Conference 2015

This year, over 1,000 orchestra professionals, volunteers and business partners gathered in Cleveland for the League's 2015 National Conference. Here are some of the highlights. Check back soon! This page will be updated regularly with videos and new session materials! Scroll down to see the videos posted to date.

Address from Jesse Rosen: The New Work of Orchestras (Transcript)
League Luncheon and Annual Meeting

Opening Session (VIDEO)
League Luncheon and Annual Meeting (VIDEO)
Closing Session (VIDEO)

Pre-Conference Sessions

Thursday Sessions, 8:45am-10:00am

Thursday Sessions, 11:15am-12:30pm

Friday Sessions, 8:45 am - 10:00 am

Constituency Meetings
Volunteer Meetings

Opening Session

Getting Real About Relevance: Our Value through the Eyes of Others

The question of relevance—how our orchestras can matter more in today’s world—burns in the minds of leaders across our field. During the opening plenary, we considered how orchestras can employ the music to address community needs. A panel of government, business, community, and artistic leaders shared their perspectives on the priorities of the constituents and stakeholders they serve; how orchestras can help provide what the public values; and how we can develop relationships with the community that enable us to be involved in meaningful ways.

View the PowerPoint Presentation.

Moderator: Michael Rohd, Director, Center for Performance and Civic Practice

Panelists: Christopher Alvarado, Executive Director, Slavic Village Development; Armond Budish, Cuyahoga County Executive; Beth Mooney, Chairman and CEO, KeyCorp; Alisa Weilerstein, Cello

League Luncheon and Annual Meeting

The League Luncheon and Annual Meeting included an address by President and CEO Jesse Rosen; an announcement about SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras; the presentation of the Gold Baton and Helen M. Thompson awards; and a performance by American Idol Season 6 Finalist Melinda Doolittle. It was emceed by Peabody Award winning broadcaster and producer, Elliott Forrest.

Address from Jesse Rosen: The New Work of Orchestras (Transcript)

News from SHIFT: A Festival of American Music (presented in cooperation with the League of American Orchestras) by Jenny Bilfield, president and CEO, Washington Performing Arts, and Deborah F. Rutter, president, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Presentation of the Helen M. Thompson Award by Jesse Rosen, president and CEO, League of American Orchestras to Jennifer Boomgaarden, executive director, South Dakota Symphony Orchestra

Presentation of the Gold Baton Award by Mark Volpe, managing director, Boston Symphony Orchestra to Anne-Marie Soullière, retired president, Fidelity Foundation

View the Powerpoint Presentation.

Closing Session

The Next Frontier is Center Stage: Enhancing the Relevance of Our Core Artistic Work

A quiet revolution has been underway for over a decade as orchestras experiment with ways to create deeper connections with communities. This mostly happens at periphery of our work, carried out by soloists, small ensembles or teaching artists, rather than the full orchestra. Now it’s time to connect what we’re learning by listening to our partners and answering their needs back to our core passion and strength—live symphonic performances that matter deeply to everyone in the room, including community members who normally do not attend.

We’ve made some promising starts. We asked some of the creative minds involved in compelling, community-connected artistic projects how they envisioned this work could evolve and amplify into relevant musical expression by the full ensemble.

Moderator: Eric Booth, President, Everyday Arts Inc.

Panelists: Delta David Gier, Music Director, South Dakota Symphony Orchestra; Martha S. Gilmer, Chief Executive Officer, San Diego Symphony;  Daniel Bernard Roumain, Composer/Performer/Arts Administrator, Sozo Artists; Joshua Smith, Principal Flute, The Cleveland Orchestra

Patron Growth, 2015 Edition: An Integrated Approach to Sales, Fundraising, and Loyalty (Two Day Seminar)

Taught by seasoned practitioners, Patron Growth, 2015 edition explored how to attract, incentivize, and earn a relationship with patrons; practical strategies for developing a robust patron base; constructive linkages between traditional marketing and development functions; assessment tools to evaluate underlying sales and fundraising; and the fundamentals to build patron loyalty and engagement.

View the PowerPoint presentation for this seminar.

Faculty:  Paul Hogle, executive vice president, Detroit Symphony Orchestra; David Snead, vice president of marketing, brand and customer experience, New York Philharmonic

Seminar for New Executive Directors 

You’re a new executive director, in your first couple of years on the job.  Not only are you navigating your way as the new CEO, but you are asked to be proficient in virtually every area of management, from fundraising and finance to board governance and human resources –and everything in between. This seminar offered an executive-level overview of the fundamentals of orchestra management to give new executive directors the skills to be effective leaders. Participants explored how orchestras are structured and how they function, as well as what is unique to their culture. Participants were also introduced to a number of best practices for working with board, staff, music directors, musicians, donors and community stakeholders. Attendees had the opportunity to share ideas and best practices, create practical take home action plans, and strengthen their collegial networks.

View the materials for this seminar.

Seminar Director: Melia P. Tourangeau, President & CEO, Utah Symphony/Utah Opera

Additional Faculty: Ross Binnie, Chief Marketing Officer, The Cleveland Orchestra; Dennis LaBarre, Board Chair, The Cleveland Orchestra; James Menger, Chief Financial Officer, The Cleveland Orchestra; Faith Noble, Controller, The Cleveland Orchestra;  Stacy Wilson Margolis, Vice President for Development, League of American Orchestras

Boards on Fire!

You need your board members to be strategic leaders, compelling ambassadors, and powerful fundraisers. This session explored obstacles in their way, and how to remove them, leaving participants with concrete, practical solutions that don’t cost any money, and don’t require any more time.

View the materials for this seminar.

Faculty: Susan Howlett, governance consultant and author of Boards on Fire! Inspiring Leaders to Raise Money Joyfully

Building a Culture that Values People, Places, and Purpose

In today’s changing environment, leaders must be adaptive and strategic thinkers, balancing long-term priorities while managing day-to-day concerns. Such times require that leaders act as agents of positive change, igniting creativity and innovation in their organizations. No matter what we do to put in place the best systems and thinking available to us, it is often the human factor that brings us up short. In complex organizations involving multiple stakeholders, how do we manage expectations, avoid burn-out, and handle conflict? How do we hire the right people for the right staff positions and hold on to them over time? And, most importantly, how do we leverage people’s talents and nurture a healthy organizational culture in order to propel our institutions forward productively?

View the PowerPoint presentation for this seminar.

Faculty: Anne Parsons, President and CEO, Detroit Symphony Orchestra; Pratichi Shah, Flourish Talent Management Solutions, LLC

Belief and Confidence: Creating an Environment in which Philanthropic Partnership Thrives

Everyone—including board members, staff, musicians, and volunteers—has an important role to play in building and sustaining a strong philanthropic culture throughout an organization. Engaging all stakeholders in this process is critical in building the belief and confidence necessary for productive philanthropic partnerships. Leaders from various orchestras shared their strategies and successes in developing long-term, effective fundraising efforts.

View the PowerPoint Presentation for this session.

Presenter & Moderator: Ron Schiller, Founding Partner, Aspen Leadership Group

Panelists: Scott Harrison, Vice President of Advancement and External Relations, Detroit Symphony Orchestra; Camille D. LaBarre, Managing Director, Metropolitan Opera; Henry Peyrebrune, Bass, The Cleveland Orchestra; Scott Showalter, President & CEO, Oregon Symphony

Building Bigger Pops Audiences

Orchestras are challenged to align pops programming with rapidly changing tastes. Yet some orchestras are finding success with new formats, new genres, and innovative presentation elements. These approaches have been successful in growing the pops audience. Our panel of artistic planners discussed what can make a successful pops season.

View the PowerPoint Presentation for this session.

Moderator: Shelly Fuerte, Popular Programming Consultant, SSF Consulting

Panelists: Andrew Kipe, Executive Director, Louisville Orchestra; Tommy Phillips, Director of Artistic Planning, San Diego Symphony; Heather Slater, Director of Artistic Planning, Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra; Carl Topilow, Music Director and Conductor, The Cleveland Pops Orchestra

Developing and Sustaining High Impact Community Engagement Programs

Music can serve as a powerful tool for addressing civic priorities. Yet effective community engagement practice requires orchestras to work in new ways—as artistic collaborators and facilitators of community creativity—and on long time horizons. This is true whether your orchestra is working with public schools, healthcare providers, community development corporations, tribal councils, or other agencies. This session explored relationship-building, co-design, and translation (between the arts and other fields) as key organizational and individual capacities to build when authentic community engagement is a goal.

View the PowerPoint Presentation for this session.

Speakers: Michael Rohd, Director, Center for Performance and Civic Practice; Shannon L. Scrofano, Director of Design, Center for Performance and Civic Practice

Recruiting, Developing, and Retaining Talent

Recruitment, development, and retention of talented personnel—from trustees to executive and artistic directors to staff and volunteers—are key determinants of organizational success. Yet orchestras devote few resources to talent development, and many underestimate the costs of turnover. This session explored strategies your orchestra can employ to improve its performance by developing and keeping good people.

View the PowerPoint presentation for this session.

Speaker: Pratichi Shah, Flourish Talent Management Solutions, LLC

Unleashing the Power of Collaboration

Teams in which all members strive toward a common goal are more successful. To that end, a number of orchestras are focusing on motivating musicians, artistic directors, staff, trustees, and volunteers to work together on an ongoing basis to secure their collective futures. We heard from members of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and The Cleveland Orchestra about what they have achieved thus far.

Moderator: John McCann, President, Partners in Performance

Panelists: Teddy Abrams, Music Director, Louisville Orchestra;  Phillip Wm. Fisher, Chairman, Detroit Symphony Orchestra; Gary Hanson, Executive Director, The Cleveland Orchestra;  Dennis LaBarre, Board President, The Cleveland Orchestra; Anne Parsons, President and CEO, Detroit Symphony Orchestra; Jack Sutte, Second Trumpet, The Cleveland Orchestra

Creating a Dream Board

Want to know how to recruit amazing leaders, retire others with grace, and get everyone on your board operating at a higher level? This session offered concrete tips for identifying, orienting, and sustaining extraordinary trustees you may not have realized you had access to before. 

View the materials for this session.

Speaker: Susan Howlett, Governance Consultant and Author of Boards on Fire! Inspiring Leaders to Raise Money Joyfully

Evaluating Impact

Sustaining and scaling community engagement and education programs supported by foundation and government funders requires not just delivering service but assessing outcomes. To do so well, data collection, evaluation, and reporting processes must be built into your programs from the beginning. In this session, participants explored what these activities require in terms of time, money, and expertise; how to integrate them into busy schedules and tight budgets; and why they are worth the investment.

View the Resource Guide for this session.

Speakers: Warren W. Hyer, Executive Director, Central Ohio Symphony; April Nelson, Staff Mediator, Delaware County Juvenile Court;  Lynne K. Schoenling, Magistrate, Delaware County Probate/Juvenile Court;  Dennie Palmer Wolf, Principal, WolfBrown

Driving Growth through Digital Innovation

Around the world, cultural institutions are forging bold new paths in digital culture. Among the results are larger and often younger audiences, deeper audience engagement, new community relationships, new revenue, renewed program vitality, and landmark artistic projects. We unpacked findings from a new study, Like, Link, Share: How Cultural Institutions are Embracing Digital Technology, which includes research on such organizations at the San Francisco Symphony, New York Philharmonic and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Lessons learned are relevant to orchestras of every size.

View the Like, Link, Share Study

View the PowerPoint Presentation for this session.

View the materials for this session.

Moderator: Sarah Lutman, Principal, Lutman & Associates

Panelists: Jane Alexander, Chief Information Officer, The Cleveland Museum of Art; Scott Harrison, Vice President of Advancement and External Relations, Detroit Symphony Orchestra;  Luke Ritchie, Head of Digital, Philharmonia Orchestra

Diversity Progress Report: Learn from Your Peers

The League’s Diversity Work Group has been studying the factors that contribute to low diversity within American orchestras and developing strategies, tactics, and tools that orchestras can employ—independently and collectively—to begin to move the dial.

Detroit Symphony Orchestra: A Case Study

Houston Symphony Orchestra: A Case Study

Chicago Sinfonietta: A Case Study

Speakers: Mark Hanson, Executive Director & CEO, Houston Symphony; Jim Hirsch, Executive Director, Chicago Sinfonietta; Carmen Morgan, Diversity and Inclusion Consultant; Anne Parsons, President & CEO, Detroit Symphony Orchestra

New Music for New Audiences: Connecting Ideas with Communities

Living composers can take us anywhere with their music. Giving voice to their visions on our stages is essential to the continued vitality of the art form. And, the creation and presentation of new music provides orchestras with authentic avenues for reaching new audiences and connecting with community. A panel of distinguished composers and administrators reflected on important aesthetic developments in American composition and how new work is playing an integral role in developing new audiences.

View the reading materials for this session.

Moderator: Daniel Bernard Roumain, Composer/Performer/Arts Administrator, Sozo Artists

Panelists: Elena Dubinets, Vice President of Artistic Planning, Seattle Symphony;  Clint Needham, Composer in Residence/Assistant Professor of Music, Conservatory of Music at Baldwin Wallace University; Paola Prestini, Composer

Check This Out: Innovations from Across the Field

This session featured snapshot presentations on innovative projects that you may replicate or adapt for your organization. It included multiple strands of orchestral endeavors, from audience building and artistic projects, to development and marketing, education and community engagement, and technology.

View the Project Descriptions for this session.

Presenters: Meghan Berneking, Director of Communications, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra; Eric Booth, President, Everyday Arts Inc., Elaine Cousins, Volunteer and Board Member/Vice President for Education and Community Engagement, Illinois Symphony Orchestra Guild of Bloomington-Normal; David Fisk, Executive Director, Richmond Symphony; Brenda Nienhouse, Executive Director, Spokane Symphony; Luke Ritchie, Digital Director, Philharmonia Orchestra; Todd Vigil, Director of Marketing, The Phoenix Symphony

How Well Financed is Your Orchestra?

Orchestras that are properly capitalized have the cash to do what they want to do when they want to do it. This session, led by Susan Nelson of TDC, helped participants explore where they stood and how to recognize whether they are undercapitalized or have a business model problem; how to conduct an honest appraisal of the bottom line; and how to understand your orchestra’s financial challenges more fully.

View the PowerPoint presentation for this session.

Susan Nelson, Principal, Technical Development Corporation

Making Music that Matters

The creation and presentation of great music is central to orchestras’ work. We are driven to share this music with others because we have experienced its transformative power. Yet to many Americans, our music seems irrelevant. Can the artistic choices we make—about what music to create and perform, when and where to play, and for and with whom—change their minds? Across the country, some orchestras are experimenting with using music to help communities address complex challenges by giving voice to the concerns of marginalized populations, expressing wonder at the beauty of the natural world, helping addicts recover from substance abuse, and more. This session offered strategies for helping the communities we serve leverage the power of live orchestral music to address complex challenges.

View the PowerPoint presentation for this session.

Speaker: Jesse Rosen, President and CEO, League of American Orchestras

Panelists: Delta David Gier, Music Director, South Dakota Symphony Orchestra; Sherri Prentiss, Vice President of Marketing, Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra & May Festival;  Mark Williams, Director of Artistic Planning, The Cleveland Orchestra

The Public Benefits and Value of Arts and Culture

In 2014, Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, Northeastern Ohio’s public arts agency, commissioned a study of the public benefits of arts and culture. Public funding for the arts depends on a broad recognition of a positive return on public investment. Not surprisingly, the research found that the arts and culture do generate substantial public benefits. It also found, though, that public value is not a static concept: it grows from individuals’ private experiences. Most significantly, the study found that shifts in cultural participation and in regional demographics provide a significant opportunity to help grow the value that all community residents derive from and ascribe to the arts by reinventing and expanding the roles arts organizations play in making communities more vital and lives more meaningful.

What are the challenges and opportunities that these shifts imply for orchestras eager to create value for audiences? What roles do board members, staff members, conductors and musicians need to play to keep orchestras connected to these core issues? How do we help orchestras navigate these changes successfully? This was a lively discussion about how this public value orientation plays out with artists, board members, and the public at large.

View the PowerPoint Presentation for this session.

View materials for this session.

Speakers: Karen Gahl-Mills, Executive Director, Cuyahoga Arts & Culture; Kjristine Lund, Board Member, Seattle Symphony & Principal, Lund Consulting, Inc.; Nick Rabkin, Principal, reMaking Culture

Constituency Meetings

Artistic Administrators

Materials: Presentation - Shana Mathur

Board Members

Materials: Bolstering Orchestral RelevanceConstructive Board Culture Presentation, Presentation - Kjristine LundPresentation – Susan Nelson


Materials: Patron Growth Presentation, Art of The Ask Presentation

Education and Community Engagement

Materials: Program Development Presentation

Executive Directors, Group 1

Materials: Patron Growth Presentation

Executive Directors, Group 2

Materials: Patron Growth Presentation, Integrated Media Agreement Presentation, Leading Change Presentation - Group 2

Executive Directors, Group 3-4

Materials: Patron Growth Presentation, Strengthening Board Engagement, Leading Change Presentation - Groups 3-4

Executive Directors Group 5-6

Materials: Patron Growth Presentation, Leading Change Presentation - Groups 5-6

Executive Directors Group 7-8

Materials: Thriving through Personal Leadership Presentation

Marketing, Groups 1-2

Materials:  Integrated Media Agreement PresentationPatron Growth Presentation, Presentation - Shana Mathur

Marketing Groups 3-8

Materials: Patron Growth Presentation, Creating an Emergency Response Plan

Public Relations

Materials: Integrated Media Agreement Presentation, Creating an Emergency Response Plan

Youth Orchestras/College

Materials: HR for Small Shops, Leading Change - Youth


Gold Book Awards:

Youth Leadership Council

Sharp Flat Loft Tours

Symphony in Flowers

Guild 101

Intermezzo Candelight Tour

Sky Ball Wine Pull

Scouting and Symphony: A Partnership:


Milestone Achievements Panel:

The Emerald City Soiree

Symphony Ball 2013 Concerto a Venezia

Houston Symphony Centennial Ball


New Members to Future Leaders – Secure Your Organization’s Future Leaders Here! (Board Game):

Membership Board Game

Membership Board Game – Develop Cards

Membership Board Game – Engage Cards

Membership Board Game – Mentor Cards

Membership Board Game – Potpourri Cards

Membership Board Game – Recruit Cards

Membership Board Game Instruction Sheet

Membership Board Game Handout


For a full list of sessions and Conference related materials, visit

Who attended Conference 2015? View a list of delegates by organization or last name.