Root, Root, Root For The Home Team

Finding an extra special rallying point for your community to get involved with has always been a good move on the part of orchestras.  Although orchestras should always have a series of events to focus attention on them, having a big event is a good way to wake up the sleeping congregation and bring in some converts.

One of the most common events used by bigger orchestras is to plan an international tour.  But there are only a handful of orchestras across the country with enough funds to pull that off on even a semi-regular basis.  For all of the other orchestras throughout the U.S. going to Carnegie Hall always seems to be a guaranteed press magnet (although I have a decidedly contrary view than most folks about the value of a Carnegie Hall appearance).

On May 21, 2005 the Grand Rapids Symphony makes their debut appearance in the legendary venue serving up a performance of works from Goldmark, Copland, and Dvorak.  A local Grand Rapids travel agency has put together a couple of travel packages designed to make it easy to get to NYC and offer the most out of the trip for Grand Rapids symphony fans.

Hopefully, the orchestra will be able to put together a healthy collection of patrons and supporters to fill up most of Carnegie’s 2,804 seats.  They’ll accomplish more for themselves by not allowing most of the people in the crowd to hail from NYC.

Some orchestras have used a Carnegie appearance to its utmost advantage in recent years, the Nashville Symphony had an entire caravan of busses filled with supporters follow them to NYC.  And now Nashville is building their own $120 million concert hall and is becoming a cultural staple in their local community.

And Grand Rapids has just as much of a chance to make this trip into an event that will move them to a new level of artistic recognition.  Not so much on the national level but in the minds and hearts of their community.  After all, it’s in Grand Rapids where they need to sell tickets and garner donations not NYC; and I hope the people of Grand Rapids will support their orchestra and show up in grand fashion.

Back in August, I published an interview with the Grand Rapids Symphony music director, David Lockington.   He really is a unique figure among the society of conductors and has a number of healthy outlooks on music and the industry; that interview is available at The Partial Observer.

You can find out more about the Grand Rapids Symphony Carnegie Hall concert as well as “gift ideas” by visiting their website.  My wife and I stopped by the “gift ideas” page to see what was up and while there she noticed a David Lockington bobble head doll (unibrow and all). She’s a fan of David’s and said the doll would be a cute Christmas present. 

I assumed that when I clicked on the picture something would happen (key word there was “assumed”). Unfortunately, the pic wasn’t linked to anything and when I went around their website looking for a way to buy the doll I came up empty.  Back in September when I conducted the orchestra website review Grand Rapids finished 52 out of 71.  Hopefully, they’ll realize the full potential of their website in promoting the Carnegie Hall trip sometime soon.

Postscript: If anyone knows how to get that Lockington bobble head doll without having to call, let me know.

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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