior Managers and Fellows we met for being so incredibly welcoming and giving up their time to talk. Here’s to the future for all our passionate, intelligent, talented, curious and sometimes (hopefully) disruptive musicians.