Out of the Shadows……

I could not be more excited about this opportunity, it is both an honor to be invited in by Drew and to share a blog with Bill.  For the record my wife Lisa and I are legal immigrants from Australia.  My title refers to the fact that now having space on a blog means that I wont just be leaving hit and run comments like I have on Drew’s and many other blogs over the past two years. It is time to step up to the mike and state my position, and to take some hits myself!

Here goes…….

I am teaching a class called The Audience Connection at Drury University which will be featured here regularly.  I have been so fortunate in my career so far to have worked with incredible people, however I believe we are hurting ourselves in they way go about doing business.  I want to be engaged as a musician in the issues of the day, not just with our issues in the music world.  The greatest works of art are those that make a difference to humanity one person at a time.  In my heart of hearts I believe that we are not in the Music Business at all, we are in the People Business.

I thought I would put alot of things out there right from the start.

My Blog to do list:

About the people from my perspective:

  • Conducting/Playing/Teaching aren’t simply jobs, they are skills.  I believe our main job is to touch people’s lives, just like it may be the skill of the body shop repair person to fix your car, it’s their job to make you forget you ever had an accident in the first place
  • Music can’t change the world, people do.  But, Music can change people
  • The true power of music is the effect it has on the individual
  • It’s not the community’s job to support an orchestra – it is the orchestra’s job to support the community; it is then their support will come
  • True outreach = a personal connection made
  • Building an audience is about bringing value to someone’s life forever, not selling them a ticket once in a while
  • Sincerity cannot be taught but it can be learned
  • We need to stop trying to entice people by using gimmicks and tricks, and focus on the reason why we’re failing to engage audiences in the first place

How I want to be:

  • Always trying to turn a challenge into an opportunity
  • Not looking for the keys to accessibility, but trying to tear doors down so we don’t need any keys
  • Sincere in my approach
  • No matter how long I have been doing something, I always want to feel like I’m just getting started
  • Smaller communities need to try and get rid of Arts Sections in their papers (more soon on this as it has happened here in Springfield and I couldn’t be happier)


  • Always place context over Urtext
  • It is at its most special when it is relevant
  • Interpretation for me is about attending to an audience’s needs over their expectations (this refers to quote about from the book Maybe, Maybe Not by my favorite author Robert Fulghum)

Arts Funding:

  • Will continue at it’s low level if it continues to serve the needs of the Arts Organizations over the needs of the people that they serve
  • Arts leaders not only need to meet amongst themselves, they need to start meeting with everybody else too


  • Conservatives are not all evil especially since they make up the majority of most boards, philanthropists and possibly even season ticket holders (I will look for evidence)
  • I want it to be about the effect the music is having on the audience rather than their thoughts about my performance

New Music:

  • We need humor in those concerts…but intentional humor!  (I will propose a Contemporary Music Laugh In)
Concert Halls:

  • We have to stop building the same one!  Although, at least they do try serve one of the smallest minority groups….the Arts Patrons

Music Education:

  • It should not only be about teaching music but also how music can teach about everything else
  • Playing an instrument is about how a child can do something positive with their hands over them being the next prodigy

College Arts and Arts Administration Courses:

  • There needs to be a more current affairs based approach, more classes in “why” to compliment the “how” and “what” classes, so students can find out what is out there before they leave the cocoon, I mean school!

Conductor training:

  • If a highly touted graduate of a major institution, is applying for an assistant Conductor opening, they should at least have heard of Leroy Anderson …especially if they wrote their resume on a Typewriter! (true story)


  • Humanitarians in the truest sense
  • The lifeblood of an orchestra and should be included in every major decision made, and should be allowed to make some themselves

Funniest thing I have seen at a concert:

  • Fort Worth Symphony, outdoor concert, Capriccio Espagnol.  A man could not get the ketchup out of the bottle and onto his hot dog but his flailing eventually matched the rhythm of the music.  My first thought…would they allow this in Heinz Hall!  Segue….

Major orchestra that really gets the audience connection and has inspired me:

My favorite quote right now:

Life is not measured by the amount of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away – George Carlin

I will write about all of the above and more and I will also take some requests, plus there will be an ongoing series of what friends and colleagues in the business are listening to along with their favorite quotes.

In the immortal words of Ali G


5 thoughts on “Out of the Shadows……”

  1. So nice to see you all doing this special blog session. Ron, you have been in the US quite some time. Can you share what the differences may be between the way Australia does programming, educational outreach etc, compared with the US? Might there be commonalities, or perhaps some good lessons from Australia to be adopted here in the US? Are there perhaps works that are more popular in Austrlia that have not made it to US shores, or vice versa?

  2. Just as a note of clarification, Sticks and Drones is not a temporary or otherwise short-term mini blog. It is a regular, ongoing blog authored by Ron and Bill. ~ Drew McManus

  3. Jeffrey
    Great question, not one I am totally comfortable answering since I left Australia in 1994! However, I remember going to Symphony concerts with my class in High School and it was compulsory to study Music up to the 10th grade! I don’t necessarily think though that people value music more over there, but the government certainly gives it a high priority with the Minister for the Arts being a high level cabinet member, and the orchestras receive annual funding of up to 60% of their budgets. For that they are (I think they still are)required to perform a certain number of Australian works. To be clear though, I don’t think that level of funding is necessarily my preference, as when we fight for it here, and we are supported with only a small amount coming from the government, it means the rest comes from us having to justify the merits of our existence, purpose, and ultimately the support of the people. There is one thing in Music Education though that they have us beat. Arts Groups (at least back then) had regular programming for pre-schoolers, which I have done in the US based on the concept I learned in Australia that I would call interactive listening. The children were in the concert, not just litening to it. PlaybillArts posted an article in the last year about the NY Phil and their pre-school program like it was something new. I remember playing in a Youth Orchestra for a pre-school program 25 years ago and showing children my instrument before the concert. I am glad they are doing it though. As far as works go, apart from the obvious composer Peter Sculthorpe, you should check out Ross Edwards, Brett Dean and Richard Mills, all very talented composers.
    Thanks for being my first comment!

  4. Excellent. I think we can always learn from other models in other parts of the world, and especially through people like yourself who bring other ideas to our shores. Perhaps you can start a festival here, ‘Down Under in the USA’! Those composers’ names are unfamiliar here. I recently connected with a composer named Ross Fiddes, who has sent his piano scores to me. We need to have more communication with Australia via the web and their music. Perhaps their music can be introduced to young people here as well.

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