Virginia Tech to facilitate dialogue among orchestra leaders

by Sherry Bithell

Virginia Tech is once again on the cutting edge. And this time, it's in the arts.

Symphony orchestra representatives from Cleveland, St. Louis, Seattle, New Jersey, Kansas City, Richmond, and Toledo visited Virginia Tech recently for the first in a series of forums to help them remain vital to their communities. Tech's Arts Management Institute (AMI) is facilitating the forums through a $593,450 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Musicians, administrators, and trustees from the orchestras are participating in the forums, the first of which was held at Mountain Lake in October.

In 1997, the Mellon Foundation conducted an Orchestra Forum to ask practitioners in the field about their concerns and determine how the foundation could best help orchestras. Based on the results of the study, the grant will enable the AMI to conduct discussions on the role of musicians in their orchestras, the orchestra's role in the community, and ways to make their musical programs more compelling for today's audiences. The forums will let peers discuss these concerns in an informal setting. "We hope things illuminated there will be applicable to other people," says Catherine Wichterman of the Mellon Foundation.
John McCann, director of the AMI and Tech's graduate program in arts administration, says the institute's experience in advising not-for-profit arts organizations for almost 20 years will allow it to take a comprehensive look at the ways in which orchestras and their audiences have changed over the past few decades. Based on this research, the institute will work with forum participants to develop strategies and policies for success in today's more competitive environment.

To supplement this new approach the institute has discussed bringing in Tech faculty from other fields. Prospective speakers for future sessions in cultural policy and organizational practice include university experts from a number of disciplines, including architecture, systems engineering, philosophy, and sociology. "It's vital that you get a number of perspectives when you're trying to meet a community's needs," says McCann. "Our ultimate goal is to help produce a set of 'healthier' organizations around the country."

McCann's eight on-campus graduate students also will benefit from the grant, which will give them the opportunity to meet and frequently work closely with leaders of large orchestras. In that way, they can observe the "real world" applications of what they learn in the classroom.

In the two succeeding years, the grant allows for the number of orchestras to increase to 10 and then to 15.

Sherry Bithell is manager of development communications.

The following new members of the Ut Prosim Society were inadvertently omitted from the fall issue of the Virginia Tech Magazine. The office of university development wishes to express appreciation for the generosity of these contributors.
Walter G. Adams
L. C. Angle Jr. and Mary Lou Angle
R. Sidney and Carole W. Barrett
Richard L. and Marie Bidwell
the late C. Conway Candler Jr.
Gary P. and Cindy M. Clisham
Hardin Cox
Robert and Lucille Cruise
John R. and Katherine S. Dawkins
John and Connie DeBell

The Toledo Symphony sent a representative to attend the arts forum hosted by Virginia Tech.

Home | News | Features | Athletics | Alumni | Classnotes | Editor's Page