The tech trek to the 2023 MOLA conference


Orchestra and performance librarians have been making use of technology ever since the first bowing mark was applied to a violin part. Pencil and paper, of course, is a type of technology — and a very effective one.

In modern parlance, though, “technology” most often refers to things that are electronically powered with some sort of computer processing and the whizzing of digital bits and bytes. In recognition of the familiarity and expertise that today’s librarian must possess with technology, the 2023 MOLA conference in Berlin began with the first-ever Tech Fair on June 2, 2023: a full day of panel discussions, vendor exhibits, demonstrations, and spontaneous cross-currents that, by all accounts, was a successful endeavor.

Previous MOLA conferences have included technology-specific demonstrations; the 2016 conference in Helsinki was notable for being the venue which Dorico was publicly unveiled for the first time, and companies like nkoda and Newzik have made regular appearances in the vendor area for many years. Personally, I have had the pleasure of attending nearly every MOLA conference since 2014, first focusing on Finale and Sibelius, and later with more expansive assignments presenting a broader overview of the field.

This year, though, after several years of the idea having germinated and been somewhat delayed due to the pandemic, MOLA leadership decided to have a full day of tech, and to have it happen squarely at the beginning of the conference to kick it off in grand style.

Although the main conference was flawlessly hosted by the Berliner Philharmonie, the Tech Fair took place about 3 kilometers to the east, at the The Hanns Eisler School of Music.

David MacDonald and I took a moment to reflect upon it all after the third day of the conference, in this conversation we recorded outside the Philharmonie, amidst beautiful late-spring Berlin weather:


The vendor hall at The Hanns Eisler School of Music doubled as the refreshment area, allowing for easy mingling of conference attendees and vendors.

Bärenreiter-Verlag, dimusco, Newzik, nkoda, Notengrafik Berlin, PreSonus Software, Répertoire International de Littérature Musicale, and Steinberg all had stations.

There was even a table where Michel Léonard of the Montreal Symphony and Joshua Luty of the Atlanta Symphony dispensed Photoshop advice.

Michel Léonard giving Photoshop advice

Many of the vendors were given the opportunity to give focused demonstrations of the products to assembled audiences in half-hour increments throughout the day.

Chris Swaffer demonstrating Notion

Bookending the fair were two panel discussions. The first, “A Comparison of Tablet Music Reader Technology Experiences” was co-moderated by Scoring Notes’ very own David MacDonald, along with MOLA Technology Committee co-chair and Boston Symphony Orchestra assistant librarian Mark Fabulich.

Participating in the discussion were three librarians actively using iPad readers in their work: Julia Pestke of Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) Köln; Luke Speedy-Hutton of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra; and Signe Marie Steensland of the Norwegian Radio Orchestra. Each librarian uses a different platform — dimusco, Newzik, and forScore, respectively — and they spoke at length about the challenges and benefits of using iPads in addition to, or as replacements for paper materials.

L-R: Julia Pestke of Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) Köln; Luke Speedy-Hutton of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra; Signe Marie Steensland of the Norwegian Radio Orchestra; David MacDonald; Mark Fabulich

The fair concluded with a panel that I moderated. Entitled “Music Notation Platforms: An Industry Perspective”, it brought together the representatives of a cross-section of notation software solutions: Adrian Holovaty of Soundslice; Bradley Kunda of MuseScore; Daniel Spreadbury of Steinberg (Dorico); and Chris Swaffer of PreSonus (Notion).

L-R: Chris Swaffer of PreSonus (Notion); Adrian Holovaty of Soundslice; Daniel Spreadbury of Steinberg (Dorico); Bradley Kunda of MuseScore; Philip Rothman

These “ABCD”s of the music notation software field engaged in a lively back-and-forth interchange about the philosophy behind their product development, their relationships with their user bases, and how their programs co-exist in a crowded space.

L-R: Chris Swaffer; Adrian Holovaty; Daniel Spreadbury; Philip Rothman; Bradley Kunda; Mark Fabulich

Both David’s and my conversations were audio recorded, and will eventually make their way into the Scoring Notes podcast feed. In the meantime, here is an 11-minute video excerpt from “Music Notation Platforms: An Industry Perspective”:

After the formal end of the tech fair, many attendees and vendors remained on site to attend a meeting of the W3C Music Notation Community Group, which took advantage of two of its three co-chairs (Daniel and Adrian) being present, along with a number of the group’s members, to conduct a hybrid meeting with some members attending remotely. Updates were given on SMuFL, MusicXML, and MNX, and feedback from the group was solicited.


Community Group meeting, Friday 2 June 2023

The day concluded with a lovely reception at the Philharmonie, which served as a triumphant coda to the Fair and the introduction to the remainder of the conference. Kudos to all involved for making sure that technology has a central role in the modern music library, and for giving MOLA members the opportunity to enrich their knowledge by learning both from each other and from the day’s guests.


  1. Tim W.

    Avid seems to have been notable by its absence!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *