Paul Hogle: Dean of CIM
Last fall, I interviewed Paul Hogle, Dean of the Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM) to discuss his views on the future of symphony orchestras and 21st century music education. Prior to CIM, Mr. Hogle served as the Executive Vice President of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO), and held posts in senior fundraising and education with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. During one of the most tumultuous times in its history, Mr. Hogle helped to rebuild and reinvent the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Under his leadership, the DSO experienced growth in subscription sales, fundraising, the DSO patron base, and has since built an international webcast audience which now approaches one million viewers. Beyond his experience as an Executive Director, Mr. Hogle is also a passionate educator, encouraging millennial musicians to take charge and ownership of their own career.
LS: What direction do you see classical music taking in the next twenty years with respect to the symphony model as a sustainable institution ?
PH: I believe that we are in and are about to get into a period of time, in the large American orchestras, where their relationship to their community is going to be the agreed upon litmus test as to that institution's value to that community. The tension will come, when we as classical music executives continue to only talk about excellence and fail to talk about service and genuine engagement. If there was ever a period of time where it did not matter that we had any relationship with most of our community, that time has now passed. I believe it is incumbent upon all of us in the training business to prepare our musicians for a career of service. It cannot be our approach to spend seventy hours a week in the practice room and never learn the skills necessary to go out and engage with an actual audience member, or an actual school or an actual service center, because we didn’t think that was necessary. So that is where I think the next twenty years are going. To me, I’m really excited about that possibility.
PH: Yes, because I believe in the absolutely universal language that is music. I believe the making of music and the sharing of music are some of the most powerful experiences in human experience. That hasn’t changed. Somebody said to me once that these past fifty years, we’ve over-institutionalized the American orchestra. We’ve sought to make it bigger, stronger, and safer, and more perfect, except we’ve forgotten that without the community, from where our roots come, there’s nobody to engage with and certainly no one to support it.
LS: With that in mind, and you kind of alluded to this already, what direction should it (the symphony orchestra) be taking? One towards more of a service organization?
PH: It always has to start from a premise of excellence. There’s not anything that the masses flock to that isn’t excellent. People flock to excellent sports, people flock to excellent restaurants, people flock to excellent communities. Nobody flocks to mediocrity. It starts with excellence. But it then starts with what imprint--so if you go back to the old proverb about footprints in the sand-- what footprint do our major orchestras leave in our communities? Is the footprint merely “We need financial support because we’re excellent?” Or is it, “Oh yeah, we perform in your schools, we worship in your churches and synagogues, we’re your neighbors. We’re out there helping serve the community.” That’s the next generation. And that’s what this age--are you a millennial?
PH: Yes, I mean, that’s what the millennials are obsessed about. And I admire it. It’s no longer just enough to be told what to do. You want to know why and then you want to experience that why. Imagine institutionalizing that, in a way, that just like in some pro sports teams, the players giving back to the community. You see them at Thanksgiving serving meals to the less fortunate. You see them starting their own personal foundations. We don’t spend any time talking about the real contributing lives that our musicians live in our communities. That has to change. So that’s where I think it is. And it can’t always be the obsession of a performance in one downtown concert hall. We proved that in Detroit.
LS: I was going to ask you about that. Because, it’s quite impressive. Probably apart from Deborah Borda, you’re right up there in terms of turning around an orchestra. So how on earth did you manage to add nearly forty million dollars in endowment commitments, and increase subscription based concerts in a time when subscriptions aren’t working any more, at least from my perspective?
PH: If you think about what’s going on in the world right now, and the great fractured nature of our country, the arts are truly non-political. They are the convening place where we come experience things together. We’re coming through the largest bump in population in the history of America, the baby boomers. Our halls should be overflowing with audience members. But they aren’t because we’ve failed to make the connection between gathering and subscribing and making that part of our social life versus the seven times a week, we’re willing to go to Starbucks to get a cappuccino.
LS: What separates thriving orchestras from those going under?
PH: Detroit’s turnaround started with a crisis inflection point. The budget crisis, the economic crisis, and the labor crisis came to be at one time. I don’t know if it’s possible without a crisis. There's lots of books written about the premises for change. It’s often something that’s a real flash point. But it started with a real crisis. We were running a seven million dollar deficit on a thirty million dollar budget. That’s just not sustainable. Then, it took the right people at the right time believing that everything could be rethought. If we were going to go through this pain---if the musicians were going to be in pain, and if the community was going to be in pain, we were going to fix everything we thought was wrong. We recalibrated compensation, we changed all the ticket pricing. We rebuilt ourselves. We stopped talking exclusively about some lofty distant target, but in fact being an orchestra that was supported by its community. Then we took a quarter of the concerts out in the community and called those concerts “residencies.” Because we were in eight different residences, four times a year, plus schools, plus churches, plus recital halls, plus hospitals. And we tried to do it all. And that was part of solution. There were no incremental changes. We did a lot of things, all at the same time. Plus, of course we added the webcast, where all the concerts were Webcasted every week.
LS: Wow, okay! So, what percentage of your concert goers tend to be over the age of fifty?
PH: I believe in six or seven years that audiences have gotten a little younger. But, I think that that as a goal absent of any other goal, to me is not healthy. The average twenty year old can’t buy a ticket at any cost, and certainly can’t make up the other two thirds the cost, it takes to pay the bills. But having a diverse audience when it comes to age is very healthy, because those more senior members of our community look around and they have hope that there’s a future for our institution. It’s what I call visual philanthropy. When people see other people who are younger in the next generation they get encouraged and it helps them feel good about their donation.
LS: Your experience of planting classical music in non-conventional venues? You already briefly alluded to this with the different residencies, but could you just explain how Detroit has done that?
PH: Well, we did even beyond those, because those eight communities were fairly traditional venues. But the recitals and pop up concerts were anywhere and everywhere. Eventually they were in bars, coffee shops---in warehouses and abandoned buildings. All respectful but all quirky. I think it allowed us to be unexpected, and a lot of our musicians to be creative beyond just sitting in a recital setting.
LS: In that kind of vein, talking about creativity, has Detroit done much work with multimedia incorporation in their programming? I know you just mentioned, Detroit does webcasts. But could you describe how the multimedia industry has changed the way audiences perceive the DSO?
PH: In Atlanta, we did unending amounts of artist installations as part of the concert experience. Screens, videos, lights, sounds smells, touch--all those things. In Detroit, they had no appetite for it. I like the variety, but that’s just me. We did however, after the strike, earn the right to webcast every week’s classical concert, live, world wide. The result is that six years later over one million views have happened of DSO Webcasts. It’s helped them recruit. It’s helped tell the Detroit story. They got a half a million dollar digital sweep of six robotic cameras, a new light grid, mixing room. It’s really great. They’re the only American orchestra doing it in a regular webcast. It helps them tell the story of the city of Detroit. There’s pre-concert program and intermission programming, so that if you had an opinion about Detroit, you’d have to compete with the facts that you were seeing on the web channel.
LS: What steps should millennials be taking now to keep interest for classical music? I’m specifically targeting graduates of CIM, trying to make this applicable.
PH: Well, I think if I’m thinking about my career, and if I’m twenty-three or twenty- four years old and just got my Masters at CIM, what I would tell them is that each person has to own their career. There’s been a generation of people whose ultimate ambition was to get into a big American orchestra so they wouldn’t have to be bothered with all “that stuff.” I would tell our twenty-three years olds, that you need to own your career. Don’t forsake your own happiness. There was a landmark Harvard study in 1990 that found that orchestra members, as a group of people, are more unhappy than federal prison workers. And the reason is because many orchestra members don’t have control and lack agency. Seize the agency in your career, is what I would tell them. Whether that’s presenting, the musical choice, with whom you make the music, where you make the music, what you view as your standard of income. You take your rich training and everything we’ve taught you and you own how that gets applied. Don’t let yourself, and it’s not in your nature as millennials, to be pigeonholed in a box, and told “okay you do this and I’ll see you in forty years when we give you your retirement.” That would be my advice. If it’s in a community, get involved. Don’t sacrifice the music. But play your part, get involved, have a voice. Be constructive. Build a network, build alliances, build partnerships, connect the dots. Musicians are often challenged to connect dots with other professionals in other areas. Be curious about other things. Never stop that curiosity.
LS: Do you think the Arts will exist into the 22nd century?
PH: Absolutely. Now, will it be exactly the same? No, I mean, who could have imagined in America, that one hundred years later, that we would have 1000 classical orchestra musicians in fifteen American orchestras making $100,000+ a year with lifetime pensions. What an accomplishment! And conductors making millions of dollars. I don’t think that was imaginable one hundred years ago. I don’t know what the next chapter is. But I know if we try to contain or suppress creativity, that we will lose. Art can’t be contained. And people who make art can’t be contained. It’s a matter of surrounding yourself with people who bring out the best in you and pull you forward. I usually tell that to young administrators when they’re thinking about going to jobs. It’s like having a studio teacher. That studio teacher has a lifelong imprint on your music. And that’s true in management. Only work in workplaces that absolutely bring out the best and leave strong imprints on you. Otherwise, you’ve just been taught a bunch of non-helpful things and it suppresses your own energy.
LS: Do you enjoy management yourself?
PH: I love it. It’s like a twelve- sided Rubik's cube. And whenever I get one side figured out which is rarely, then one of the dots falls off, and I forget where it went and we have to start again. My wife, who’s getting her PhD in music education tells me that I’m obsessed about teaching because I so value the journey of helping people develop. I’ve always thought that was really important, and I really like doing it.
LS: So what would you recommend for people who are wanting to go into management?
PH: Find people who, every time you talk to them, read about them, or meet them, you say “ I want to spend more time with them” ---go work for them. And I don’t care where it is. Millennials are great at this. They move to places and then figure out where they want to work. That’s part of your raft. Find people, no matter where they are. I don’t care where they are-- if they’re in Omaha, or Lincoln, or Jackson, Mississippi, or Pittsburgh. Go to where they are, work with them and commit enough time so that you really see something grow.
For more information about Mr. Hogle, check out his bio here!
Here are my takeaways: What are yours? Comment below!
Takeaway #1: An orchestra's survival will be dependent upon the genuine and service-oriented relationship it has built with its community. It is not enough for an orchestra to be merely excellent.
Takeaway #2: DSO's turn around began with a crisis. The solution included not just one but many changes: taking more concerts into the community, creating neighborhood residencies, and live webcasts of DSO concerts.
Takeaway #3: Each musician has to own their career, and create their own opportunities. Find people whom you want to work for, and go work for them regardless of location.