Another Orchestra Dips Its Toe Into The Blogging Waters

Amidst the sea of orchestra owned and authored blogs popping up throughout the blogosphere, I’ve noticed one new addition that seems to have figured out that in order to encourage positive results, you have to use the blog for something besides a PR aggregator. In particular, the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (ESO) launched a new orchestra related blog last week. According to the blog’s inaugural post, the endeavor is being undertaken by someone inside the ESO, let’s call him "Phil," who is the organization’s New Media Specialist. Of the orchestra owned blogs which have started up this past season, here’s why I think this endeavor is worth writing about…

  1. I have yet to see regurgitated press release after two full weeks of blogging (always a good first impression).
  2. The writing style is a direct yet casual tone: neither too
    formal nor laden with the annoying acronyms and abbreviations that
    litter text messaging.
  3. The content is genuinely intriguing and for those with really
    short attention spans, it also contains a copious number of pics and
    vids.

So far, the bulk of the blog’s content focuses on the ESO
music director’s, production of Porgy and Bess, currently in production
at Lyon, France. As such, there is plenty of meaty material to write
about outside the day-to-day goings on inside most orchestras. In fact,
the blog feels more like a first person report of a vacation
destination than anything else but based on the quality of material
thus far, I’m hoping they’ll be able to keep up the momentum once they
are back home in Edmonton.

Granted, the ESO’s music director is Bill Eddins, who is also the co-author of Adaptistration’s blogging offshoot, Sticks and Drones
and one of the reasons I took the time to check in on the ESO’s new
blog is I was curious to see if any of the qualities that make Bill a
terrific blogger are present in the ESO’s new offering (and Bill would
likely be peeved if I didn’t stop by for a look). I’m glad to say that
although the ESO blog distinctly different from Bill’s blog, it is also
somewhat familiar (and not just because it is littered with pics of
Bill). By that, I mean one aspect that makes Bill an interesting
blogger is that he has the natural ability to make a reader feel like
s/he belongs. There’s no sense that I’m reading something someone wants me to read (i.e. regurgitated PR mush), instead, sincerity is king.

So far, the ESO’s new blog comes across with that same degree of
sincerity. In fact, it has been fascinating to read about the same
events from the ESO blogger’s perspective juxtaposed to Bill’s observations over at Sticks and Drones. I hope they’ll be able to maintain some of that same interplay back when they all return to Edmonton.

From a technical point of view, I hope the ESO blog’s authors
will take a moment to complete their author bios. The current bios are,
shall we say, "lacking" and unless you took the time to go through each
post you would have no idea who the authors were based on their names: "phil"harmonic (groan, not another orchestra pun) and Sistah Girl
(<cough> <cough> Melayne Shankel <cough>
<cough>). Additionally, although I’m honored to be included in
their blogroll short list, I don’t think anyone would accuse them of
shilling if they included a link back to the home orchestra’s website.

I’m sure there are plenty of improvements in store for the new
blog so it will be interesting to check in from time to time to see
what they do (although I hope they ditch the blogger platform for
something better sooner than later). I’m keeping track of this sort of
activity more so than normal for the next several weeks in anticipation
of the National Performing Arts convention session I’ll be taking part
in on blogging and new media (The Online Salon Movement:
Thursday, 6/12/2008, 4:30 – 5:45pm) when I’m certain part of the
discussion will focus on recent efforts on behalf of performing arts
organizations to reach out via new media platforms. As such, if you
come across anything new out there, send me a note.

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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