Special Reports

Rising Stars in...Orchestra Leadership

November 1, 2012 | By Brian Wise

Richard Dare
Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Brooklyn Philharmonic

“I’m very new to the orchestra world and I don’t know anything about it,” Richard Dare remembers telling the Brooklyn Philharmonic musicians and board when he first arrived as CEO last year. “What I do bring is a lot of entrepreneurial and management experience.”

Dare spent the better part of the last decade traveling between the U.S. and Asia as the head of Pacific Rim Partners, a private investment firm that builds and controls U.S. brands in Asia. As an investment strategist, he cut deals with Mitsubishi, NTT Communications, and Pioneer Corporation. He also founded WestJets, a corporate air service that he later sold to Warren Buffet.

Initially courted as a potential board member, Dare was eventually convinced by the board of directors to take the top staff job; at the time, the orchestra had been dormant for a season, having run out of funds and been forced from the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Unafraid to apply his for-profit strategies to an organization in dire need of a shake-up, Dare determined that, rather than being just another freelance group competing for the same old audiences, the Philharmonic needed to find its own, unique niche.

“There’s more to running a company than paperwork,” says Dare of his management philosophy. “Part of the role of an arts manager is to take a much more proactive approach than perhaps people have envisioned in the old model. There are a lot of mission statements that are committee-driven but when the rubber hits the road, you actually have to step into the community and ask, ‘Are we doing the right thing? Is this on mission for us? Is our mission the right one?’

”In close partnership with Artistic Director Alan Pierson, Dare focused on building community partnerships with three far-flung Brooklyn neighborhoods, conducting “town meetings” with each of them to determine what would best appeal to and engage their respective audiences. Such two-way conversations—not to mention research by Philharmonic staffers—yielded highly targeted programming.

Taking the orchestra with tailor-made repertoire to Brighton Beach’s Millennium Theater, Bedford-Stuyvesant’s Restoration Plaza, Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, and Downtown Brooklyn’s new Roulette Theater, Dare has managed to successfully reboot the Brooklyn Philharmonic. For Brighton Beach’s large Russian population, for instance, the orchestra in February will combine local folk songs and singers with folk-inspired music by Stravinsky, Shostakovich, and Prokofiev, “as well as performances of new arrangements of beloved Soviet-era Russian folk songs created by Russian-American composer Lev ‘Ljova’ Zhurbin,” reads the advance billing.

Dare’s approach has attracted the attention of the orchestra establishment. Indeed, he has earned a certain notoriety through his blog on the Huffington Post, where he takes a no-holds-barred approach toward such hot-button issues as concert etiquette and the role of unions. The title of his most recent entry reflects his fearlessness about shaking up old mores: The Scandalous Failure of Music and Art.

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