The San Francisco Symphony Launches American Orchestra Forum with Six Major Visiting U.S. Orchestras

Michael Tilson Thomas, Gustavo Dudamel, and Alan Gilbert are keynote speakers in free public events in Davies Symphony Hall preceding concerts during American Orchestra Series in SF Symphony’s 2011-12 Centennial Season

The San Francisco Symphony (SFS) today announced that it will host a season-long, nationwide dialogue on the 21st century American orchestra, in conjunction with the visits of six other major American orchestras during its Centennial 2011-12 season. San Francisco Symphony Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT), Los Angeles Philharmonic Music Director Gustavo Dudamel, and New York Philharmonic Music Director Alan Gilbert are the keynote speakers for three free events in Davies Symphony Hall during the season. The San Francisco Symphony has also launched an American Orchestra Forum website at, as a hub for the ongoing conversation, with perspectives from leaders in and outside the orchestra world, as well as the general public, via blogs, podcasts and videos of the discussions.

The presence of seven of America’s leading orchestras–Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco–performing as part of the SF Symphony’s 2011-2012 Centennial Season offers a unique opportunity to explore significant questions facing American orchestras.

“In the orchestral world, we spend a lot of time talking about music,” said Brent Assink, SFS Executive Director. “In this centennial season, with the leading orchestras in the country coming to San Francisco, it’s a perfect opportunity to also reflect on the connection points around the music – our communities, our creative inspirations and challenges, and, of course, our audiences. What does our past teach us? And how do we best shape our collective future? I look forward to lively discussions throughout the season.”

Gustavo Dudamel’s keynote conversation Sunday, October 23, “Talking About Community,” kicks off a two-concert residency of the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Davies Symphony Hall October 23 and 24. Michael Tilson Thomas and Assink open a discussion of creativity on Saturday, March 17, 2012, in conjunction with San Francisco Symphony’s month-long American Mavericks festival of adventurous American music. Alan Gilbert initiates a discussion on the role of live music in a world of changing audience habits Sunday, May 13, and leads the New York Philharmonic for two concerts May 13 and 14. Composers John Adams and Mason Bates take part in a conversation and discussion following the MTT keynote during the American Mavericks festival event March 17.

Other participants in the forums include SF Symphony musicians; leaders in the classical music field, including the League of American Orchestras; scholars from Stanford University and the University of Chicago , as well as those in private enterprise, including executives from Silicon Valley technology firms and Major League Baseball. San Francisco-based cultural critic and journalist Steven Winn and University of Michigan musicologist Mark Clague will co-moderate the forums and host the podcasts.

Uniting the content of the public forums with ongoing dialogue will be the American Orchestra Forum website, Over the course of the year, the website will host blogs, video interviews, transcripts, and podcasts to help stimulate conversation about the state of American orchestras among global audiences. The events in San Francisco will be live blogged.

Topics to be explored in the free public forums, and online, will include how orchestras connect with their communities, bridging multiple cultures; how new ways of producing music are shaping listening habits, and vice versa; how orchestras balance creativity and innovation with artistic traditions; and how orchestras can learn from companies and organizations outside the classical music world as they work to meet the challenge of attracting and involving new and changing audiences.

The League of American Orchestras, the professional association for American orchestras, is a project partner, promoting a national dialogue around topics addressed in the American Orchestra Forum. Results from the project will be reported at the League of American Orchestras’ 2012 conference in Dallas .


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