Leadership Through Programming
February 24, 2020 In: Sound Bits
February through March marks an exciting time in the orchestral world—the time period when a majority of professional symphony orchestras release their programming for the upcoming season. As performing artists in the 21st century, what we program and perform defines our personal artistic values and aesthetics, determines what our audiences will and will not experience (learn), and can shape the musical culture of the communities within which we perform. While the focus of innovation and impact is often on the “how” and “why” of performance, it is equally important to focus on the material with which we create our art—the ‘what.’
Gustavo Dudamel in and the Los Angeles Philharmonic recently caught the attention of the music world with the announcement of their 2020-21 season. The organization’s programming demonstrates progress and leadership as it relates to representation amongst programmed composers. In their 2020-21 season, 33% of compositions are by living composers, 14% of compositions are by woman composers, and 18% of compositions are by composers of underrepresented racial, ethnic, and cultural heritages. In a recent Los Angeles Times article by Deborah Vankin, Los Angeles Philharmonic CEO, Chad Smith reflected in the organization’s desire to “. . . shift the musical center of gravity for our art form further west and further south. We come from an art form which historically was European and largely male. How do we, over time, change that?”
The LA season announcement is a welcome departure from the ‘status-quo’ of orchestral programming. During the 2019-20 season, orchestras from such venerable cities as Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, and Pittsburgh included three or fewer woman composers in their entire seasons and orchestras from St. Louis, Indianapolis, Virginia, and Austin failed to included a single work from underrepresented racial, ethnic, & cultural heritages. When looking at the 2019-20 programming of League of American Orchestras member groups, 92% of compositions were by composers identifying as male and 94% of composers were caucasian.
As many of us are currently engaged in planning for the 2020-21 season, Dudamel and the LA Philharmonic provide us with the opportunity to reflect upon what our programming says about our artistic values and aesthetics. How might our programming expand the ‘musical bandwidth’ of our audiences? How does the diversity of the composers we perform relate to the diversity of the communities in which we perform? How does the repertoire we select advance and develop our chosen art-form?
- Read the complete LA Times Article by Deborah Vankin here.
- Analysis of the the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s 2020-2021 season and League of American Orchestras 2019-2020 programming was gathered from Rob Deemer and the Institute for Composer Diversity. Learn more about the Institute here.
- Learn more about the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s 2020-21 season here.