New Binghamton Philharmonic director plans community outreach

EDITOR’s NOTE: This fall, BAMirror is chatting with recently appointed leaders of local arts organizations. Today we talk with the interim executive director of the Binghamton Philharmonic, which opens its 2012-2013 season this weekend (Saturday, Oct. 6).
By George Basler
Jon Mosbo is quick to list the many strengths of the Binghamton Philharmonic, now in its 57th year of serving music lovers across central New York.
Those attributes include the high quality of the orchestra for an area of this size, the strong artistic leadership of music director and conductor José Luis-Novo, the work of a committed board and the support of the community, the new interim executive director said.
The Philharmonic is a source of pride for many local residents, and it should be, Mosbo said, noting: “It’s a celebration of the cultural vibrancy of the region.”
Mosbo sees his job as building on the Philharmonic’s historic strengths and “maximizing the potential of what Binghamton is capable of.” Since starting work Sept. 4, he has been busy preparing for a nine-concert season that begins Saturday (Oct. 6) with a Beethoven/Sibelius program in the Osterhout Concert Theater of Binghamton University’s Anderson Center.
“In my 11 years in the business, I’ve had the experience of working with orchestras that do well, and ones that do poorly. I want to put some of the experiences I’ve gained into action,” he said.
Mosbo, 46, is familiar with central New York, having grown grew up in Cortland. He comes to Broome County after working as production manager of the Buffalo Philharmonic for a year. Before that, he was orchestra manager for the Syracuse Symphony for eight years until that orchestra declared bankruptcy in April 2011. Before that, he was orchestra librarian and director of operations of the Savannah (Ga.) Symphony from 2001 to 2003.
Mosbo said he applied for the Binghamton job at the suggestion of Stephen Wilson, former executive director, who left over the summer to run the Fresno Philharmonic in California. He’ll serve in an interim capacity until next summer while the board searches for a permanent executive director. He is very much a candidate for that position, Mosbo said.
Maintaining a quality orchestra in difficult economic times isn’t easy. One characteristic of a successful orchestra is being proactive and working to find ways to reach new people and new audiences, Mosbo said.
With this in mind, one of his priorities will be continuing the ongoing efforts to connect the Binghamton Philharmonic with the wider community outside the concert hall. “We do seven orchestra concerts a season,” he said. “I want the public to interact with the Binghamton Philharmonic more than seven times a year.”
Some of these community outreach efforts were already underway when Mosbo arrived. For example, although the event ultimately was canceled due to bad weather, the Philharmonic’s brass and percussion players were scheduled to present an informal concert Sept. 22 at the Peacemaker’s Stage in downtown Binghamton. Moreover, the Victor and Esther Rozen Foundation has provided seed funding for string players from the Philharmonic to work with local high school and youth orchestras as they prepare for their performances, Mosbo said.
Other educational programs are being discussed. “I would definitely like the Binghamton Philharmonic to be a larger part of music education in Broome County and the Southern Tier,” Mosbo said.
The quality of the Philharmonic “speaks to Binghamton’s commitment to artistic quality,” he said. Also, “a remarkable number” of the some 65 contracted musicians live within a 50-mile radius, making the Philharmonic ” a regional orchestra in the best sense of the word.”
Mosbo emphasized much of the credit belongs to Novo, conductor and music director for the last decade, who has maintained an energy that inspires the orchestra to play well while, at the same time, being an advocate of what a philharmonic orchestra can mean for the community.
The 2012-13 season will feature the same format as recent years: four classical concerts at the Anderson Center, two pops concerts at The Forum, a special concert at The Forum in May and two chamber music concerts in the Anderson Center Chamber Hall. Mosbo sees no reason to change this format.
“I’m excited about this season. It’s well-put-together, and we’re bringing in guest artists who are to- notch,” he said.
The new director acknowledged that he feels a bit of pressure beginning his new job, but it’s energizing pressure. Raising money for a good orchestra is easier than beating the bushes for a mediocre one, and Binghamton is certainly a good orchestra, he said.
Besides working in artistic management for 11 years, Mosbo has been a professional violist for 20 years. His management experience in Buffalo and Syracuse will serve him well in Binghamton, Philharmonic President Sue Burtis said at the time of Mosbo’s appointment.
“I like the fact that there are so many different things I can do. I like being an advocate for orchestral  music,” the new interim executive director said.
His  musical tastes extend beyond the classical to touch just about every style of music. He listens to country music, big band music, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and rock. He even listens to some hip-hop artists, mentioning NWA, for instance.
“A Duke Ellington quote says it best: ‘There are only two kinds of music, good music and bad music,’ ” he said.
The Binghamton Philharmonic’s 2012-13 schedule:
Classical:

  • Beethoven/Sibelius, 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6, Anderson Center Osterhout Concert Theater
  • Verdi Requiem, 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 11, Osterhout Concert Theater
  • Brahms Third, 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20, Osterhout Concert Theater
  • Shostakovich Sixth, 8 p.m. Saturday, April 20, Osterhout Concert Theater

Pops:

  • Holiday Brass, 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, The Forum
  • Music of The Eagles, 8 p.m. Saturday, March 16,  The Forum

Chamber Music Series:

  • New Orford String Quartet, 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 3, Anderson Center Chamber Hall
  • Trio Cavatina, 3 p.m. Sunday, March 24, Anderson Chamber Hall

Special concert:

  • Disney in Concert: Magical Music from the Movies, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 11, The Forum.

For more information and ticket prices, visit the Binghamton Philharmonic website at www.binghamtonphilharmonic.org or call 607-723-3931.