Making the music happen: Profile listens to Houston Symphony GM Steven Brosvik
Anyone who has attempted to travel with four or more people (or at least one child) understands the importance of Steve Brosvik's job. As the general manager of the Houston Symphony, he executes the day-to-day operations — including the Herculean task of getting the hundred or so musicians, conductors and instruments to New York this January for a performance at Carnegie Hall.
"Steve has got an important balance between the business and the creative," says Greg Scheinman, whose interview with Brosvik is the subject of this week's Profile (which airs tonight at 10:30 on Channel 8, Houston PBS). "His job is to make life as easy for musicians as possible so they can do their job, to put out the best musical show they can. Steve handles the operations, the staff, anything needed to put the symphony on track for success.
"Doing something like the New York trip, something they call a company move, if you think about the size and scope of the symphony, the people and all kinds of instruments and youve got to coordinate, it's an unbelievable task," Scheinman continues. "Plus you're dealing with climate changes and humidity that these delicate and expensive instruments react to. They have to be very well taken care of ... and so do musicians! It's a big, big undertaking."
Scheinman notes that despite the logistical difficulties, the New York performances had no room for error.
"The symphony can do hundreds of shows over a year, and if you see them all you notice the difference between a stellar show, and, you know ... you can't be on your game every day," Schienman says. "But if you aren' t putting on your very best show in New York, that's the impression you're going to leave about the Houston Symphony. And maybe someone's flight was delayed or your instruments were late and you didn't have enough time to practice, but nobody knows that.
"All people care about is what they see on stage, and you have to show them that the Houston Symphony is one of best in the world."
For the Profile interview, Scheinman followed Brosvik through his day at Jones Hall.
"We toured Jones Hall, and it was just fascinating. Steve is there all day — he's one of the first people to arrive and the last to leave," Schienman says. "They have business hours, but they also have rehearsal hours and shows in the evenings. It's a long day dealing with business stuff during the day and staff and other issues at night.
"One of the coolest things was standing on the stage at Jones Hall and looking out. That's a pretty amazing feeling. If you need to be recharged a little bit, he can get up from his desk and walk out on the stage — that'll recharge your batteries pretty quick."
But it's not all business as usual — Brosvik's years as a musician play a crucial role in his job.
"Steve was a musician at first, and we talked about the opportunity to bring his background into operations," Scheinman says." He can appreciate what musicians are going through, because he is a musician himself. He went from playing to being a music business major in college, with the idea of, 'I know what I love, and if I can combine that with business acumen ....' You see it in sports, if there's a coach theres never played the game, they get a little slack. If you'd never played music there might be some understanding issues. He can speak the language of the conductors."
With the interview having taken place before the hiring of new Houston Symphony CEO Mark Hanson, Brosvik talked about what a new CEO meant for him and the symphony.
"What he said was that they were looking for full-time CEO , but his job is to execute overall vision," Schienman says. "From the CEO perspective there's planning, but his job is to implement that plan, be fiscally responsible and get it done day to day so that plan is executed. He seemed excited for the change and a more permanent person to dictate the direction the symphony was to go in."
CultureMap is the official online home of Profile — and you can watch exclusive clips of all the episodes in the series (season one and the current season two) on our special Profile page.