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Highlights from “How Business Decisions Impact the Creative Freedom of Arts Organizations”

February 12, 2014

By Nicole Greenstein C’14

Penn Law students gathered in Silverman Hall on Nov. 10 to learn about the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, as well as the business, legal and artistic challenges that it currently faces.

The event, which was hosted by Penn Law in the Arts, featured a candid discussion about how business decisions can both facilitate and stifle artistic creativity. Leading the discussion were two music aficionados from the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia: Maestro Dirk Brossé, the orchestra’s Music Director, and Peter H. Gistelinck, the orchestra’s Executive Director.

Gistelinck explained that oftentimes he finds himself unable to put on a program, since taking artistic liberties can be financially risky under the orchestra’s funding model. Unlike countries in Europe where most orchestras are government funded, the government only provides 2% of the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia’s budget.

“I’m so dependent on my box office, I’m so dependent on my corporations,” said Gistelinck. “I know the program is going to have such a huge impact financially that we are actually artistically restrained.”

Gistelinck expressed his belief that the only solution to creating artistic freedom is to first create financial independence. Yet in the meantime, the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia has found solace through the music industry’s shift to a digital model. After the Orchestra started uploading its concerts online in virtual CDs, sales have skyrocketed.

“We had 68,000 paid downloads and streamings out of 52 concerts, so that is really the future,” said Gistelinck. “And for us, it’s really creating a revenue stream that will give us some artistic freedom.”

For Musical Director Brossé, there is much at stake in preserving orchestras and their artistic freedom.

“When younger generations listen to classical music, I really believe that we can create a better world,” said Brossé. “And that should be the goal of all of us, whatever we study — law or economics or music. The basic thing is to create a better world.”

While Penn Law in the Arts often attends local performances and exhibitions, for this event the group wanted to show how students can help arts organizations through in-house and pro bono work.

“It was great that we could finally use our skill set as lawyers and get an insight on the business that goes on behind the scenes of arts organizations,” said President Alisa Melekhina L’14.

Penn Law students listening the Music and Executive Directors of Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia speak on business decisions and creative freedom #pennlawlife