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NSO: country roads

20 down, 30 to go. The National Symphony Orchestra has announced the next state it will visit on the series of American Residencies it began in 1992: in April, 2010, the orchestra will spend a week in West Virginia.

Iván Fischer, the NSO's principal conductor, will lead the orchestra in six concerts of Bernstein (three dance episodes from "On the Town"), Mozart (the "Prague" symphony) and Dvorák (the 8th symphony) in cities and towns all over the state, from Wheeling to Charleston. The orchestra will also play a young people's concert under the direction of its associate conductor, Emil de Cou.
(read more after the jump)

The orchestra is currently working out with administrators in West Virginia the details of the workshops, chamber concerts, classroom visits, lessons and master classes that represent a core part of the residency concept. The NSO will also commission a chamber music work from a West Virginia composer to be played at the Kennedy Center; select a local music teacher for a professional-development program in Washington; and choose up to six local students to participate in the orchestra's annual Summer Music Institute.

The residencies -- which began in Alaska, and have since gone from Maine to Louisiana, the Dakotas to the Carolinas -- are mainly funded by the Kennedy Center and the U.S. Department of Education. The idea is to reach out and bring music to underserved areas on the one hand, and to celebrate those areas and give them a voice in the country's national orchestra on the other.

It's a laudable goal, and perhaps the most visible aspect of whatever mandate the orchestra has as the national orchestra of a country that has other, better orchestras to present on international tours. It's also a unique project, and the musicians reportedly enjoy the interaction and dialogue with communities (as Fischer observed after the last residency in Arkansas earlier this year). And while it's easy to be flip about what will happen when the orchestra runs out of less affluent states to visit and starts bringing classical music to, say, the verdant suburbs of Connecticut, the truth is that there is probably not a state in the Union that couldn't benefit from this kind of outreach and attention in at least some of its counties and towns and inner cities, regardless of whatever other orchestras might be available.

By Anne Midgette  |  December 3, 2009; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  news  
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Comments

Has there been any effort to asses the impact of these visits from a long-term perspective since their start in '92?
Or is it acceptable if they are just flash-in-the-pan type events?

Posted by: kashe | December 4, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Interesting question, kashe. The thing that is intriguing about the NSO's approach is the "residency" aspect - the fact that they stay a while and engage in broad-ranging education and outreach activities. One hopes that this would serve as a kind of catalyst for sustainable change. What metrics would you suggest for measuring the impact, and who should be measured? The general population (higher classical recording sales?)? Institutions (higher enrollment at music schools? Capacity growth at regional orchestras?)?

Posted by: sdeec | December 7, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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