TAFTO Reader Response: I Took Myself

Joe Patti, theatre manager and host of the always educational blog, Butts In The Seats, decided to take part in TAFTO in an unusual way; he took himself.  In an unusual turn of events, Joe crossed paths with some of the musicians shortly after the concert.  But I won’t spoil the surprise, read all about what happened in Joe’s own words:

I really have to congratulate you and tell you how impressed I am at the Take a Friend to the Orchestra initiative. This is the first blog inspired arts activity I have really seen come to fruition and meet with some success. It is the sort of thing I have envisioned blogs being able to inspire.
It isn’t just the fact that people are attending and sending entries for your blog, but also the fact you were able to get some media attention for it and get that interview on WNYC.  When I was listening to the interview, I was getting really excited. Jerry made a lot of insightful comments. His brother asked some really great questions and some of them were a little dangerous to ask because Jerry’s answers could have reinforced people’s negative impressions about symphonies. Granted, he wasn’t going to intentionally say anything to really hurt his brother on his radio show, but still I think they were the type of questions performing arts organizations, much less symphonies, don’t typically ask their audiences.
Listening to the radio show complemented my experience as well. I was a little embarrassed that I had such a hard time concentrating on the music throughout the first half of the concert. Then I listen to you saying that you get bored and that gets me off the hook and gives me permission to be a little scattered myself. (And even better, gives me permission to bring binoculars the next time!)
As an added bonus. I attended a meeting yesterday that included two symphony musicians I mentioned that I had attended the concert last Friday and [one of them] asked the question that I dreaded was coming; [what did [you] think?”  Now, as I am sure you have surmised by now, if I had gotten a program saying I was listening to Mozart last Friday, I wouldn’t have known it was wrong.  I certainly don’t think I could have discerned between mediocre and sublime renditions of the music.
So I opted for telling him that while I am a knucklehead when it comes to the music, the 2nd movement of the Tchaikovsky really grabbed me. There was just something about it that evoked the image of wind blowing over tall grass. The music just seemed to flow out from the stage over the audience like a gentle breeze and the movement of the bows just seemed to reinforce the image of blades of grass swaying languorously. I pondered for a bit through the next movement if the synchronicity of visual and aural elements were intentional on the composers part.
There was just something about it that caught me up. I sat up and held my breath and looked around and wondered if anyone else realized what was going on. When I talk about the music flowing, I mean it almost literally. I could almost perceive it coming off the stage the rolling over the first few rows as the next line of notes pushed it further along. I honestly found myself wondering if they were going to play long enough for it to reach my row. It didn’t. They stopped and moved on.  It sounds melodramatic to describe it that way, but that is pretty much how I felt. If I was being melodramatic, I would continue on saying I was writhing in ecstasy or that I fell into a deep depression at the loss when they finished. I didn’t feel either way. They moved on, I moved on.
However, telling the musician the bit in the first paragraph of description there pleased him to no end. I too was pleased because I no longer had the pressure of [whether or not I would sound] intelligent about the music and had made the guy happy.
So anyway, good work on the project. I am going to write the Symphony marketing person and suggest they get on board for next year.

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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