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December 08, 2011 - Image 45

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2011-12-08

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LS: I think the attitude on stage has
been very high and very welcoming. Yes,
we lost members of the orchestra, a con-
sequence of anything like that; but I'm
confident we will attract the brightest
stars out there to become members of our
orchestra, whether they're experienced or
coming from music schools. The orchestra
is playing at a very high level. Our musi-
cians see full houses and are energized by
that. Maybe there are a couple of people
who continue to be a little bit bitter about
what happened, but I think eventually
the initiatives we've taken will show that,
unfortunately, the strike probably was nec-
essary in order to address the problems
we had.


ei-i7- 4,P4'

DSO Music Director

Leonard Slatkin

Taking It To The 'Hoods

DSO's Slatkin talks about neighborhood concerts,
the orchestra and his life.

Suzanne Chessier

Contributing Writer


lassical music gets lots of public
attention as Leonard Slatkin leads
the Detroit Symphony Orchestra
into neighborhood concerts, but rock gets
some private attention as the orchestra's
music director does some listening in his
own home.
Slatkin, who just extended his DSO
contract for another three years, wants to
keep up with the current interests of his
17-year-old son, Daniel.
Before the end of June, the
Neighborhood Concert Series will bring
four concerts to six venues, including the
Berman Center for the Performing Arts
at the Jewish Community Center in West
Bloomfield and Congregation Shaarey
Zedek in Southfield. (See sidebar for
Slatkin, 67, also music director of the
Orchestre National de Lyon in France
and principal guest conductor of the
Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, was mar-
ried Sunday, Nov. 20, in a home ceremony
to composer Cindy McTee, 58, who retired
from the University of North Texas as
regents professor emerita. Slatkin recently
updated the JN about the DSO program-
ming initiative, the orchestra, work com-
mitments and some activities:

IN: What does the Neighborhood

Concert Series bring to the DSO season

and the community?
LS: When I arrived in Detroit, it was
very apparent that some listeners and
patrons had difficulties coming downtown
or had been overlooked by the DSO itself. I
began to think about a concept of reaching
out to different communities in an attempt
to say we've come to your neighborhood
and to make sure they're invited to come
into ours. It's really more about accessibil-
ity and getting to know the orchestra. I
think the long term is that we develop a
new base of listeners. The idea is to reach
people by coming directly to them.

IN: How did you pick the places where

the orchestra will be playing?
LS: They had to be large enough to
accommodate the orchestra and provide
enough seating. Congregation Shaarey
Zedek is a logical place because of its
space. The Ford Community & Performing
Arts Center in Dearborn seats almost
the same number as Orchestra Hall. The
arrangements have been about reaching a
broader audience in a particular neighbor-
hood, not a particular venue.

IN: How did the strike affect the DSO in

JN: How have you gone about deciding

on the programming for these con-
LS: We've kept all of the programming
within the classical sphere. This is not
about pops or holiday concerts or the
jazz series. It's about Beethoven, Mozart,
Brahms, Copland and other composers
whose works have the most resonance
with us as a viable symphony orchestra.
We thought that one thing to do would be
to see if the repertoire itself was a problem
in audience attendance downtown. I tend
to think that's not the issue because our
Downtown concerts are selling out on a
regular basis now no matter what we play.
I think the issues are accessibility and
pricing. Keeping accessibility on the high
side and pricing on the low side will give
us a good opportunity to increase our
audience base.

LS: After a work stoppage for half a year,
there are residual effects for everybody,
not just the orchestra but members of
the board and the public. A lot of people
didn't know what to expect when we came
back to work. In many respects, I was very
happy that we played for a few weeks and
had most of the summer off to reflect
about what we're doing. Certainly, from the
point of view of the management and the
staff, we've restructured so many things
— these community concerts, the low
pricing, the number of concerts we play,
the streaming of the broadcasts. I think
we learned from the strike how to do
this; and we learned it, in a way, from the
orchestra itself in producing concerts.

IN: Did you have to do anything special

about the guest artists whose concerts
were canceled?
LS: Everybody understands the nature
of a strike. We're not the first orchestra to
go through that. We've tried to reschedule
virtually everybody over this season or
next so people not able to come here dur-
ing that time will be making appearances.

IN: How does your work in Michigan

complement your work in France and
LS: For me, it's a matter of not wanting
to get on a plane every week. That's what
I've had to do for 40 years. Now, I'll go
from Detroit after a two- or three-week
stint, head off to Lyon for two or three
weeks and maybe go to Pittsburgh for a
couple of weeks. With travel getting more
complicated, this scheduling simplifies my
life. Some people will look at my schedule
and say I'm working harder than ever.
The answer might be yes in terms of the
conducting itself, but as long as I keep the
travel down, I don't feel it's that compli-
cated at all.

IN: What went into your decision to

accept another three years in Detroit?
LS: The same things that went into my
decision to accept it in the first place. The
orchestra's great. The hall's fantastic. The
public is supportive. The challenges are
what I thrive on. I live by things that have
to be solved. For me, trying to create a
remarkable environment for music and a
model for other institutions around this
country struck me as exactly the kind of
challenge I wanted to have.

IN: Do you have other new ventures in

mind for the orchestra as you begin
your new contract?
LS: Right now, it's a matter of seeing
what works in what we've already pro-
posed. Just like in any economic situation,
you have to see, over the course of a couple
of years, what is effective and what isn't.
Even though things are going well — with

IN: How did the strike impact musi-


Taking It on page 46




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