Wednesday, November 7, 2007

LOIE FALLIS: The Harmony of Planning

While I was interviewing Loie Fallis on The Creative Exchange, I thought the clocks in the studio were going crazy, moving way too quickly. I think that’s what happens when you really get into something interesting -tempus fugit. I suspect that this is also the case in the professional life of Loie Fallis, who has spent close to 3 decades working behind the scenes at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. She is now Director of Artistic Administration.

Loie Fallis is passionate about music, bringing order and harmony to the planning process of a major Canadian cultural institution. Her main role is working closely with the Music Director, Peter Oundjian, to put together programs for the TSO. She has to be sensitive to Maestro Oundjian’s vision, the needs of the orchestra’s musicians, visiting artists, her colleagues in management and, most importantly, build an audience for the orchestra. Current annual audience estimated at 400,000.

When asked about the most important part of her job apart from the obvious planning component she identified relationship building as a key component, especially in a large complex organization such as the TSO. The orchestra (like most orchestras around the world) has had some challenging times in the past, this led us to discuss her particular leadership role during that period. I asked her if she thought that women leaders tend to employ different tools in conflict resolution and crisis management than men? Her answer was very personal and honest, her experience as a mother played a huge factor in how she dealt with people in her efforts to resolve that crisis.

She was the first woman hired at management-level by the symphony in 1980. Over the years she has seen the organization transform with the employment of women in key posts. They now have elected their first woman as chair of the board.

Talk of childhood and home life brought a sparkle to her eye, her love of music came from her grandmother, Jennie Bouck, who was a choral conductor and also sang in the leading choirs of the day. She joked about her sister, the soprano Mary Lou Fallis, who, apart from serious musical roles, is known for comic performances as a Primadonna character.

Fallis studied French Horn at Queen’s University in Kingston. She was heavily involved in student governement and was part of a group of students that brought wellknown musicians to perform on campus. This started her on a career in arts administration.

She is passionate about her job, and in the radio interview describes in detail the means they employ at the TSO to bring in younger audiences, how every aspect of the concert experience (not only what’s on stage) is carefully planned and executed. Education and Outreach are an important part of their mandate, TSO rehearsals are open to schools participating in their Outreach and Education program.

The orchestra is an important part of Toronto’s cultural landscape. It is dedicated cultural leaders such as Fallis that bring strength and longevity to these institutions, bringing harmony to the humdrum of our daily grind.

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