Reader Response: Orchestra In-School Programs

In response to the orchestra in-school program entries from earlier in the week, I received an email from Beth, a cellist in a southwest orchestra.  She related her experiences growing up as a public school student and having been exposed to the orchestra through an  education initiative.  However, her experiences didn’t include in-school programs, only traveling to the concert hall for performances.  It made a lasting impression that influences the assessment of her in-school programs.

“When I was in elementary school, I remember having to dress up and learn the etiquette and history of the symphony concert.  It was a privilege to go and we all knew it.  I think it is very important for school children to see and experience music in a hall, as I remember it focusing my attention and creating a sense of awe at the volume and power of the music.
I am saddened to see the kids I play for in their “cafitoriums”, sitting in a spaced out fashion like they were there for just another school wide announcement. The focus in a real concert is so much more direct in a concert hall.  I don’t think it would cost the schools that much more to get busses of kids to a symphony concert as opposed to us going to their schools.  I think it would be a much better solution than the small ensemble “Band-Aid” solutions I participate in.”

For the in-school comparisons I intentionally left out any mention of other education initiatives because I did not want to stray from the center of the comparison.  However, Beth raises an interesting point that not all orchestras address evenly.  In a previous Reader Response we learned that the New York Philharmonic does require schools that participate with their in-school program to also attend two education concerts at their hall.  I think all orchestras should create similar provisions in their programs.  It sounds like Beth wishes her orchestra did too.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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