Flexibility is the Future

November 17, 2021

As a follow-up to our February 2021 symposium exploring innovation and resilience, The Next Normal 2.0: Flexibility is the Future focused on the urgent need to build performing arts institutions that are more flexible and adaptable structurally and programmatically, responsive to communities, and open to evolving ways of making art. 

This free, virtual event brought forward innovative artists and administrators presenting and discussing their real-world experience, centered around the following thematic questions: 

  • How might we address the barriers that impede institutional adaptability, nimbleness, innovation, and sustainability in the performing arts today?
  • What kind of structural changes in our business and operating models can we imagine to enable institutions to respond to the needs of their communities in real time?
  • How can the institutions that train performing artists today instill the values of flexibility and responsiveness as central to the mindset and skillset of future artists and leaders?

You can view the recorded presentations and panel discussions from this event below, and please stay tuned for news about the next important event in the Next Normal series.

View the Presentations and Panels

A Note from the Dean

Thank you for participating in The Next Normal 2.0: Flexibility is the Future. Between the inspiring presentations, thoughtful panel discussions, and active participation of attendees in the chat and Q&As, we surfaced so many critical issues facing the field and heard about creative approaches that are working right now to start to turn the tide toward a more open, flexible, inclusive, relevant, responsive, and nimble future for the performing arts.

There is much work to do as we continue to address the long-term issues challenging our field. But I am confident that the curiosity, honesty, commitment to growth, and comfort with discomfort that were evident throughout this Next Normal dialogue are exactly the attributes that will sustain us in this work.



  • Brad Balliett, co-Artistic Director, Decoda, and bassoon faculty, The Peabody Conservatory
  • Alan Brown, Principal, WolfBrown Consultants
  • Jake Heggie, composer and pianist
  • Sarah Johnson, Chief Education Officer and Director, Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute
  • Wendel Patrick, music producer, and assistant professor in Music Engineering & Technology, The Peabody Conservatory
  • Krishna Thiagarajan, President and CEO, Seattle Symphony 
  • Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Founding Artistic Director/Chief Visioning Partner, Urban Bush Women



  • Howard Herring, President and CEO, New World Symphony
  • Sean Jones, Professor of Trumpet and Richard and Elizabeth Case Chair of Jazz Studies, The Peabody Conservatory
  • Richard Kessler, Executive Dean, College of Performing Arts and Dean, Mannes School of Music
  • Alysia Lee, Fine Arts Education Program Supervisor, Maryland State Department of Education; Founder and Artistic Director, Sister Cities Girlchoir; professional studies faculty, The Peabody Conservatory
  • Timothy O’Leary, General Director, Washington National Opera
  • Alan Pierson, Artistic Director, Alarm Will Sound
  • Susan Zhang, Co-Director, The Concert Truck