Sir Clive Gillinson Discusses the Impact COVID-19 has had on the Arts

Wednesday, August 12, 2020 - Sir Clive Gillinson discusses the arts community, how they have been affected by COVID-19, and how they hope to recover.

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Sir Clive Gillinson is a British cellist and arts administrator.
Sir Clive Gillinson is a British cellist and arts administrator.

Sir Clive Gillinson is a British cellist and arts administrator. He is best known for his long tenure as the Managing Director of the London Symphony Orchestra from 1984 to 2005, and his current position as Executive and Artistic Director of Carnegie Hall. Today, he will discuss the arts community, how they have been affected by COVID-19, and how they hope to recover.

Sir Clive Gillinson notes that Carnegie Hall is not merely home to a prestigious arts venue, but also maintains extensive educational programming, reaching roughly 800,000 individuals annually. Carnegie Hall has had to cancel all in-person programming through at least January of 2021 and has been streaming performances in the meantime. Unfortunately, arts venues will be among the last parts of our economy to reopen.

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In This Episode

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Opening Remarks

Clive Gillinson:
Firstly, Andy, thanking very much for introducing me and for welcoming me here. Nancy, thank you as well, so much. I mean, you created such an important organization and it's a great tribute to you everything that you've done. It's a great honor for me to be here to talk to you all. Really, just to say, as you might just about have guessed, I'm not American. I think just worth saying that Carnegie Hall is the only reason I left the UK. I've been offered other jobs around the world, but Carnegie Hall genuinely to me is the greatest concert hall in the world, it's the only one that is known worldwide. And it's the only one that has the potential to transform music, transform people's lives through music to the degree it does. And for me, that's what life is all about, [crosstalk 00:03:09] how do you affect and improve people's lives through the use of a great institution.

On the education side, Andy asked me first to give a quick brief on what we do. We do a huge amount of education work as well as performance. On the performance side, we've developed big, big storytelling projects, big international and national festivals that explore all sorts of ideas that we think are topical and important. We've looked at migrations, how migrations created and formed American culture. We've looked at the African American cultural legacy, we've looked at Berlin, Vienna, the Venetian Republic, South America. So many different projects and one coming up next season is The Artist and the Tyranny and how artists, no matter how appalling the circumstances, always still have to create art and how that art is not about the misery and the agony, it's really about inspiration and the human spirit and hope and really enabling people to fulfill that talent and their ability.

And we'll be looking at slavery, we'll be looking at the Holocaust, we'll be looking at the Armenian genocide, we'll be looking at the arts under the Soviet Union and many other different things. Every year, we try and do something that we think is really an important subject, and clearly that one is, and then we do a lot of other projects which are big storytelling projects, and we try as well, particularly with our big festivals, to work right across New York City. We work with dance, film, theater, literature and so on, so that we're telling the stories in a way that creates journeys of exploration for audiences all the way across culture. And we work with up to 80 different institutions across the city, developing those journeys.

In addition, we present the best of every sort of music, so it's classical music, jazz, world music. We look at every genre of music and bring the greatest artists here. And it really is the place every great artist wants to perform. I can't begin to count the number of people where I've gone backstage after they've made that Carnegie Hall debut and you find them in tears because this is what they'd been waiting their entire lives to do. It does have a magic that really travels across the world, and that means we have a huge responsibility as well because to use the potential of the power of this institution is so important. I've been there 15 years now, as you heard from Andy's intro. And over that period, we've really built up what was a smallish education program into massive education programs that really affect people across the entire country.

We're now reaching over 800,000 people a year with our music education programs, most of them kids, and most of them kids who come from backgrounds where they wouldn't otherwise have the opportunities. We partner with organizations all across the country. For instance, one education program we do for elementary school kids. We work with 120 orchestras across America. We give them all of the resources, all the curriculum, everything, and we help to train them to deliver the programs, to enable them to have the world-class resources that they could never ever achieve on their own. We do all of that sort of work. A lot of our work is with kids in that way, not necessarily at all for kids to become musicians, but to make sure that we're nurturing their curiosity, their creativity, that music can be a part of that life, it doesn't matter at all whether they're going to take music up or not.

There's another big strand we do, which is about nurturing the finest talent in America. Six years ago, we created the National Youth Orchestra of America, the most brilliant 16 to 19-year-olds in the States. And we take them every year, obviously not this year, but we take them every year to a different part of the world as cultural ambassadors for that country. The American ambassadors in every country we've been always tell them what an extraordinary job they do, that what they do is worth... I remember the American ambassador to Moscow. When we were playing there, he said, "What you've just done tonight is worth 10 treaties I could sign in Russia." And this is what happens wherever they go. They connect with young people. They build relationships with young people all around the world, and those relationships now, thanks to social media, are relationships that will be relationships for life.

The other thing that's interesting is these kids who are the most extraordinary talents in America music, only about 50% of them will take up music. They are so multitalented, they're often Yale and Harvard, and goodness knows where else, becoming lawyers or mathematicians or physicists or businesses, what... These connections and these relationships between the greatest musicians in the country will be with people who also could have been exactly that, but who've chosen completely different paths, so they really are a network of leaders being built up across the country who are going to have a great impact on the future of America.

In addition to that, we created a younger orchestra because we were very aware that the people joining that orchestra weren't as diverse as America is. And so we thought we created a younger orchestra and proactively seek out the most brilliant kids with the most brilliant talent who haven't necessarily had the opportunity. And this is younger, it's 14 to 17, and it's almost 50% black and Latino kids, but much, much more diverse and that's been going now for several years and they're now feeding through into the National Youth Orchestra, the older orchestra, and on into the music colleges around America, and ultimately, they will change the face of American music in terms of participation. So they're having a big impact in that way. And then two years ago, we started National Youth Orchestra Jazz, which is obviously America's own art form. So again, they've traveled the world as American musical ambassadors, having a huge impact wherever they go.

These are broadly the things that we're doing on that side. On the digital side, we were developing a lot of ways in which we could share our education programs. We're doing a certain amount in terms of streaming of performances. All the time, we've been working to maximize the reach of what we do. And our whole philosophy is we're here to serve. This is never about the glory of Carnegie Hall or making sure that Carnegie Hall looks fantastic or anything like that or building the brand, it's always about how do we serve people's lives and transform lives through music and the arts? And that is what everybody's there for. And it creates a very different approach as well, because I remember when I first arrived at Carnegie Hall, we'd have a meeting about a project and somebody would say, "Well, what's best for Carnegie Hall?"

And I always said it's the wrong question. The only question we should be asking is, how do we transform lives through music? If we achieve that, that is what is best for Carnegie Hall. Not short-term, there may be no benefit short-term, but ultimately, it's the right thing to do and that is what we have to exist for. Education now, as you probably all know, has become a big part of most cultural institutions, they all feel a responsibility to society. It's something we feel we have to lead on. We've got to use the Carnegie Hall brand and the strength that brings to the table. So we're now partnering with organizations around the world as well. There's organizations in China and Spain and Britain who are developing and using our programs as well as all around America.

I think it's really important, and it's one of the things that struck me coming here, is that when you are running an organization like this, it can genuinely affect the world. It is your responsibility to do that to the best of your ability, and that is what we're dedicated to. So we've gone from reaching perhaps 60,000, 70,000, 80,000 people through the education programs when I arrived, to now 800,000 and reaching upwards and upwards, and that does not include what we're doing online as well. And obviously, that is now growing exponentially as well. That's a broad look at what we do. Because of COVID-19, we had to close down on March 13, we've now canceled all the way through to January 7. That's nine months of the year gone, which of course is heartbreaking for everybody. You spend years and years putting programs together, which you think are going to be absolutely transformative, and then to have to cancel all of that.

It's been very tough on staff, but it's also given us the chance to exponentially develop our digital programs. So we're looking at both, how do we share all our education programs more effectively, digitally? And we're doing that in a huge way. And that's with almost all of our programs now being shared digitally as well. We're also sharing more things. We've created specific programs on the performance side as well so we can really keep audiences engaged, keep them receiving things that really matter to them and are meaningful. We're in the process of creating a fellowship program so that we will help to train kids, but particularly minority kids. Well, actually kids isn't really the right word. Some of them will be people out of colleges. They'll get fellowships to work in every department at Carnegie Hall, be it the artistic planning, development, marketing, PR, sponsorship, everything. So we will develop fellowships in that way.

We've started talking to major institutions nationally who can partner with us around mentoring, so we'll be looking at two levels. One is expanding a lot the work we do with people who are out of college and let them thinking about what is their life going to be? Where do they want their career to go? And a lot of them would never think they have the opportunity for music to be part of that. And we'll be looking very particularly again at minorities where they wouldn't otherwise have the opportunities or perhaps even imagined that this could be for them. But also we're wanting to build in parallel with that a leadership program, which is for people who have done a certain amount of management, have not necessarily thought of the arts as where they want to go next, and where we can actually train them, mentor them and equip them to lead arts organizations or other organizations. It may not necessarily be art.

It's something, again, we want to develop in a national way so that we can help other organizations to do it so that we're really creating opportunities for people who genuinely would not have those opportunities. These are some of the things that we've got in process at the moment, that we're working on. And a lot of those are not completed yet. All the digital transformation is on its way, but it's not completed, but we have until the end of the year now, because we're canceled through December, we've got until the end of the year, both to completely transform the way we work digitally, which is what we're doing and we will have done by then. And that of course will be something that's all for the future as well, it's not just COVID-related.

It means that COVID has the least given us the chance through destroying so much else. It's given us the chance to take things forward in a way we could never have dreamed possible without another three, four or five years of work under normal circumstances and the fellowship program as well, we hope to be launching within the next couple of months or so. Just to talk a little bit more generally about arts organizations and where they are, needless to say, the crisis is nowhere near over, and I'm not just talking about what you all were just mentioning about those schools will now open, I think it was in LA, until the new year, things like that.

It's also not nearly over because of the nature of the performing arts sector. By definition, we will be amongst the last to reopen, along with all those who rely on public assembly. But particularly the performing arts. Our halls are very intensely populated, as all of you know who go to Broadway or to the theater or to concerts. And in addition, all the buildings like Carnegie Hall and Broadway have very minimal public spaces. They were built quite differently from the way one expects contemporary spaces to be, so it's very hard to enforce social distancing and ensure everybody's safety. And it's equally as true on Broadway as it is at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center and a lot of other places.

So far, Carnegie Hall and all major performance venues around the country, I don't think there's any exceptions, have been forced to cancel all performances, rentals and events through to January, 2021. And I think it's by no means a given that we will be able to start up again in January, 2021, because I think all of us are pretty clear that without a vaccine, the chances of really being able to open in a meaningful way are negligible. So we've only canceled through to January, 2021 because we've got to reappraise and we'll have to make a decision probably end of October, beginning of November, to decide whether or not we can then open in January. Otherwise, we will probably shut for a further two or three months. At the moment, it's impossible to know what that might be.

In addition, because we plan a long, long way ahead and we're absolutely certain that both in January to June, 2021, the first half of next year, which is the second half of this season, we're absolutely certain, even if there's a vaccine, we're not going to see attendances of around that 90%. Our average is in the high 80s. We're not going to see attendances like that remotely. So the cost of reduced attendances will be very significant. We're having to reduce the season January to June next year, even if it can take place at all, and we're also doing a very similar exercise for the whole of the following season 2021/22. Because again, we think that it's going to be a long, long time before life genuinely returns to normal, and people have the confidence to be going out to venues where they're getting really closely together with people no matter what, no matter how careful you are.

The other thing is that without a vaccine, if... We've done all the figures around social distancing in our hall, as have all our colleagues. I've talked to people on Broadway, with Broadway Theaters, I've talked to Lincoln Center, we talked to all of the other major venues and for all of us, it's broadly the same. We think with social distancing, we can probably have about 10% attendance. That is all, 10, maybe 15% attendance. In other words, without a vaccine, one's going to have 200 to 300 people in a venue for 3,000 in our case which financially of course, would be actually crippling, catastrophic to try and open under those circumstances.

And it's typical for all venues similar to ours that house the performing arts. I mean, it's slightly different for organizations like museums who can manage the number of people who are going through at any one time. Of course they're going to have to reduce drastically the number of people going through, but they're all looking at reopening perhaps within the next two to three months, at least with limited attendance. But that just simply isn't possible for performing arts organizations where you also are making sure you really look after everybody's health and safety.

The other thing worth noting is that decisions for performances and concerts have to be made months to some organizations, even years in advance. I mean, to get a Broadway show up and running takes a long time from the moment you've made the decision that you're going to do it. For us, it's a long time. It's an absolute minimum of two to three months from the decisions at the time you reopen. For some people it's less, for some people it's much more, so it varies a lot.

A lot of performing arts organizations across the country are at risk, even the most prominent and well known. Both not-for-profits or nonprofits like Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, as well as for-profit organizations like Broadway, all of them depend absolutely on earned revenue, and earned revenue as of March 13 obviously has been absolutely zero. And that's for nine months so far and could be a lot longer. Again, we're going to have to look at further very difficult decisions about how further do we save money? Obviously, the instant we have to close down, we make cuts in every way. At that point, we furloughed about 80 staff out of our 350 full time staff. And those were 80 people who only work when the hall is actually operating or when the halls are operating.

For most of us, PPP, for which a big thank you to everybody who was involved, was a lifeline, and particularly for most of our staff, as it enabled us to keep our stuff on as it did for so many organizations through June 30. But now as of July, we've had to furlough another 51 of our remaining staff since we're shut for another six months. So in terms of staff, obviously, incredibly tough.

And the other thing we've done as well, right across the organization, which I know is pretty common amongst the arts organizations, is we've obviously reduced pay all around. Since we closed on March 13, I gave myself a 50% pay cut. We cut our senior staff about... But not the rest of our staff at that point. But our senior staff had a pay cut. Now from this year, starting now on July 1, I'm taking a 25% pay cut, the senior stuff 10%, and the rest of the staff 8%, but not for anybody earning below 75,000, they won't have any reduction. So there's a lot of things like that we're doing as well because we obviously want to minimize the number of staff we lose or have to lose.

There's also a great danger for all arts organizations that if you lose or have to furlough too many people, you're potentially losing skills, experience, knowledge, and obviously it has a big impact on staff morale as well. In order to make sure you're not damaging the organization for the long-term, it's obviously important to keep as many staff as possible still involved and still doing work.

All arts organizations of course will have to carry forward huge losses. For us on a budget of what was going to be $104 million this year, we'll lose about $8 million in FY 20, which closed on June 30 and much more than that next year. I've been running Carnegie Hall for 15 years and we've never had a deficit in that time, and it's always been a matter of honor a metric that we never should have a deficit, but obviously under these circumstances, completely impossible not to have a deficit unless you literally get rid of everybody and even then, you'd still have a deficit, but then you destroy the organization for the future. So you cannot do it. And this sort of level of loss, or even more is going to be true of all arts organizations across the country. And that's not just performing arts, it's museums and every other one as well.

As I know, you're also, I'm sure, acutely aware, state and local government resources are now stretched absolutely past the limit. And this further destabilizes the nonprofit art sector as the arts are often among the first items to be cut from state and local budgets. Therefore, additional federal government support for the arts and cultural sector to weather the pandemic is vitally important as is funding for state and local governments through bills like the SMART Act which might or will relieve pressure on local budgets. And hopefully in turn, ease cuts in the arts sector.

Now, in terms of the biggest impact Congress could have looking forwards, by far the biggest contribution would be to allow PPP borrowers, people who've already benefited from that and being able to keep on staff who they would otherwise have had to furlough or lose altogether. For those that are not going to be able to reopen, which particularly applies to performing arts organizations, would be the ability to apply for additional PPP loans. This would have a massive impact on performing arts organizations, but more especially on their staff and the ability to look after staff as much as one possibly can until at least some degree of normality returns and enables us all to restart performances again.

Nancy and Andy, that's, I hope, a useful picture of the totality. Even though it's obviously a very damaging, a very desperate situation in lots and lots of ways, I think everybody is using their ingenuity, their creativity to look at, how do you get really good things out of this as well, like all the switch to digital? All the things that can actually genuinely enhance your ability to serve people beyond COVID, once COVID is all over And everybody's coming back into the halls, if one's created programs that will really benefit people long-term, those are all the things we're working on our view with everything that we're creating, and I think that's true of most art's organizations, is we should be creating things that are not just about now and dealing with this disaster, but things that will actually have really meaningful impact in the future and on an ongoing basis.

That's where we all are. And I think the good thing about it is it is an unbelievably creative sector, our staff have been extraordinary, people who work the most insane hours. Everybody's working harder than they've ever worked before. And having to do that obviously with reduced pay now. But everybody shows an unbelievable commitment and that is one of the most inspiring things about working in the arts, people are there because of their passion for what they do, and they will all move heaven and earth to make sure that we continue to do important things for people's lives. I hope that's a useful introduction for a discussion. Please let me know what you would like to discuss.

How do you get people feeling comfortable in the auditoria?

Thanks Andy. In the last decades or so, you've had so many different media that have been created and so many different names, whether it's Spotify or Hulu or YouTube or Zoom or Apple or Amazon or Netflix, and they've all been designed to de-congregate people, and into that, obviously COVID, which has forced everybody to de-congregate. Your biggest battle is going to be, how do you recongregate everyone? I know you've gone into a little bit, but can you say more about how you're going to get people psychologically back into auditoria, back into places where they're going to feel comfortable congregating and want to head back to places where they can be together?

Clive Gillinson:
Andrew, it's a really good question and it's not a question that I think anybody can answer definitively, because I think one never knows, even surveys never tell you about human behavior. Surveys tell you what people think they will do, they never tell you what they'll actually do. And the two things can differ very substantially. The only thing I'd say is that the live performing arts are an experience that relate to sharing an experience. Being in Carnegie Hall, and particularly a hall as greatest Carnegie Hall, it's one of the things that I personally have experienced. I mean, I still walk in there 15 years after I first started working as the Executive and Artistic Director and it still takes my breath away to walk into that space.

People love to share great experiences, and great experiences share. They're quite different than watching something online, which is not the same experience. You're not interreacting with it, it's not about the moment. It's being presented for you, that's it, that's what you've got. What I can tell you is throughout my life, I've had a total faith in the power of the art itself, and it's not that I don't think you can create something very powerful and meaningful online, I think you can. And so what we're looking at, therefore, is... The reality of life perhaps would probably be a lot if 1% of the world's population will ever enter Carnegie Hall. It probably wouldn't even be remotely 1%.

In other words, if we can give an experience that is a great experience, obviously it doesn't compete with... It's not as good and it never can be as good as the performance of actually being there and experiencing it directly. If you could give something for people who may be live in a small town, who don't have access even to the best in their locality, if you think of all States in America, a lot of them have got great [inaudible 00:31:41], but there's endless towns that don't and this is the same worldwide, wherever you go. The access to world-class performance is very, very limited around the entire world. So live is one thing, totally different. The other is that digital experience can give you access to something you can't possibly get live locally. Therefore, it can still remain absolutely meaningful.

And the other thing I'd just say, though, is coming back to vaccine. This is only a guess, it's just one's understanding of human beings as you know them. My guess is that if there's a medicine, I still don't think people are going to convene in cramped spaces like a Broadway Theater or Carnegie Hall. Nobody's going to go somewhere where they think, "I might catch the disease, but at least I'll be able to be cured." I think the chances of them going out remain low until there's a vaccine and until that vaccine is readily available. Then I think it will come back. I'm totally confident that with a vaccine that's available to all, that audiences will come back because I don't think any other experience can compete with the live experience. That's the broad answer. Does that answer your question?

Question (cont'd):
Pretty much. But I think that the live performance venues are going to need to market together to get people to think in terms of coming back and we congregating.

Clive Gillinson:
I agree. And the other thing that it does, which is something anyway, I mean, we wouldn't be doing our job properly if we didn't do it, is we have to create irresistible experiences. The fact is they've got to be unmissable. If it's a good concept, why would you bother to go out? It's got to be extraordinary, it's got to be great. The fact is, the live experience, it puts more pressure. The more that is digitally available, the more pressure it puts on the live experience being extraordinary and in a way, making demands on us that we anyway should be making on ourselves. But it means that anybody who is not being sufficiently demanding on themselves will probably fail.

So, one has got to be looking for the extraordinary, but it's one of the things... I always say, coming to America, it's one of the things I've loved most about coming here. In Britain, we have a certain amount of public subsidy. 30% of our budget came from the city and the state. We were heavily protected in certain ways, and that doesn't exist here as you know. And the thing that I love is when I go to see somebody and ask them for money to support a project, I know that if I go to any potential donor with a project, that's a good project, I should forget it. There is no point.

If I didn't go with something that the world can't live without... That's the lens I try to look through for everything. We've got to create something the world can't live without. It's going to feel so special that if somebody is interested, if they're not interested, they're not going to support it anyway, but if they're interested, they'll say, "This has got to happen." Again, it's all part of what we were talking about, which is you've got to be aiming for the extraordinary every minute of every day. And that, I think, is absolutely central to answering your question about live.

Criticisms of Diversity in Performance Arts

My question is, as you're aware that a lot of organizations and particularly artistic organizations have come under attack lately for the makeup of the artists, the board of directors, the supporters, the kinds of materials that they've put on. And when we see that the show Hamilton was attacked recently and criticized significantly, I think we know that there isn't anyone or any organization that's immune from this. My question is, has Carnegie Hall or any performance been criticized or attacked in that way, and what plans do you have for the inevitable attacks that will come certainly down the line?

Clive Gillinson:
Look, they will come. It doesn't matter what you do, they'll come, which Hamilton is a good example of, it doesn't matter what you do, they'll still come. But the reality is, we've had both black performers extensively on our stage for... The interesting thing is since Carnegie Hall opened, Andrew Carnegie, his view was that everybody should perform there. We opened in 1891. In 1892 was the beginning of when black performers started performing at Carnegie Hall, where they couldn't perform in Washington. There were a lot of places they could not perform for a long, long time.

So it's part of our history, but it's not really part of our history in terms of our proactive life because I don't know whether you know, Carnegie Hall was privately owned until 1960, and so it was basically a rental hall. In fact, the things that came there came there because other people wanted to present concerts. It was very diverse, but it wasn't actually intentional. There was no intentionality behind it, was accepting rentals. But from 1916, it was bought by the city rather than be destroyed. And since then, we've had our own organization and we personally were about the best of every sort of music, it's jazz, it's world music, it's classical, it's every sort of music.

It is the greatest classical music concert hall in the world, so there is always going to be an emphasis on classical because no hall can be all things to all people, and shouldn't try to be. No business tries to be all things to all people. You always fail if you try to do that. We do work on doing the things that we can do really well, but yes, we have a very large number, not just of black artists, but artists from across the spectrum, from all around the world, from diverse communities all around the city, as well as the country. That is Central. We've got a very significant number of staff who are either black or Latinx. Our board, I brought on an advisor about seven years ago to help me expand the diversity on our board. It's a very diverse board now.

I don't know whether you were in the room when I was talking about National Youth Orchestra 2, the younger one, where we've sought out younger players, particularly black and Latinx players who haven't had the chances, to give them the opportunity to join the younger ones so that they can get onto a pathway. That has transformed the pipeline from NYO2, the younger one, through to the National Youth Orchestra and now it's affecting who goes to music colleges. In other words, it's part of what we do, it's part of what we've been for a long time. And with the big festivals I was talking about, more of them have had African American culture as an aspect or a dimension of the festivals we've done since I started, because I created those when I arrived, we've had about 13 festivals in that time, of which four or five have related specifically to either African American or black culture, which is far more than have related to anything else.

In other words, it's a very conscious, deliberate approach to everything we do and it has been for a long time. It's nothing to do with reacting to what's happening today. And the fellowship program I was talking about again is trying to broaden something where we feel we haven't done well enough. There's lots of things where we can do better. Just because we think we've done a lot is not the same as saying we think we can't do better. So the answer to your question is, we will still get attacked. We know that, everybody will, but our view is it's not either... Look, we all know that for very specific reasons, the issue about opportunities for black people in this country, it's a huge issue, it's something that should have been dealt with forever ago. It hasn't been, of course it's got to be dealt with, but we also believe long-term, we're talking about diversity and opportunity in a much broader sense. We're talking about Latinx, we're talking about native Americans, we're talking about women.

There are so many different dimensions to diversity that you have to address and black is a very, very central and important focus right now, and so it should be. But we are making sure you don't end up getting pooled just into one narrow track, but that you're not actually looking after diversity in the broadest sense because we think that is our overall responsibility.

Question (cont'd):
If I could say one quick thing, I appreciate your answer, but one thing I'd like to point out and I'll try to say this in the best way that I possibly can. My wife and I are aficionados, it's theater and music, at least we used to be. Well, we recently moved to Las Vegas. It has a different kind of theater, but we drive here. We used to be in California in the Bay area. And I can tell you that for a number of reasons, we stopped attending theater. That's a very complex thing, which was unfortunate, but at least in San Jose, I'll be specific, in San Jose, the pool of talent that they're reaching into is not as deep as what you have access to. It's not even as deep as San Francisco, but I can tell you that in attempts to diversify in all aspects of their theater, they put on very diverse performances that just weren't very good.

And I think from what you're saying, Carnegie Hall is the epitome of what we expect and people want to go to see, as you said, something that's incredibly unique. And I just want to say that sometimes, incredibly unique would mean an all-black performance, an all-white performance, a classical. I think it's honorable to do what you're doing, but I just hope that the quality of the performances don't suffer as they did significantly in San Jose when performances were really nothing special after several years.

Clive Gillinson:
Well, look, I completely take your point. And I agree that if diversity means creating opportunities across the board for people across society, if that means you lower your standards, you've failed everybody. You've failed the audiences, you've failed the people who you're trying to create opportunities for. If you lower the standards, firstly it's patronizing. It's absolutely not the right thing to do. The whole point of what we're trying to do is you want to level up, you don't want a level down. I think there's a lot of people who see opportunity as leveling down and that, to me, is a disastrous decision.

Opportunity is about leveling up. You're giving everybody the chance to succeed, everybody the chance to be their best, everybody the chance to fulfill their talent so that everybody's competing equally. Our problem and challenge as a society is too often, people don't have that chance. So it's our job to give everybody the chance to succeed and fulfill their talent and still meet the most exacting standards. And the whole point of that is so that everybody does meet those standards. I totally take your point.

Sum is Bigger Than Its Parts

Thank you for speaking to our group today and let you know that I really sympathize with the difficult times, but I wanted to focus on something you said near the beginning, and you touched a little bit on your last response to Bob as well. I went to a performing arts high school, and we always said that the values of learning to work together, the values of learning to practice discipline, and somehow I think the part that ties into our organization, where you had a lot of great talent in the room but people let their egos, they let these other deficiencies get in the way and the symphony as a whole, the orchestra was not equal to the sum of the parts. So it can be either way.

I know that you're trying to make something greater than the sum of the parts, and some of us feel like Congress, we know a lot of Congress [inaudible 00:45:16] lot of good people, but somehow the institution is not rising. And I think that's part of what we intend to do in the music business is to build something that's bigger than that sum of the parts.

Clive Gillinson:
I agree with you, there's no point doing anything unless it's bigger than the sum of the parts. It's a little bit like when I was talking about some of the partnerships we do. When we do a partnership around a big festival, when we did the Migrations Festival, a year ago we had 80 partner organizations. Everybody achieved far more than they could have achieved on their own. And by getting together, we created an experience that nobody could have done on their own. It was much more than the sum of the parts. Now, if we'd ended up doing something, which again, was with the wrong partners, and I think a key thing for me on this always with every partnership is, you have to base every partnership on shared values.

It doesn't mean shared beliefs but shared value, and that is fundamentally important. When I was talking about our program, the elementary school kids across the country where we were working with 120 orchestras, if we don't believe in the same things in terms of the quality of the experience and the learning that we're creating, then we should not be partnering with them. That's a disaster. It lowers the quality and means that we're not actually doing something that matters. I couldn't agree with you more, one always has to make sure... At the very least, it should be equal to the sum of the parts, but frankly that's probably not worth doing either since it takes so much work to bring people together, therefore, if you're going to do it and you're going to undertake that work, it should be more than the sum of the parts. I couldn't agree more.

What advice would you have for the artist whose career is paused at the moment?

I appreciate the fervor that you bring to the position. I, for one, could not imagine New York City without Carnegie Hall [crosstalk 00:47:17] If I may ask a somewhat selfish question. I have a son, 26-years-old, who graduated from Berkeley College of Music and just really getting things going. I realize potential for income these days is pretty low, but what about professional development, some of these networks, what advice would you have for the artist whose career is paused at the moment?

Clive Gillinson:
Well, I won't try and diminish how difficult it is right now, because I think for young artists who haven't really established themselves, it's astoundingly difficult. And I think the only way one can do this, not everybody can do it because one's got to live, there's a degree to which you have to invest in your own career, so creating videos, doing stuff on YouTube, doing stuff on social media which gets you known, you're not going to make any money on it, but I think there are times when you simply just have to... If you want to work in the arts, unless you're lucky and you get a job, but for a performer that's tough.

Not everybody's going to be a star and you don't need to be a star. The fact that you don't have to be a star to earn a good living, but you've got to find your place. And that takes time. I always say to people you've got to make connections, get to know people, try and develop ideas around shared vision about shared things that you want to create. I feel as I'm really unhelpful because there are no obvious answers. We've created certain programs that are about helping to nurture talent in that way. We do master classes, we do all sorts of different things, we created a fellowship when I arrived. I wanted to create a fellowship for the best postgraduate musicians where they would learn not just to be the most brilliant players, but also we'd teach them the skills so they could work in schools and prisons and hospitals and [inaudible 00:49:31] and so on.

We do that fellowship. It's a two-year fellowship and they come out of that fellowship and they can really build a portfolio career around performance, but plus lots of other work. I think all one can do, all he can do is ask around. Berkeley is a very good place to be connected. There's a guy called Jeremy Geffen who runs the music program there. He should speak to Jeremy. G-E-F-F-E-N, Jeremy Geffen, because he's a really good guy, he used to work for me. That's not the only reason, he's a good guy, but he really is a good guy. He'll make some introductions. All you can do is you try and chase introductions, you try and chase connections and you'll never know which is the one that then leads to something.

I've been through the same thing with all my kids and they never quite believe... They always want something they know will succeed. The trouble with coming out of college is, there is no such thing. In one way or another, you're just investing in trying to find where your path is going to lie. And most people coming out of college don't even really know how they're going to spend their life.

If I think of myself, I was originally going to be a mathematician. I ended up becoming a musician, joined the London Symphony Orchestra as a cellist and ended up by mistake in management. It wasn't something I'd sought or something I was interested in. In fact, I was not interested in it, specifically not. But it was the best mistake of my life and it's ended up with me running Carnegie Hall. In other words, I thought I knew what I wanted to do. I'm not doing anything I wanted to do when I was 20, 21. So kids have to understand that they've got talents... If they're talented and he will be, if he went to Berkeley, if he's talented... I always remember a teacher when my oldest kid went to school. The teacher said, "Don't forget all talented kids are multitalented," and they are. He may think he wants to be a player. I wanted to be a player. I thought management was a terrible thing, boring routine thing to do. It's the most exciting thing I've done in my life.

So in other words, keep an open mind as well. Don't assume that something you don't want to do because you might find it's the thing you do want to do, as I did. I knew I didn't want to do this, but I've ended up doing the thing I love most. Kids tend to have a closed mind... Whenever anybody comes to me for career advice and says, "I've mapped my career path. I want to do this for four years, that four years," I always say to them, "It's a terrible mistake. Don't." Think of the number of lawyers who end up in Congress. They thought they're going to be lawyers. They end up in government, actually much more happy. So many people end up in something that's different from what they thought they wanted to do. So keeping an open mind is one of the biggest things in the lot.

Could outdoor performances make a return sooner than indoor performances?

It's in regard to when performances will be able to happen again and, well, I have to say being in Southern California, this is an easier question to answer, but what about outdoor performances? Do you think they could come back sooner and I'm thinking of Shakespeare in the park for you all there, you don't have the room to do outdoor as we do here or Hollywood Bowl and so on. What do you think about out door performances?

Clive Gillinson:
Well, I think that is definitely an opportunity where organizations have it. The LA Phil with the Hollywood Bowl are blessed with a fantastic opportunity because yes, you definitely should be able to do that. And might even be able to make that viable financially. With a closed hall, obviously, virtually impossible to make it viable financially as well as look after people healthily. So yes. Lincoln Center, I know are looking at how do they use the Plaza? It's a limited space, but it's an open space and it means they can space people and so you can do something. So I think the simple answer is yes, outdoor performance opportunities should be explored. Our space around Carnegie Hall is absolutely minimal, so we're looking at whether there's other things we can do maybe in a park or whatever it is. We are looking at other ideas. We can probably get about 20 people on the sidewalk at Carnegie Hall, so that's all going to be the answer. But for those who have the space, a hundred percent it's an opportunity to start doing things meaningfully.

Question (cont'd):
Now, along those lines, the other side of it is I'm on the symphony board, so I know what the orchestra thinks about it. To get them wanting to do it... You're talking about getting audiences in the other problem is getting actors or musicians, et cetera, to want to do the job. Can you speak about that a bit?

Clive Gillinson:
Well, all I can say is everybody has to adapt to life. If you don't, you're finished. The whole thing about what makes human beings so extraordinary is usually we're adaptable. Those who don't and they're unable to adapt, fail. It's almost inevitable that they fail. And I think if there's orchestras who say we won't do this because... Whatever the reasons, all I can say is they're making a terrible mistake because it's very important for them to remain connected to their audiences, because after all, playing outdoors, there's the Hollywood Bowl, there's Ravinia the Tanglewood, there are so many great outdoor venues where you... Okay, it's not the same experience as in a great concert. Well, of course it's not. But it can be a very special experience nonetheless, and you've got to make it an important experience.

But I think if one is too snobbish about one's art form... Of course you shouldn't do something that is going to be terrible in terms of quality. Of course one shouldn't do that, but if one's looking for ways to keep the art form alive and meaningful and stay connected with audiences, it is perfectly possible to create something really meaningful and powerful and important performing outdoors, because there's all the technology now to do that as well. When you look at places like Ravinia, they've got it all set up. So all the speakers that amplify the music and calculate back their fees because obviously electronically when it's being carried to the speakers, it's traveling at the speed of light but the sound going from the stage is only traveling at the speed of sound.

So the technology slows it down so that what comes out to the speakers is reaching the speaker at the same time as the sound from the stage does. That all now is possible. It never used to exist. It used to be meaningless because if you had speakers, then you got all virtually instantaneous sound reaching the back, whereas the speed of sound is so much slower, it's, whatever it is, 700 miles an hour instead of 136,000 miles per second. That used to ruin the performance. It's not necessarily now, you can do it perfectly well and really successfully. So all of that technology exists, [inaudible 00:57:42].

Bill Galston Sign Off

Bill Galston:
It's my happy duty to be asked to close this session. I have to say it's been a pleasure and a privilege to have you. You're as subtle and skilled an advocate for your cause as any advocate or any cause that I've heard in quite some time, and we're fortunate that it's such a worthy cause. We all have our memorable Carnegie Hall experiences. I will briefly share mine. I'm a not very talented amateur jazz pianist, but I had the privilege of attending Eubie Blake's last concert at Carnegie Hall. The aged stride musician came out on stage when he was in his early 90s and the applause was deafening and lengthy. When it subsided, he said, "Thank you, thank you. I'm so glad to be here." Then he paused for three beats and said, "Hell, at my age, I'm glad to be anywhere." And those of us of a certain age now understand exactly what he was talking about.

I took copious notes as you were speaking. And two things jumped out at me as being particularly relevant connections to what we as an organization are trying to do. The first was when you responded to your colleague's asking about whether a particular venture would be useful to Carnegie Hall and you corrected them and said, "That's the wrong question." And then you said, "We're here to serve." That is exactly the spirit that brings this organization together. You see before you a number of important investors in the organization but the return that they hope to get is not measured in dollars and cents, it's measured in the well-being of the country.

Second, and I'm sure that Nancy Jacobson, who's one of the best fundraisers anybody will ever meet, understood exactly what you were saying when you said that you didn't want to go to funders with a good proposition. You deserve to fail, that you wanted to come to them with something that "the world can't do without." Well, frankly, that's the proposition, or as they say on Wall Street, the value proposition that we're putting to our investors and to the country. We believe that bringing the country together across its differences in a way that might, for example, lead to the swift enactment of some of the pieces of legislation you referred to in your opening remarks is something that the country can't do without. And we're in the process of trying to prove that we're indispensable.

I end with a question that your presentation brought to mind, have we as an organization perhaps neglected one of the age-old functions of the arts, and that is to say, to create experiences that bring people together across their differences? What if we could figure out a way of bringing red numbers and blue members together for a program that featured both a gospel choir and country music singers, just for example? Could we create more of a common spirit through the arts? You don't have to be a deep reader of Plato and the classics to know that they regarded music, [musique 01:02:14], [inaudible 01:02:15] as the profoundest form of human education. You've left us a lot to think about, and we are very grateful to you.

Clive Gillinson:
Well, Bill, thank you for those words. Only just to reiterate, I think what you're all trying to do is so vitally important and I find... I'm an outsider, but I love America, I'm here to stay. To see America torn apart in the way it is at the moment, when America, for so much of life, has represented all the values that all of us actually admire and care about all around the world. It's been the best representation one could have of all of those values. To see now it's struggling in this way is something that makes me incredibly sad and I couldn't agree with you more. What you're trying to do is unbelievably important for this country and for the people of this country, which is why I'm so honored to have actually been able to meet with and talk with all of you as well.

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