Think Crescendo, Not Diminuendo
by Meghan Berneking
Think Crescendo, Not Diminuendo
The Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra’s 2015-16 season opens on one of its highest notes in recent memory. The spring and summer months came with two game-changing organizational announcements that are setting up the Orchestra to engage audiences and community in monumental ways throughout the season and beyond.
In May came the dual announcement of the conclusion of a successful $26 million endowment campaign, along with an exceptional new five-year contract with the Cincinnati Musicians Association, Local 1, American Federation of Musicians. The New York Times reported, “The orchestra world is all too familiar with vicious cycles of mounting deficits, dwindling audiences, difficulty raising money and cuts. But at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, things are moving happily in the opposite direction: think crescendo, not diminuendo.” (For more details on this announcement, see page 6.)
Less than two months after the endowment and contract announcement, the Orchestra received news that the CSO and University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) were the recipients of a $900,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Responding to a need among American orchestras and professional music conservatories, which face issues of under representation, the CSO/CCM Diversity Fellowship Program aims to develop young, graduate-level musicians from underrepresented populations and prepare them for the professional orchestra world.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reported, “The idea began simmering a few years ago, when [CCM Dean Peter] Landgren and [CSO President Trey] Devey discussed the increased opportunities for younger musicians in underserved communities, such as MYCincinnati in Price Hill, a free orchestra program for youngsters based on Venezuela’s revolutionary El Sistema program. But they realized there was a gap in training and mentorship when it came to preparing to enter the professional world of orchestral music.
“One only has to look around at those who attend conservatories and participate in or are members of orchestras that we are not representative of our communities. This is such an important issue and one that neither of us felt we could address on our own, but working collaboratively we could make an impact. We see there being a real gap between the pre-professional and the professional space, and one that we felt we were well-positioned to address,” said Mr. Devey in an interview with WWFM.
Fellows will consist of graduate level string musicians who are simultaneously enrolled in CCM’s master’s or artist diploma degree programs. They will perform five weeks per season with the CSO in a progressive sequence of concert weeks based on program difficulty, with one week focused on community engagement and educational activities.
“I go back to my own student experience because I’m not only the dean of CCM but I’m an alum of the college. I was a French horn major there. It was a year and a half into my studies when I got my first opportunity to play with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and literally my first year of education was doubled in the week that I got to be down on the stage of Music Hall with 100 professional musicians. That type of acceleration of one’s educational learning is what we’re really hoping to capture in this experience for these Fellows,” said Mr. Landgren for WWFM.
Fellows will be provided with a unique support system built on intensive professional mentorship. In addition to the community formed with other Fellows, they will receive focused mentorship by CSO musicians, which includes coaching sessions prior to a rehearsal cycle, ongoing stand partner coaching throughout rehearsal weeks and post-performance feedback. There will also be structured time for non-performance related mentorship such as career counseling and audition preparation. “This community is really going to help them grow,” said Mr. Landgren. Additionally, Fellows will receive a CCM Fellowship Stipend and one-time Graduate Dean’s Excellence Award, with opportunities for additional performing and non-performing community engagement activities through CCM, eight career development seminars, including mock auditions, and full tuition scholarships.
The CSO’s previous successful collaborations with CCM exhibit the deep commitment both institutions have to inclusiveness while elevating the cultural scene in the Queen City and beyond. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s performing arts program provides multi-year grants on an invitation-only basis. This Diversity Fellowship Program is industry-leading and the first of its kind that involves a major American orchestra and a major conservatory.
These high notes serve as catalysts as the Orchestra enters another season full of pristine artistry, world-renowned guest artists and bold experimentation. As the momentum grows and inspiring moments both large and small crop up, the Orchestra’s determination for greatness will continue to make waves in Cincinnati and around the world.
In May, longtime CSO and Pops supporter Edyth B. Lindner and her children pledged $10 million to the revitalization of historic Music Hall. The transformational gift launched a public campaign to secure the final funds necessary to begin long-awaited construction. The Lindner Family’s generosity toward the project stems from years of joyful memories experiencing CSO and Pops performances in the hall, and a desire that future generations have the same opportunities for unforgettable experiences in one of Cincinnati’s grandest architectural and cultural treasures.