Natalia Klingbajl became the manager of the NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic Orchestra in 2011. Since then, she has been responsible for its international cooperations and artistic programming, as well as its touring, commissioning of new works and recording activities. Her purview has also included the development of the Orchestra’s relationships with a broader range of guest conductors and soloists. In September 2015, the National Forum of Music’s new home in Wroclaw, Poland, featuring an 1,800-seat concert hall and three smaller recital halls, was opened. As part of her work, she is also responsible for the artistic use of the concert hall’s adjustable acoustics systems.

Stay Thirsty Magazine was pleased to visit with Natalia Klingbajl at her office in Wroclaw for these Five Questions for the magazine’s first ever behind the scenes look at orchestra management.

STAY THIRSTY: The NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic is on a national tour in the United States under the direction of Maestro Giancarlo Guerrero. How long does it take for a major orchestra to plan a project like this? What are the elements that are required to make it happen?

NATALIA KLINGBAJL: Our first discussions with Maestro and Opus3 Artists took place more than 2 years ago, but the majority of work has been done over the last year. Of course, music-making is the most important reason for doing this, and we are extremely happy to be touring with Giancarlo Guerrero and wonderful soloists like Bomsori Kim, Piotr Anderszewski, David Fray and Janusz Wawrowski.

NFM Wroclaw Philharmonic Orchestra 

But when you travel to another continent with a group of 100 people and all of the orchestra’s instruments, it also becomes quite a logistical endeavor. Having this in mind, I’d say that having trusted partners is crucial. We had the pleasure of working with Opus3 Artists while touring US in 2012 and I am glad we now have the opportunity to work with them again this during the Orchestra’s return.

STAY THIRSTY: Apart from the commitments to various venues on a foreign trip, what is the process of choosing the repertoire for the orchestra to play on a tour? Who has the most input and who has the final decision? How much rehearsal time is necessary to prepare for a tour?

Maestro Giancarlo Guerrero

NATALIA KLINGBAJL: The decision lies with the Music Director, but it is a dialogue. We are very happy that Maestro Guerrero is keen work on Polish repertoire and the works of such composers like Szymanowski and Lutosławski. We always try to include the works we will tour with in our concerts in Wrocław before we take them on the road. It allows for more artistic freedom later on. With repertoire of this size, we started including them in our programs dating few months back. David Fray, who was our soloist in Florida, performed with us last June and I believe this was the first pre-tour performance we gave.

STAY THIRSTY: How many members of the orchestra travel? How many support people are necessary and how do the instruments move from venue to venue? How do you handle the wardrobe requirements and any special needs of the musicians? Who is responsible for making sure everyone is on the airplane, and what happens when someone is missing or late? What contingency plans do you have if a hotel doesn’t have enough rooms?

NATALIA KLINGBAJL: With a group of 100 people, you plan those things early and in advance. Airplane tickets, rooming lists, local transfers, there is little space for improvisation. The number of support staff varies for each orchestra, but in our case, it is five people plus our partners from Opus3, who put the tour together for us, and who know the presenters, halls and hotels. If somebody would miss their plane, that person would have to figure the additional travel themselves, but we do try to keep an eye on everyone and make sure we avoid such situations. Things happen. In Warsaw, the night before we took the flight to Miami, the hotel had a booking problem and two of our players turned out not to have a room. It is never pleasant, especially when it happens in the middle of the night, but I believe that with a bit of kindness, you can always find a solution. In this case, the hotel had transferred those two musicians to an upmarket hotel around the corner.

STAY THIRSTY: Are the costs of the United States tour underwritten by the Polish government or by orchestra patrons? If not, how do you cover the costs of such an extensive tour?

NATALIA KLINGBAJL: Apart from the fees which we are receiving from presenters, the remaining cost is being covered from the Orchestra’s budget. We were also lucky to receive the support of the Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego (Polish development bank) and LOT Polish Airlines.

STAY THIRSTY: How do you handle illnesses and injuries of the musicians on the road and what contingency plans are there to make sure that the performances go on as scheduled?

NATALIA KLINGBAJL: There are different situations. You don’t wait until it is bad but take actions the moment when someone is starting to feel unwell. You try to provide additional rest, basic medication, etc. When it is needed, you call a doctor. In the string sections, we have 60 players. If someone gets ill, it is possible to give some concerts without him or her, until they get better. During my 10 years with the organization I have been lucky not to have a key wind, brass or percussion player ill while on tour. I hope it will stay this way, but in the worst case, I guess you look for someone who could step in, and who is available in the area where you are. While on this tour, for two concerts, we will be joined by two American players. We’re lucky – music is a universal language and meeting colleagues from other parts of the world is usually a great pleasure.

(Giancarlo Guerrero photo: credit Tukasz Rajchert)


All opinions expressed are solely those of its author and do not reflect the opinions of Stay Thirsty Media, Inc.