Thinking about the in-depth conversations at Conference 2022.

By Antonio C. Cuyler, Ph.D., Founder & Principal Consultant, Cuyler Consulting, LLC

I planned to attend my first League conference in the Summer of 2020 before COVID-19. As an arts leadership educator, I aim to make the practices and theories that I teach my students as professionally relevant as possible. Although I had to wait two years, my conference experience was more than worth the wait. Before arriving in LA, I read The Florida Orchestra fights back with music from nonbinary composer and New Effort Aims to Bring More Contemporary Music to Orchestras to help frame how I hoped to experience the conference. The sessions and performances I attended, and the conversations I had with colleagues suggest that we are poised to embrace the promise of change. For example, the Innovation Session: We Are What We Play: Orchestral Repertoire in 2022 and Beyond was standing room only at 7:45am. The temperature in the room suggested that attendees were working hard to think differently about how to better serve their communities through their programming choices. I also appreciate the thoughtful way that the conference committee planned a concert demonstrating the practical side of Dr. Toppin and Dr. Deemer’s research focused session.

In addition to affirming for me, as Simon pointed out, “there is no excellence without diversity,” I contemplated many questions that I had not thought before, including: Will Kris Bowers, who has scored for Bridgerton, Dear White People, and Green Book, among others, have the same career possibilities as John Williams? Would a geo-mapping tool of where commissions go after their initial performance impact the number of subsequent performances that the commission receives? What if orchestras committed to programming 50% of music by deceased composers and 50% of music by living composers every performance, would that help them to build new audiences? How might the field shift to anticipating the “next great” classical music creators over continually worshipping at the altar of music creators of the past? If this year’s conference is a true indication of where the field will head, then I am grateful for the opportunity to support and witness the fomenting of a future that unequivocally includes orchestras.

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