Programming For Orchestra Radio

I’m one of the people in this industry that still believes radio is a tool with the greatest amount of potential for orchestras to reach a new audience.  Awhile back, I even presented the idea of an orchestra owning a radio station (which exists – to a degree   in Seattle already).  During one of my drives back and forth from Baltimore to Richmond, I came up with an idea based on a combination of some of my favorite programs syndicated by NPR, which include: Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!, Whad’ya Know?, and Says You!.   These programs are all funny (most of the time), casual, educational, and most importantly they involve the studio and listening audience.

My idea would feature a regular program that conducted a live
broadcast – on site – during an orchestra concert.  It would be a very
entertaining, interactive program that does more than just broadcast
the concert; it would involve patrons and home listeners.  Most live
orchestra broadcasts are too much like the actual concert experience;
sit, listen, and go home (or turn the radio off).  This type of program
would be great because it involves patrons, musicians, and on air
guests before and after the concert as well as the intermission sharing
their thoughts about classical music along with taking questions from
patrons and call-in listeners; all presented with a decidedly relaxed,
entertaining, inclusive feeling (like the NPR shows listed above). 

The format possibilities are boundless, plus you’ll do something
that’s desperately needed in today’s orchestral world: this will begin
to represent the world of classical music to an entirely new audience
by creating an environment that says it’s ok if you don’t know what’s
going on, "We won’t make you feel stupid, self conscious, or that you
don’t belong – you’ll have fun, we guarantee it."  Think of it like an
on-air, real-time version of Sam Bergman’s blog Road Trip.  It could be a fun avenue for patrons to have access to some of the rarely seen aspects of the orchestral world.

This is just one of the ideas I have brewing for how classical music
can move back into the mainstream of cultural consciousness. 

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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