Sony Philharmonic Orchestra
Technology companies such as Sony usually make technology. In some cases, they even make music players (Walkman, iPod). But it’s rare that the employees of such companies make music.
At Sony, however, it’s the norm. Founded in 1995 by then CEO Norio Ohga, a former opera singer who had conducted professional orchestras, the Sony Philharmonic is made up of Sony employees from different parts of the company (Sony Corporation, Sony Computer Entertainment, Sony Music, Sony Life Insurance). 60% of the musicians are engineers. Since its inception, the orchestra has mostly performed in concerts in and around Tokyo. Indeed, Japan has a strong tradition of amateur orchestras at companies; tech firms Pioneer and Ricoh also have their own orchestras.
This past October, the Sony Philharmonic made its Carnegie Hall debut with cellist Yo-Yo Ma (a Sony recording artist) and conductor Daniel Harding in tow. Proceeds from the concert were donated to the Harlem School of the Arts, Midori & Friends and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s Arts Education Program in support of arts education.
The program featured Dvořák’s Concerto for Cello and Orchestra in B Minor, Op. 104; Berlioz’s Le Corsaire Overture, Op. 21 and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64. The playing was competent and even graceful at some points although some of the playing was lackluster. The orchestra did come alive in the second movement of the Tchaikovsky symphony as well as with the encore, Tchaikovsky’s Polonaise from Eugene Onegin.
Contacts made by orchestra members have led to new products including noise cancelling headphones and home theater amplifiers.
–Jonathan B. Spira is the Editor of Executive Road Warrior and Chief Analyst at Basex, a knowledge economy research firm.