a “guest blog” from our ASOL Fellow – Marc Feldman

We have a guest in our midst here at the
PSO- a guest who is more like a new family member, given that he has
jumped in to the "nitty gritty" of daily life with our staff.  His name
Marc Feldman, and he is an American
Symphony Orchestra League (ASOL)  Fellow.   The ASOL Fellowship Program
is a one-year training program designed to train future orchestra
administrators through immersion in various orchestras and their
administrations, allowing fellows to observe management practices while
participating in the ongoing projects of each orchestra.  At the same
time, fellows are engaging in a specific course of study through the
League.  ASOL Fellowship Program graduates currently hold over 75
leadership positions at American orchestras – 28 are executive
directors.   Marc has already completed time with the Los Angeles
Chamber Orchestra and the Oregon Symphony Orchestra.  He is now
spending about 3 months with the PSO, and we are very happy to have him
here with us.

of the wonderful aspects of having an ASOL Fellow with you at your
orchestra for a period of time is the clarity they can offer as a
student of the wider world of the field.  Marc is a musician and
administrator who has an obvious commitment to his work.  From a
personal standpoint, he is also a great, informed advocate for work in
Education and Community Engagement.  We had the pleasure of hosting him
for a day in our department several weeks ago, and I greatly enjoyed
speaking to him (in my little Toyota Corolla, on the way to a PSO
ensemble performance at a local school…) about various Education
issues and hearing his thoughts about programs he has been a part of or
observed across the world. 

it is a pleasure to post the following blog entry from Marc, with more
to come from him.  I’ll be "hosting" him in my section of the blog for
a bit- and he might just pop up as a regular on the blog sometime in
the future.  Take it away, Marc!  It’s good to have you here in

I get the chance to add my words and thoughts from behind the scenes at
the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, let me take a little time to
introduce myself. I am a very lucky musician. Lucky, in that music has
been my frequent flyer program. As a bassoonist I’ve had the chance to
live and work in many foreign countries and otherwise experience music
from all angles. I’ve had the opportunity to see the power of music to
open dialogues between people.

I’ll do my best to convey the art of music with words. But, let me barrow a phrase from Aaron Copland that puts it quite well.

whole problem can be stated quite simply by asking, ‘Is there a meaning
to music?’ My answer would be, ‘Yes.’ And ‘Can you state in so many
words what the meaning is?’ My answer to that would be, ‘No.’”

With that in mind here we go….

my travels take me to the Heinz Hall stage door, then back stage and
into a world that I still find magic after all these years… an empty
theater and a silent stage ready to be filled with electricity,
expectation, emotions…

you pass by practice room doors and you’ll hear harps and flutes, a far
off trombone and thunder coming from the concert hall itself… No that’s
just John Soroka meticulously preparing his instruments for the
performance. This pre-concert excitement is one of the most marvelous
feelings for the symphony insider.

On April 7th and 8th
the audience will get a chance to be part of that anticipation and
discovery. The PSO will perform two works that display a wide range of
expression – the sheer power and virtuosity of the Concerto for Orchestra by Jennifer Higdon and Mahler’s deeply expressive Song of the Earth.
That in itself would be exciting for any concert-goer but, the PSO is
going further, opening its doors an hour early for an “Orchestral

part of the entire music making experience, three groups of musicians
will be taking the audience on a musical tour of Jennifer Hidgon’s
work. It won’t be in the usual style of a lecture on a stage, but
placed in various areas of Heinz Hall, the public will be invited to
discover groups of strings, to winds and percussion instruments, much
like I do when I wander around backstage listening to the ensuing
evening’s solos and asking questions.

musicians will be your guide into the melodies, harmonies and rhythms
of the Concerto for Orchestra. Then, into the concert hall to get the
full experience. Just like an insider!

this makes me think about the rituals of going to the concert hall and
listening to a concert. What do they mean for the musician and to the
listener? Why are they there? To the initiated rituals are both
fascinating and comforting… to the outsider they can be daunting. We
often think that these rather formal conventions have always existed
and yet, today’s concert rituals didn’t always exist. Not long ago
orchestral concerts and operas were pretty rowdy affairs… eating,
drinking and spending long hours socializing were the norm… scathing
comments and riots were not uncommon at premiers of new works… It’ll be
interesting to hear Jennifer Higdon’s comments about that!

We could get into long discussions about this subject and I hope we do.

PSO’s evenings of talks, wine-tastings and pre-concert demonstrations
of music are really a bridge between the past and the future of

of the most exciting things for me since coming to the PSO has been to
see the commitment and flexibility of the musicians of the orchestra to
making music personal. After all, breaking with 100 years of rituals
isn’t always easy…"

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