BSO's Marin Alsop, inspired by books such as 'Change by Design'

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Marin Alsop

Music Director, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

"I wish I had a little more time to read," Marin Alsop confesses with a laugh. It's festival season and she's traveling a lot. But luckily, books are portable pleasures.

Alsop recently read "The Rest Is Noise," by New Yorker music critic Alex Ross. It wasn't purely curiosity that led her to Ross's treatise on 20th-century music; she read it "in anticipation of doing some work based on the book in London." The rest of that, however, is silence: Alsop said she wasn't allowed to reveal details of the project.

A book she did want to discuss is Tim Brown's "Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation." She was so intrigued by his work -- using "design as a tool to change the world" -- that she arranged to meet Brown, and invited him to conduct workshops with the Baltimore Symphony last spring.

"We keep thinking about how we can implement his techniques and his philosophies as we think about redesigning the Baltimore Symphony," Alsop says. She cites principles such as "engaging everyone in the creative process, so that it doesn't just emanate from the top tier. . . . It's a whole organizational approach to thinking and creativity."

She credits the book with inspiring one of her more interesting acts: a program last winter called "Rusty Musicians With the BSO," which invited amateurs to play with the orchestra.

Good design is good business -- and good for everyone. "Change by Design," says Alsop, "is what got me thinking about reviewing our traditional structures."

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