Interview with Classical:NEXT director Jennifer Dautermann

Classical:NEXT is just four years old, but already it has established itself as a world-leading forum for ideas and innovation in classical music. We caught up with Classical:NEXT director Jennifer Dautermann to find out what she has learned from the first four years, and what she has planned for the future.

When you founded Classical:NEXT, you said your main objective was ‘to help delegates spot the trends of the future.’ Do you feel Classical:NEXT has achieved this, and how do you plan to keep moving forward?

The most striking thing has been to observe how certain projects and personalities, once exposed to our 900+ delegates from 40 countries, go from being isolated, local ones to global ones. The Classical Music Rave and NonClassical’s recent simultaneous global streaming concert event are both good examples of this.

It’s with the ‘classical underground’ that I personally see the most exciting results of the networking process – not only in physical terms, but also in the spreading of their ideas and approaches as a kind of ‘trickling up’ into the more established scene. Yes, of course this was happening before Classical:NEXT, but only very slowly and in isolated incidents. What we’re is doing is putting a foot on the gas pedal, revving the process into fast forward. This analogue version of the world-wide-web that Classical:NEXT is creating is intended to do exactly this: push things forward. So yes, we are absolutely achieving our aims!

Why did you select Yannick Nézet-Séguin as keynote speaker – what is he doing that embraces Classical:NEXT ideals of the future and innovation?

Yannick Nézet-Séguin embodies many aspects of our outlook in 2015, and is thus a perfect choice for the opening keynote. This is our first year in Rotterdam and he conducts the Rotterdam Philharmonic, which was another good reason for his selection.

Classical:NEXT aims to evolve into the global meeting place for the orchestra sector. A platform such as this has become necessary, as orchestras around the world share similar challenges, which override the details of regional differences. We want to be the place where they can come together and discuss issues, compare notes and share best practice examples.

The opening event of Classical:NEXT features a double keynote with Nézet-Séguin and Martin Hoffmann of the Berlin Philharmonic to underscore this aim. Nézet-Séguin is in the early phase of his career, and thus represents the near future. He’s also great at reaching out to the audience at his concerts and breaking down the fourth wall. He’s made site-specific pieces like Blown Away, which was a symphonic rave concert in an abandoned submarine wharf, and has led two pioneering public master classes with Codarts Symphony Orchestra.

This year you’ve launched an Innovation Award. Can you tell us more about this, and what kind of work might be nominated?

The Innovation Award is the latest way in which we aim to help the international classical community become aware of new experiments, new projects, and the movers and shakers in various regions around the world. While each nominating committee member has the option of making a nomination from anywhere in the world, there is a mandatory home country nomination in place, to ensure that the rest of the world hears about the most innovative thing going on in that particular country. This year is just a rough draft, a prototype, but the project itself is designed to give visibility on an equal level to all countries around the world. In doing this, the idea is to spread knowledge and thus spread influence and impact.

How ‘outside the box’ they go depends on the nominator and on the country. Innovation is a relative thing, actually – what might be normal for one country might be radically new for another. Each country is at a different stage and has different conditions, just as each type of audience is different.

That being said, there is a wide variety of nominees: individual artists, ensembles and festivals of course, but also empowerment initiatives like pilot courses for women conductors, and music-for-all projects such as communities for classical home concerts.

We do have parameters on what qualifies for inclusion in Classical:NEXT – namely western, European classical (or ‘art’) music from all eras. These roots must be detectable in some way. However, from the very start of this initiative, we’ve known that once Classical:NEXT becomes sufficiently large and established, we – that’s the whole Classical:NEXT community – can expand on this to include classical music from other regions and traditions to a certain degree.

We aren’t nearly there yet, however, and also we know that our big sister WOMEX (the World Music Expo) is doing an excellent job in that genre already. But many western classical professionals and audiences are interested in exploring classical traditions around the globe in joint projects, and Classical:NEXT shall certainly grow to reflect that trend.