053: Howard Herring (New World Symphony)

Howard Herring on Innovation City

“In a 10 year stretch, $1 Billion was invested… No other city in the United States has put $1 Billion into cultural infrastructure for 50 years.” — Howard Herring

Welcome to Innovation City—powered by Venture Cafe—where Tyler Kelley and Michael Johnson, Co-Founders of SLAM! Agency, interview innovators, creators, and disruptors to discover how business is changing in the modern world.

Created and produced by SLAM! Agency in cooperation with Venture Cafe St. Louis and Venture Cafe Miami, Innovation City gives you an inside look at how rapidly business and culture are changing thanks to increasing diversity and inclusion, heightened creativity, and a stronger and better-connected business community. Venture Cafe is the largest combined gathering of entrepreneurs and innovators anywhere in the world. Events are held every Thursday in St. Louis, Miami, and other leading innovation cities around the globe.

Today’s guest is Howard Herring, President and CEO of the New World Symphony. NWS is America’s Orchestral Academy, where recent music program graduates are prepared for leadership roles in professional orchestras and ensembles. When Howard took over leadership of the NWS in 2001, he was charged with revitalizing the institution’s national and international profile. He has worked tirelessly to develop and expand the organization’s positive impact on the lives of its students and the Miami community as a whole. Howard joins the Innovation City team to talk about the power of a clear creative vision, the importance of investing in cultural infrastructure, and how NWS is creating new opportunities for cross-cultural engagement in Miami.

They discuss:

  • Howard is a pianist by training
  • Spent 30 years in New York before moving to Miami
  • In 2001, Howard assumed the leadership of NWS, charged with revitalizing its national and international profile
  • New building: The New World Center, was designed by Frank Gehry (It opened in Jan 2011)
  • Prior to 2011, NWS operated in the old Lincoln movie theater, which only had 10 practice rooms and 700 seats — it was not practical for achieving the full vision of NWS
  • NWS’s Founding Artistic Director Michael Tilson Thomas discussed the need for a new building with Ted Arison, Founder of Carnival Corporation (Carnival Cruise Line)
  • Carnival is one of the largest companies in Miami, and Ted Arison was a devoted patron of the musical arts. He was happy to support the development of the new home of NWS, as well as endow the organization going forward
  • The power of visionaries — paired with investors — to build a sense of community in world-class cities
  • When they were dreaming up the new building, they wanted to explore how to bring the digital/video world and the music world together, wanted to make sure they could harness the power of the internet
  • The planning task included asking the question: How could the institution build up the community? Who do we want to be in 2030? The demands of the musical program’s commitment to engaging the community informed the design of the new center
  • Planning is important. Especially when you’re a startup
  • Frank Gehry’s process for designing a building involved a lot of give and take
  • NWS runs a 35 week season each year
  • Students must have at least a Bachelor’s degree, many have a Master’s
  • It’s a 3 year Fellowship program, with 87 musicians in the orchestra
  • Students attend the program to find their own voice and become a part of the community
  • The musicians that go through NWS go on to successful careers
  • Howard’s musical background:
    • He grew up in a small/little town in Oklahoma. A teacher encouraged him to do the hard work that prepared him to become a performer
    • Attended Manhattan Music School
    • Formed a trio with a cellist and a violinist in college, won a competition, played Carnegie Recital Hall
    • Started a second ensemble
    • Then started a festival
  • Howard’s first festival had a revenue gap: “There was a gap between the dollars that were needed to run that festival and the ticket sale revenue”
  • So he turned to his mentor for advice on how to raise money, and they figured out how to pull it off.
    • “After that first festival, I realized my job was not to play the piano. My job was to spin the dream.”
  • Howard realized that for music to continue to flourish and expand, he needed to become the fundraiser, not the performer
  • Q. Is classical music boring? Or maybe too Euro-centric?
    • A. That’s a very important question, that is being answered in Miami, in a unique and dynamic way.
  • “Language is culture,” from The Magic Mountain, by Thomas Mann
    • If one believes that music is a language in its own right, then it follows that classical music is culture, transmitted and passed down through the ages.
    • Music’s power is based on its delivery—the delivery of musical language, and its reception
  • The WALLCAST Phenomenon: WALLCAST is a video projection of live performances displayed on an exterior wall of the
  • New World Center—it offers a new kind of experience that is reminiscent of a drive-in movie theater
  • A new community audience comes to the park to watch the wallcast and enjoy music without buying a ticket
  • Families, date night, music fans—everybody is having a great time being together and listening to the music. The wall audience continues to get bigger and bigger
  • Demographics are beginning to shift and represent the true variety of Miami communities
  • NWS has seen incredible physical change in its neighborhood, but the condominiums don’t tell the whole story
  • Miami has had two lives, and it is now entering its third:
    • Pre-Air Conditioning
    • Air Conditioning
    • The digital, political, and economic transformation of the past 15 years
  • Imagining and building a new Miami: $1 billion dollars invested in cultural infrastructure over a ten year stretch. No other city has done that in the last 50 years:
  • Culture, art, science, music–all new centers offered to the public
  • The aspiration to be cultural, a mix of old and the future buildings
  • The joy of living in Miami during a period of renaissance
  • Cultural institutions (the buildings and organizations themselves) don’t make an impact on the community without inclusive programming
  • The power of 20-minute “What If?” sessions: Don’t stop dreaming, but we have to function as well.
  • Musical innovation going forward: far more students are going to have access to excellent training
  • Working with an orchestral academy in Medellin, Colombia
  • The will to make it happen along with the benefits of internet connectivity
  • Making sure that children are given the opportunities to learn and develop their talents
  • Working to create a mobile WALLCAST–makes music available to everyone
  • Classical music is now approachable
  • Check out NWS’ website, listen to the profiles of their musicians. Get a sense of who the players are and see their dedication.
  • Watch the WALLCAST, and meet the players that greet the audience after performances