2007 Canadian Orchestra Website Review: U.S. Orchestras, Take Note

Although it isn’t new for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra to offer a Chinese version of their website, it is worth pointing out (once again) that it is there. Although the Chinese version is not as complete as the English version, this demonstrates that the organization understands its potential audience and is doing what is needed to help bring them into the organization as opposed to the troubling position adopted by some individuals in the U.S…

Although it has been some time since these issues were addressed, the outreach efforts from the Toronto Symphony toward an immigrant population should be an example for their U.S. peers. You can take this one step further to say that several Canadian websites demonstrate a better understanding of their culturally diverse community by the number of ensembles that offer English and French versions of their website.

Instead of adopting a similar approach toward outreach, some individuals within the U.S. orchestra field would rather adopt a position that places blame on the non-English speaking populace for audience development problems than find ways to help draw them into the organization.

The latter two articles featured some encouraging comments from U.S. orchestra executives and patrons who recognize and consequently denounce this problem and if those individuals can gain enough support to launch
efforts like those in Toronto and other Canadian orchestras offering multi-language options for their website, then the entire orchestra filed in North America will begin to move in a positive direction.

The image to your left illustrates some of the Chinese versions of their website. In addition to the Chinese language pages, they offer multiple pdf pages for download with program, concert, and education information (click to enlarge). Click here to visit the Chinese version of the Toronto Symphony webpage.

Although Canadian and U.S. orchestral organizations could learn quite a bit from each other, this is one component the Canadians (especially the Toronto Symphony) have implemented a forward-thinking approach toward audience development.  In the end, it would do the entire field of classical music good if became the rule as opposed to the exception.

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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