To support the reflection on the future of the symphony orchestra we have developed a system map. This was based on an action research project commissioned in 2015 by the Flemish Ministry of Culture. The map is a synthesis of insights from literature search, countless interviews and a series of workshops and focus groups. It represents the force field that shapes the future of the symphony orchestra. The leading questions where: what determines the relative success of an orchestra? What factors contribute and how do they influence each other?’ We hope that the system map will help to inject a significant dose of realism into the debate about the future of this venerable institution.