When times are tough is when we most need our friends.
In the concert world, we tend not to think of friends or friendship. We are professionals, whether musicians or administrators. Our audience is made up of patrons, who support the institution’s music making through ticket purchases, donations, and maybe volunteer service. Patrons are ‘friends’ of the ensemble to be sure, but in the abstract, impersonal sense.
Like others who have contributed to TAFTO in the past, when I look down my long list of friends, acquaintances and contacts, it strikes me that I don’t know too many people that aren’t musicians. Nearly everyone in my life is involved in music in some way, with a great number of people working as composers, performers, producers, engineers, administrators and critics. If the purpose of TAFTO is to invite someone who doesn’t normally attend live concert events to a concert event, then I’m fortunate that even several of my musician colleagues fit that bill all too well. I can think of several people whose opinion on musical matters I value highly who simply don’t attend concerts – be they orchestra, opera, recital – with any regularity or at all. Though I certainly welcome all of the opportunities to experience live music New York has to offer, I can go for long periods without attending concerts, citing the responsibilities of family, work, exercise and my own music as reasons why I just can’t go hear the Philharmonic next week.
In 2007 two of San Diego Symphony’s young musicians changed my expectations for a classical music concert. They did what many consider impossible by creating an event that stimulates long time classical music fans and at the same time being open and engaging to newcomers.
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.