On my recent trip to Chicago I strolled by Symphony Center and couldn’t help but notice the large banner they had hanging on the front of the building congratulating the Chicago White Sox for winning the World Series…
At first I was a little confused at why the CSO would put up a banner congratulating the White Sox but then I decided that building community relationships in this way is not such a bad thing. In the grand scheme of the CSO budget, a little vinyl banner isn’t even a fraction of a drop in the bucket especially if it pays off with some favorable reciprocal relationships.
Nevertheless, I wondered if the White Sox cared as much about the CSO and if they even noticed that this concert season is a landmark occasion for the ensemble as it marks the end of Daniel Barenboim’s tenure as music director (granted, although the turnover in music director at the CSO isn’t that often, it’s still a more regularly occurring event than the White Sox winning the World Series).
In order to find out, I contacted the White Sox PR department to inquire if they knew the CSO had a banner congratulating the organization on winning the World Series and if they planned any similar public acknowledgment for the CSO given the reasons from the above paragraph. The White Sox representative I spoke with said the organization was unaware that the CSO had posted a congratulatory banner and they had not heard of any plans about doing anything similar for the CSO.
During my telephone conversation with the White Sox representative I noticed they were surprised by the notion that their organization might consider making such a public gesture to the CSO. Although I wasn’t entirely surprised by the White Sox representative’s answer, I was disappointed all the same.
I contacted the CSO public relations department to learn a little more about the banner and spoke with Synneve Carlino, Director of CSO Public Relations. She said the banner was something the organization produced in house as their way of congratulating the White Sox; much like other organizations did such as the Art Institute of Chicago placing White Sox caps on the giant stone lions which sit at the entrance to their building. Synneve also mentioned that the CSO participates in supporting other Chicago sports organizations on a regular basis by supplying musicians to perform the National Anthem at the opening of games.
Civic pride is an important barometer in determining a city’s overall health and vitality. It’s a good thing for businesses and civic organizations to recognize significant achievements and landmark occasions among their fellow institutions. I also think it’s a good thing for the CSO to go out and participate in civic matters such as sporting events and hanging congratulatory banners on the front of Symphony Center.
I’m just very disappointed to discover that the White Sox were so oblivious to the CSO’s efforts and that the idea of reciprocating seemed like an utterly foreign concept. I’m even more disappointed that the CSO might have drawn negative PR if they didn’t publicly acknowledge the White Sox in similar fashion to their peers.
All of this comes back to my original point that the banner is a good idea if it pays off in creating reciprocal relationships but what good will it do if it’s only there to prevent you from looking like you don’t care (or you’re running some serious red ink in the annual budget)? Is civic pride a one way street? Are orchestras (or performing arts organizations in general) even worth being considered as benchmarks for civic pride?
What do you think?