I’d like to direct your attention toward two upcoming and worthwhile projects concerning the American symphony orchestra. Both promise to explore the various challenges and opportunities facing orchestras today, and I’m optimistic that they will generate some new conversations and ideas that are worth spreading.

This season, the San Francisco Symphony is celebrating its centenary by presenting the country’s seven largest symphony orchestras (Boston, LA, Philadelphia, New York, Cleveland, Chicago, and SFS itself). To accompany these visits, they’re also hosting the American Orchestra Forum, a year-long conversation addressing the promises and perils of the modern symphony orchestra. According to the SFS

Brings together voices from diverse cultural perspectives and the general public to explore the twenty-first century American orchestra. Topics to be considered include how orchestras connect with their communities; how orchestras balance creativity and innovation with artistic traditions and practices; and what orchestras can learn about changing audience patterns and engagement strategies from looking outside their own industry.

The project includes both live and virtual discussions, and includes regular blogs, podcasts, and public events featuring lots of interesting viewpoints. If you’re in San Francisco this coming March or May, I highly suggest checking out one of the public discussions; if not, then head on over to their site and get involved today!

The San Francisco Symphony’s visit to Ann Arbor next month coincides with yet another orchestra-related extravaganza: American Orchestras Summit II: A “Maverick” Collaboration: Listening, Learning, and Making Great Music. Building on a series of conversations held in January 2010 and organized by friend/adviser/orchestra junky Mark Clague, the summit will include a series of keynotes and panel discussions to accompany the SFS’s American Mavericks residency, presented by the University Musical Society.  Check out the impressive list of confirmed speakers, and consider attending the concerts and symposia this coming March 21-23, 2012.

I’m eager to follow these conversations and see what comes from them. Here’s hoping for some new partnerships that will bring the field together and move it toward a healthy–and sustainable–future!