MOLA 2024: Cleveland rocked


Listen to the podcast episode

On the Scoring Notes podcast, David MacDonald and Philip Rothman recap the 2024 MOLA Conference from Cleveland, with a summary of the tech fair and the rest of the event: from the intricacies of percussion setup to licensing, copyright, and commissioning agreements, and much more. Listen now:

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MOLA 2024 conference and tech fair wrap-up


At the 2024 conference of MOLA: An Association of Performance Librarians, Philadelphia Orchestra principal librarian (and Scoring Notes podcast guest) Nicole Jordan said that the performance librarian makes what seems like miracles into expected outcomes. The same can be true about this year’s annual gathering of those librarians; ubiquitous travel delays and a long holiday weekend could not conspire to derail the 2024 MOLA Conference, which recently concluded in Cleveland, Ohio, and by all accounts was a rocking success.


Once again, I had the great privilege of attending the conference and participating in its programming — an honor second to none.

Joining me for the third consecutive year was David MacDonald. While David and I see each other regularly online to record the Scoring Notes podcast, it is thanks to the MOLA conferences that we not only have an opportunity to visit in person, but also participate in the conference, as well as bringing coverage back to our Scoring Notes audience.

As my fancy name badge indicates, I am a member of the MOLA Technology Committee; David, on the other hand, has a far grander distinction:

2nd annual Tech Fair

The two of us helped bookend the second annual Tech Fair, which kicked off the conference with a full day of discussions, product exhibits, and vendor demonstrations.

The day started with David joining Joshua Luty, the co-chair of the tech committee and principal librarian of the Atlanta Symphony (and also a Scoring Notes podcast guest) offering a session entitled “Putting Technology into Practice in the Music Library,” in which they solicited questions from the audience and sparked a lively conversation among attendees.

The questions ran the gamut from the highly specific to broadly general, and Joshua and David did a great job parlaying the questions into their conversation for the day and filing them to shape future discussions about using technology to be more efficient, save time, and achieve better results in the many tasks that comprise daily life for the performance librarian.

Putting Technology into Practice in the Music Library: Joshua Luty and David MacDonald

The remainder of the day was a whirlwind of demonstrations and exhibits: exhibitors included companies, products, and services, some of which may be very familiar to Scoring Notes readers, and others less so:

John Barron demonstrating Dorico
Georg Köster demonstrating dimusco
Emma Hakimi demonstrating Newzik
Kristjan Nõlvak demonstrating Scoremusic
Justin Tokke demonstrating Sibelius

The tech fair concluded with a panel discussion that I led entitled “Code, Content, Consolidation, Convergence”. I was joined by an incredible group of colleagues: David Friedman, owner of Ficks Music; Robin Pomatto, director of the Concord Theatricals Concert Library; Justin Tokke, senior product designer for Avid – Sibelius; and Justin Vibbard, principal librarian of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The session brief was this:

Years ago, the companies that wrote the source code for music software were different from the ones that published the content created with that software. But with industry consolidation, the products and services that consumers use to create, acquire, and perform music are converging. Who will determine what music audiences ultimately hear? What tools will be available to performance librarians to obtain and produce music? How will performers be able to view and modify the music to suit their needs? A discussion of the technologies and players in the life cycle of music — from creation to performance.

The panel was more than equal to the task, and explored the issues with their knowledge and perspective. Eventually, video and audio of the discussion will find its way to the Scoring Notes web site and podcast, once we have time to get to it, so stay tuned there.

From left: David Friedman, Justin Vibbard, Robin Pomatto, Justin Tokke, Philip Rothman

The rest of the conference

From there, the conference got into full swing with a wide variety of topics of relevance to performance librarians. As is often the case, the complex issues of licensing and rights were a significant focus; sessions on pop, show, and film music licensing, and the thorny copyright questions pertaining to Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella ballets drew capacity crowds on either side of Sunday’s lunch break.

The Pop, Show, and Film Music Licensing panel, from L to R: James Grupenhoff, Robert Thompson, Corey Field, Georgina Govier

Commissions of new works can consume a great deal of time for the performance librarian, and yet often many key details about commissions are not well-communicated to librarians. In an effort to assist librarians in taking a more informed role in the commissioning process, I joined D. Wilson Ochoa, principal librarian of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, for a terrific session entitled “Putting the Library in Commissioning Agreements”. It sparked a number of excellent questions and ideas about this important aspect of bringing new works to life. Thanks to a partnership with Marcato, the MOLA quarterly newsletter, we will eventually make more of the information from the session available to Scoring Notes readers.

Putting the Library in Commissioning Agreements: D. Wilson Ochoa and Philip Rothman

Although the digital world is ever more present in music, printed material still reigns supreme in the performance library, with all of its time-tested history and inherent advantages. There was plenty of such material on display, such as this collection from Ficks Music

…or this helpful set of MOLA publications — which you can also find in digital format.

It wasn’t all work, though. MOLA members fanned out across Cleveland to enjoy the town, and each others’ company, sparking lively conversation, making new friendships, and deepening existing ones. Members of the Technology Committee mixed business with pleasure, and took advantage of the lovely weekend weather (Monday’s travel day notwithstanding!).

Members of the MOLA Technology Committee from L to R: Philip Rothman, Luke Speedy-Hutton, John Rosenkrans, Tony Rickard, Katie Klich, Joshua Luty

At the concluding banquet, conductor James Conlon received the Eroica Award for Outstanding Service to Music, and thanked MOLA members via pre-recorded video. Outgoing MOLA president Alastair McKean, head of library services at the Sydney Symphony, thanked The Cleveland Orchestra, and especially librarians Michael Ferraguto, Don Miller, and Gabrielle Petek, for an outstanding conference. And of course, none of it would have happened without MOLA’s cracker-jack administrator, the indefatigable Amy Tackitt — all of whom received hearty applause.

When I caught up with Alastair near the end of the conference, he rendered a positive verdict on the weekend’s events:


Not ready to put a final barline on the MOLA 2024 coverage? Neither are we.

Check out this companion post to view conversations I had at MOLA with Notion’s Chris Swaffer, Avid’s Justin Tokke, Steinberg’s John Barron, as well as the aforementioned Michael Ferraguto and Alastair McKean as official representatives of the conference. We also have an excerpt from the opening tech fair session, “Putting Technology into Practice in the Music Library”.

Eventually, we will post coverage from the “Code, Content, Consolidation, Convergence” session, as well as sharing the publication of the Marcato article about commissioning agreements.

And, naturally, David and I wrapped up all of the coverage in a podcast episode!

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