Some Good News About Outreach And Diversity Out Of Baltimore

The 6/28/2016 edition of the Baltimore Sun published an article by Mary Carole McCauley that reports on a $1.2 million gift from Mark and Patricia Joseph which will be used to increase accessibility to existing Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (BSO) education efforts for students from low income schools.

The gift is very straightforward in that the funds will be used to offset the $10 per student ticket price and related transportation costs. According to the article, $150,000 goes into the program immediately for the 2016/17 season, $1 million will go toward a restricted endowment gift to continue funding in perpetuity, and the remaining $50,000 going to the BSO’s OrchKids program.

The gift, which will target city schools with the highest numbers of low-income pupils, will more than triple the number of financially disadvantaged students who attend the orchestra’s popular midweek concert series for local schools — from 1,500 to 5,000 annually, Mark Joseph said.

Adaptistration People 084This gift is particularly interesting in that it supports an existing program designed to bring students directly to the orchestra’s primary venue as opposed to in-school efforts.

The in-hall vs. in-school debate has been a hot topic within the field for the past several years but it is refreshing to see the Joseph’s gift designed to provide opportunities for students from low income neighborhoods to experience live orchestral classical music inside a building designed expressly for enhancing the experience.

The impetus for the gift is another fascinating aspect and according to the post, it was as simple as Mr. Joseph attending a youth concert with his grandchildren at the BSO’s primary venue and noticing that the children in attendance were almost entirely from well-off socio-economic circles.

“I looked around at the audience, and it occurred to me that there apparently weren’t very many city youth attending these concerts,” Mark Joseph said. “I wondered what was going on, so I contacted the symphony.”

As it turns out, the BSO’s $10 ticket price was still enough to create the accessibility gap but Joseph stepped up with his gift in order to bring about some positive change.

It’s an excellent example illustrating what has been espoused here for years in that attendance woes are influenced as much, if not more, by prohibitive price points than contemporary cultural trends. Kudos to the Joseph’s for their prudence and philanthropy and here’s hoping the BSO will highlight what they were able to accomplish with this gift.

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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