April 2014



The 3% Solution

Oct 10, 2008

Today’s blog is submitted by musician and writer, Rashida Black. 

In his recent blog, Chicago Sinfonietta Executive Director Jim Hirsch wrote about his support of the mission of the Sphinx Organization.  Jim noted that Sphinx actively promotes diversity and inclusiveness in classical music and that it's "not our field's favorite topic... based on the national statistics that show less than 3% of orchestral musicians being people of color."  That's where I'd like to jump in to mention the many organizations, some of which are under the radar, that acknowledge the racial disparities and that are trying to do something about it. Like the Chicago Sinfonietta...

Just briefly, I'll point out youth programs like The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's Talent Development Program , which prepared many of Sphinx's top performers over the past decade. There are larger organizations and festivals including the Soulful Symphony in Baltimore and the Gateways Music Festival that showcase Black and Latino talent and nurture their careers. There are web sites like Bill Zick's and my own,, which advocate, promote and educate the general public on the subject. I'm just scratching at the surface of who is working to raise that 3%. We live the 3%. We also acknowledge the fact that many who can do something about it simply don't want to do something about it, which is why we've stepped up to the plate.

So, in an effort to "do something about it," the Myrtle Hart Society is raising funds and awareness through its first benefit featuring The Boys Choir of Kenya to be held at 6:30 pm on Monday, October 13 at the G. R. N'Namdi Gallery located at 110 North Peoria, Chicago. 

Sphinx in Chicago

Sep 30, 2008

I normally shy away from writing blatant commercials about events that the Chicago Sinfonietta is involved with.  However, the Saturday, October 4th performance of the Sphinx Chamber Orchestra at the Harris Theater at 7:30 pm is a happy exception for a couple of reasons.

First, I passionately support the mission of Sphinx, which like the Chicago Sinfonietta, works diligently to promote diversity and inclusiveness in classical music.  Yes, I know this is not our field’s favorite topic – and based on the national statistics that show less than 3% of orchestral musicians being people of color – not one that most of us even want to acknowledge, much less try to do something about.  Sphinx identifies and nurtures very talented young, minority musicians, and the Sphinx Chamber Orchestra is made up of the best of these players.

Second, you can attend this concert for $5.  An evening of great music for $5?  You can’t beat that with a conductor’s baton!

Finally, it’s great to see the Harris Theater taking an active role as a presenter of classical music.  The Sinfonietta is proud to collaborate with them on this concert.  You can get more information by visiting their website at

Venue Envy

Aug 31, 2008

Since we last shared this space, the Chicago Sinfonietta presented its debut performance at Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion.  Having attended a number of Grant Park Music Festival concerts in the past, I was familiar with the venue.  But I have to confess, seeing our orchestra on stage at this magnificent venue was a blast!  We had over 10,000 people in attendance despite the threat of rain all day.  A few thoughts.

The sound system at the Pritzker is truly amazing.  Rick Talaske’s group has created a state-of-the-art sound system for a state-of-the-art venue.  Sightlines are great, the setting is dramatic, and what a fantastic centerpiece this venue provides in the heart of the city!  We are grateful to Jim Palermo and the people at GPMF for their generous assistance, though we are a little envious that they get to perform there all summer long.

There are some faults, as well.  There is a great deal of ambient noise, especially the sirens that seem to cut through almost anything the orchestra is playing.  It also seems that some of the lawn seats might not have the greatest of sightlines.  Having said that, Pritzker Pavilion is an incredible asset for the city and we were proud to have been invited to play.

One final quick plug.  The Chicago Sinfonietta will broadcast its season preview on WFMT 98.7 FM on Saturday, September 6th from 10 –noon.  Tune in to hear Maestro Paul Freeman and yours truly discuss the 08-09 season.

What Does a Horse Have to do with Classical Music?

Jul 31, 2008

A friend sent me a link to an interesting blog written by Amanda Ameer entitled, “Someone, please just bring the water to the horse”.  This fun-to-read, thought-provoking blog is about how orchestras can do a better job of marketing events to younger consumers.  Think of it as our field’s Holy Grail.  

I think you will enjoy reading this even if you are not an orchestra marketing director.  I’d love to get your take on her conclusions so please return to our site and leave a comment after reading Amanda’s blog, and maybe share some ideas you might have.  Enjoy!

Rocky Mountain High

Jun 23, 2008

I was in Denver last week for the League of American Orchestras annual conference.  The League meetings are always a treat and this one had some great highlights including a killer keynote address by Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great, a moving presentation by El Sistema creator, José Antonio Abreu, and an emotional farewell to the League’s retiring CEO, Henry Fogel.

The Collins presentation was particularly useful as he has created a not-for-profit version of his best-selling business book that is widely available.  I highly recommend this for anyone involved with a not-for-profit.

One short comment on Maestro Abreu.  It is clear to me why he has been able to develop what might be the most successful orchestra education program to be found anywhere in the world.  I simply can’t imagine anyone ever saying no to him.  In case some of you haven’t seen this, this is a YouTube clip of the Simon Bolivar Orchestra (the best players from El Sistema) under the baton on Dudamel.

Finally, Henry Fogel presided over his final LOA conference.  Henry has done an amazing job as CEO of the League and all of us in the orchestral world owe him big time.  Thanks Henry!!

I’m off for a few weeks but will be looking for items of interest for this blog on all of the golf courses I plan on visiting.