Monday night marked the final concert of my eighteenth season with the Oregon Symphony. It’s been a year of marked contrasts for both myself and the orchestra. The orchestra is sounding very, very good. Make no mistake about that. We made a strong debut at Seattle’s Benaroya Hall. We are playing difficult and little-known works with confidence and aplomb. Guest conductors and soloists continue to be pleasantly surprised by our quality.
Morale seems to be ebbing after the high point of our Carnegie Hall debut two years ago. I am most aware of this from the standpoint of the musicians, but I feel as though it may be an issue with the rest of the institution as well. The orchestra had an expensive, but inconclusive, search for a new president to succeed Elaine Calder. No word on when a replacement might be found. Cost pressures are high – and are starting to directly affect artistic quality and decision-making. My question, both for myself and for the orchestra: what next?
Where are we headed? I’m turning 45 this September. I’m at the classic point for having a mid-life ‘crisis’. I’m examining what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, and looking for alternatives, if they exist. If they don’t, then I’m looking at ways to accomplish the same goals in novel ways that keep me interested and engaged. When I turn 65 (and no doubt will not be ready to retire yet), I’ll have been playing in a professional orchestra for 38 years. Will the Oregon Symphony still exist as a full-time orchestra then? How many music directors, presidents, and boards will have served by then? What will our audiences look like? Will there be comprehensive music education programs in the Portland Public Schools? Will I still love music? Will I even still be able to play in an orchestra? Lots of questions, not many answers.
I’m proud of the Classical Up Close concerts the musicians of the orchestra put on this year. I think that it has done immeasurable good in terms of giving our audiences human faces to go with the roster of members of the orchestra, and us in getting to know our audiences better. I don’t know what plans are for future iterations of this series, but I hope that it continues past this year.
This summer brings four festivals for me – three orchestral and one chamber music. I’m not sure if I’ll be any more rested when I return for my 19th season, but I hope that I’ll continue to be enthusiastic, capable, and clearheaded when I do. Have a great summer!