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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

Making art happen: It's never just about the music

By John Terauds on October 16, 2013

Jeanne Lamon (second from left, back row) and her Tafelmusik colelagues on the steps of Trinity-St Paul's Church in 1981 (Tafelmusik photo).
Jeanne Lamon (second from left, back row) and her Tafelmusik colleagues on the steps of Trinity-St Paul’s Church in 1981 (Tafelmusik photo).

I have a favour to ask of you, gentle reader. Please close your eyes for 10 seconds and think of the people you know who do everything well: the great surgeon with a fine bedside manner, the probing lawyer who empathises with her fellow man, the efficient CEO who values people.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, Editor-Emeritus of Ludwig van Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at the University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds

Most professionals can do one thing well, but very, very few can dispatch many different tasks with ease. Not that this stops us from expecting that they will.

Last night I retrieved an employment ad, prepared by Toronto’s most successful arts headhunter, for the position of music director at Tafelmusik.

Jeanne Lamon, the artistic head of the orchestra for the past 33 years, is leaving at the end of this season. She arrived in Toronto an eager young baroque violinist as green as a freshly picked banana to head a small band that played almost well, teetering on financial ruin and without a ready audience.

Lamon is not a natural extrovert or small-talk conversationalist. But she was (and still very much is) passionate about her art and sharing it with people. She is smart as well as savvy, still filled with curiosity about music and people’s connections to it.

I’ll bet a loaf of Future Bakery marble rye that, when Lamon arrived, there was no job description. Now there is one:

Tafelmusik seeks a Music Director of international calibre who specializes in period performance and directs while playing: a first among equals working in a collaborative environment dedicated to the highest standards of musical excellence. Reporting to the Board of Directors and working closely with the Managing Director, the Music Director will have responsibility for artistic leadership, rehearsals, concert planning, education and artist training, touring, recording and liaison with the staff, the public, donors and funders in publicity and fundraising activities.

The ideal candidate will be an original and innovative thinker who can bring new ideas to all aspects of Tafelmusik operations, while cherishing and building on its past achievements. The new Music Director will be a collaborative leader, gifted at programming, who will contribute to the artistic development of our musicians and audiences. A progressive approach to non-traditional programming and media platforms in order to engage emerging audiences would be welcomed, as well as expertise in balancing repertoire planning with economic realities.

Voilà: An almost impossible ideal of fabulous musician, efficient administrator, warm people person and expert schmoozer.

It’s never just about the music. Officially it is, of course, but the music can’t happen if the other conditions aren’t met every day, every week, every month and every year. And that doesn’t include the fine diplo-political art of daily renewing the consensus between musicians, board and audiences that this relationship is worth continuing.

No academic programme, for all its vaunted emphasis on Innovation or Creativity or Entrepreneurship can prepare someone for this. And no psychological weightlifting can arm this person against the conflicting needs of backstage and stage, of musician and donor, of artistic engagement and boxoffice.

And we won’t even talk about the ever-looming armchair critics (does anyone not have a theory about why New York City Opera failed?).

Just about every job description for the leader of an arts organization reads in a similar way these days — be it at the Toronto Symphony or the AGO. We want superwomen and supermen — and the smaller the office, the more super they need to be.

Great businesspeople with awful people skills can muddle along for a very long time. Gruff, impersonal doctors are still essential, even if we, as patients want to get the interaction over with as quickly as possible. But get the Music Director or Artistic Director wrong, and the orchestra or opera company is going to be scraping the butter from its financial toast in no time.

In short, this set up looks like it’s meant to fail. That it doesn’t is speaks eloquently of the effort, faith and sacrifice behind the performing arts.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, Editor-Emeritus of Ludwig van Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at the University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds
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