The conference has been an incredibly thought provoking few days – being in the company of like-minded people devoted to exploring new ideas and ways of working and making so many new connections, always gives you the opportunity to reflect on our own practices.

Yesterday’s powerful and frank discussions on the issue of race equality and diversity in US orchestras brought home more clearly than ever the challenges facing orchestras to reflect the societies and communities in which we live. We both admire hugely the openness and resolve with which our colleagues are tackling this.

The Tuesday elective sessions also gave us the opportunity to explore new technologies and concert presentation ideas. It was interesting to hear some colleagues articulate their stand point of ‘one’ audience – everything they do is about developing the audience for the concert hall. This felt very different from the BSO philosophy of ‘one’ audience in terms of everything is BSO – whether it be concert hall, hospital, school, care home or small rural venue.

So today was our turn. No run this morning but early breakfast and final presentation prep. The BSO’s session and message about the creative case for diversity exampled through the creation of BSO Resound and the adoption of a social model of disability at an organisational and individual level was really well received. Everyone in the room was nodding when we, quite forcibly, stated Inclusion is NOT a project.

Fiona Harvey from the Association of British Orchestras (ABO) set the scene brilliantly about the UK context of diversity and inclusion, then Kelley Bell from Nashville Symphony spoke very clearly about the work that they have been developing around Sensory-Friendly (Relaxed) concerts and the learnings that they have had to date. Our presentation of the Change Makers programme and what we have started to achieve was beautifully summed up from Emelyne Bingham, an autism advocate, that inclusion is not about box ticking and ‘achieving a quota’.

It felt a real privilege and honour to take the BSO story to the US and it made us feel proud of everyone at the BSO for how far we have come and challenged ourselves as company.

We are also very grateful to Mark Pemberton from the ABO for giving out our Change Makers and BSO Programme for Cultural Change document to all the CEOs of the US’ largest orchestras who had a separate meeting at the same time.

If the post-presentation conversations were anything to go by, I am sure we will see more many more orchestras following the BSO’s lead to making professional symphony orchestras more accessible to disabled musicians and artists.

In other news – after the Tuesday sessions we it was great to have a little bit of time off to take in more of the AMAZING Nashville vibe.
A huge outdoor stage had been erected on Broadway and 1,000s of people where gathered, singing, dancing and showing the true meaning of music for all. We had to join in.

We had been recommended The Southern Steak & Oyster bar. Unbelievable. Lisa ate her on body weight in steak and biscuits (who usually eats a wheat free vegan diet so this was slightly off-piste) and Dougie embraced the Shrimp, Fish and Grits. Well when in Nashville………. Talking of when in Nashville we got our first pairs of authentic cowboy boots!

Having the opportunity to visit Nashville and the conference has been a fantastic experience. Congratulations to the League of American Orchestra’s team and the hosts, Nashville Symphony, for delivering such an outstanding conference of every level – an achievement given we were sharing the Nashville with thousands of other musicians and music lovers for the 52nd Annual Country Music Association Awards at the same time!

We’re signing off now for a bit of in-flight entertainment and a snooze!

Dougie & Lisa