Blogging the 2011 League Conference: A Tricky Balancing Act

Drew Hemenger
Photo by Lucille Colin

I’ve been asked to blog for a few days from the League of American Orchestra’s conference in Minneapolis with the idea that my perspective as both artist manager and composer might prove interesting. I landed about two hours ago and am typing this up before heading to bed and a full schedule of meetings tomorrow. I have to admit that wearing both of these hats can be a bit tricky at times, as I must first and foremost make sure I am meeting my obligations as a manager. This involves meeting with as many orchestra artistic administrators, executive directors, and conductors as possible, in order to discuss and promote the quite wonderful roster of conductors and instrumental soloists we represent (e.g. we have two string quartets also, but that doesn’t really apply to this conference). So, outside of the meetings and manning the booth in the exhibit hall, I don’t have a lot of time for workshops and sessions, but I do manage to get to a few things and the host city orchestra concerts are always fun and interesting events as well.

I honestly don’t remember how many of these I’ve been to, but I think San Francisco sometime around 2002 was my first one. I tend to remember them by how good the food is at the Tune-Up Party, which follows the orchestra concert, usually on the opening night of the conference—I guess I’m a typical composer in that sense! There were two stand-outs: Washington, D.C., where we ate hors d’oeuvres and drank fabulous cocktails overlooking the Potomac—beautiful—and then there was Nashville. The new Schermerhorn Symphony Center had just opened (I think it was around 2005), which is a huge Greek-revival structure with a modern concert hall where the stage is surrounded by the audience (it reminded me vaguely of Berlin or Disney in this sense) with really quite lovely sound. But back to the food—they do things big in Nashville and their party was really something else. They had food everywhere, bands playing inside and out on various levels, cheese, fruit, chocolate, champagne…endless. I loved it! So, we will see what Minneapolis has in store for us in that regard. And of course there is also the Minnesota Orchestra; I’m looking forward to that, too.

Highlights of my schedule this week from a composer’s perspective include the opening session tomorrow, titled “Creating an Environment for Innovation” with the VP of research at 3M, Katie Wyatt, founder of an “El Sistema”-like program in South Carolina and Deborah Borda, CEO of the LA Phil. I’m also going to a toolbox session on 3D sound on Wednesday (I might change my mind at the last minute, but that’s the current plan) and a session called “Creating a Passionate Environment for New Music” with John Nuechterlein, president of ACF, Stephen Paulus, and Jesse Rosen, president of the Orchestra League, on Thursday. I’m hoping to catch up with Stephen Paulus for coffee sometime this week, as I haven’t seen him in ages, and he always has amazing information to share with me every time I see him.

As a composer, I try to network as much as possible with conductors and also occasionally let orchestra administrators know what I’m up to creatively, when appropriate. Again, it’s a bit tricky, but we composers have to promote ourselves when the opportunity presents itself, because no one else is going to do it for us.

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