I dare you to read George Daugherty’s contribution and not leave with a warm and fuzzy feeling. As the creator and conductor for the wildly popular Bugs Bunny on Broadway and Bugs Bunny at the Symphony programs, George relates some of his experiences in that arena but make sure to catch the final half as it’s one of the most touching and powerful contributions to date. ~ Drew McManus For the past 23 …
With April being the official “Take a Friend to the Orchestra” month, the notion of audience development has been weighing heavily on me of late. This sound clip is a light hearted illustration about what I believe when it comes to building new audiences and relationships. Many contributions to this website have elaborated eloquently on the techniques, philosophies and approaches one can take towards this end. My point is simple in that audience development and more specifically the task of inviting people to join you in the concert hall is a shared responsibility–not one just reserved for an orchestra’s marketing staff. To be effective, it must be a concerted effort joined by the staff, conductor, musicians, and most importantly, the patrons themselves.
So I’m taking a classical-music neophyte-greenhorn-virgin to a concert – a prospect that’s both exhilarating and daunting. How do I know what he or she will take to, or like, and possibly even love? He or she certainly doesn’t.
When I was 18 and waiting to begin my first year at Cambridge University, I taught music to slightly younger teenagers, 12 to 16 years old, in a rough neighborhood school. I tried Bach, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and the like on them – all to no avail. What finally got them going, surprisingly enough, was Bartok.
When it comes to getting people interested in what we do, I’m afraid there’s no magic bullet. It’s just not like that. The essential thing is for us to work hard to make the concert experience memorable from the moment they walk through the door. Even something small, like the way the ushers treat them or the conversation they have with the coat-check person, can make visitors feel special. In short, every concert needs to be an event. And everyone on the inside needs to give it their all, because everyone is part of creating an amazing two hours.
When Drew asked me to write for TAFTO I immediately agreed as it has been a favorite series of mine to read especially since it is such a proactive approach. However since I am mostly in performances and not watching them, I was initially stumped on the angle to take. I have invited many friends to attend in the past, some have become subscribers and one recently became a board member and now heads up Crescendo, a patrons social group at the Springfield Symphony that she herself formed. Since I write extensively on the subject of Orchestras and their relationships with their audiences and communities over on Sticks and Drones, I decided to bring to TAFTO an assignment that I gave to my Audience Connections class at Drury University. The assignment was to do a review of two different performances by the Springfield Symphony, one a Classics, the other a Pops. The class had 4 students last semester so 2 went to the Classics and 2 to the Pops and I sat them in different parts of the hall. These however were reviews with a twist (literally), for they were not there to review the orchestra’s performance, because I told them to turn their backs on us and instead review the audience!
One of my most interesting and inspiring experiences as a conductor happened in China, but it had nothing to do with taking a friend to a concert. It had more to do with taking people in general to a place in life and the arts they didn’t know before. I want to link my Chinese experience to the topic of taking a friend to the orchestra. Taking a friend to the orchestra is really about sharing a meaningful experience, and sometimes that means trusting somebody to lead you into a field with which you are unfamiliar.
(The Scene: Late night…… wispy fog…… clock tolling the hours in the distance…… cat knocking over a trash can……. entrance to a dark alley………… Humphrey Bogart look-alike in rain coat and Fedora hat……..)