American Orchestra Forum Podcasts

Talking About American Orchestras

During the SFS’s centennial season, musicians, scholars, executives, critics and technologists gathered in San Francisco for wide-ranging conversations about the state of the American orchestra. These podcasts serve up highlights from their lively public and behind-the-scenes discussions, exploring the themes that emerged. Videos, transcripts, and a blog for this program are available at

Duration: 10 to 15 minutes per chapter.

Chapter 1: Historic Context of the American Orchestra

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Chapter One addresses the historical and cultural roots of American orchestras and how those traditions impact and inform an orchestra’s place in the contemporary American community.  Speakers include University of Chicago cultural historian Neil Harris; Jesse Rosen, President and CEO, League of American Orchestras; Alan Gilbert, Music Director, New York Philharmonic.

Chapter 2: Personal Stories

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Chapter 2 presents personal stories, those intimate connections between a student and a teacher that, like a pebble in a pond, send waves radiating outward. Included are stories from Gustavo Dudamel, Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic; Amos Yang, Assistant Principal Cellist, San Francisco Symphony;  Afa Sadykhly Dworkin, Artistic Director, Sphinx Organization. 

Chapter 3: Considering Technology

American Orchestra Forum
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No conversation about music—about any art form, for that matter—gets very far these days without addressing the impact, potential and pitfalls of technology. From high- definition broadcasts of live performances, to an audience tuned in to Facebook, Twitter and other social media, classical music must find its place in an increasingly digital community. Chapter 3 covers the impact of these emerging forces, as discussed by Jesse Rosen, League of American Orchestras; Afa Sadykhly Dworkin, Sphinx Organization; Mark Clague, Associate Professor of Music, University of Michigan.

style='color:red'>Philharmonic; Amos Yang, Assistant Principal Cellist, San Francisco Symphony;  Afa Sadykhly Dworkin, Artistic Director, Sphinx Organization. 

Chapter 4: The World Has Changed

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No orchestra, large or small, ever has a settled relationship with its community. It’s always a thing in flux, dynamic, fluid, fragile and complex. Chapter 4 features leaders from the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Chapter 5: Orchestral Creativity, On the Stage

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Where does the marvel of musical creativity come from and how does it work? In this podcast, we examine the ways in which creativity can flourish, or falter, in the symphony orchestra hall. Chapter 5 participants include Michael Tilson Thomas, Music Director, San Francisco Symphony; and composers John Adams and Mason Bates.

Chapter 6: The Creative Challenge, Off the Stage

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Orchestras today are challenged as never before to find creative ways of making music and making it matter to their communities. Chapter 6 features composers John Adams and Mason Bates; Michael Tilson Thomas; Google’s Ed Sanders;  Margo Drakos, entrepreneur and former cellist; John Schaefer of WNYC/WQXR radio; and representatives from the San Francisco Symphony and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. 

Chapter 7: The View from Cleveland

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The Cleveland Orchestra is one of the world’s great orchestras in by far the smallest market supporting such an institution. Chapter 7 features stories perspectives from leaders of this storied orchestra, including TCO Music Director Franz Welser-Möst.