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The League of American Orchestras’ 74th National Conference placed music, musicians, and community at the heart of its programming. Hosted by the Nashville Symphony, the Conference took place June 3-5, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. The Conference highlighted field-wide advances in equity, diversity, and inclusion and focused on the centrality of music, culture, and collective action in orchestras. “Orchestras are reimagining mission, meaning, and the future of the art form,” said League of American Orchestras President and CEO Jesse Rosen. “With the theme MUSIC CentriCITY, this year’s Conference is inspired by Nashville’s historic role as Music City and reflects the vital role our host, the Nashville Symphony, plays in the cultural fabric of the city.”

Approximately 1,000 orchestra stakeholders—managers, musicians, trustees, volunteers, and business partners—attended the Conference, which took place at the Omni Hotel and at the Nashville Symphony’s home, Schermerhorn Symphony Center.

Keynote speakers reflected the 2019 Conference’s focus on music, musicians, and community. At the Opening Plenary, Nashville Symphony Music Director Giancarlo Guerrero shared his personal and artistic journey, leading delegates on an exploration of what it means to be an orchestra in America today. At the League’s Annual Meeting and Luncheon, Phoenix Symphony Principal Clarinet Alex Laing, a thought leader in the orchestra field, examined the nature of the art form and the dialogue between musicians and audiences. Composer Joan Tower received the Gold Baton, the League’s highest honor, given annually for distinguished service to America’s orchestras. At the Closing Plenary, composer and conductor Tania León, founding artistic director of Composers Now, discussed the progress orchestras have made supporting equity for composers and how the interplay of cultures expands creative possibility.

Orchestra musicians were recognized for their positive impact on their communities when the League presented Ford Musician Awards for Excellence in Community Service to Victoria Griswold, violin, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra; Jeff Handley, principal percussion, Chicago Sinfonietta; Rebecca Patterson, principal cello, New Haven Symphony Orchestra; Donna Parkes, principal trombone, Louisville Orchestra; and Rebecca Young, associate principal viola, New York Philharmonic. The awards are supported by Ford Motor Company Fund.

Conference sessions highlighted innovative thinking and timely relevance, with topics including Preparing the Orchestra Culture for Lasting Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Work, Creating a Culture of Respect in the Era of #MeToo, Going Beyond Sensory-Friendly Concerts: How to Represent Your Audience on Stage, and Engaging the LGBTQ+ Community. Other sessions highlighted best practices and emerging trends in marketing, new music, philanthropy, volunteerism, board membership, and tax policy. Some sessions took a multifaceted approach: New Strategies for Success in Audience Research and Development, for example, combined research from The Wallace Foundation’s Building Audiences for Sustainability initiative with a report from Aubrey Bergauer, then executive director of the California Symphony, about how that orchestra successfully rethought its engagement with audiences.

For more on the League’s 2019 National Conference, including videos, resources, and presentations, visit (member login required).

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