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Essentials Curriculum

Led by prominent leaders inside and beyond the orchestra field, the curriculum explores all aspects of orchestra administration and the changing nature of orchestras. Essentials also addresses the new values, roles, and practices that are emerging as orchestras evolve, particularly in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and calls for racial justice of the past two years. Participants gain an understanding of what constitutes essential work in each of the functional areas of orchestra management in an environment that encourages robust interrogation of norms in our field and new thinking about the future.

Orchestras are focusing more and more on authentic engagement with broad civic concerns, and the art form is increasingly drawing upon today’s rich and varied cultural currents to connect with coming generations of audiences. Essentials, therefore, explores not only traditional aspects of leadership, strategy, and governance, but also examines community and equity in its many dimensions as well as orchestras’ need to address changing demographics and societal attitudes.

Essentials will introduce participants to the real-life opportunities and challenges that orchestras face today and highlight the creative, adaptive, and community-oriented skills that leaders need to help move their organizations and the field forward. The course includes a capstone true-to-life role-play exercise to work as a member of a team to conduct research, develop strategies, make decisions, and present to faculty. 

As graduates of Essentials, participants will be able to:

  • Demonstrate basic knowledge of core business and operating practices in American orchestras 
  • Use critical thinking skills to identify and analyze key strategic challenges of the field 
  • Thrive in an environment of competing imperatives and multiple stakeholders 
  • Increase their understanding and awareness of critical issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion in the orchestra field
  • Express a deep commitment to the value and purpose of orchestras in our communities
  • Develop and apply emergent and responsive leadership skills to engage others and collaborate in problem solving
  • Build strong relationships with a wide range of constituents, including staff teams, musicians, patrons, donors, and the general public
  • Advance orchestras as diverse and inclusive organizations, while fulfilling their unique role in the cultural context of their communities
  • Deepen knowledge of, and appreciation for, orchestral repertoire and performances 
  • Listen to music with discerning ears and speak about music with deeper understanding and insight
  • Cultivate a network of peers, mentors, and resources for continued professional development 
  • Receive a non-credit Juilliard Extension certificate upon completion

Led by a faculty of currently active orchestra executives and leadership experts, the seminar addresses both theory and practice, integrating the faculty’s extensive practical experience and professional knowledge in the course curriculum. Topics will include:

  • Artistic Leadership Models
  • Artistic Planning
  • Development and Fundraising
  • Digital and Electronic Media
  • Education and Community Engagement
  • Environment and Role of Orchestras in America 
  • Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion
  • Finance 
  • Governance
  • Human Resources
  • Leadership
  • Listening to Music
  • Marketing and Communications
  • Musicians’ Careers
  • Operations
  • Smaller-budget Orchestras
  • Strategy
  • Unions and Negotiations  
  • Youth Orchestras

Additional core activities include visits with prominent artists and musicians, concert attendance, and excursions to Carnegie Hall and David Geffen Hall.

Essentials of Orchestra Management is made possible by generous grants from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.


Banner: 2018 Essentials of Orchestra Management Seminar. Photo: Agibail R. Collins Photography.

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