Author: Howard Herring
Created to serve the social and cultural needs of at-risk children, Play on, Philly! utilizes music education for social good. Drawing from his personal experiences as a musician, founder and executive director Stanford Thompson wanted to see how the famous El Sistema program might be reimagined for his hometown of Philadelphia. Explaining the impetus of the project, he said, “In the normal flow of our professional lives, we discover talented minority students in need of access to training, a better instrument, or some other form of encouragement and support.” He added, “This is the moment when we must step forward as individuals to resolve specific problems. These collective efforts will augment the music training programs that are already in place. It is a simple matter of caring people taking responsibility.” Thompson has arrived at what I consider the most coherent and actionable strategy for confronting racial inequality in classical music. It is up to us to prove him right.
Howard Herring is a native of Oklahoma, a pianist by training, and now President and CEO of the New World Symphony. After his academic work at Southern Methodist University and Manhattan School of Music, he was pianist of the Claremont Trio, a winner of the Artists International Competition, and an active musician and teacher in New York City. In 1986, he became Executive Director of the Caramoor Music Festival. Mr. Herring led that institution’s development of the Rising Stars program for young instrumentalists, Bel Canto at Caramoor for young singers, and a curriculum-based arts program integrating music and visual art into K-12 studies. During his fifteen-year tenure, Caramoor celebrated its 50th anniversary and established its first endowment.
In 2001, Mr. Herring assumed leadership of the New World Symphony – America’s Orchestral Academy, a three-year post-graduate fellowship program for aspiring classical musicians and leaders. He was given the charge of energizing the institution’s national and international profile and developing a new building designed to explore its unique experiential curriculum and cutting edge digital work. The building was completed on time and on budget and opened to national and international acclaim in January 2011. The New World Center, designed by Frank Gehry, enables New World Symphony to exploit the global reach of broadband technology for education and digital capabilities for artistic expression. New World Fellows are exploring the establishment of an online music education community, integration of music and video, and engagement of new audiences through alternate performance formats. Dynamic partnerships with professional orchestras and distinguished music schools have been formed around these experiments.