9 Questions for Tod Brody
Following a three-month national search to fill the position of executive director, the Marin Symphony Association found Tod Brody in its own backyard. A resident of Petaluma, Brody had been holding down a similar post at Opera Parallèle, a San Francisco contemporary opera company. In addition to his decade-and-a-half of administrative experience, Brody is no stranger to classical music on the stage itself, having been a professional flutist for most of his life and music lecturer at UC Davis. He’s excited to bring his energy and new ideas to Marin Symphony, our own 64-yearold regional symphony orchestra.
Does the position of executive director for a symphony require a pretty specific skill set?
There’s definitely a shortage of people who know how to run a symphony orchestra operation.
Before stepping into an administrative role, were you originally aiming at a career as a professional musician?
Like so many of my kind, I had hoped to land a big orchestra job. It’s almost unbelievable how competitive it is. In the San Francisco Symphony there are four flute positions. My main teacher in college, an amazing guy named Paul Renzi, won the job as principal flutist when he was 18 years old and he retired some 60 years later. That’s an unusually long career but when people get one of those jobs, they tend to stay. The opportunities are very slight.
So you decided to diversify your career interests?
Out of economic necessity I developed some chops for running a business.
How did you get the chance to marry your administrative skill with the world of music?
The opportunity came up to run the American Composers Forum chapter, and I had that skill set. That’s really when I ended up becoming an arts administrator.
What is your role in terms of what programs the symphony is going to be producing?
I work in partnership with Alasdair Neale, the musical director, to make the programs. There’s an overall structure: how many concerts can we do, when are they scheduled, and what other non-strictly classical events are we going to do. I think for him that’s one of the advantages of having a musician in this chair — we speak the same language.
Is there an example of some of the things you’ll be looking to change at Marin Symphony?
For the last three years, until 2016, Marin Symphony produced a large-scale outdoor concert called Waterfront Pops over at Waterfront Park. It was quite successful in terms of attracting a large audience. We’re looking to bring it back in 2017 bigger and better and to put it on sound footing so it can be a regular yearly event for us that will be successful.
What are some of the ways that Marin Symphony connects to the community?
We have strong, well-developed outreach and education programs. Those include our youth orchestra programs and a program called Adopt-A-School, where we have musicians visit a selection of schools on a regular basis. And then we also have both visiting and resident artists who come, spend time with us and go out into the community. Midori, the great violinist, came for five days at the end of January to do concerts with the Marin Symphony but mainly she came to go out into the schools and work with kids and to work with our youth orchestras.
What is the major focus of your position?
One of the main challenges of my job is to create fiscal sustainability for the organization. That’s all about developing and enhancing our donor base — finding people who are willing to support this organization and this mission with their dollars.
In terms of getting new people to give the symphony a try, what would you tell someone who hadn’t had much exposure to classical music in their life?
First I’d say, “Don’t be scared — it will be over in a couple hours!” This is music that I’d say puts a much higher burden on the listener. It’s more challenging. It’s not familiar. So it’s really about taking that first plunge