The in-depth conversations at Conference 2021 were guided by our five emcees, each focusing on critical question that framed the day’s sessions. Laura Reynolds, Executive Director of Boise Philharmonic Association, lead the theme Better Together.

By Laura Reynolds

“I am actively stuck on hope.” Keynote speaker Marc Bamuthi Joseph shared a vision for the future of American orchestras grounded in human dignity, systemic anti-racism, and artistic purpose.

The conference sessions featured in Wednesday’s Better Together topic asked our field: What does it mean to be an orchestra? And more importantly, what could it mean to be an orchestra?

In The Arc and Art of Community Solidarity, Bamuthi outlined a process for moving beyond engaging communities, and shared strategies on how we can transform our organizations to be in solidarity with our local communities. In the discussion following his address he summarized the process as:

  • Develop a social vision
  • Create a 5-year plan
  • Budgets are moral documents
  • Have the will to execute the plan

With this framework in place, the future doesn’t have to happen to us – instead we, American Orchestras, can design freedom and our art can be an agent of positive social change.

Panelists in Survive to Thrive: Why Community is Central to Our Success shared their strategies, experiences and lessons learned as their organizations shifted in this last season to deepen their relationships with and connections to community.

  • Define community: how are we connected?
  • Purpose, not perfection: we need to know our why if we want others to care
  • Interdependence: we are not islands of art – who do we depend on and who depends on us?
  • Shifting Expectations: we are no longer just a seat in a concert hall, we belong and are accountable to our communities

These conversations highlighted that together with our community, orchestras have more power and potential to shape the future of our society than ever before. That also means we have the responsibility to act, to engage and to no longer be bystanders in our society. Musicians, administrators, board members – we are all part of an ecosystem that requires us to care for, empathize with and support one another.

Let’s call on each other to be courageous and positive agents of change within our organizations for our communities.


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