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Digital tools and community first — A bright future for the TSO

Appointed in 2018, Loden is at the head of one of North America’s most respected symphony orchestras. In an interview with Digital Journal, he said the time is right to open classical music up to a wider audience. Face-to-face with the shifting nature of digital music trends and an ever-more competitive entertainment market, Loden is anything but worried, thanks to the passionate nature and dedicated skill of Toronto’s premier classical music performance organization.

“There have been very few surprises,” said Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) Chief Executive Officer Matthew Loden, reflecting on his first year with the organization. The established arts executive said he had looked forward to experiencing the diversity of Toronto and the TSO’s “deep relationships around the world,” following his tenure as Executive Vice President and Interim Co-President at the Philadelphia Orchestra.

The city and its orchestra have more than delivered so far, said Loden. But that’s not to say that new, exciting things aren’t on the horizon for the TSO.

Expanding the TSO’s reach
“’I think the acoustics of Roy Thomson Hall are very fine… We’re incredibly lucky to be there,” said Loden, referring to the orchestra’s home of over thirty years. But the CEO wants to take the reach of the orchestra beyond the intimate 2,630 seats within the hall, and out into the community. Loden stated that expanding the experience of the TSO beyond the walls of Roy Thomson Hall, and out into the community, is the most important task for the symphony orchestra.

The TSO is looking to reach out beyond the intimate setting of Roy Thomson Hall.

The TSO is looking to reach out beyond the intimate setting of Roy Thomson Hall.
Digital Journal Staff

In his discussion of the TSO’s future, Loden referenced recent research by charitable organization Business / Arts that indicated why Canadians engage with the arts. For most people, the research states, the key drivers of attending arts events like a symphony performance are a sense of community, connection and discovery. Among the barriers to participating in cultural events revealed by the research stood a telling result: the third most common response for why Canadians wouldn’t attend a cultural event — following a lack of self-identification with the art or a high cost — was that the event is simply too far away.

So how do you enhance the key elements of cultural experience for the wider population of a cosmopolitan city like Toronto? Loden made it clear that he sees it as crucial to “reflect back on what can we do to the best of our ability to support the art up on stage.”

One way to accomplish that is with digital tools. New high-end cameras are coming to Roy Thomson Hall, in order to engage with all kinds of new opportunities. Loden indicated that they could be used to facilitate ‘aspects’ of digital concert hall programming — the gold standard for such content being the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra’s digital offering.

The TSO executive is no stranger to the power of classical music streaming: he worked as Vice President and General Manager at the Aspen Music Festival and School when they became the first cultural organization in North America to work with classical streaming channel to produce classical recordings for streaming. That same channel is now available to anyone with a Toronto Public Library card — perhaps offering a gateway for classical fans to experience the TSO’s future digital offerings.

Pianist Jan Lisiecki performs with the TSO at Roy Thomson Hall.

Pianist Jan Lisiecki performs with the TSO at Roy Thomson Hall.
Digital Journal Staff

Collaborating with community partners is also top of the list for Loden in the TSO’s efforts to reach out to more fans of cultural events. The organization is already tackling this outreach with partnerships to help create the next generation of emerging music and dance critics and embracing accessible programming through the inclusion of Relaxed Performances, designed to be welcoming to audience members with autism or other special needs.

A talented, passion team
In those efforts to bring more arts lovers out to witness the world-class talent of the TSO, Loden can rely on a team of singular distinction and passion. In his recent interview with Steve Paikin on TVO, Loden stated that he was “hungry for a challenging opportunities,” like those provided by the TSO. From his interview with Digital Journal, it sounds like Loden sees a similar drive in the enthusiastic team around him at the TSO.

Musical Director Gustavo Gimeno, taking over from interim artistic director Sir Andrew Davis, is set to forge a spirited, vibrant path for the TSO’s expert musicians. In the announcement of Gimeno’s start for the 2020/2021 season, Loden indicated that Gimeno’s cosmopolitan appeal will “bring vibrancy, inspiration, and artistic intimacy that will broaden and deepen our connections with Torontonians and the world.”

Loden also pointed out that the TSO Board Chair Catherine Beck has left him “regularly astounded” with her dedication to the Toronto arts community.

As the TSO looks to expand out into the rich, multicultural neighbourhoods of the GTA, it will rely on Loden’s leadership, the spirited team at the TSO and an overarching vision of how to branch out from the cultural institution’s familiar haunts. To put it simply, as Loden said, “How can we go to them?”

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