Starting From The Ground Up

It appears that the Take A Friend to Orchestra (TAFTO) concept is taking root among other art forms…


Doug Fox, internet consultant, marketing professional, and author of the Great Dance Weblog published an article at the end of April which reflected on whether or not an idea like TAFTO could apply to the world of dance.

Doug was considering whether or not there are enough dance bloggers out there to make a coordinated TAFTO-like program have enough impact to be worthwhile. Although I have to admit the only two dance blogs I know of are Doug’s and Seeing Things, the dance blog here at Arts Journal authored by Tobi Tobias, I don’t think that even matters.

Grass roots initiatives are grass roots initiatives regardless of whether or not there is one or 1,000 people involved. The fact that a passionate supporter would be willing to do something which increases awareness and exposes an art to individuals that may not otherwise have an opportunity is a good thing.

A few days ago I published a two part article which examines the traditional core audience for orchestral classical music. At the conclusion of those articles I mention that something like TAFTO certainly won’t transform the classical music business overnight. However, any grass roots initiative has the potential to yield different results depending on the filed where it grows.

A TAFTO effort in one city may be a one shot wonder, never to happen again. However, a TAFTO event in another city may lead to the formation of familiar social groups which center on attending classical music events. Those groups may form a tight core of persons who develop enough concern that they decide to form an orchestra society to raise funds orchestra projects they care about.

It is groups like this which fund special projects and help increase the points of contact among between individuals and the orchestra throughout their respective communities. Creating vehicles for groups like this to transpire is something worth working on.

In the end, you simply never know what will happen. It’s that wild variable which makes grass roots efforts so appealing. You don’t have to start out with the goal of changing the world; you just need to focus on changing your local environment in a positive way. If, after the fact, the world decides to follow, then you can consider that a pleasant bonus.

Doug concludes his blog with the notion that a 2007 Dance version of TAFTO (he fittingly christens Take a Friend to a Dance Performance) could be positioned to an adjoining month to April (TAFTO’s 2007 reserved slot). I think that’s a great idea.

Younger generations are already using internet based technology to maintain existing relationships and build new connections. The sooner cultural organizations begin creating methods to build interpersonal connections through virtual initiatives the better.

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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