ONE TO ONE

The One to One interviews:
How leaders are managing the crisis

Next on One to One: Doug Sheldon, founder and managing partner of Sheldon Artists LLC, and former artist manager and director of Columbia Artists

Graham Vick
Founder and Artistic Director
Birmingham Opera Company, Birmingham, England
Interview date: November 24, 2020
In his One to One interview, Graham Vick, founder and artistic director of the Birmingham Opera Company, discussed BOC’s unique ethos, the long-term benefits of the current digital climate, the impact of the pandemic, and the Black Lives Matter movement. Concerned that larger institutions will emerge having paid little more than "lip-service" to diversity and community engagement, Vick expressed confidence the future belongs to companies like BOC which know what it is doing and who it is doing it for.
Over a 40-year career, Vick has directed from Covent Garden and La Scala to the Met and the Mariinsky. In 1987, he founded Birmingham Opera Company, developing a far-sighted model of community engagement that has placed the company among the artform’s leading exponents when it comes to imagining what opera should be in the 21st century.

Jeremy Geffen
Executive and Artistic Director
Cal Performances
Interview date: November 13, 2020
Jeremy Geffen arrived at U.C. Berkeley in April of 2019 as the new executive and artistic director of Cal Performances, one of the major, multi-genre presenters in the country. After leaving his longtime post as senior director and artistic advisor for Carnegie Hall, he discovered within less than one year that the cross-country trek brought unexpected challenges, thanks to the pandemic.
In his One to One interview, Geffen discussed Cal Performances’ move from live to digital, and points to the positive side of the transition: For audiences, it has meant a more intimate relationship with the artists they view online; for staff, said Geffen, “We never would have invested in the digital platform we have now.” He also discussed what it means to present the performing arts in an academic setting, and a huge, statewide university, at that.

Tobias Picker
Grammy-winning Composer and Artistic Director
of the Tulsa Opera
Interview date: October 29, 2020
When the Tulsa Opera announced the pandemic-caused cancellation of its October 2020 Rigoletto in the local performing arts center, the Tulsa Drillers baseball team offered the company the use of its ONEOK ballfield.
In his One to One interview, composer Tobias Picker, the opera’s artistic director, remembers responding, "Yes!" and then wondering, “What am I going to do with a baseball field?” A few rejected scenarios later—put a soloist on the field with a mic, build a huge stage for a socially distanced cast, make a pre-recorded stream—a key image came to mind: "A baseball diamond is a thing of beauty," Picker remembered.
And thus was born the first-ever baseball Rigoletto. It sold 1800 seats and introduced a wealth of baseball fans to opera for the first time. Most importantly, staff, cast, crew, and fans all stayed healthy.

Eighth Blackbird's Lisa Kaplan and Matthew Duvall
Executive Director/pianist; Artistic Director/percussionist
Interview date: October 8, 2020
Now approaching its 25th year, the Grammy-winning ensemble Eighth Blackbird has gone through some major changes since being named Musical America’s 2017 Ensemble of the Year. In their One to One, pianist Lisa Kaplan and percussionist Matthew Duvall, also the sextet’s executive and artistic directors, discuss recent shifts that have been further solidified by the pandemic.
For one, the group has four new members as of January 2020; for another, Eighth Blackbird now self-identifies as an “arts organization,” says Duvall, one that performs, tours, and presents. This last iteration gets underway October 20 when the newly revitalized Creative Artists Workshop (CAW, get it?) launches the first of 24 concerts this season, most of them guest-artist performances, live streamed from Eighth Blackbird’s spacious Chicago studio.

Anne Parsons
President and Chief Executive Officer
Detroit Symphony Orchestra
September 24, 2020
Detroit Symphony Orchestra’s President and CEO Anne Parsons tells One to One how the DSO has been adapting to the pandemic, from streaming its archives in the spring, to live outdoor concerts in the summer, to the current concerts on the stage of an empty Orchestra Hall, conducted by new Music Director Jader Bignamini.
Decisions around each phase, she emphasizes, have been reached through “a culture of shared participation and shared sacrifice,” from across-the-board pay cuts to weekly Covid-19 tests for live performances to musicians paying visits to donors.

Lidiya Yankovskaya
Music Director
Chicago Opera Theater
September 17, 2020
Lidiya Yankovskaya is busy—which, in light of the last six months, is good to hear.
The music director of the Chicago Opera Theater (COT), founder of the Refugee Orchestra Project (ROP), and former Musical America New Artist of the Month, Yankovskaya is at the moment involved in three projects simultaneously, each requiring major adjustments for the pandemic. One is a newly recorded opera video—with each of the components, from singers to strings, captured individually and later mixed together to be broadcast on giant video board in a ball park on Sept. 26 (Minnesota Opera’s “Opera in the Outfield,”); one is a live concert with the ROP, performed outdoors with socially distanced musicians and a socially distanced audience; and one is a live streamed opera-in-concert (the COT premiere of The Transformation of Jane Doe), performed in an empty theater in Chicago with the singers six-feet apart on a wide stage and a small ensemble of musicians spread out in the pit.
Small wonder that she feels like she’s in a “whirlwind” working on several projects at once, “and of course none of them are regular performances in the way that we’ve been used to.” No kidding.

Chad Smith
Chief Executive Officer
Los Angeles Philharmonic
The Hollywood Bowl summer season has been cancelled, but that doesn’t mean its behemoth stage (5,700 square feet) sits empty. Chad Smith, CEO of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which operates the Bowl, describes the logistics behind the Phil’s upcoming "Sound/Stage" series.
Filmed at the Bowl over a number of weeks in July and August, the performances start streaming September 25, most of them conducted by Music Director Gustavo Dudamel. Players were masked and positioned between six and 12 feet apart, with the winds encased in multiple layers of plexiglass. For musicians used to taking finely honed aural cues from each other, it was a huge challenge. Smith describes how, to surmount it, Dudamel told his charges, "listen less, watch me more!"

David Stull
President
San Francisco Conservatory of Music
David H. Stull, president of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, describes how last spring’s “accelerated learning path” to the digital realm has fully prepared SFCM for the coming fall semester. Although the entire curriculum will be available online, he says, 70 percent of the student body (enrollment is 485) will arrive on campus in October for a hybrid of in-person and electronic learning.
The Dante networking system, with its mere 10-millisecond latency, will enable SFCM musicians to rehearse in ensembles, and live concerts for up to 12 (masked) players are planned for one of the two concert halls in the just-completed, $195 million, 12-story Bowes Center. Technology is a vital learning tool right now, but as Stull sees it, it’s vital tool for any working musician in the 21st century.

Jesse Rosen
President and Chief Executive Officer
League of American Orchestras
Jesse Rosen, president and CEO of the League of American Orchestras, described to One to One how, during the pandemic, the League has not only provided guidance for its 2,000 members in securing government aid, but also served as a virtual gathering place for arts leaders to touch base, check in, and gain mutual support. He also said American orchestras have a grave responsibility to bring on administrators, as well as musicians, of diverse backgrounds.
Rosen's tenure is also coming to an end as he prepares in the coming days to hand over the League's substantial reins to his successor, Simon Woods. Woods is the former CEO of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and interim chief of the Grand Teton Music Festival.

Eric Einhorn
General and Artistic Director
On Site Opera
Eric Einhorn, co-founding general and artistic director of On Site Opera, has watched his colleagues rush to move their productions online during the pandemic, causing what he calls "collective screen fatigue." Prevented by lock-down from staging its works at any given "site," wanting to avoid the digital screen model at all costs, Einhorn and his four-member staff came up with what they call "the world’s first telephone-based opera experience."
To My Distant Love, sung by one performer to one audience member at a time, has been hugely successful since its launch in June, and is just one example of Einhorn’s search to, in his words, "explode the model"—something we’ve all had plenty of time to think about.

Alan Fletcher
President and Chief Executive Officer
Aspen Music Festival & School
Alan Fletcher, president and CEO of the Aspen Music Festival, discusses how this summer’s students and faculty have jumped online, both for teaching sessions and for concerts, some of which are streamed live from “pods” of artists all over the world. As a result, he notes, a wide public is now exposed to how Aspen works, both as an educational and presenting institution, without the hassle and the expense of physically traveling to its remote—if spectacular—locale. Fletcher also calls on the music industry to address its diversity problem, noting that "there’s a lot of work to do."

Christopher Koelsch
President & Chief Executive Officer
LA Opera
In the midst of the pandemic, LA Opera CEO Christopher Koelsch and his team have focused on inventing new ways to stay connected to audiences, outside of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. They’ve also reached out to performers, paying principals in advance for postponed or future engagements, and to composers, commissioning new work for their online Digital Shorts series, set to bow in the fall. With the Shorts, he says, we are "exercising technical and creative muscles that are not native to the company," while at the same time laying the groundwork for a new iteration of a 400-year-old art form.

Jacques Marquis
President & Chief Executive Officer
Van Cliburn Foundation
Jacques Marquis is the president and CEO of the Cliburn, the umbrella organization for the famous International Piano Competition as well as the Amateur Competition and the Junior Competition. The Amateur Competition, scheduled for May and June 2020, had to be postponed to 2022. Meanwhile, the usual live auditions in eight cities around the world for the flagship event have been replaced with online screenings. The current plan is for about 70 applicants chosen from those to perform live in Fort Worth next April, with the final 30 invited back for the final round in May. “Playing online is sometimes interesting,” says Marquis. “But the purpose of the competition is to gather the best young pianists in the world in the same spot.”

Susan Feder
Program Officer, Arts and Culture Program
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Susan Feder is a program officer in the Mellon Foundation’s Arts and Culture Program, where she oversees grants from what is the country’s largest funder to the arts. She explains the recent shift in focus to social justice and how Mellon has been responding to what she describes as the "twin pandemics" of COVID-19 and the killing of George Floyd, which has brought to the surface the urgency of inclusivity among all organizations, particular in classical music. Recovery from both pandemics will be slow, she says; Mellon intends to assist with both.

John Kieser
Executive Vice President and Provost, New World Symphony
John Kieser is executive vice president and provost of the Miami-based New World Symphony (NWS) and longtime general manager and executive producer of the San Francisco Symphony. He reports that NWS is preparing for an online season, if necessary, which is all in keeping with its goal, "to turn our fellows into producers of audio and video media." Right now, that’s the best way for orchestras to reach audiences, he says. Take your time, Kieser advises--the learning curve for using media effectively is steep.

Afa Dworkin
President and Artistic Director, Sphinx Organization
Sphinx Organization President and Artistic Director Afa Dworkin characterizes the impact of the pandemic as simultaneously "abrupt, disturbing, and transformative." Founded over 20 years ago, Sphinx through its four focus areas—education, artist development, performance, and leadership—is the core program for the creation of diversity in classical music. Covid-19 and the Black Lives Matter Movement have only added urgency to its mission: transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts.

Beth Morrison
President and Creative Producer, Beth Morrison Projects
Beth Morrison tells One to One how Beth Morrison Projects (BMP) is committed to "paying artists on every show that was contracted, to the best of our ability," and how BMP is "weathering the storm" of COVD-19 and experimenting in the new medium of the day.
Beth Morrison founded BMP in 2006 and has gone on to commission and nurture countless new chamber operas and take them on tour. She’s an “industry disruptor” nonpareil, stretching the boundaries of opera as an artform in a way that is “suddenly indispensable,” according to The New Yorker.

Trey Devey
President, Interlochen Center for the Arts
In his One to One interview, Trey Devey explains the five interlocking divisions of the Interlochen Center for the Arts and how each is dealing with the pandemic. Interlochen’s flagship, the Summer Arts Camp, founded in 1928, opens online June 28. The boarding school—Interlochen Arts Academy—will welcome students in August in person, under a very specific Fall Re-entry Plan.
Mr. Devey has been president of the famed Interlochen Center for the Arts since 2017 and was previously CEO of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. In both cases, he has had a major impact though his commitment to diversity and his marked savvy as a fund raiser.

Stefan Forsberg
Executive and Artistic Director of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra
Stefan Forsberg reflects on how Sweden’s laissez-faire approach to the Covid-19 pandemic impacted his decision to keep the orchestra performing, without audience, and the modifications he made to keep the players safe. When we spoke, tickets had just gone on sale for the first performance with audience in the Konserthuset since March, scheduled for July 4.
Stefan Forsberg has been executive and artistic director of the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and the 20,000-square-meter Konserthuset Stockholm for 17 years. He is also chairman of Swedish Performing Arts, to which all of the country’s opera, theater, dance and orchestral groups belong.

Elizabeth Sobol
President & CEO, Saratoga Performing Arts Center
In her One to One interview, Elizabeth Sobol discussed the cancellation of the SPAC season, plans for a virtual jazz festival in its place and perhaps even a SPAC "wellness" series, and the vital role the Center plays in the economic and cultural welfare of its surrounding community.
Sobol has been at the helm of SPAC since 2016. SPAC is a vast expanse of indoor/outdoor space located in the heart of the 2,400-acre Saratoga Spa State Park ("spa" for the natural springs) in upstate New York. A former managing director for IMG Artists and president of Universal Classics, she today oversees a 5,200-seat amphitheater and accompanying 22,000-capacity lawn space that, in a normal summer season, hosts performances by the New York City Ballet, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and a huge array of pop and rock concerts presented by LiveNation.

John Gilhooly
Artistic and Executive Director, Wigmore Hall
John Gilhooly told One to One about the artistic and technical logistics behind Wigmore Hall’s upcoming live-without-audience concert series, which begins on Monday with pianist Stephen Hough and continues throughout the month of June on the BBC. He describes the future and the "ecology" of classical-music performance in these challenging times. "We know we’re not going to come back 100 percent, and we all need to be there for each other."
Since arriving at Wigmore Hall in 2000, John Gilhooly OBE has heightened both the profile and the programming of this historic, century-old venue. Known primarily for chamber music and recitals, the 522-seat hall in prepandemic days offered nearly 500 concerts annually, many of them broadcast internationally, sponsored both singing and chamber music international competitions, and provided substantial educational programming to learners of all ages.
Also chairman of the Royal Philharmonic Society, Gilhooly was awarded Britain’s prestigious OBE in 2013, one of many honors in recognition of his immense contributions to British arts and culture.

Stanford Thompson
Founder & Executive Director, Play On Philly, and
Founding Board Chairman, El Sistema USA
Stanford Thompson talked with One to One about the impact of the pandemic on Play on Philly, both as its executive director and as its educator-in-chief. Thompson explained some of the outside-the-box solutions he and his teaching staff devised to connect with students online. Thompson also figured a way to support his teachers and staff without a PPP loan and come out ahead in the process.
A musician and educator, Thompson 10 years ago founded the tuition-free Play On Philly after-school orchestral program that has benefited almost 1,000 K-12 students in underserved Philadelphia neighborhoods. The founding board chairman of El Sistema USA, he is a Ted Fellow and serves on the faculty of the Global Leaders Program. As a consultant, Thompson has guided the development of dozens of music programs across the U.S.

Michael Kaiser
Chairman, Devos Institute of Arts Management and former president, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Part 2
In part 2 of his One to One interview (see part 1 here), Michael Kaiser tells us his arts management consulting firm recently offered a free hour of consulting to any needful arts organization. He wound up doing 427 separate consultations over six weeks, and "it was astonishing to me how well, how smartly arts leaders dealt with the very sudden attack of no earned income." It is a story, he says, that should be told to sponsors and donors—and is possibly more impactful than streaming another concert online.
Michael Kaiser, Musical America’s onetime (and only) Impresario of the Year and undisputed guru of the business of the arts, is among the most sought-after consultants in the world for his expertise in creative problem-solving in the arts.

Michael Kaiser
Chairman, Devos Institute of Arts Management and former president, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
Part 1
In part one of the One to One interview, Michael Kaiser, the undisputed guru of the business of the arts, discusses "the four phases of the pandemic" and how to deal with each.
As we near the end of Phase I—the lockdown—Kaiser talked with us about preparing for the most painful phase, he says: waiting to get back into our concert halls and theaters. Here’s what we can and should be doing in the meantime.

Matthew Shilvock
General Director, San Francisco Opera
Matthew Shilvock’s task is daunting: he needs to envision a path forward for the 1,000 employees and $72 million annual budget of the San Francisco Opera.
Forced to cancel the entire summer season (18 performances of three operas), unsure of the fall season, uncertain when the company can use its 3,150-seat War Memorial Opera House, Shilvock is pondering ways for the company to be "nimble, responsive, set up quickly, and bring art to the public." And, at the forefront of that rather tall mandate, Shilvock says, he is seeking to "bring beauty and catharsis to a public that yearns for it."

Paul Hogle
President and CEO, Cleveland Institute of Music
Fast and flexible moves between a Friday and the following Wednesday helped the Cleveland Institute of Music quickly pivot during the pandemic. It is also enjoying a 20 percent increase in enrollments, Paul Hogle, CIM’s president and CEO, told Musical America.
Hogle is the former executive VP of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra who was instrumental in bringing the DSO back to life by negotiating to stream its concerts live, so we knew we wanted to hear what he had to say. "The quality of an organization’s leadership—this is where it’s an all-in thing … there’s a small group of people who think they will shut down, lock the employees away from their pay and everything will be fine&151;I feel sad for those organizations."
Musical America interviewed Hogle from his home in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

Heather Noonan
Vice President of Advocacy, League of American Orchestras
Heather Noonan, longtime VP of Advocacy for the League of American Orchestras, has been instrumental in keeping the arts on Congress’s agenda. Together with her colleagues in the Performing Arts Alliance and national organizations in the broader arts sector, she has been supporting local advocates nationwide in demonstrating that the arts matter and ensuring that the CARES legislation recognizes its organizations and artists as an important part of the American workforce. This interview took place just on the heels of the first wave of funding; the second wave, now ensured, had yet to pass, but you can be sure Noonan was involved in filling the gaps left by the first.

Jasper Parrott
Cofounder and executive chairman of London-based artist management firm HarrisonParrott
The force majeure clause in contracts is a hot topic in the COVID-19 crisis. Jasper Parrott shared how he feels the standard force majeure clause being "an unbalanced and unfair instrument [that] supports big and powerful organizations," and leaves smaller organizations and individual artists in the lurch. He is responding to our first One to One interview with arts lawyer Brian Goldstein. Mr. Parrott was named Artist Manager of the Year at the ABO/Rhinegold Awards and is the co-author, with Vladimir Ashkenazy, of the widely read book, Beyond Frontiers.

Deborah Borda
President & CEO, New York Philharmonic
Part 2
The New York Philharmonic was the first major American orchestra to cancel its season (March 23) due to the coronavirus. Here, in part 2 of the interview with MA's Susan Elliott [see part 1, below], NYPhil President and CEO Deborah Borda gives insight into the factors impacting that decision; she also lends her expertise on leadership in a time of crisis.

Deborah Borda
President & CEO, New York Philharmonic
Part 1
Deborah Borda, president & CEO, the New York Philharmonic, had quite a couple weeks in March.
After sending the entire organization home, she negotiated a new interim contract over the phone with her orchestra, secured sweeping new media rights to NY Phil's archive, launched a new streaming service (NY Phil Plays On), cancelled a European tour, held an emergency board meeting with 57 members, each in a different location--and was, quite possibly, instrumental in New York adopting its current stay-at-home policy.
We were on the edge of our seat as she let us see those moments through her eyes.

Brian Taylor Goldstein
Entertainment lawyer, GG Arts Law, and author of the "Law and Disorder" column on Musical America.
The current crisis has impacted the performing arts no less than every other business. Performers and presenters and scrambling to make sense of canceled bookings and travel, lost ticket sales, and more.
Musical America's Susan Elliott turned to entertainment lawyer Brian Taylor Goldstein of GG Arts Law and the author of Law and Disorder, a column about legal issues on MusicalAmerica.com, to make sense of issues affecting the industry during CODVID-19, including force majeure clauses, Visas for foreign artists in the U.S., and, in light of the crisis, the need to rethink how the performing-arts business operates.

 

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