One of the most appealing aspects of blogging is the ability to riff on an idea or topic initiated by a blogging colleague. To a large extent, that’s one of the reasons Inside The Arts was established. Locating several cultural blogs in closely aligned fields of performing arts at one hub will hopefully increase the likelihood of cross-blogging discussions. Ideally, cross-blogging topics will gain enough mass to attract some of the other heavenly bodies in the greater cultural blogging universe. Consequently, I wanted to take a post to weigh in on some of the fascinating topics making the rounds through my Inside The Arts blogging neighbors…
"…and now for the music you didn’t ask for!"
With a line like that you just have to keep reading and that’s exactly what I did to Ron Spigelman’s 1/7/08 article at Sticks and Drones.
In the article, Ron examines the idea of increasing the amount of input
the audience has on programming. It’s a good article that examines some
of the work he’s done at his own orchestra to increase ticket sales by
means other than throwing money at radio and television ads. I agree
with one of the comments in the article that
Foremost, Ron suggests that including a "listener’s choice"
selection in each concert has had a positive impact. Accordingly, one
reader wondered how the logistics of that would work and I agree that
the idea has varying degrees of value across the professional orchestra
landscape. For example, could a 52-week ensemble reasonably fit a
"listener’s choice" selection into each concert? Probably not given the
large number of variables involved in large budget ensemble
At the same time, in smaller budget organizations that have a
music director who engages in a good bit of direct contact with
audience members the logistics are a little easier to get under
control. If nothing else, it’s a good example of the inherent
differences in administrative challenges between different size budget
organizations. In Ron’s article, he mentions that ticket sales have
gone up significantly since implementing the programming initiative and
audience responses for future seasons has increased a great deal.
Personally, I would be interested in finding out if they included
something in the audience survey which measures whether or not the
respondent’s participation was influenced by the expanded "listener’s"
If nothing else, it serves as one of the rare tangible methods
an orchestra can use increase an audience member’s sincere feeling of
ownership in the organization.
"You know you’re back in the south when you order a beer and the very pretty bartender says "Here you go, sweetheart."
Since I’m already thinking about Sticks and Drones, I
can’t move on without pointing out how exciting it is to see what Bill
Eddins is going to post next in his current series dedicated to the
Charlotte Symphony Music Director Search. In case you haven’t read any
of the articles yet, Bill’s writing about the search from the
perspective of a candidate. I can’t begin to underscore just how big of
a deal this is; in fact, I think it’s probably some sort of cultural
In case you’re wondering why this is worth getting excited over
(beyond the fact that Bill has an infinitely entertaining writing
style) it is because in the world of conductors, announcing interest in
a position is an unwritten cardinal sin. Heaven forbid a conductor
openly expresses an interest in a position and then not get the job
that might damage their credibility
ego. This isn’t a universal truism, for example, smaller budget groups
will announce an official "candidate" list from time to time but when
you begin approaching the threshold between ROPA and ICSOM level
ensembles, all parties begin playing coy.
So why don’t orchestras just announce candidates? They have to
play along because making a public announcement they might "scare away"
a potential candidate. Instead, orchestras do express their interest to
a conductor, but only in confidence. If it looks like an entirely
passive aggressive game to you, that’s because it is but at the same
time it won’t change anytime soon so enjoy Bill’s Excellent Adventure while it lasts. So far, Bill’s insights into what a candidate should be looking into are quite revealing.
His observations go beyond the necessary components of fit and
function with the musicians and into the financial health of the
organization, his opinion of administrative and board leaders, labor
relations, and the orchestra’s position within Charlotte’s cultural
food chain. You even get a glimpse into life on the road as Bill
examines the invaluable nature of being able to bring his bike with him
on a plane. Although it’s wonderful to see someone dodging one of the
many bullets related to a heavy travel schedule, as a tuba player I
have to say "You Suck Bill!" I bet he paid for his custom bike travel
case with all that money he saved not having to buy a second ticket for
his baton (petty-sour-grapes-rant-mode resetting to "off" position)…