Just Play for the Music

My dad was diagnosed with recurrent kidney cancer in May 2014.  One month ago, he lost the long battle against cancer and I lost my hero.  He was the man who introduced me to classical music.

The story and legacy of my father is one of an immigrant, a medical doctor, a proud American citizen, and beloved family man.  He was born in Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic (formerly Czechoslovakia), however, he was raised in Iran.  He moved to Tehran, Iran with his family when he was just two years old and resided there throughout his childhood.  A Methodist missionary assisted my dad in getting into college in the U.S.  At the age of 18, my dad arrived in New York, and ultimately made a career as an open heart surgeon.  He eventually saved up enough money to bring his mother and then his sister to the United States.  His father, head of a construction company that built many bridges and roads throughout Tehran, passed away before he had the chance to touch U.S. soil.

He was known for his precision and patience in the operating room and as a medical professor.  I was so moved to learn that the Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at UNC started a Visiting Professorship Fund in my dad’s honor.  Another doctor and friend of my dad’s had driven down from his home in Virginia on three separate occasions to visit with my dad while he was ill, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at my dad’s memorial.  We received numerous, touching letters from friends, family, colleagues, and family members of patients, all who had been impacted my dad’s work and life and expressing thanks and appreciation for all that he did and stood for.

My father lived a well balanced life and enjoyed so many things, including figuring out how things work and fixing things on his own; monitoring and trading on the stock market; skiing, swimming, and running; dark chocolate, nuts, coffee with cream (but no sugar), and burnt toast — his mother and sister loved their toast this way too!  And boy, was he a softy for dogs!  He took me to symphonies, operas, and ballets starting when I was only a child, which turned into a love of classical music that we shared.  He was an opera buff and bass singer in his own right, and once upon a time, he auditioned for the MET.

My love of classical music turned into a career.  I went to school for music education (instrumental) and performed for 5 years with the Wilmington Symphony Orchestra in North Carolina on flute/piccolo.  Later, I went on to complete my graduate school degree in arts management in at American University in Washington, DC.  Despite hours of practice and years of performing, I would always get nervous before a concert.  My brother and I always admired my dad for his wisdom and the advice he offered turned into my personal and professional mantra.  “Catherine, you’ve done the work…just play for the music.”  This helped me focus on what mattered and enjoy the essence of classical music – the artistry, expression, and beauty of sound and storytelling through music.  I had practiced the technique and done the hard work and now it was time to let the emotion of the music shine through.

One of my dad’s favorite opera singers was Maria Callas and he had always hoped for an opportunity for me to play the flute part in Casta Diva from Billini’s opera ‘Norma’.  I haven’t yet had that chance, but hopefully someday I will.  And in honor of my dad, I’ll make sure to play for the music.

The Millennials’ Orchestra: Millennial Generation Audiences & Donors (cont.)

As a continuation of my last blog post Millennial Generation Audiences & Donors, I’m staying on the subject of technology and leveraging technology to help connect with next gen orchestra patrons.  I also begin to explore the idea of creating an orchestra concert experience and thoughts around the potential for engaging Millennials.

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From a finance perspective, Stanford Professor Emeritus in Economics Robert Flanagan is wary of technology’s impact on live orchestra performance.147 Although radio and Internet have increased distribution and consumption of music, he worries that these channels have also diverted audiences and revenue away from traditional, live concert experiences.148 Nonprofit arts researcher Alan Brown acknowledges the influence of radio and other music production technologies on the public’s musical tastes, but instead sees radio as a way to broaden people’s tastes to include classical music and contemporary works by symphony orchestras.149 Brown advises broadcasters to loosen the musical boundaries around classical music and encourage listeners to experience newer works. This, in turn, may foster greater acceptance of contemporary works performed live in the concert hall.150

Engaging Millennials in Multisensory Orchestra Concert Experiences

Some symphony orchestras have already begun to explore innovative audio-visubso_WestwaterKCC_gridal performance opportunities, such as Westwater’s Symphonic Photochoreography. Founder James Westwater describes, “Symphonic photochoreography is an innovative art form that engages audiences worldwide with evocative, multi-image photographic essays choreographed and performed live to selected works of classical music.” The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has engaged in Westwater’s “Kids, Cameras and Classics™” series (image right), a program designed to promote community involvement.151

Finding common ground with community members is important, not only for making connections, but also raising awareness about the work and impact of arts organizations in society.  I think alternative orchestra concerts provide a forum that enable this to happen.152  It is not just music; it is a concert experience – a shared concert experience that becomes a story that audiences want to share with their family and friends.153 Concerts that stimulate both the visual and audio senses can be an especially effective means of engaging Millennial audiences and providing desirable symphony orchestra experiences.154

With innovative partnerships, dynamic multimedia, and exciting, multi-sensory audience experiences beginning to take hold, I encourage symphony orchestras to continue thinking outside of the traditional performance mindset, to push their creative boundaries, and connect with their audiences in a variety of ways that are relevant and interesting to them.155 Knowing your audiences takes time and stems from the development of strong relationships. With audiovisual performances, and other engaging classical music experiences to facilitate social  interaction with enthusiastic and innovative arts organizations, symphony orchestras have much to look forward to with the evolution of technology.156

This is a personal blog. “The Millennials’ Orchestra” posts are not meant to be opinion pieces, but rather founded in research, which I gathered and reported on as part of my graduate capstone project over 2012-2013. Resources are listed below.

147 Robert J Flanagan, “The Perilous Life of Symphony Orchestras.”
148 Ibid.
149 Alan Brown (Project Director), “Classical Music Consumer Segmentation Study.”
150 Ibid.
151 James Westwater, “Community Involvemebt: Westwater Arts Photochoreography,” westwaterarts.com/involve.html.
152 Catherine Starek, “‘SEE’ the Power of Music for Audience Development!,” originally posted as a guest blogger for Audience Development Specialists, 2013, mezzaphonicallyspeaking.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/3217/.
153 Ibid.
154 Ibid.
155 Ibid.
156 Ibid.

The Millennials’ Orchestra: Competing for Attention

“The Millennials’ Orchestra” series of blog posts are not meant to be opinion pieces, but rather founded in research, which I gathered and reported as part of my graduate capstone project from 2012-2013. This is a personal blog and does not represent the views or opinions of my employer.

The Millennials’ Orchestra: Competing for Attention

Orchestras and New Media, a report by arts marketer Marc van Bree, discusses the rapid
evolution of technology in contemporary society and the implications for Millennial engagement with symphony orchestras.122 From company brands and magazines to radio, TV, and websites, 21st century populations are exposed to a great complexity media with ever-increasing frequency.123 Contrary to the idea that Millennials are using and communicating through technology in place of one-on-one interaction, instead Millennials use technology and new media channels to enhance their social experiences.124 Social media networks are inherently interactive and can become powerful marketing and engagement tools for attracting this “always connected generation”125 to the work of symphony orchestras.126 As the graph illustrates below, the likelihood of online engagement with Millennial audiences is considerably greater when compared to audiences from older age cohorts.127

Audience Insight LLC, Classical Music Consumer Segmentation Study:

Audience Insight - Electronic Media by Age CohortNote: The electronic media measurement of participation in those activities includes all dance, and not just ballet. Visual arts participation includes those who either observed programs about artworks, artists, or museums through electronic media and/or who viewed artworks online.128

122 Marc van Bree, “Orchestras and New Media: A Complete Guide,” 56, 2009.
123 Ibid.
124 Ibid.
125 Pew Research Center, 2010, “Millennials: Confident-Connected-Open to Change.”
126 Ibid.
127 Alan Brown (Project Director), “Classical Music Consumer Segmentation Study.”
128 Ibid.

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With so much competition for our attention with mobile devices, social media, and online entertainment and information, orchestras are smartly starting to incorporate these tools and channels into the way they communicate and engage with their audiences.  As a continuation of this discussion, my next blog post will focus on inter-connectivity of Millennials through technology and new media channels and how some nonprofit arts organizations, orchestras included, are integrating these modes of communication and interaction into their practices and performances.

Have you interacted with an orchestra that encouraged the use of mobile apps or social media?  What was your experience?

The Millennials’ Orchestra: Changing Styles of Engagement

“The Millennials’ Orchestra” series of blog posts are not meant to be opinion pieces, but rather founded in research, which I gathered and reported as part of my graduate Capstone project from 2012-2013. This is a personal blog and does not represent the views or opinions of my employer.


The Millennials’ Orchestra: Changing Styles of Engagement

The prominence and use of technology is one of the most distinguishing factors of the Millennial generation.101 Authors of the Pew Research Center’s comprehensive study Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next, consider Millennials to be the first “always connected” generation.102 The increased use of social media and mobile Internet is readily apparent.103 Aaron Smith, author of the Pew Internet & American Life Project gadget survey, reveals in an interview with NPR that 96% of the Millennials in the U.S. own cellphones and are accessing information in different ways, even when compared to just a few years before.104

Carolyn Boiarsky, Journal of Popular Culture contributor, acknowledges the influence of technology on young adults, referring to those raised in the “Electronic Age” as the Nintendo or N-generation.105 The National Endowment for the Arts106 and Pew Research Center107 reveal the multimodal tendencies of the Millennial generation, reflecting their preference for more personalized and media-based creation, expression, and arts participation.108  Boiarsky also notes how members of the Millennial generation are more visually and kinesthetically oriented in a digital and electronic world.109 Westwater’s Symphonic Photochoreography110 may be one way to address such needs, enhancing the experience of symphony orchestra performance and engage Millennials through relevant technology. Symphonic photochoreography combines video projections with symphony orchestra performances to create a synchronized concert experience that incorporates classical music with dynamic, digital imagery.111  Pointing to the social nature of Millennials, Tamsen McMahon and Roger Sametz of MarketingProfs.com emphasize the need for marketing professionals to create, sustain, and evolve in the “Age of the Social.”112 It is important to note that much of this 21st century social interaction occurs online, and increasingly through the use of mobile technology.113

Regarding classical music engagement, audiences can be categorized in a variety of
ways. Henk Roose of Acta Sociologica categorizes classical music audiences based on aesthetic inclinations (or musical tastes), socio-demographics (social and demographic factors affecting status in society), motivations, and frequency of attendance. In this way, Roose recognizes three categories of classical music audiences: passers-by, interested participants, and inner circle.114 Alan Brown with Audience Insights LLC has idenCircles of Valuetified seven layers of value associated with attending live classical music performance by U.S. adults, including both intrinsic (artistic or educational; spiritual; healing/therapeutic) and extrinsic (ritual/ambiance; social interaction; relationship enhancement; occasion) values (pictured left).115 In addition to these considerations, Brown’s Classical Music Consumer Segmentation Study examines how classical music consumers relate (or perceive their connection) to their local symphony orchestras.116

The National Endowment for the Arts released a new media report in 2010, discussing the influence of technology on arts participation and exploring the concept of Audience 2.0 – or the ways in which “Americans participate in the arts via electronic and digital media”117 In this report, the NEA examines participation among U.S. adults (18 to 75+ years old)118 in benchmark arts activities. “Benchmark arts activities include jazz, classical music, opera, musical plays, non-musical plays, ballet performances, and visual arts.”119 Respondents are divided into four participant segments based on their inclination, or disinclination, to engage in the arts through media, live performance, or both.120 Segments included those participating through both electronic media and live attendance; electronic media only; live attendance only; neither electronic media nor live attendance.121

Given the choice, how would you prefer to engage with your local symphony orchestra in the classical music concert experience?

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101 Pew Research Center, 2010, “Millennials: Confident-Connected-Open to Change.”
102 Ibid.
103 National Public Radio,”Survey: 96 Percent of Young Adults Own Cellphones,” 2010,
published electronically, October 18, 2010. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=130639028.
104 Ibid.
105 Carolyn Boiarsky, “This Is Not Our Fathers’ Generation: Web Pages, the Chicago Lyric
Opera, and the Philadelphia Orchestra,” Journal of Popular Culture, 36 (Summer 2002): 14-24.
106 Jennifer L. Novak-Leonard and Alan S. Brown, “Beyond Attendance: A Multi-Modal
Understanding of Arts Participation,” 104: National Endowment for the Arts, 2011.
107 Pew Research Center, 2010, “Millennials: Confident-Connected-Open to Change.”
108 Jennifer L. Novak-Leonard and Alan S. Brown, “Beyond Attendance.”
109 Ibid.
110 Dr. James Westwater and Nicholas Bardonnay, “Westwater Arts: Home,” http://westwaterarts.com/home.html.
111 Ibid.
112 Tamsen McMahon and Roger Sametz, “Create, Sustain, Evolve: Engaging Your Organization
to Keep Your Brand Healthy and Relevant,” In Marketing/Branding, http://www.sametz.com/news-and-articles/authored-articles/430-create-sustain-evolve.
113 Amanda Lenhart, Kristen Purcell, Aaron Smith, and Kathryn Zickuhr, “Social Media &
Mobile Internet Use among Teens and Young Adults,” In Millennials: A Portrait of Generation
Next, Washington, D.C., 2010.
114 Henk Roose, “Many-Voiced or Unisono? An Inquiry into Motives for Attendance and
Aesthetic Dispositions of the Audience Attending Classical Concerts,” Acta Sociologica, 51, no.
3 (2008): 237-53.
115 Alan Brown Classical Music Consumer Segmentation Study: How Americans Relate to Classical Music and Their Local Orchestras. Southport, (Connecticut: Audience Insight LLC, 2002), http://www.polyphonic.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/2002_Classical_Music_Consumer_Report.pdf.
116 Ibid.