ONE TO ONE INTERVIEWS



Ara Guzelimian
Artistic and Executive Director, Ojai Music Festival
Former Provost and Dean, The Juilliard School
Interview date: May 9, 2022
Ara Guzelimian has a long history with California’s Ojai Festival and two years ago was named the artistic and executive director of one of the arts world’s most fertile breeding grounds (running this summer June 9-12). A former provost and dean of the Juilliard School and, before that, Carnegie Hall’s senior director and artistic advisor, Guzelimian has long been a key player in classical music on both the east and west coasts.
Continuing the Festival’s 75-year success formula of having a different music director every season, Guzelimian has this year chosen the multi-headed, multi-disciplined American Modern Opera Project (AMOC). At 17 members strong and with an acronym pronounced "amuck," the group epitomizes the vitality and experimentation of Ojai, host to historic premieres by the likes of John Cage, Pierre Boulez, and, this summer, Olivier Messiaen. In his One to One interview, Guzelimian touches on season highlights. "Working with 17 different music directors has reminded me that democracy actually CAN work," says Guzelimian. "The AMOCers make it work. They are deeply committed to a collective decision-making process." The result is four days of fresh, often off-the-wall, programming.

Henry Timms
President and Chief Executive Officer
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
Interview date: April 26, 2022
Arriving at his third-year anniversary as president and CEO, Henry Timms describes the rationale behind the "different kind of Lincoln Center" that has so clearly been evolving on his watch. He cites three priorities: completing the David Geffen Hall renovation; "fixing" the finances; and building a broader and more diverse culture among staff, constituents, and audiences. He is also working to create a stronger connection among the Center’s ten organizations, from the Met Opera to Jazz at Lincoln Center to The Juilliard School.
The U.K. born Timms, known for inventing #GivingTuesday, is the former president and CEO at the 92nd Street Y, which he revitalized through modern thinking and technology. He is also the co-author of the international best-selling book, New Power: How Power Works in Our Hyperconnected World—and How to Make it Work for You. He is a Hauser Leader at Harvard Kennedy School and a Senior Fellow at both the Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society at Stanford University and the United Nations Foundation.

Joseph Conyers
Assistant Principal Bass, Philadelphia Orchestra
Founder & Vision Advisor, Project 440
Interview date: March 29, 2022
Joseph Conyers is assistant principal bass of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and recipient of the orchestra’s highest honor for a musician, the C. Hartman Kuhn Award, as bestowed by Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin. He is also the founder of Project 440, which, through music, gives young, often inner-city students in Philadelphia the "agency" (his word) to lead and enrich their respective communities. He is also music director of Philadelphia’s All City Orchestra, the Boston University at Tanglewood Institute (BUTI) Young Artists Orchestra, and on the Juilliard and Temple University faculties. Teaching, he says, is his greatest joy.
Conyers, who grew up in Savannah, GA, describes his journey from piano student to bass player to “this little school in Philadelphia I had never heard of called the Curtis Institute,” to becoming principal bass of the Grand Rapids Symphony to the Atlanta Symphony to the Philadelphia Orchestra, in 2010. “I’ve had a very blessed career,” he says. Asked about being a Black musician in a very white field, he says early on he was solely focused on his music (“I didn’t care about anything else”). Only now, he says, does he see room for improvement, especially in access to the artform. Lack of it, he says, is what has made him "lean in."

James Roe
President and Executive Director
Orchestra of St. Luke's
The DiMenna Center for Classical Music
Interview date: March 4, 2022
James (Jim) Roe’s first connection to the Orchestra of St. Luke’s (OSL) was as an oboe player in many of its concerts. From there he managed to morph into a widely admired orchestra manager, first as CEO of the New Jersey Symphony and now coming up on his seventh season as OSL’s president and executive director.
In his One to One, he discusses OSL’s evolution from a small chamber group in Greenwich Village in 1974 to a multi-pronged, multi-format organism. OSL performs up to 80 concerts annually across New York’s five boroughs and owns and runs the DiMenna Center for Classical Music, a 20,000-square-foot rehearsal, recording, and performance space on Manhattan’s West Side. He discusses OSL’s unusual business model; the evolution of its new digital series; the unique relationship with Bernard Labadie, its recently renewed principal conductor; and how the OSL has emerged from the pandemic in better financial shape than ever.

Jenny Bilfield
President and Chief Executive Officer
Washington Performing Arts
Interview date: February 8, 2022
As an arts presenter, Washington Performing Arts (WPA) is unusual in that it has no venue of its own. “The city is our stage,” says its President and CEO of nearly nine years Jenny Bilfield. She points to the 11 different spaces in the D.C. area that WPA uses for its (mostly classical) programs, and they range in size from 300 seats to 2600.
When the pandemic struck, closing down a venue was clearly not at issue. The immediate challenge was the annual gala, scheduled for March 17, just as the U.S. moved into total lockdown. On March 14 Bilfield decided to “take a leap,” as she puts it, and move the year’s most important fundraiser online. She continued that leap into the next, 2020-21 season, becoming one of the first to announce an all- digital season. “We decided not to subscribe to magical thinking,” she says, avoiding the last-minute cancellations that so many others suffered through. Better still, cyberspace offered new and different sites, including tours and a performance at Taiwan’s magnificent National Kaohsiung Center for the Arts, Weiwuying.

Afa Dworkin
President and Artistic Director
Sphinx Organization
Interview date: December 28, 2021
One to One with Afa Dworkin in July 2020, she has seen some progress in performing arts organizations’ efforts to diversify, but, as she now puts it, "not enough." As president and artistic director of the Sphinx Organization, this month honoring its 25th year of "transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts," Dworkin should know.
Dworkin maintains the only way to overcome "centuries of systemic, intentional, and implicit exclusion" in the performing arts is for every member of an organization, be it one devoted to opera, theater, ballet, or classical music, to get on board. It’s not just a "top-down" issue, she says, calling on conservatories to join the crusade, but perhaps more importantly, a "bottom-up" one.

Simon Woods
President and Chief Executive Officer
League of American Orchestras
Interview date: December 9, 2021
Simon Woods became president of the League of American Orchestras in September 2020—at the height of the pandemic—after a distinguished career heading the Seattle Symphony, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and other major ensembles. He talks to One to One about the needs of the League’s 700 member orchestras when he first arrived and what they need now—respectively, inter-colleague communication and research/data to help predict a future still struggling with Covid-19 and its variants.
Woods defends the League from its age-old reputation of having only management’s—not musicians'—interests at heart. He also reports not a single League member went under during the pandemic, thanks largely to federal aid, much of which was gained through the lobbying efforts of the League and other arts groups.

 

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