Home
Loading
  Contact Us    
The Business Behind The Musicians Of Tomorrow

Youth orchestras are becoming as big of a business as their sports oriented counterparts.

by Drew McManus
June 6, 2005

Bookmark and Share
The Business Behind The Musicians Of Tomorrow
If you talk to most professional classical musicians and ask them where they gained the bulk of their performing experience before attending college you'll likely have them telling you what it was like growing up in their respective youth orchestras.
 
Over the past several years, youth orchestras have exhibited reverse trends to their professional counterparts. Whereas many professional orchestras are forced into scaled back artistic offerings and shorter seasons, youth orchestras are bursting at the seams. Many suburban areas are even forming their own youth orchestras separate from the traditional groups associated with the neighboring metropolitan centers.
 
How big of a business are youth orchestras? I examined the tax returns for 13 youth orchestras and the average annual budget for those organizations was $538,290:
 
Organization
Annual Budget
Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras
 $          939,139
Denver Young Artists Orchestra
 $          435,640
Greater Baltimore Youth Orchestra
 $          241,242
Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras
 $       1,043,488
Greater Dallas Youth Orchestras
 $          362,296
Greater Twin Cities Youth Orchestra
 $          613,763
Louisville Youth Orchestra
 $          250,884
(Northern Virginia) American Youth Philharmonic
 $          359,872
Oakland Youth Orchestra
 $          178,357
(Oregon) Metropolitan Youth Symphony
 $          372,906
Philadelphia Youth Orchestra
 $          225,309
Vermont Youth Orchestra Association
 $          511,714
Youth Orchestra of the Americas
 $       1,463,161
 
Each organization maintains a variety of ensembles to accommodate elementary through high school age students. Some organizations, such as the Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras, give performances on 12 different dates from multiple ensembles throughout the course of a single season; that's more concerts than smaller budget professional orchestras perform during their respective "masterworks series".
 
Most organizations hire a few professional conductors and one to several full and/or part time administrative employees. In Boston, their executive director (the ranking administrative manager) earns $109,000 per year running that youth organization. That's more than many executive directors earn at professional orchestras with budgets that are two to four times that of the Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras.
 
In Northern Virginia, their youth orchestra executive director earns $52,800 per year, which is almost $17,000 more than the executive director for the Arlington Symphony Orchestra, a professional orchestra with a similar size budget serving the same area as the youth orchestra.
 
Youth orchestras are even managing to have a more professional look to the interactive component of their organization as compared to their professional counterparts. The websites for the youth orchestras in Chicago, Boston, and Vermont are lovely. They maintain a more refined look, are easier to navigate, and have more information then many professional orchestras with much larger administrative budgets.
 
It doesn't take much to see that these organizations have become educational powerhouses in their respective communities. All of this growth inevitably leads toward more children having a greater exposure to a high quality classical music educational experience, which is certainly a good thing.
 
Where will all of this lead?
 
With all of this growth and expanded opportunities among youth organizations, why are professional orchestras are having such a hard time right now? Shouldn't there be an increased interest in the professional orchestra serving cities where the youth orchestras are thriving? One answer may have to do with the inherent disconnect between professional orchestras and these independently operated youth organizations. 
 
For example, although most youth orchestras attempt to hire musicians form their respective local professional orchestra to run sectional coachings, etc. there isn't a great deal of contact between the two organizations. Ideally, it would make sense for professional orchestras to focus marketing efforts toward the families connected with the youth orchestras. Consequently, the youth orchestras should have an innate interest in seeing more of their community actively support the professional ensemble; it should be a win-win scenario but usually isn't.
 
In order to take better advantage of this situation, some professional orchestras have established youth orchestras as a component of their organization, such as the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra. The youth orchestra rehearses and performs in the same hall as the San Francisco Symphony and is conducted by the San Francisco Symphony's Resident Conductor.
 
As a matter of fact, several prominent and upcoming music directors began their careers leading youth orchestras such as; former San Francisco Youth Symphony conductor Jahja Ling (currently the music director for the San Diego Symphony), former Denver Young Artists Orchestra conductor David Lockington (currently the music director for the Grand Rapids Symphony), and former Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra conductor Eckart Preu (currently the music director for the Spokane Symphony Orchestra).
 
Ideally, it would be better for all of classical music if youth orchestras and professional orchestras shared a much tighter bond than currently exists in order to capitalize on creating a larger core audience. At least one of the orchestra listed above, the Greater Baltimore Youth Orchestra, has the following declaration as part of their mission statement,
"Foster a greater appreciation for classical music in the students and their audience."
In the end, you should take the time to investigate what your local youth orchestras offer and see how much of what they do is related to the world of professional classical music. You might be surprised at what you'll learn.

Comments (1)


Post a Comment

Garth Trinkl from Washington, D.C., Berkeley, CA and Lviv, Ukraine writes:
June 6, 2005
As a matter of fact, several prominent and upcoming music directors began their careers leading youth orchestras such as - former San Francisco Youth Symphony conductor Jahja Ling (currently the music director for the San Diego Symphony), former Denver Young Artists Orchestra conductor David Lockington (currently the music director for the Grand Rapids Symphony), and former Richmond Symphony Youth Orchestra conductor Eckart Preu (currently the music director for the Spokane Symphony Orchestra).


Drew, I don't know whether it was an oversight, or simply whether you were trying to highlight some other highly gifted, emerging American conductors - but leading American conductor Kent Nagano spent four seasons -- 1981 to 1985 -- serving as the music director of my former youth orchestra -- the Oakland Youth Orchestra, in California. As you know, Kent has been the Music Director, or Music-Director designate, of such organizations, around the world, as the Los Angeles Opera, the Symphony Orchestra of Berlin, the Lyon Opera, the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, and, now, the Symphony Orchestra of Montreal.

The Oakland Youth Orchestra is now led -- and has been since 1998 -- by another brilliant, and highly ethical, American conductor -- Michael Morgan - who is also the conductor of the Oakland East Bay Symphony, and who should certainly be on the short-list to replace Leonard Slatkin as the conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra. (The Oakland Youth Orchestra predates the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra by many years.)

Thanks, otherwise, for the very interesting article.

Garth Trinkl

Washington, D.C., Berkeley, CA and Lviv, Ukraine

Send Us Your Opinion
(Comments are moderated.)
Your Name:*


Your E-Mail Address:*
(Confidential. Will not be published.)


Location:


Comments:*
Note: In order to control automated spam submissions, URLs are no longer permitted in this form.



Verification:
Please type the letters you see above.

  Printer-Friendly

Bookmark and Share


RSS FEED
RSS Feed for Neo Classical: RSS Feed for Drew McManus
EMAIL ALERTS
Sign up to receive an e-mail notice when new articles by this author are published. Your address remains confidential, and you may cancel at any time. A confirmation email will be sent.

Your e-mail address:
po Books
Now Available!

Teachings of a Three Year Old... Turned Tyke,
by Hal Evan Caplan.

A father learns from the wisdom of his toddler.

More Information.

More by Drew McManus
Starting Next Month, Neo Classical Will Have A New Voice
After more than three years, it's time for a sabbatical.
by Drew McManus, 5/7/07
April Is Take A Friend To Orchestra Month - 2007
But can word of mouth programs really make a difference?
by Drew McManus, 4/2/07
Status Still Counts
It Still Takes A World-Class Ensemble To Get The Cultural Consciousness To Sit Up And Take Note.
by Drew McManus, 3/5/07
Rules To Live, Er, Listen By
Some straightforward advice on how to become a courteous listener.
by Drew McManus, 2/5/07
'The King Is Dead. Long Live The King!'
Changes in how classical recordings are created ushers in a new era.
by Drew McManus, 1/8/07
An Interview With Paul Scarbrough, Russell Todd, and Christopher Blair From Akustiks
The art of acoustic science succeeds best with a healthy dose of human input.
by Drew McManus, 12/3/06
But You Knew That Already, Of Course...
It's time for classical music to let go of pretentiousness.
by Drew McManus, 10/2/06
» Complete List (62)


RSS FEED
RSS Feed for Neo Classical: RSS Feed for Drew McManus

Recently Published
View Article May I Be Frank, Mr. President?
Challenging a double standard in the Oval Office
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 12/15/17
Salvator Mundi
Not the painting but the Person
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 12/7/17
When the Newsman Becomes News
Lamenting yet another fallen hero
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 12/1/17
Let's Hear It for Moms and Pops
Celebrating Small Business Saturday in a very personal way
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 11/22/17
An Earthquake in La La Land
Examining what's been exposed in the rubble
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 11/17/17
Where is God?
Reflecting on the tragedy in a little Texas town
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 11/10/17
An All Saints Day Tribute
Remembering those who left us
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 11/3/17

Get the Partial Observer's
'recently published' headlines via RSS.


RSS Feed for Recently Published PO Articles    What is RSS?
Reproduction of original material from The Partial Observer without written permission is strictly prohibited.
The opinions expressed by site contributors do not necessarily reflect those of the editors.
Copyright ©2000-2017 partialobserver.com. All rights reserved.
Home · Site Map · Top