Miles Cohen on Becoming Artistic Director of PCMS

By Miles Cohen on October 9, 2013
Miles Cohen, Artistic Administrator and Manager

Following the news of my promotion to Artistic Director, I must say that I am most grateful for–and humbled by–the many gracious responses of PCMS patrons. I tried to be in touch with everyone who contacted me, but if I missed anyone–again I say, to all our patrons, many thanks for your encouragement and support over the past 15 seasons. PCMS has been a true labor of love for me, and I can only hope to carry on the great tradition that Tony and Philip have established in the first 27 years of the Society.

Speaking of Tony–my senior-most mentor–I would like to take this opportunity to especially thank him for being a second father to me since 1998 and for fully backing this transition. I should be quite clear that my becoming Artistic Director in no way means Tony is stepping down. To the contrary–Tony continues to be a vital presence in our office five days a week, and none of us could ask for a better leader, confidant, teacher, and all-around class act. Richard Goode spoke to this two years ago when Tony was being honored at the 2011 Chamber Music America Conference, explaining that “Tony has managed to achieve that delicate balance, combining high musical standards with a deep concern for ethical and human values.”

I was 22 years old when I first joined the PCMS family, and Tony immediately took me under his wing, displaying great patience as he showed me the ropes, step by step, of what it takes to run a 40-concert chamber music series. Often when talking with artists or their managers about dates, logistics and contractual details, he would call me into his office and encourage me to sit and just listen to him on the phone. I observed over and over again that Tony was a master in the art of negotiation–always keeping his cool, always genuinely engaged, and always getting his way. Whenever I questioned "Why this artist?" or "Why this venue?" or "Why this collaboration?" Tony would pause, collect his thoughts, and explain to me his exact intentions. I soon realized that Tony never wavers in his decisions, and I found his total commitment inspiring–as I still do today.

Over time, Tony encouraged me to take on more of a leadership role when dealing with artists, managers, negotiations and, ultimately, the co-planning of each PCMS season. One patron recently asked me if, now that I am Artistic Director, our audience should expect big changes in programming and whether or not I would still welcome everyone at the beginning of each PCMS performance.

My short and simple answer is that I do not see my new title as an impetus for “big changes” at PCMS. Tony, Philip, Bradford, Brian, Jacob, Erik, and I are all incredibly proud of what we have created here at PCMS.  As I told another patron, what I believe is at the core of the recent success of PCMS–beyond the outstanding artists that grace our stage 60 plus times a season–is the familial, warm, close-knit atmosphere that we have fostered at the Society. Week-in and week-out, it is my hope that the audience members at PCMS concerts feel as though they are not just another “ticket buyer” but rather, that they are a part of something more meaningful–the extended Philadelphia Chamber Music Society family. Whether it is the personal attention at the box office, over the phone, or at the concerts, a natural extension of this is my interaction with the audience at the beginning of each performance (which I certainly do intend to continue).

In the months ahead, I also plan to share more insights on PCMS through this blog (my next entry will be in November on attending my first PCMS concert in the spring of 1998, four months before I was hired, and how that experience continues to resonate with me today). And as I have said in the past, I welcome any and all thoughts and comments from our patrons (not only via email but also at concerts).

We are all very excited for the 2013-14 Season and, like I always say, I hope to see you early and often throughout Season 28!