Orchestras 20/20

This cohort of nine regional orchestras from Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota offered a unique opportunity for dialogue around administrative and artistic issues held in common.

Over the course of three retreats in 2015, administrators, board members, musicians, and conductors gathered to explore their business models, financial challenges, approaches to marketing, and their story of identity within their marketplace.

Retreats were enriched by the presence of nationally recognized leaders within the field. As one participant reflected in their final evaluation, these presenters' "presence and participation with us leant legitimacy to our work. Thank you." 


  • Sasha Aslanian, correspondent with American RadioWorks, American Public Media led a session that asked the question of not "what" we do, but "why" we do it, and how to find our stories of relevance and passion.
  • Financial models were probed with Kate Barr, Nonprofits Assistance Fund, and Jennifer Boomgaarden, Executive Director, South Dakota Symphony. 
  • Working in the "small shop" was explored with Barbara Zach, Executive Director, Lincoln Symphony Nebraska.
  • Marketing and digital media sessions were offered by Scott Harrison, Detroit Symphony, and Douglas Hegley, Minneapolis Institute of Arts. 
  • John Nuechterlein, President, American Composers Forum and Jake Runestad, Composer, explored orchestral relationships with new music and currently composing artists. 
  • Jesse Rosen, President and CEO of the League of American Orchestras, discussed the context of orchestral work in terms of the need for relevancy and responsiveness in and changing world.

Feedback from participants

It was gratifying to receive many comments of "excellent!" in the final series evaluation. One participant stated "Wonderful!—most meaningful and relevant professional development opportunity I've ever experienced in my 18 year development career."  There continues to be a deep desire to "Keep it up! Look for ways to help and encourage us to continue to connect."

Another wrote, "I would love to be able to participate in other ArtsLabs. There is always more to learn."