For much of the 20th century, orchestras were a valued part of the western cultural fabric. In towns and cities on either side of the Atlantic, the cost of maintaining an 80-strong ensemble to play a diet of predominantly 19th-century music was rarely questioned. But by the 1990s the noise of popular culture had begun to drown out the sound of symphonies, and government subsidies were on the squeeze. To survive, the orchestra sought to redefine itself as an educational and recreational tool for the whole community, rather than a once-a-week concert-giver for rarefied souls in a municipal temple. Not only that, it had to advertise itself as a driver of creative excellence, so that it could justify the support it received. All this meant presenting a much wider spectrum of music, from baroque to crossover – sometimes in a less forbidding style than the concert format. To lead and personify this change, the orchestra needed a figurehead capable of appealing to a wider public than the traditional maestro did.