The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) announces that Music Director Marin Alsop will continue her commitment to the Orchestra with the signing of a six-year contract that extends from September 2015 to August 2021, her second contract renewal with the Orchestra. Maestra Alsop began her tenure as the Orchestra’s 12th music director in September 2007; in 2009 she renewed her contract through 2015. This latest contract ensures that the BSO’s popular music director will continue to be on the podium for approximately half of all classical subscription programs.
Heralded for revitalizing the Orchestra in her early tenure, Marin Alsop continues to enhance the overall strength of the organization by upholding the highest of artistic standards, creating new access points for community members of all backgrounds and building audiences by transforming the concert experience. Her bold programming and artistic leadership have garnered repeat invitations to Carnegie Hall, secured recordings on major labels and earned critical acclaim. Of the BSO’s 2013 Carnegie Hall performance at the Spring for Music festival, The Baltimore Sun commented: “The BSO soared in the Prokofiev symphony, with a downright lush tone from the strings, crackling woodwinds, confident and smoothly balanced outpouring from the brass, tight percussion. Alsop again conducted not just from memory, but from the heart, bringing out its lyrical heart, not just its aggressive elements, all very persuasively.”
Further, Ms. Alsop has launched several progressive initiatives that have attracted national attention for the BSO as a leader in how a symphony orchestra in the 21st century can increase its relevance in the community. She has overseen the development of programs like OrchKids, the El Sistema-inspired music program for youth in Baltimore that provides music lessons, tutoring and life enrichment opportunities for now more than 600 children. She has capitalized on BSO audiences’ interest in direct, hands-on participation in the arts by developing side-by-side programs like the BSO Academy and Rusty Musicians, which allow adult amateur musicians the chance to share the stage with the BSO. She has even transcended the notion that an orchestra’s contribution to a community should be restricted to its performances. In 2012, she co-curated Women of the World (“WOW”) Baltimore, a three-day festival celebrating the achievements of and issues facing women in today’s society.
Notable, too, is how these efforts have positively affected the BSO’s ticket sales and contributed income. The season prior to Ms. Alsop’s arrival (2006-2007), capacity averaged 58% at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall (“Meyerhoff”) and 77% at Music Center at Strathmore (“Strathmore”). In the most recent season (2012-2013), capacity is up to 70% at the Meyerhoff and 80% at Strathmore. Further, since Alsop’s inaugural season (2007-2008), the number of contributions to the BSO has nearly doubled to approximately 10,000, inspired by the BSO’s expanding creative range of concert offerings and attractive programs for young people and families during this period. Additionally, new BSO projects such as OrchKids and the BSO Academy, which are first-of-a-kind programs in the U.S., have attracted the attention and financial support of national organizations, recognizing these programs as prototype models for the entire orchestra industry.
“Marin’s early tenure was remarkable for the dramatic way she revitalized this institution,” said BSO President and CEO Paul Meecham. “On stage, the BSO-Alsop partnership quickly gelled to produce some electrifying performances that have galvanized the BSO’s audiences. Off the podium, her bold engagement initiatives have now had time to take root and create a lasting, meaningful impact in this community: OrchKids has grown exponentially to become a life-changing program for Baltimore City children; the BSO Academy annually attracts amateur musicians from around the world and has garnered international coverage; and Off the Cuff, in which she offers engaging commentary on selected masterworks, is among the BSO’s most popular series. She is in-demand around the globe and the BSO is proud that she has chosen to call Maryland home for another six years.”
BSO Board Chair Ken DeFontes said, “Marin Alsop’s vision for how an orchestra can be relevant for a community has been the driving force to propel this organization forward. She is equally comfortable conducting major repertoire on the stage of Carnegie Hall as she is connecting with the young musicians in the BSO’s OrchKids program, and engaging audiences in demystifying symphonic music. This multi-faceted competency is rare and the BSO and the entire community is fortunate to have her at the helm through the organization’s centennial celebrations in 2016 and beyond.”
Of the appointment, Marin Alsop commented, “I am deeply grateful and excited for the opportunity to lead the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra for several more years. This Orchestra’s artistic caliber coupled with their passion for music makes it my privilege to assume the podium each week. With the support of the BSO board and tireless staff, the Orchestra and I have many accomplishments of which I am quite proud. But I am certainly not finished! I have more ideas to benefit this Orchestra and community and the BSO is my perfect partner towards realizing these goals.”
Transforming the Concert Experience
Throughout the industry, Marin Alsop is known for her pioneering artistic vision. Her programming has made innovative use of new technologies and mixed multimedia. She has also capitalized on her post as Music Director of the Cabrillo Festival, the United States’ premier venue for emerging and today’s most inventive contemporary composers, to influence the future of classical music and bring the best new music to the BSO’s stage.
Marquis programs that typify Maestra Alsop’s artistic innovation include:
- The semi-staged performance of Honegger’s dramatic 1935 French oratorio Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne d’Arc au Bûcher (“Joan of Arc at the Stake”) featured film stars Caroline Dhavernas and Ronald Gutman as well as Morgan State University Choir, Peabody-Hopkins Chorus and the Peabody Children’s Choir. In addition to performances at the BSO’s two venues, the epic work was performed at Carnegie Hall in 2011. The seldom-performed work attracted new audiences, generating the highest number of single ticket sales for any classical concert in the 2011-2012 season. In the same season, also honoring Joan of Arc, the BSO presented a multimedia performance of Richard Einhorn’s Voices of Light, accompanied by the work’s original inspiration, the 1928 silent film The Passion of Joan of Arc by Carl Theodor Dreyer.
- Marin Alsop often programs seasons around a central theme of broad appeal. One of the most popular themes has been the 2012-2013 season’s focus on music from film. Cinema-inspired programs from the current season included Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times and the 1938 historical drama Alexander Nevsky with a film score by Sergei Prokofiev. The centerpiece of that theme was the screening of the 10-time Academy Award-winning motion picture West Side Story with the BSO’s live performance of Leonard Bernstein’s romantic musical score. The concert experience was enhanced by a pre-concert discussion with several “Sharks” and “Jets” from the original motion picture.
Reaching New Audiences
- The Off the Cuff series utilizes Maestra Alsop’s charismatic, witty and knowledgeable commentary about major masterworks to make classical music accessible to new audiences. Off the Cuff has been wildly successful, with capacity growing by 24% since its debut season (2008-2009) in Baltimore, and by 38% since its debut season (2010-2011) at Strathmore. As part of the Off the Cuff series, Marin Alsop pioneered an entirely new genre: the symphonic play. The BSO is among the first orchestras in the U.S. to hire a playwright in residence, the creative Didi Balle, whose symphonic plays performed by the BSO in past seasons include CSI: Beethoven and Analyze This: Mahler and Freud.
- “Adventurous programming” has been the umbrella term that many music critics have used to describe Maestra Alsop’s unorthodox use of multi-media, collaborations with a variety of artists and the debut of works by contemporary composers. For example, Maestra Alsop led the BSO Baltimore native Philip Glass’ Icarus at the Edge of Time, a multi-media event that combined science and sound. In 2009, she led the BSO in orchestrations of classic Phish songs, performed with the band’s lead guitarist, Trey Anastasio.
Known for her desire to break down barriers that separate orchestras from their audiences, Maestra Alsop has funded a pilot partnership with Parsons The New School for Design to create new interactions between the orchestra and its audience through a re-imagining of traditional concert dress. This year-long collaborative studio resulted in prototypes that utilized high-tech materials with vintage pieces, creating performance wear that is sustainable and responsive to the way musicians move and play.
Enhancing the BSO’s Global Reputation of Excellence
BSO and Marin Alsop Recordings
Marin Alsop has steadily added to the BSO’s impressive discography. On the Naxos label, the BSO produced a three-disk Dvořák symphony cycle, which includes Dvořák Symphony Nos. 6-9 and Symphonic Variations. Following the success of the Dvořák cycle, the BSO and Alsop released three more Naxos recordings: in August 2009, Bernstein’s Mass rose to number six on the Classical Billboard Charts and received a 2009 Grammy nomination for Best Classical Album; and 2012 saw the release of Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra and Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, and Mahler’s Symphony No. 1, “Titan,” of which The Guardian said “…when Alsop finally lets her Baltimore forces off the leash in the closing peroration the effect is so startling that it blows you away.” In 2010 on the Decca label, pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet joined the BSO/Alsop forces for a recording of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue & Piano Concerto in the original Paul Whiteman Band orchestrations. In future seasons, Ms. Alsop will add a cycle of symphonies by her mentor, Leonard Bernstein, to the BSO’s discography.
Since becoming Music Director, Marin Alsop has led the Orchestra to critical acclaim in five performances at Carnegie Hall over the past six seasons, and in 2012, the BSO undertook its first tour to the West Coast since 1988.
Marin Alsop has created new access points for patrons of all ages and backgrounds to interact and engage with the BSO in meaningful ways.
Under Music Director Marin Alsop’s artistic leadership and direction, OrchKids is a cornerstone of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s efforts to expand the Orchestra’s relevance within the City’s broad and diverse community. In collaboration with several community partners, OrchKids provides music education, instruments, meals and mentorship at no cost to Baltimore’s neediest youngsters. Maestra Alsop provided the seed money to fund the program’s launch in 2008, in which the program served 30 kindergarten students in one school site. Since then, OrchKids has grown to occupy four school sites and serve more than 600 youth. The program has become a model for other orchestras.
Engaging Adult Amateur Musicians
Since its inception four years ago, the BSO Academy Week has served as a truly unique community engagement tool, bringing together passionate, adult instrumental musicians for a once-in-a-lifetime, immersive experience with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Music Director Marin Alsop. The program has received critical acclaim from participants, BSO musicians, and the media (including the New York Times), supported by generous multi-year funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. In 2013, the Academy Week offered a unique opportunity for orchestra administrators to get a “behind-the-scenes” look at this unique program. Like the BSO Academy, Rusty Musicians offers adult amateurs the chance to perform side-by-side with the BSO for one night only.
Expanding the Role of the BSO
In 2012, the BSO hosted the Women of the World (WOW) Festival. WOW-Baltimore was inspired by BSO Music Director Marin Alsop’s participation in the inaugural WOW Festival presented by the Southbank Centre in March 2011. It also furthered the BSO’s vision under Alsop to become a more accessible community resource that is both relevant in the 21st century and has a real and positive community impact. Said The Washington Post, “Given the rather creaky way in which orchestras have tended to address social change within their ranks, Alsop and the BSO may be wise to turn their focus outward. WOW is not setting out to reform orchestras — only, modestly, all of society.”
In 2012, the BSO adopted the 35-year-old Greater Baltimore Youth Orchestra to form the Baltimore Symphony Youth Orchestras (“BSYO”). The creation of this youth orchestra is an historic first for the BSO. Maestra Alsop’s artistic direction to oversee this transition was invaluable.
About Marin Alsop, Music Director
Hailed as one of the world’s leading conductors for her artistic vision and commitment to accessibility in classical music, Marin Alsop made history with her appointment as the 12th music director of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. With her inaugural concerts in September 2007, she became the first woman to head a major American orchestra. She also holds the title of conductor emeritus at the Bournemouth Symphony in the United Kingdom, where she served as the principal conductor from 2002-2008, and has served as music director of the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music in California since 1992. In February 2011, Marin Alsop was named the music director of the Orquestra Sinfônica do estado de São Paulo (OSESP), or the São Paulo State Symphony Orchestra, beginning in the 2012-13 season.
In 2005, Ms. Alsop was named a MacArthur Fellow, the first conductor ever to receive this prestigious award. In 2007, she was honored with a European Women of Achievement Award, in 2008 she was inducted as a fellow into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 2009 Musical America named her “Conductor of the Year.” In November 2010, she was inducted into the Classical Music Hall of Fame. Ms. Alsop was named to Guardian’s Top 100 Women list in March 2011. In 2011 Marin Alsop was named an Artist in Residence at the Southbank Centre in London, England. In August and September 2013, Ms. Alsop will be conducting two BBC Proms in London, including the Last Night of the Proms when she will make history as the first woman to conduct this iconic evening.
A regular guest conductor with the New York Philharmonic, The Philadelphia Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra and Los Angeles Philharmonic, Ms. Alsop appears frequently as a guest conductor with orchestras around the world. In addition to her performance activities, she is also an active recording artist with award-winning cycles of Brahms, Barber and Dvořák.
Marin Alsop attended Yale University and received her master’s degree from The Juilliard School. In 1989, her conducting career was launched when she won the Koussevitzky Conducting Prize at Tanglewood where she studied with Leonard Bernstein.
About the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
The Grammy Award-winning Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) is internationally recognized as having achieved a preeminent place among the world’s most important orchestras. Acclaimed for its enduring pursuit of artistic excellence, the BSO has attracted a devoted national and international following while maintaining deep bonds throughout Maryland with innovative education and community outreach initiatives.
The BSO made musical history in September 2007, when Maestra Marin Alsop led her inaugural concerts as the Orchestra’s 12th music director, making her the first woman to head a major American orchestra. With her highly praised artistic vision, her dynamic musicianship and her commitment to accessibility in classical music, Maestra Alsop’s leadership has ushered in a new era for the BSO and its audiences.
In addition to the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, where the orchestra has performed for 28 years, the BSO is a founding partner and the resident orchestra at the state-of-the-art Music Center at Strathmore, just outside of Washington, D.C. The opening of Strathmore in February 2005 made the BSO the nation’s only major orchestra with year-round venues in two metropolitan areas.