Orchestras in the Netherlands and system dynamics thinking

Concerned about the financial crisis on the fate of long-standing orchestras, as mentioned in my previous blog, I asked a Dutch musicologist about the orchestras that perform regularly in the Netherlands. He listed the following, which I’ve translated into English below:

  • Koninklijk Concertgebouworkest: Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
  • Residentie Orkest: Residential Orchestra
  • Rotterdams Philharmonisch Orkest: Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Nederlands Philharmonisch Orkest: Dutch Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Holland Symfonia: Holland Symphonia
  • Het Brabants Orkest: The Brabant Orchestra
  • Limburgs Symfonie Orkest: Limburg Symphony Orchestra
  • Het Gelders Orkest: The Gelder Orchestra
  • Orkest van het Oosten: Orchestra of the East
  • Noord Nederlands Orkest: North Netherlands Orchestra
  • Radio Filharmonisch Orkest: Radio Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Radio Kamerorkest: Radio Chamber Orchestra

For a small country, it is surprising that so many orchestras continue to exist (compared to those that are folding in the United States).

To this list, I would also add the Metropole Orchestra and others from Wikipedia although the definition of orchestra gets tweaked. For example, the Nederlands Blazers Ensemble (Dutch Wind Ensemble), by its very name and nature, does not represent all instruments in an orchestra in the strictest sense of the word.

The musicologist Emanuel Overbeeke mentioned the rise of ensembles in his research presentation on “Dutch orchestras and conductors 1945 – 2000” at Utrecht University. These ensembles get expanded to orchestral size when needed.  The Atlas Ensemble and Nieuw Ensemble, for instance, are established ensembles that include exotic instruments.

Could we hypothesize that orchestras that are not able to survive get reduced to separate ensembles? Ironically we would expect that small ensembles grow to become orchestras — in good times, that is. What are the factors that influence eventual survival and demise?

The discussion of orchestras and their fate reminds me of an excellent analysis using system dynamics, a technique that employs systems and causal thinking through feedback and balancing forces. I came across this case study two years ago when its author Bernhard Kerres was featured on the cover of London Business School alumni magazine. After four years at conservatory, I was thrilled to discover a fellow alumnus, a professional musician by training and experience, would venture into the world of management consulting and then return to run a musical institution in Vienna.

This case study was subsequently employed by Professor John Morecroft in his new book “Systems Approaches to Managing Change: a practical guide.”

The original study was published in 1999 while Kerres was working at a management consulting firm.

Perhaps it is time to revisit this case study to understand how to ensure orchestras and ensembles survive in times like these.


1 Comment

Filed under articles, economics, research

One response to “Orchestras in the Netherlands and system dynamics thinking

  1. Anne, it’s so good that you raise the question and the systems approach.
    This is important for you and I and all lovers of classical music; as it is for you and my wife and all those who earn money with making classical music.

    A revisit of the topic could be very worthwile not only for the survival of orchestras and musicians, but of the very classical music that we love so much! So please dive into it and keep us posted.

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