Deutscher Orchestertag 2016: do they only want to play?

A whole new generation of young professionals are taking up jobs in orchestras, both as musicians and as managers, whilst others prefer more flexible arrangements. Andrew Anderson speaks to Anselm Rose to find out why Generation Y is top of the billboard at Deutscher Orchestertag 2016

Many orchestras have been asking ‘Why is it not possible to recruit the best young musicians for top jobs?’ Deutscher Orchestertag (DOT) director Anselm Rose tells me when asked about this year’s focus on Generation Y. ‘We spoke to the conservatoires and they told us young musicians do not want a fixed orchestra seat. They want to be more flexible. They want to be at home with their young families, play chamber music, take on freelance and part-time jobs, that sort of thing.

‘So at DOT we said to one another ‘OK, if this is the truth then we have been going wrong for the last 20 years – why didn’t we see that?’ So we came to settle upon the topic of Generation Y. How do they need to be treated differently? Does the old analogue world of an orchestra fit with them? How can their skills improve our work as orchestra managers? Those are the key questions we wish to ask so that hopefully we can find out some answers.’

For those not in the know Generation Y applies to those born in the 80s and 90s who have grown up immersed in digital technology.

‘We came up with the title Die Wollen Nur Spielen, which translates as They Only Want To Play, because this is the stereotype we have about these young people: that they want to lie in a hammock in the office, communicate through apps on their phone, or work at home. But really this means they want more flexibility. How can we accommodate this change in attitude?’

To help get a grip on this hammock-hugging, smartphone-loving group, Rose has brought in two tech-savvy keynote speakers: Philipp Riederle, and Christoph Deeg. Riederle runs the blog Mein iPhone und Ich [My iPhone and Me] which attracts over one million visitors per year, while Deeg is a digital researcher and strategist.

‘Philipp can tell us what Generation Y wants and needs from the work environment. He will introduce us to the topic, and then we will discuss it at a roundtable.

‘Christoph can then explore solutions. He has a theory that office systems have to be designed like games because the younger generation is a playing generation.’

But, Rose continues, all of this doesn’t mean the old analogue world is dead – in fact the opposite may be true. ‘Deeg also believes that as we spend more time with digital in the home and at work we will need more analogue experiences as a counterbalance to these. So, attending concerts could become more important for music lovers than ever before.’

Deutscher Orchestertag takes place on 13-14 November in Berlin.