As we approach our 10th anniversary, it’s amazing to look back at what has been accomplished. Only 65% of arts non-profits last beyond a few years so it is surprising to all of us that we’ve made it this far. (https://www.arts.gov/sites/default/files/Research-Art-Works-Harvard.pdf) To get here, we achieved a lot; creating and marketing two different names, establishing ourselves in two home bases, and putting on a wide array of performances. By the numbers: 13 orchestral concerts, 20 chamber concerts (many of them repeated), 20 in-school presentations, 5 side-by-side opportunities with youth orchestra, 27 Fellows graduated or currently participating, 23 entrepreneurial classes presented to our Fellows, and well over $1,000,000 raised to pay our musicians and vendors. But how did it all start?In 2007, when I had some free time on my hands – which is always dangerous – I decided to start an orchestra in the Boston area. First, I bought a map, and circled every town that already had an orchestra. Next, I made a 20-mile radius circle around each. Then I looked at demographic data for the towns that were not served, and ended up picking an area with a level of education and median income that I felt could sustain an orchestra. Thus began our first iteration, the Neponset Valley Philharmonic, based in Foxboro, Massachusetts.
It seemed like such a good idea. A well-educated community in need, with the ability to support a semi-professional orchestra. As it turned out… when you pick an area because it has no arts organizations, there could be a reason why. I loved the people down in the Neponset Valley, but we had trouble getting the kind of support we needed to keep operating in that community. So, in 2012, we decided to make the move to Boston. We had numerous meetings about who and what we wanted to be, and ultimately changed our name to Symphony Nova.
Starting in 2014, we created a Fellowship program that fulfilled our original mission to support up-and-coming artists. Our goal is to help recent graduates from music programs around the country by giving them the opportunity to bridge the gap from school to their career. We offer high-level orchestral performances, chamber performances, educational classes, and the opportunity to create concerts from scratch (with the support of our staff).
As we enter our 10th season, we are looking to the future. We have a 5-year plan that will take us into 2022 which includes adding more Fellows, programming more orchestra concerts, growing the Board, and increasing staff support.
We look forward to impacting more lives – musicians, audience, Board, and staff – and are excited to see what the next 10 years hold for us. Starting a non-profit is one of the most difficult things I have ever taken on, but it is also one of the most rewarding. See you in 2027 for the next update!
Changing performance focus from trombone to conducting was a challenge. I had been a trombonist since I was 8 - that made for 32 years practicing and performing on the instrument. Sure, the first few years might not count, but when do you start counting? To take up another “instrument” at age 40 was a real eye-opener.
For a guy who almost never experienced nerves, you should have seen me at my audition at the start of that summer in Aspen. They were looking for four fellows to do the lion’s share of conducting, and the other 36 of us were going to get whatever podium time was left. I was shaking – pretty badly. In retrospect, I know that my nervousness came from being unprepared, or at least not quite ready for prime time. You can bet that these days I over-prepare. I don’t ever want to feel that again!
That summer turned out to be life-altering. Not only did I learn from the conducting teachers – David Zinman, Murry Sidlin, and Jorma Panula – but I also met many conductors, some of whom I’m still in touch with today. Most are still very active in one way or another in the field. I could not have predicted that the following summer, I would be invited to conduct the Aspen Music Festival’s Fourth of July concert. Now, after 17 years of performing that concert, I am more grateful than ever for that first summer in Aspen, and how it changed my professional focus.