Many in the arts community know Ben Dietschi well, whether as a curator of engaging music programming at Spectrum Music and the Music Gallery, board member at Theatre Passe Muraille, an inspired saxophonist with the Massey Hall Band, or through several years of senior responsibilities at Soundstreams. Ben has just added another accomplishment to his long list of first – following an international competition led by Searchlight Recruitment, he was appointed by the search committee as our new Executive Director.
Since joining Soundstreams in 2013, Ben has been responsible for developing key partnerships and strategic initiatives, and expanding funding and programming opportunities. During his recent tenure as Interim General Manager he led the company through one of the most demanding programming seasons in Soundstreams’ history.
Ben Dietschi: Bringing Artistic Vision to Life as new Executive Director
My journey with music began at the piano and saxophone in my early teens. I studied jazz and composition in Manitoba and at the University of Toronto before launching into the realm of arts presentation. My career as a performer has taken me around the world, but I’m also thrilled to play the engineer to the architect so to speak, and devote myself to bringing some of Canada’s finest to the stage through the vision of our Artistic Director.
I’ve always been passionate about the role music plays in our lives and its broader meaning for society. This drove me toward the space between creators and audiences, where I now find great satisfaction in focusing the lens through which the light of music lights up the lives of many Canadians. I’m motivated by those rare moments of profound and intangible transference between myself and the audience — the goosebump moments!
I created an indie arts company called Spectrum Music in 2010, the first chamber jazz presenter and producer in Canada. It became a small, well-respected contributor to the city’s musical ecology. A desire to develop my skills as an administrator led me to the doorsteps of Soundstreams for a year-long fellowship awarded by the Metcalf Foundation. Under the tutelage of former Soundstreams Executive Director Chris Lorway (Luminato Festival, Roy Thompson Hall, Stanford Live!), I was put through my paces (in the best way!) and once the year was over, I knew then that I wanted to make arts administration a lifelong career.
While I’ve been shaping the business side of the arts for more than six years now, I’ve spent half of that time honing my arts administration skills working at Soundstreams. From the fellowship, to being asked to stay on as Outreach Programs Manager, then being promoted to Associate Director of External Relations, and most recently Interim General Manager, I am intimately familiar with the inner workings of Soundstreams.
It’s a great honour to help to lead the company along with our illustrious board of directors and unmatched creative genius of our Artistic Director, Lawrence Cherney. I believe deeply in our mandate and throw myself into all it requires – from tackling our IT needs and hard goods, to negotiating presentation partners, and fostering an exceptional environment for our talent to thrive and bring our audience their best.
What do you have planned for Soundstreams in the next few years?
I look forward to charting an exciting new path for Soundstreams in the coming years. After a season with major co-productions like the fully-staged chamber opera Julie and filling Massey Hall for our Steve Reich at 80 2015/16 Season Finale, we’re on the heels of one of our most ambitious seasons to date. And with more outreach and engagement streams, expect to see more of Soundstreams in new and unexpected places – not just the Gardiner Museum and the Toronto Public Library.
What kinds of experiences can audiences expect?
We’re exploring new ways of innovating in the performance space, creating immersive, and even participatory experiences. Multi-sensory experiences are the norm in the modern world and our artistic team is exploring creative ways to enhance concerts with lighting, dramaturgy, and narration—keeping with Soundstreams goal since 1982 to create dynamic encounters between artists and audiences.
What is some music you’ve been enjoying lately?
Right now, I’m enjoying Ibeyi—check out River, it’s fantastic. Also, listening to some Robert Glasper and revisiting Legeti string quartet #1.
Tell us about some of your interests outside of work.
I love hiking, cycling, and backcountry camping. In the winter, downhill skiing—I used to slalom race years ago…
What’s the best book you’ve read recently?
I started and aborted David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. I know, I know, but it’s 1,000 pages!
I finished Hawkins’ A Brief History of Time, that was a good read.
Favourite city: Paris
Worst airport: Newark
Guilty pleasure song: Too Young to Die, Jamiroquai
Best concert hall: Koerner Hall
Favourite restaurant: Anything I’m eating on the beach