TAFTO Reader Response: Taking A Herd Of Friends

Composer Judd Greenstein is taking TAFTO to heart; he’s taking 40 friends to an upcoming concert on May 29th.  Judd has some very sharp ideas about the audience of the future, take the time to read through Judd’s note, you’ll be glad you did:

I don’t know if this counts, but I’m taking about 40 of my friends to the orchestra at the end of the month, when the New York Youth Symphony premieres a new work of mine in New York’s Carnegie Hall. Some of these people have never been to an orchestra concert, so I figured that I should take advantage of having a big pile of comps to one of the world’s most beautiful halls, and get them into that environment for the first time. This isn’t easily replicable, of course, but people need to start somewhere, and a venue where one of your friends is either on stage or having his or her music played is a very comfortable and engaging first experience. So I’m taking my friends to my own orchestra concert.

I think there’s a misconception among some musicians (and composers) that the only valuable audience is the audience that you don’t know. I’m interested in gradually building a community of people who I DO know, and writing music for that community that supports me. The way to do that is to bring the people you already know to the shows you’re putting on. Where do you buy your morning coffee? Get your haircut? Do the people who work there know what you do? I realized recently how many people that I know from the regular rhythms of my life have no idea what I do – and these people would be genuinely interested, because they know me. If all the musicians in the country (or world?) suddenly came clean about what we did for a living, and made all our concerts known to all our friends, I wonder how much less marginal our lives would suddenly seem. And how much more likely it would be that our communities would be invested in our work. It seems to me that we might be much less marginal, and our communities might be much more invested.

Judd has promised to tell us all about the experience (and I’m hoping some of those 40 will contribute their thoughts as well) after it’s all said and done.

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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