The Future of the Symphony Orchestra

Flemish Government, Ministry of Culture, Youth and Media

The symphony orchestra is an institution with a tradition that goes back centuries. For a long period of time it has proved to be quite resilient. But in today’s world it finds itself confronted with an emerging audience that knows nothing of the great canon of Western music (and couldn’t care less) and is enticed by myriads of entertainment options. Furthermore, as an organization that is governed by rigid hierarchies it is getting out of tune with a zeitgeist infused with the spirit of decentralization, fluidity and autonomy. So the question about the future of this venerable institution is becoming ever more acute. Flanders has three symphony orchestras that are structurally funded by the government (Brussels Philharmonic, deFilharmonie and the orchestra of the Flemish Opera and Ballet (Kunsthuis). The Flemish Minister of Culture has asked shiftN, in collaboration with Vandyck Arts Management, to conduct a reflection on the shape of the Flemish orchestra landscape of the future. We relied on an extensive interview campaign, focus groups, creative workshops and system mapping to create clarity around a surprisingly complex challenge. Our conclusions have been presented in a widely commented report: “Naar een veerkrachtig Vlaams Orkestenlandschap” (“Towards a Resilient Flemish Landscape of Symphony Orchestras”). The Minister concluded in a parliamentary hearing that “the report is of such a level of quality that we cannot afford to ignore it.” An English White Paper that summarizes our findings is in preparation.

Stafford Beer's short book 'Designing Freedom' remains as fresh and relevant as ever. Our review here:……

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