Bundled up against the cold, Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra (DSO) members gather in the back of the Hopkins Center, awaiting the bus that will take them on the first leg of their European tour. Cellists escort their instruments down perilous stairs, violinists loosen their strings before a long flight, a horn player does some last-minute packing. In the midst of this chaos stands Elizabeth Shribman '10, the DSO's general manager, taking attendance.
Shribman, a music major who plays second violin in the orchestra, became the organization's manager during her first year at Dartmouth. Prior to the December 2008 tour, the orchestra had never played outside of the Hopkins Center. Though there had been previous interest in having the orchestra play other venues, Shribman was the first to make it happen. Working closely with the DSO's Music Director and Conductor Anthony Princiotti, she conducted research, created promotional materials, and made travel arrangements for 34 orchestra members.
"To be able to tour in countries that are the heart of classical music is really exciting for us," says Shribman. The group performed in Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic.
"It was incredibly fulfilling to finally experience the product of all the hours that went into planning this trip," says Shribman. While it did come with its stresses, I can't fully express how valuable this entire experience was."
Whether she dealt with personnel issues related to attendance, interfaced with professional artists, or prepared complex customs documents so the orchestra's instruments can cross borders, Shribman's work was as essential as the hours of practice that go into a symphony's preparation. According to Princiotti, "Orchestra management involves a great deal of logistical work. Some of it may seem really trivial, but if it's not taken care of, the whole house of cards will fall down."
An active musician in high school who played in four different orchestras, Shribman wanted to become involved in the DSO. But orchestra management had never occurred to her before. "It's been a great experience, " she says of her job. "I've never been in a leadership position before where I could so tangibly feel the effects of what I was doing, and being in this position is important to me because I care about classical music so much."
Shribman was recently accepted to a League of American Orchestras seminar, "Essentials of Orchestra Management," based on her work with the DSO's tour. After graduation, she plans to pursue fellowships in orchestra management, study music history abroad, and earn an M.B.A. Eventually, she hopes to manage a professional orchestra, and she'll have an advantage in a field that offers very little formal schooling.
Princiotti says, "She's going to have a huge leg up. To a great extent, orchestra managing is hard to teach in an academic setting. It's something you have to do to learn." Shribman agrees: "This is the best head start I could have."
By ELIZABETH KELSEY
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Last Updated: 1/19/10