Talking to the Orchestras

RPS sessions at the annual Association of British Orchestras Conference confront artistic issues current in the profession.

Bournemouth 2017

The Diversity Challenge: The Conductor

Our industry faces constant accusations of being ‘male, pale and stale’, and nowhere is this more acute than in our selection of conductors and music directors. What are the barriers to and unconscious biases that impede progression for women and people from minority groups? In the second of our facilitated conversations, we’ll take an in-depth look at our potential to nurture and engage with a more diverse roster of conductors.

James Murphy - Managing Director, Southbank Sinfonia
Alice Farnham - Conductor; Founder and Artistic Director of Women Conductors at the RPS
Lucy Kerbel - Director, Tonic
Lydia Connolly - Joint Managing Director, HarrisonParrott
Stephen Maddock - Chief Executive, CBSO.

Gateshead 2015

People Power: Are the punters in charge?

At no other time has there been more cultural choice for the consumer. Yet, how far should audiences dictate the cultural agenda and how do we manage this power balance? When, for many, classical music is not a top priority, how do we attract new tickets buyers and what can we do to encourage existing supporters to engage more?

Svend Brown - Director Glasgow UNESCO City of Music
Ruth Mackenzie CBE - Interim CEO and Creative Director, The Space
Abigail Pogson - Chief Executive, Spitalfields Music
Jo Taylor - Senior Consultant, Morris Hargreaves McIntyre
Claire Whitaker - Director, Serious

London 2014

New Directions: Listening to Musicians

For this year's ABO Conference debate, the Royal Philharmonic Society has invited leading musicians to put forward their particualr perspectives on how the profession is developing and what new directions they would like to see followed in the coming years. Does management listen to performers enough? Is the tried and tested partnership between orchestras and artists being explored fully? What's next for collaboration? How will the profession continue to rejuvenate and compete with other art-forms?

Claire Booth - soprano
Tom Hutchinson - Projects Co-ordinator, Royal Philharmonic Society
Steven Isserlis - cellist
Jack Liebeck - violinist
Dénes Várjon - pianist

Leeds 2013

Breaking the Mould - RPS Debate

At no other time have orchestras and classical music venues been actively challenging the formal traditions and established formats. From late-night soirées to club-style collaborations, from interactive education projects to digital presentation, the boundaries are being nudged, flipped and pushed back to embrace modern culture and entice the discerning consumer. However, are programmers being bold enough? Is classical music keeping up with the other art-forms and are current attempts actually what are wnated? This debate brings a range of artists and cultural commentators from outside the classical music world together to offer their views on what they would like to see happen next in live classical music performance and programming.

Mark Baldwin - Aritistic Director, Rambert Dance Company
Will Gompertz - Arts Editor, BBC
Tom Hutchinson - Projects Co-ordinator, Royal Philharmonic Society
Netia Jones - video artist and director
Ariane Koek - Head of Internation Arts, CERN

Liverpool 2012

Calling the Tune - RPS Debate

Creating concerts that pack an artistic punch and pull in audiences isn't easy, especially at a time when artistic choices are driven by the need to balance creative vision with the bottom line. How cane ensembles, programmers and promoters break the mould of old favourites and create programming that is both adventurous and appealing, and who should call the tune: artists, audiences or funders? Should we always strive for the 'new' and 'different' and how might the right creative choices help to attract new investment?

Maria Bota - Festival Director, Salisbury International Arts Festival
David Butcher - Chief Executive, Britten Sinfonia
Marcus Davey MBE - Chief Executive, Roundhouse
Sir John Tusa - Chair, The Clore Leadership Programme

Derby 2011

Beyond the Dots - Composer in the House

What’s a composer good for? Certainly more than ‘just’ writing new music. A special RPS/PRS Foundation panel discussion looking at the creative potential and possible risks of placing a composer at the heart of an orchestra’s artistic life.

Graham Sheffield CBE (chair) - Director Arts, British Council
Andrew Cornall - Head of A&R, EMI
Anna Meredith - Composer
André de Ridder - Music Director, Sinfonia ViVA
Ros Rigby - Performance Programme Director, The Sage Gateshead

Beyond The Dots Podcast by RoyalPhilharmonicSociety

Glasgow 2010

Out of Vision: From Platform to Plasma Screen

What is the status of classical music within contemporary culture and its place in broadcasting media? Leading figures from the arts and broadcasting focus on how the music profession can attract arts editors and commissioners in an ever-increasingly diverse artistic world.

Dr. Tiffany Jenkins - Director of the Arts and Society Programme at the Institute of Ideas
Andrea Miller - Head of Factual Programmes, BBC Scotland
Gillian Moore MBE - Head of Contemporary Culture, Southbank Centre
Louise de Winter - Director of National Campaign for the Arts
Jan Younghusband - BBC Commissioning Editor for Music + Events

Cardiff 2009

Look Who’s Talking…

Why is it that cultural commentators, so at home when discussing theatre, the visual arts, literature and dance, find themselves lost for words when it comes to talking about classical music? The panel discuss the responsibility of orchestras and the music profession in articulating and communicating the listening experience to potential audiences. Are there serious implications when words fail them?

Graham Sheffield (chair) - Artistic Director, Barbican
James Fenton - Writer
Claire Fox - Director of the Institute of Ideas
Charlotte Higgins - Chief Arts Writer of The Guardian
Graham McKenzi - Artistic Director of Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival

Read more

Look who’s talking… RPS / ABO Debate 2009 by RoyalPhilharmonicSociety

Related Pages


Ricardo Castro: International pianist who established a flourishing youth music programme in Bahià, Brazil. Awarded RPS Honorary Membership in 2013.


Richard Wagner was musical director of the 1855 Philharmonic Society Season and conducted all eight concerts.