Ekkehard Jung is a German musician and arts administrator living in Berlin. He is Managing Director and Partner for the European FilmPhilharmonic Institute as well as the Managing Director and Owner of his own firm, Ekkehard Jung Artists & Projects. He is a new member of the MMIAM International Advisory Committee. Below is his interview with Brittany Johnson.
How did you become interested in the arts?
Well, we’ll have to go back to my childhood. From a very early stage in life, I was fascinated by music. Very early on I was exposed to quite a bit of chamber music—I grew up in a city that had a very good arts program—however, I was always open minded. I discovered folk music and played a little of it on the fiddle. We also had a jazz club in the city…I had quite a broad music education.
Later on, I was studying music—violin and viola—but I wasn’t quite sure of what I wanted to do; if I wanted to become an orchestra musician or play chamber music. It took me a while to figure out what to do. I’d finished my studies and was playing in a string quartet and as a freelance artist in Lübeck before I decided to start post graduate studies in arts administration in Hamburg. There, I realized that I wanted to move on from playing and to be in arts administration. I was always interested in continuing to learn and as a musician, I felt I was more or less at the end of my learning curve; I was fully trained.
So, what came next?
Very soon after, I was offered my first full-time job in arts administration. I became Orchestra Manager at the regional orchestra, the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra. At the orchestra, I started a film concert series, which is still running today. Afterward, I became Artistic Administrator at Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, a chamber orchestra touring worldwide. I was putting together the touring program. At this time, you catered yourself to the needs of the promoters first, asking them what kind of programming you could build together, rather than starting a series in your hometown and selling it to other places.
I’ve also held positions at Van Walsum Management Ltd in Hanover before moving to their head office in London. I was also a partner in a smaller boutique company and in 2012, I founded my own arts management office, Ekkehard Jung Artists & Projects GmbH.
There, I focus on general management for conductors and soloists. Most of the clients have been with me for a long time; we’re interested in long-term goals. ‘What’s in the best interest of the artist in the long run?’ ‘Where can we minimize risk?’ In terms of re-invitation—one of the most important things for conductors is that they receive re-invitations from the orchestras—we have to be careful in selecting partners and repertoire.
What is the career span for a conductor?
Long. Very long. A conductor can start in their 20s, usually becoming an assistant or a capella maestro, and they conduct until their 70s, or if they’re lucky, perhaps their 80s. We’re talking about 60 years.
But you’re also involved in the European FilmPhilharmonic Institute. Can you tell me about this work?
Since July 2020, I’ve also been a Managing Director and Partner of the European FilmPhilharmonic Institute, a production company for film concerts.
This is a production company producing films for live performances with live orchestra. So, there are what we call film concerts—you go into a concert and there is a live orchestra, you have a large screen and the orchestra will play live with the film. Some of the most famous are Charlie Chaplin films; many are from the silent era. This is where the tradition started. You may know that in Berlin there were—in the 1920s, before the “talkies”—many theatres that presented films with live orchestras. So, we’re returning to this tradition. We know that film with live music is an art form in itself, so we are also fostering, presenting, and nurturing it.
So, how do you select the films? Are there certain films in high demand? What’s the process like?
It’s an interesting question. Our aim is to find a great film with a great score. So, this is the first question. The next question is licensing. We need to find out who the license holder is for the film and for the music. If there is no score available, and in most cases there isn’t, you have to find someone who can transcribe the score just by hearing the music from the files. This is a huge undertaking. Then, you’ll perhaps need someone to do some arrangements on the orchestration and to make sure the music is in sync with the film and last but not least, you have to make sure the music is edited and printed and can be read properly during a live performance. This whole process can take about two years.
Do you ever sell the music you’ve transcribed? Or simply make it available to other musicians not affiliated with the production?
This is a completely different license. We can license or sub-license for live performances but if someone wants to do some training at home, that’s completely different. We would love to do that as well, however.
So, switching gears, will you share one thing you’ve done in the past year that you’re really excited about or proud of?
I would probably start a little earlier. When I was working in London, I also undertook an MBA, while working. It was quite a stretch, but I always felt that was most rewarding. Being able to compare the textbook to what I was actually doing gave me reassurance about whether what I was doing was a good idea or a not so good idea.
I was quite amazed to see, during this study, how little we know of what we’re doing. We only see a very small fraction of what’s going on. This can apply to everything, chemistry, history, politics, management…I believe you always have to question yourself. When you raise a question or have an opinion, is it a prejudice? Is it relevant? Of course, this is much better identified if you have a discussion about it; if you’re open to conversing with your colleagues, instead of making assumptions for yourself.
How do you develop this habit of asking questions as a practice?
I believe in mentorship. In the various organizations I’ve been a part of, there was always someone to look up to, someone much more experienced than I was. I always tried to spend time with those people, to ask them questions, to ask them to become my mentor. But you can also find someone outside of your organization. This is what I’m doing in my job; I’m trying to be a mentor in my job.
I agree that this is important. As you’ve advanced in your career, what does this look like? Would you say you still have mentors.
Well I still have colleagues who inspire me, people who I can call and ask for their opinion. So, maybe less formal. And of course I’m still reading books.
What are you reading currently?
I’m reading two books about the digital age and how it transforms business.
What are some of the challenges you face?
The greatest challenge is a reliable financial forecast. With all of the changes and side effects of COVID, this is very difficult at the moment. We’re not quite sure when we’ll be back to pre-COVID levels of business. Some predictions say it will take four or five years until we are ‘back to normal’ but we really don’t know. On top of COVID, there is a war (in Ukraine), there is a huge inflation and we know that the budgets of the government and of the stakeholders and donors will be limited and this will be reflected in the budgets of the organizations we work with—the theatres, the opera houses, the orchestras—they will potentially all face budget cuts, which will also affect our work.
How has the art sector in Germany fared?
The proof is still in the pudding. This is a major question for us, ‘When will people come back to opera houses?’
Do you think this is still a fear of the spread of the virus? A decrease in discretionary spending? Both?
Both! But also, people were stuck in their homes for so long that they are hungry for social interaction and you don’t have much interaction in a concert hall where you’re stuck in your seat for 90 minutes.
Is there any advice you’d give someone early in their career?
I believe communication is the most important thing in our world. If you work in an international context it is important to understand people from different cultures and different backgrounds. I believe it’s crucial to learn different languages, to be curious about people, where they’re coming from, why they approach a subject in a certain way. In short, ask questions!