Gormet Symphony, Hospitality, Tourism & Entertainment Innovator of the Year Nominee
Co-founder & Artistic Director
What does innovation mean to you?
I think the most successful forms of innovation are the ones in which even the smallest opportunities for improvement are considered and acted upon. Each step of progress is meaningful both for the change that it creates and the ethos of the organization.
What makes Gourmet Symphony innovative?
For an arts organization, innovation often means confronting a long and important history—and adapting it for a modern audience or aesthetic. From the beginning, Gourmet Symphony has made sure to honor that tradition, but also has explored a number of ways to improve on a rather standardized form of concert presentation. With many years of experience in the food and music industries, our team was able to begin its life together fully committed to innovation and forward-thinking concepts. The result has been the creation of a viable alternative to the traditional concert format, and one that draws in both experienced and new audience members alike.
What or who are some innovative companies or people that inspire you or your team?
The people that inspire me the most are the ones that inhabit a questioning mindset at all times. These people see rules, and ask why they exist. Even if they don’t thwart or change those rules, the process of asking the questions is the most valuable. Some of the people that most inspired this way of thinking in me are:
1. Lin-Manuel Miranda: He took the “Broadway show” (just like Gourmet Symphony took the classical music concert) and re-imagined what was possible. He combined the best parts of tradition and fused them with amazing innovations to create something that has become universally loved.
2. Bill Simmons: He has re-shaped the way sports and sports media relate to their respective audiences. He identifies topics and angles that others haven’t considered and presents them in a way that is incredibly relevant for an audience that absorbs information in new ways.
3. Malcolm Gladwell: He has taken a novel approach to the analysis of human trends. By challenging assumptions, he has found deep meaning in hidden places.
What about Greater Washington has positioned us as an innovative region?
We could not be in a more perfect place to accomplish Gourmet Symphony’s goals. Our musicians are drawn from the incredible artistic organizations that call the D.C.-area home: the National Symphony Orchestra, the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra, military bands and orchestras, and even the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra! Combine that with a burgeoning restaurant scene (D.C. was voted Best Restaurant City in the country for 2016 by Bon Appetite Magazine) that keeps attracting more creative and innovative restaurateurs and chefs—and we have the perfect petri dish for our experiments.
Advice for Up-and-Coming Leaders?
The best piece of advice I ever received is that to be successful, most people don’t pursue just one passion—they find two things that might seem disparate and combine them to create something new. Not only does this allow for a new niche to be inhabited, but it also ensures that the organization reflects something unique about its creators. So, in this case, even though my life is in the classical music world, food is my other passion. By combining the two, there was a new open space to explore. And, I am excited every day by the work that we do and the creative collisions we form by mixing the culinary and musical arts.