The Millennials’ Orchestra: From The Millennial’s Perspective

“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: From The Millennial’s Perspective

Symphony orchestra concerts – Where are the Millennials?  Why aren’t they in our audiences?  What are they interested in and what would excite them to attend classical orchestra concerts?

So many orchestra managers have lost sleep over these types of questions – including myself.  As a Millennial and self proclaimed orchestra-lover, I knew there had to be others out there like me who love the art form, but perhaps they chose to participate in symphonic music in different ways than in the traditional sense of attending a concert… With these questions and more, I set out on a mission for answers.  From there, my graduate research survey was born.

Through this survey, I was able to gain valuable insight into the current public sentiment around classical music and symphony orchestra performance in the 21st century and across the U.S.[1]  The survey was distributed on social media networks  – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and WordPress – which may account for the lack of responses from the two oldest generations.[2] Within ten days, however, 110 people had voluntarily participated in the survey.[3] Out of those 110 respondents, 62 had identified themselves as Millennials.[4]  (Here’s where it gets really interesting!)

Millennials Speak Out:

What in your opinion are the biggest challenges facing symphony orchestras, especially when it comes to engaging younger audiences in live performance?

    1. Approximately 60% of Millennial survey participants selected “lack of interest”[5] as their response. When answers such as, “all of the above” or “combination of expense and lack of interest” are also included, that figure increased by nearly three percentage points (to 62.9%).  Across all survey participants, however, “lack of interest” was clearly the outlier (45% selected this answer).[6]
    2. The second most prevalent answer among Millennials was “concert experience” (10 out of 62, or ~16%).[7]

Contrary to common belief, “expense” is not the biggest concern for Millennials when it comes to orchestra concerts.  Albeit it’s still an important and influential factor, only 6 out of 62, or ~9.7% of Millennial survey takers[8] selected this as their answer.  It appears that Millennials place greater value on relevance and appeal when making the decision to attend a symphony orchestra concert.

So where are the audiences? The young people?
Thought-Leaders Share Their Opinions:

Greg Sandow, author of The Future of Classical Music ArtsJournal blog, believes that the concert experience is at the heart of the lack of Millennials in attendance at classical symphony orchestra concerts.[9]  Other limiting factors face U.S. symphony orchestras. With increasing reliance on social and handheld technology in our modern society, Engaging Art contributing authors highlight how the interests and expectations of contemporary audiences have changed, as well as the nature of arts participation.[10] Dan Laughey, author of Music & Youth Culture, emphasizes the connection of “youth culture” [11] to the energetic, social atmosphere of music clubs and other pop culture environments.[12]  Mark Shugoll, of Shugoll Research outside of Washington, D.C., suggests that aligning program offerings with such inclinations can help arts organizations become more relevant and appealing to the elusive Millennial generation patrons.[13]

What do you think, readers?: 

What is the key to symphony orchestra appeal in the eyes of our Millennial populations?

What do you think it will take for symphony orchestras in the U.S. to inspire recurring attendance among these coveted audiences?


[1] Catherine Starek, “Graduate Research Survey 2013 – Classical Music and Symphony Orchestra Performance,” Google Form, 2013.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Greg Sandow, (ArtsJournal blogger), interview by Catherine Starek.
[10] Steven Tepper and Bill Ivey, 2008, Engaging Art.
[11] Dan Laughey, Music & Youth Culture, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press Ltd, 2006.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Mark Shugoll, “BSO’s Symphony with a Twist,” interview by Catherine Starek, 2013.

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Millennial Classical Musicians – Part 2

Millennial Classical Musicians: Part 2

This is the second installment in a 4-part series that takes a close look at how Millennials are shaping the future of classical music.

*     *     *

Part one of my four-part series on Millennial classical musicians placed the spotlight on a couple of young and talented virtuosos, who are also inspiring examples of the characteristic charitable nature of the Millennial generation as a whole.  In the second part of this series, I would like to turn your attention to another brilliant duo, pioneering and shaping the new world of classical music.  This journey begins with the Millennial violist, Nadia Sirota.

NADIA SIROTA – The Urban Violist

Nadia Sirota is 30 years old and on the cutting edge of classical music.  Coming from a family of musicians, she was exposed to classical music and began studying on stringed instruments at a young age.  With an older, violinist brother to compare with, Nadia has always had a strong competitive drive.  They both started on the violin and then switched to the viola in their early teens.  The viola was, in her opinion, way cooler than the violin.  Since the switch, she has done a lot to reinforce this perception among audiences far and wide.  Nadia took to the viola with a fiery passion and never looked back.

For generations, the violin (not the viola) has been considered the rock-star of orchestral instruments.  Although the viola belongs to the violin family, it’s quite a bit larger and tuned lower than the violin.  The violin’s higher and more brilliant tone is often more desirable for orchestral showcases, such as violin concertos and other virtuosic works (i.e. music requiring great artistic skill).  Forced to take the equivalent of the backup-singer role, the larger and deeper sounding viola is often taken for granted and made the butt of musical jokes.  Nadia is changing this unflattering stereotype for the better, proving to the world that the viola is unique and well worth our undivided attention.  Check out her latest album to hear just how amazing the viola and this Millennial classical musician can be!

Nadia has not only been a champion for the viola, she has made it her mission to showcase and promote contemporary classical music.  Her newest album, Baroque, was selected as Q2 Music’s Album of the Week in late March of this year.

The corresponding article, “Violist Nadia Sirota Puts the ‘Rock’ in ‘Baroque,’” points to the edgy, new age character of her classical viola sound:

The injection of the spirit of the 17th and 18th centuries into a recording that is otherwise entrenched in the 21st century is what makes Sirota’s “Baroque” sound otherworldly, bold and new.

Interestingly, Nadia discovered her passion for contemporary classical music only after she graduated from Julliard with her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in viola performance.  Friend and colleague, Nico Muhly, had written a 14-min. viola sonata for Nadia called Keep in Touch.  She performed the piece at the 2006 Airwaves Festival in Reykjavík, Iceland, in rather unusual circumstances – “…in a hot, smokey venue in front of hundreds of whisky-soaked standing spectators.”  She had the audience on the edges of their seats and was pleased with the acceptance and appreciation they showed for the viola and concert music outside of the concert hall.  This experience changed Nadia’s approach to classical music altogether.  From that point on, contemporary classical music became her brand and career.

To her credit, Nadia’s accomplishments are already numerous.  In addition to being a solo violist, she performs as a member of yMusic, ACME (the American Contemporary Music Ensemble), and Alarm Will Sound.  She also hosts a show on WQXR’s New Music radio stream.  Here are some of her outstanding achievements:

New Music Initiatives:

  • Co-founder of Julliard’s AXIOM ensemble
  • Initiated the New Music Project with the Castleman/Amory/Huang studio
  • Created the Julliard Plays Julliard program for student composers and performers

Recognition & Awards:

  • Winner of Julliard’s concerto competition (2005)
  • Joined the faculty at the Manhattan School of Music (Fall 2007) – New masters degree program in contemporary music
  • Debut album, First Things First (2009) – Record of the year by The New York Times
  • ASCAP Deems Taylor Award (2010) – Radio and Internet Broadcasting
  • Southern Methodist University’s Meadows Prize (2013) – Pioneering artist with emerging international profile

This trailblazing violist is breaking the mold of classical music performance with her expressive urban sound.  Her entrepreneurial style, combined with new age classical music, is opening doors for herself as a musician, contemporary audiences, and emerging professional musicians and composers all over the world.  Her job is one of translation – conveying the ideas of talented young composers and providing exciting experiences for classical music connoisseurs and newcomers alike in the 21st century.


Nadia Sirota
(Photo Credit: Samantha West)

Age: 30
Nationality: American

Claim to Fame: Violist; New Classical Music & Contemporary Performance

Twitter: https://twitter.com/nadiasirota
Facebook: https://facebook.com/nadiasirotamusic
Website: www.nadiasirota.com

*     *     *

GUSTAVO DUDAMEL – “the dude” Dudamel

In the effort to provide a well-rounded overview of Millennial classical musicians, I turn now to the conductor’s stand and, more specifically, the music director of the LA Philharmonic – Maestro Gustavo Dudamel.

If Gustavo’s warm smile and long curly locks haven’t already caught your eye, his incredible energy and skill as a conductor certainly will.  Gustavo Dudamel, aka “the dude” Dudamel, is a vivacious, 32-year-old orchestra conductor who has brought fame and fortune to the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  His larger-than-life attitude is a perfect fit with the LA Phil’s home venue- the unparalleled Disney Hall.  This magnificent hall and the talented music director who brings the space to life with music are astounding and unique in so many ways.  Let’s go back to the beginning…

Welcome to Venezuela, Gustavo’s native country.  Despite increasing poverty and dangerous crime, residents harbor an unrelenting passion for life and sense of positivity.  A major catalyst of this aptitude for survival, it seems, is a revolutionary music education system known as El Sistema. The website for El Sistema Venezuela explains:

El Sistema is a tested model of how a music program can both create great musicians and dramatically change the life trajectory of hundreds of thousands of a nation’s neediest kids… Its approach to music education emphasizes intensive ensemble participation from the earliest stages, group learning, peer teaching and a commitment to keeping the joy and fun of musical learning and music making ever-present.

Gustavo is a tremendous advocate for El Sistema and representative of the benefits that come from the program.  As an El Sistema Venezuela graduate, he has since become an internationally renowned musician, composer, and conductor.

Gustavo Dudamel signed as an exclusive artist of Deutsche Grammophon in 2005.  Now in his fifth season at the LA Phil, and fifteenth season as Music Director for the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, he continues to widen the depth, breadth, and diversity of classical music programming, audiences reached, and children served.  He is a true musical leader who knows no bounds.

Additional Achievements

  • Inaugural Bamberger Symphoniker Gustav Mahler Competition winner (2004)
  • Grammy winning artist with numerous recordings
  •  ‘Q Prize’ from Harvard University – Extraordinary service to children
  • l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres induction – Chevalier, in Paris (2009)
  • Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people (1990)
  • Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT (2010)
  • Voted into the Gramophone Hall of Fame
  • Gramophone Artist of the Year (2011)
  • Royal Swedish Academy of Music induction – ‘Eminent merits in the musical art’
  • Honorable doctorates – Universidad Centroccidental Lisandro Alvarado in his hometown, Barquisimeto; University of Gothenburg
  • Musical America’s Musician of the Year (2013)

Notable Appearances (TV/Movie):

  • The Inaugural Concert – First concert as Music Dir. at the LA Phil (2009)
  • New Year’s Eve Concert Gala 2011 – Berlin Philharmonic
  • Birthday Concert for Pope Benedict XVI
  • Let the Children Play – Documentary (2011)
  • Dudamel: Conducting a Life (2010) – PBS special with Tavis Smiley
  • Sesame Street with Elmo (Feb 2012)

Gustavo Dudamel’s musical career began on the violin, transitioned to the baton as a conductor in Venezuela, and now he continues to help under-served youth through music and The Dudamel Foundation, which he founded with his wife in 2012.  His interests and actions demonstrate unwavering dedication to advancing music education and social justice for people across the globe.  I can only hope to be half as accomplished by the time I reach my early thirties!

Gustavo Dudamel
Age: 32
Nationality: Venezuelan

Claim to Fame: El Sistema Venezuela; Violinist/Composer/Conductor; Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra, Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, LA Philharmonic

Twitter: https://twitter.com/#GustavoDudamel
Facebook: https://facebook.com/GDudamel
Website: www.gustavodudamel.com

*     *     *

Nadia Sirota and Gustavo Dudamel are two, very different Millennial classical musicians, but they align on the international stage as performing artists trying to make a positive difference in the world through the amazing power of music.

Join me soon for Part 3 of this series, where I will explore the backgrounds and accomplishments of an extraordinarily hip pianist and a tremendous violinist with a rather quirky sense of humor.

Originally Published July 31, 2013 – http://genyhub.com/page/performance-art#ixzz2groIHdzl

Gateway to the West

For those of you who know me, or already follow my blog, you may have noticed my hiatus from publishing new posts.  A lot has happened in my life over the past 5 months, and now that I’ve settled in to my new life, I’d like to get back to one of my favorite hobbies – writing about cultural experiences and the performing arts!

*     *     *

This past May, I graduated from American University in Washington, DC, with my master’s degree in Arts Management.  In early July, after many months of careful consideration, I received a call notifying me that I got my top choice, dream job.

I nailed down an apartment rental in what was to become my new home and career location in the arts.  Before I knew it, my cross-country journey to Colorado Springs, CO had begun.  Starting in my hometown of Wilmington, NC, I drove for 28 hours over 4 days to Boulder, Colorado (just outside of Denver) where my older brother lives.  From there I headed into Colorado Springs and jumped into Project Coordinator training.  My boyfriend and I up-rooted from North Carolina, making this journey out West together.  Of course, we had to stop and see a few sights along the way.

 

For the first night of the trip, we stayed over in Nashville, Tennessee.  Most of the second day was spent exploring the Country Music Hall of Fame.  We learned about the roots of country music, some of the instruments played and how they evolved, and many of the stars who made music history and shaped American tradition.  I saw the beginnings of the country music industry evolve through radio, recordings, and other technological and stylistic innovations.

Our next stop was St. Louis, Missouri.  Here, we visited the famous “Gateway Arch,” a 630-ft. architectural marvel symbolizing the ‘Gateway to the West’ (how perfect, right?).  We quickly reserved tickets to make our way to the top of the arch.  Despite the enormous summer crowd waiting to get in, we managed to make our reservation and get a view of the city from hundreds of feet above.  Queuing behind doors 2 and 3, we were finally allowed to enter the family-sized pods, in which we trollied to the top.  The view from the top was amazing.  We could see the famous Old St. Louis Courthouse, the St. Louis Cardinals baseball stadium, and the amazingly large shadow of the arch stretching across the bright green lawn below.

On the third day of the trip, we made it to Junction City, Kansas.  We wanted to stop in Kansas City, Missouri – “one of the most popular ‘cradles of jazz’” – but we still had a long way to go, so we kept driving.  Throughout the state of Kansas, we passed fields of large and whirling windmills.  The enormous turbines rotated ominously, with the tips of the blades emerging through the thinning haze.  The dreariness of the cloudy fields was briefly enlivened by the possibility of seeing the “world’s largest prairie dog,” an 8,000lb prairie dog made of reinforced concrete, mind you…

The fourth and final day of our cross-country road trip arrived and we were welcomed by the beautiful, Rocky Mountains of Colorado.   Because we took several days to drive, crossing a distance of approximately 1,800 miles, we had adjusted to the 2 hour time difference – from Eastern Daylight Time to Mountain – more gradually.  Within a couple of days, I arrived for my training and first day of work.

In my new position, I am contributing to an organization that I’ve admired for some time now.  My knowledge and skills will be put to the test, as I continue to learn, grow, and develop my professional knowledge.  It is so fulfilling to know that my work contributes to a wonderful company, ultimately helping arts organizations across the nation to thrive.

I’m living my dream by helping artists and working with other arts managers whose mission is to advance the performing arts industry.  Cheers to new frontiers, and the new 2013-14 season!

Based on my original post on GenYHub: http://genyhub.com/profile/Catherine#ixzz2fmFheBFd

Millennial Classical Musicians: A Who’s Who of Rising Classical Stars (Part 1)

By Catherine StarekClassical Music Contributor, Gen Y Hub’s Millennial Magazine

Classical music…it’s stuffy, boring, and something that only old people enjoy, right? I beg to differ (and I’ll prove it to you)! While the term “classical” may be misleading, classical music is actually a very exciting, inspiring, and powerful musical genre. Millennial musicians are not only embracing the past, they are also shaping the future of classical music performance and putting a fresh twist on what it means to be a classical musician. As a fellow Millennial and modern classical musician, I am happy to shine a growing spotlight on a hand-selected list of young classical superstars. Stay tuned throughout the Millennial Classical Musicians mini-series to get the scoop on all eight of these fantastic modern musicians.

• Jourdan Urbach –
21, violin
• Nicola Benedetti – 25, violin
• Alisa Weilerstein – 30, cello
• Nadia Sirota – 30, viola
• Gustavo Dudamel – 31 32, baton
• Lang Lang – 31, piano
• Hilary Hanh – 31, violin
• Cameron Carpenter – 32, organ

Classical Context
When talking about classical music, however – an era of music that emerged around 1750 – it’s difficult to keep history out of the conversation. Don’t worry though, I promise to keep it brief! The classical music era extends from the mid-18th to the early-19th centuries (c. 1750 – c. 1830).[1] This era is often associated with the works of Beethoven and Mozart, two of the most well known and respected classical musicians and composers in the world.

Modern Classical Musicians
Fast-forward to the 21st century and classical music is still widely heard, appreciated, and performed. Millennial musicians are mastering the classical style, while infusing their personalities, passions, and interests into their performances. The first of eight musicians in the Millennial Classical Musicians line up is 21-year-old, American concert violinist Jourdan Urbach.

JOURDAN URBACH – Musician, Composer, and Philanthropist
JourdanUrbach2Jourdan Urbach was born in December of 1991. Just seven years later, Jourdan hit the stage, making his professional debut on the violin. For comparison, Mozart premiered around the age of five. Music critics delight in Jourdan’s “buttery smooth” sound and the brilliance and technical acuity of his playing. Recognized as a child prodigy, this young superstar has already become a Grammy-winning concert violinist. He has even had the rare opportunity to perform – twice – as a featured artist at Carnegie Hall, an internationally renowned concert hall in Manhattan.

The pressure to succeed is understandably intense in these high-profile performances. His strong love of music, however, and positive attitude helps to carry him through. He reflects on the performing experience and his mindset as a modern classical musician in a 2011 interview with Charles Osgood, “I get a huge rush out of performing,” he shares, “and I can tolerate the practice because I know it leads up to that.”

Jourdan Urbach performing Aerion:

The Cherry On Top
Jourdan Urbach is not only a tremendously talented musician, he’s also passionately philanthropic and participates in what he calls “Responsible Music.” According to Jourdan, “music is designed to be heard, but it is also to be used to further the greater good.” In this spirit, he founded Concerts for a Cure (originally Children Helping Children) when he was just seven years old. Over the past 14 years, his charity has raised more than $5 million through classical music, benefiting children in New York hospitals and the international medical community. Jourdan’s musical and philanthropic passions play an important role in his service as an international representative of the United Nations’ Arts for Peace program that he promotes on his website,  “As a Goodwill Ambassador and Artist-in-Residence for UN (Arts for Peace), Jourdan serves as a cultural link between the UN community and the artistic community in NY and abroad.”

Jourdan actively impacts the world through his music and dedication to society. As a modern classical music performer and composer, he is vibrant, successful, and clearly high in demand. I look forward to watching his music career and charitable efforts grow and evolve, affecting the hearts and minds of people around the world.

JourdanUrbach

JOURDAN URBACH
Age: 21
Nationality: American
Instrument: Violin
Claim to Fame: Grammy-winning concert violinist; Contemporary composer; Founder of Children Helping Children
Facebook: JourdanUrbachMusic

Twitter: @JourdanUrbach
Website: jourdanurbach.com

As we move on to the second remarkable Millennial classical musician on the list, you’ll see how she impacts society through her music and advocacy efforts as well, and has risen to classical stardom with modern flair.

NICOLA BENEDETTI – The Silver Violinist
Introducing the ravishing, young classical violinist, Nicola Benedetti. This beautiful, Scotland native has already captured the hearts (and ears) of audiences throughout Great Britain and across the world. She will turn 26 in July.

NicolaBenedettiNicola’s musical journey began when she started violin lessons at the age of five. Approximately ten years later, she entered the Yehudi Menuhin School (YMS) in Surrey and studied with the acclaimed violin professor Natalia Boyarsky. After leaving YMS, she continued to develop her musical talent as a student of the Polish and Russian violinists, Maciej Rakowski and Pavel Vernikov, respectively. Her talents have been featured with professional symphonies and among prominent music festivals and events all over the world. And when she’s not touring, she enjoys playing regularly in her chamber trio with cellist (and also boyfriend of 10 years) Leonard Elschenbroich and pianist Alexei Grynyuk.

Big Sister
Nicola is also fiercely dedicated to music education and participates as a “Big Sister” and Board Member for Sistema Scotland. In recognition for her service to music and charity, she was appointed by the Queen of England to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2013 New Year Honours.

Life Achievements
Since the launch of her career as a modern classical musician, Nicola has managed to accumulate a spectacular list of accomplishments:

  • BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2004, performing the unconventional Szymanowski Violin Concerto
  • Recipient of the Classical BRIT Award for Young British Classic Performer in 2008
  • Debuted at the 2010 BBC Proms
  • Signed exclusively with Decca Classics in 2011
  • Best Female Artist at the Classic Brits in 2012
  • Listed as Classical “Best Female Artist” in iTunes Best of 2012
  • Released a tremendously successful CD, The Silver Violin

The Silver Violin on SoundCloud:

Bringing Sexy Back to Classical Music
Nicola produces the warmest and most heartfelt violin tones. She plays the Gariel Stradivarius (c. 1717), which is considered to be one of the highest quality and most valuable violins in the world – it’s considered the Gucci of instruments. Her modern-day patron, bank executive Jonathan Moulds, purchased the Strad for her to play for a mere £10 million, or the equivalent of nearly $15.5 million today.

Although she is known for her performance of classical music, she is also unafraid to dive into a wide variety of repertoire. Her latest album The Silver Violin is Hollywood gold, bringing the iconic sounds of the silver screen to her Silver Violin. The enormous success of her CD led to The Silver Violin Tour, which took place this past March in nine venues across Scotland.

NicolaBenedetti2

NICOLA BENEDETTI
Age: 25
Nationality: Scottish/Italian
Instrument: Violin
Claim to Fame: Best Female Classical Artist; plays the Gariel Stradivarius; Sistema Scotland – Big Sister and Board Member
Facebook: Nicola Benedetti Violin

Twitter: @NickyBenedetti
Website: nicolabenedetti.co.uk

Millennial musicians, such as violinists Nicola Benedetti and Jourdan Urbach, are taking the world’s stage by storm; challenging convention; and providing amazing classical music performances for growing audiences, excited listeners, and a variety of populations across the globe. Through music, modern classical musicians are conveying a message of passion and beauty, education and healing, and perhaps most of all, a message of encouragement and hope.

The next article in the Millennial Classical Musicians mini-series will feature a pioneering violist, and one of the greatest advocates for El Sistema, a revolutionary music education program originating in Venezuela; His weapon of choice – the baton.

Originally Published June 28, 2013 – genyhub.com

_________________________________________________________________

[1] http://www.naxos.com/education/brief_history.asp

The Millennials’ Orchestra: The Challenges Facing U.S. Symphony Orchestras – Part 1

“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: The Challenges Facing U.S. Symphony Orchestras – Part 1

Declining Demographics
Symphony orchestras have been faced with many challenges over the decades, including financial distress, decreasing audiences and revenue, and increased competition for our patrons’ attention as technology, work, and education continue to evolve and shape our lives.  The so-called classical music crisis and threat of extinction for symphony orchestras have been a cause for concern among music lovers, culture-seekers, and orchestra managers everywhere.

In part 1 of my posts on the challenges facing symphony orchestras, I address the issue of declining audiences in the concert hall.  Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3, coming soon!

A Return to CHURN
The Classical Music Consumer Segmentation Study, led by Audience Insight LLC Project Director Alan Brown from 2000-2002, is considered to be the most extensive discipline-specific audience study ever conducted in the U.S.[1] The study analyzes the consumer markets for classical music performance (existing and prospective) among fifteen symphony orchestras across the United States.[2] These include the:[3]

  • Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Charlotte Symphony Orchestra
  • Colorado Symphony Association
  • Detroit Symphony Orchestra Hall
  • Fort Wayne Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Kansas City Symphony
  • Long Beach Symphony Association
  • Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra
  • New World Symphony
  • Oregon Symphony Association
  • The Philadelphia Orchestra Association
  • Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra
  • Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
  • Symphony Society of San Antonio
  • Wichita Symphony Society

With more than 750 interviews conducted at each location, the study reveals valuable insights into consumer behaviors, frequency and patterns of attendance, as well as the values and benefits that audiences associate with the classical music concert experience.[4]

The research initiative stems from the preceding Magic of Music project commissioned by the Knight Foundation with the primary goal of strengthening the connection, or the bond, between audiences and orchestra musicians in the concert hall (phase 1, 1994).[5]  Innovative programs were designed as points of entry for new and younger (ages currently associated with members of the Millennial generation) patrons and evaluated based on the engagement of these audiences.[6]  Phase 2 of the project (1999) involved the continuation of program innovation and audience development,[7] and led to the national Classical Music Consumer Segmentation Study by Audience Insight LLC (2000 – 2002).[8]

The comprehensive two-year study shows how symphony orchestras across the U.S. have “accumulated large numbers of inactive, former buyers – people who have attended a concert at some point in their lives but who do not attend now with any regularity.”[9] Declining attendance at symphony orchestras concerts (that is, having difficulty filling concert halls and attracting new audiences) is a prominent concern.[10] Unfortunately, similar patterns of poor audience retention and decline in overall attendance emerge in other landmark studies conducted by highly reputable arts researchers.

The League of American Orchestra’s Audience Growth Initiative (2005 – 2009), for example, revealed that 65% of symphony orchestra patrons are “one-time/uncommitted buyers.”[11] Despite the large number of individuals belonging to this segment, these patrons provided only 7% of the orchestras’ total revenue.[12]  Conversely, “loyal subscribers” and “extreme patrons,” or patrons that demonstrated greater commitment to larger average gifts and paying more for tickets and subscription packages, represented less than 10% patron households.[13]  This small group is also responsible for providing nearly 75% of the orchestras’ revenue.[14]  The disproportionate levels of support exist among concert ticket buyers and symphony orchestra donors.[15]

The lead researcher, Oliver Wyman, released the findings in the 2008 “Churn Report.”[16] As Wyman explains, “while the orchestras were good at attracting newcomers to concerts, they were having trouble getting people to come back for a second concert or sign up for a multi-concert subscription.”[17]  Churn has become particularly concerning as symphony orchestras face the increasing challenges of aging audiences and declining attendance at classical music concerts.[18] Researchers and consultants at TRG Arts have uncovered similarly disturbing trends in cultural arts attendance over decades of research.[19]

According to their Patron Loyalty Index, a measurement tool that gauges the level of loyalty patrons have to arts organizations, “Tryers” are considered the least loyal patrons and make up more than 90% of arts constituencies.[20]  Lack of loyalty, therefore, makes these patrons some of the most difficult to retain.[21] Churn and inactivity are understandably common behaviors at this level.  “Buyers” account for approximately 10% of patrons,[22] and are considered moderately loyal and more willing to make a donation in addition to ticket purchases.  The most loyal constituents are the “Advocates,” representing 2% of most patron bases.[23]  Advocates are typically the most frequent, consistent, and recent attendants.[24]

TRG Arts: The Loyalty Pyramid

LoyaltyPyramid

In order to mitigate associated risk and revenue loss, cultural arts organizations (symphony orchestras in this case) must actively seek the “re-engagement of Tryers, either from first time to second or last time to now.”[25]  Developing stronger, long-lasting patron relationships fosters greater patron loyalty and audience retention, effectively moving them from “Tryers,” to “Buyers,” to “Advocates.”[26]  With this approach, symphony orchestras can develop patron loyalty programs that strategically engage cultural consumers and encourage greater loyalty and increasingly philanthropic behavior.  In turn, the growth and redistribution of patrons displaying “Buyer” and “Advocate” behavior and loyalty serves to fortify and help sustain the organization.[27]

Subscription programs are seen as one way to escalate audience and donor loyalty.[28] Although researchers in the Audience Insight LLC’s 2002 consumer segmentation study believe that subscription campaign marketing can limit concert attendance for U.S. symphony orchestras.[29] Subscription marketing is often at odds with the needs and preferences of “younger audiences” – defined by Audience Insight LLC as ticket buyers between 18 and 34 years old (2002).[30] Many Millennials are simply uninterested in making a commitment to concert subscriptions.[31] Attracting these new and younger audiences, therefore, “may require a loosening of the definitional boundaries around ‘classical music’ and structural changes to the concert experience that recognize the underlying values and benefits that consumers seek from listening to classical music and attending live concerts.”[32]


[1] Alan Brown (Project Director), “Classical Music Consumer Segmentation Study: How Americans Relate to Classical Music and Their Local Orchestras, commissioned by 15 American Orchestras and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation,” Southport, Connecticut: Audience Insight LLC, 2002, 5.
[2] Alan Brown (Project Director), “Classical Music Consumer Segmentation Study,” 2002.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid 127.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid 5.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid 6, 9.
[10] Ibid 12.
[11] PRESCOTT & ASSOCIATES, “Churning Butter into Gold: Patron Growth Initiative.” In League of American Orchestras 2011 National Conference. Minneapolis, Minnesota: League of American Orchestras, 2011.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Oliver Wyman, “Audience Growth Initiative Detailed Findings and Recommendations,” in Orchestra Audience Growth Initiative: Oliver Wyman, 2008.
[17] Oliver Wyman, “Oliver Wyman » Churn Report Facts and Stats.” last modified 2013, accessed March 20, 2013, http://www.oliverwyman.com/4071.htm.
[18] Ibid.
[19] Jill Robinson, “Too Many Tryers to Sustain the Arts,” in Analysis from TRG Arts: A Blog on Cultural Consumer Behavior, blogspot: Blogger, 2012, http://trgarts.blogspot.com/2012/03/too-many-tryers-to-sustain-arts.html.
[20] Ibid.
[21] Ibid.
[22] Ibid.
[23] Ibid.
[24] Ibid.
[25] Ibid.
[26] Ibid.
[27] Ibid.
[28] Jill Robinson, “Too Many Tryers to Sustain the Arts.”
[29] Ibid.
[30] Alan Brown (Project Director), “Classical Music Consumer Segmentation Study.”
[31] Ibid.
[32] Ibid 2.

The Musician’s Breakup (A Short Film)

In honor of the unmistakable bond between musician and instrument, please enjoy this slightly awkward, yet entertaining short film featuring the breakup of cellist Nicholas Canellakis and his old lady – his cello.  Thank you, , for bringing this to my attention!

Giving USA 2013: Establishing Context for Annual Giving in the U.S.

Giving USA: The Annual Report on Philanthropy is the seminal publication reporting on the sources and uses of charitable giving in the United States.  For the past 57 years, these reports have provided fundraisers, nonprofit leaders, donors, and others within the charitable sector, with “the most comprehensive charitable giving data available.”  Here are the highlights from Giving USA’s 2013 report, establishing the context for annual giving in the United States for 2012-2013.

GivingUSA2013-Highlights

The Millennials’ Orchestra: Defining A Contemporary Generation

“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: Defining A Contemporary Generation

Millennial Engagement with U.S. Symphony Orchestras
Members of the Millennial generation are noticeably lacking in the audiences of symphony orchestra concert halls.[1] Based on my research and personal experiences, I believe that developing a better understanding of the Millennial generation, and working to identify and establish effective marketing and development strategies tailored to their preferences and needs, may lend to greater success and stability for U.S. symphony orchestras in the 21st century.  The literature review to follow addresses some of the pressing issues facing symphony orchestras in the U.S., provides insight into the Millennial generation mindset and behaviors, shares examples of innovative programming and forward-thinking adaptations, and reinforces the importance of Millennial engagement.  First, however, it is important to consider how the term “Millennial” is commonly referred to and understood from various points of view.

An Important Note on Terminology
Researchers often refer to the Millennial generation in a variety of ways and use these terms somewhat interchangeably (e.g. Millennials, Millennial generation, Generation Y, Generation Next, NextGen, and younga(er) people/population/cohorts).  Characteristics of a specific generation (Millennial), therefore, are often conflated with the more general age category (young).  Each generation exhibits characteristics and behavior shaped by the prevalent attitudes, expectations, and events of the time.  The Boston Consulting Group, for example, has identified six different groups of Millennials based on consumer behavior.[2]  Listed in descending order of prevalence, these segments include: Hip-ennial (29%), Millennial Mom (22%), Anti-Millennial (16%), Gadget Guru (13%), Clean and Green Millennial (10%), and Old-School Millennial (10%).[3] Future generations of young people may or may not display the same characteristics associated with present-day Millennials.

Inconsistency also exists in defining age ranges of the Millennial generation.  While similar, the minimum and maximum boundaries of age tend to vary from source to source.  According to the Case Foundation, for example, Millennials are “people born between 1978 and 1993, or individuals who are currently 15 to 29 years old,”[4] while members of the Boston Consulting Group consider them as individuals “aged 16 to 34.”[5]  JiWire researchers, specializing in “mobile audience insights,”[6] consider Millennials to be “American consumers between ages 18 and 34.”[7]  Achieve’s Millennial Impact Report 2012 focuses on young adults between the ages of 20 and 35.[8] Finally, Pew Research Center’s Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next, and corresponding report Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change., define Millennials as young adults, ages 18 to 29.[9]

Defining a generation solely based on age quickly becomes irrelevant as time passes – what is true at the time would not hold true in the following year.  It is more easily and consistently understood as a range of birth years.  The figure below is a comparison the five most recent generations by age (as of 2011) and by birth year.  The original version of this age timeline can be found on the Pew Research Center website as an interactive graphic.[10]

Pew Research Center: A Portrait of Five Generations

A Portrait of 5 Generations

The Pew Research Center’s 2010 report, “Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change.,”[11] is based on information collected during a two-week survey in January 2010, involving more than 2,000 adults across the country.[12]  Millennials accounted for 830 of the total 2,020 sample group, enabling a more detailed analysis of Millennial attitudes.[13]  Additional Pew Research Center survey findings supplement the 2010 report, including the 2009 survey on changing attitudes toward work (Oct. 21-25, 2009 with 1,028 respondents, 18+ years old) and generational differences (July 20-Aug. 2, 2009 with 1,815 people nationally, 16+ years old).[14]  Surveys from their ongoing Internet & American Life Project provide supporting social and demographic information for the chapter on technology.[15]

Given the large sample size, national scope of the research, and multidimensional approach, one would expect Pew Research Center’s understanding of the Millennial generation to be highly credible and reliable.  Contributing to the larger report series – Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next – the Pew Research Center’s 2010 report looks at the values, attitudes and experiences of America’s next generation: the Millennials.”[16] It has been my mission to discover how Millennials value, perceive, and prefer to experience classical music performed by symphony orchestras in the United States.

*     *     *

Coming soon…a look at the issues facing U.S. symphony orchestras and some of the factors influencing Millennial participation.


[1] Greg Sandow. “Building a Young Audience (Proof of Culture Change).”
[2] Boston Consulting Group and Barkley and Service Management Group, “The Millennial Consumer: Debunking Stereotypes.” In BCG Perspectives: Boston Consulting Group, 2012.
[3] Michelle Lamar, 2012, New Research: 6 Distinct Segments of Millennials Identified, Social Media Today, retrieved from socialmediatoday website: http://socialmediatoday.com/michellelamarspiral16/490841/new-research-6-distinct-segments-millennials-identified.
[4] Alison Fine, “Social Citizens BETA,” Case Foundation, 2008.
[5] Sonia Paul, 2012, Millennial Consumers: Engaged, Optimistic, Charitable (STUDY), in Mashable Business.
[6] JiWire, 2012, Mobile Audience Insights Report, Q2 2012.
[7] Lauren Indvik, 2011, How the Millennial Generation Uses Mobile (INFOGRAPHIC), Mashable Tech, http://mashable.com/2011/10/13/millenials-mobile-infographic/.
[8] Achieve and Johnson, Grossnickle and Associates (JGA), “The Millennial Impact Report 2012.”
[9] Pew Research Center, “Millennials: Confident-Connected-Open to Change.”
[10] Pew Research Center, “Interactive: A Portrait of Five Generations,” http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2010/02/24/interactive-graphic-demographic-portrait-of-four-generations/.
[11] Pew Research Center, 2010, “Millennials: Confident-Connected-Open to Change.”
[12] Ibid, “About the Report,” i.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Pew Research Center, 2010, “Millennials: Confident-Connected-Open to Change.”

The Millennials’ Orchestra: Let the Journey Begin!

“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: Let the Journey Begin!

Millennial Generation Audiences
Since the summer of 2012, I have been working on my Master’s Capstone Portfolio in arts management at American University in Washington, D.C.  During this time I focused my attention on Millennial generation audiences and donors and improving their engagement with U.S. symphony orchestras.  Now that I have graduated, and therefore successfully completed my research project, I am excited to share it with you and hope you will enjoy reading about my thoughts and findings.  As always, I encourage you to comment and share with whomever you think will enjoy my blog.  Thanks for following along — I hope you’ll stay tuned for the duration and take interest in Millennial engagement in the arts!!  Let the journey begin…

Source: vxla on flickr

*     *     *

The Millennials’ Orchestra:
 Marketing and Development Strategies for Engaging Millennial Generation Audiences and Donors in the U.S. Classical Symphony Orchestra Concert Experience

The purpose of my master’s portfolio is to describe effective marketing and fundraising strategies for engaging Millennial generation audiences and donors with symphony orchestras and classical music performance.  My work as the Strathmore Development Intern for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, under the supervision of Stephanie Johnson, Donor Relations Manager, and Deborah Broder, VP of Development, is contained in the portfolio section of my capstone. Work samples demonstrate elements of orchestra management and development, as well as the Next Generation BSO initiative – a development campaign inviting donors to consider underwriting tickets for young professionals to engage in Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performances.

Importance
Several key factors point to the importance of involving and recognizing this generation as participants in the culture and fundraising efforts of symphony orchestras in the U.S. today.  As with any other generation, this population group is characterized by certain distinguishable attributes and shaped by the particular life events and societal dynamics of their time.  Millennials – young adults between the ages 18 and 29 (as of 2010), or individuals born between the years 1981 and 1993 – are known for being confident, connected and open to change.[1] They have been described as the “American teens and twenty-somethings now making the passage into adulthood”[2] with a strong desire to get involved in meaningful activities, engage in social interaction, and give to causes they care most about.[3]

Robert Flanagan, American economist and Professor Emeritus at the Stanford Graduate School of Business,[4] discusses the socio-economic perils facing U.S. symphony orchestras.[5]  He points to the fact that most Millennials are still finishing school or just starting their careers, and are therefore less likely to fit the traditional concert-goer mold.[6]  As of 2002, for example, the median age of people attending classical symphony orchestra concerts nationwide was 60 years and older.[7] These audiences also tend to exhibit higher socioeconomic status (i.e. individuals having at least a college degree and an annual income of $50,000 or more).[8] Such disparities may make Millennials feel less welcome in the concert hall and ultimately less likely to participate.[9] Unfortunately, the absence of Millennial audiences has become a growing concerning as audiences continue to age and participation declines.[10] The National Endowment for the Arts’ 2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts reports on some of the influential factors in the marked decline of overall arts participation throughout the United States.[11]

In addition to the financial hardship associated with the economic recession just prior to the survey (2007-2008), the NEA found that classical music audiences between 1982 to 2008 “have aged faster than the general adult population (classical music is one in a small group of performing arts disciplines, including ballet, non-musical theatre, and jazz, to experience such rapid aging of audiences).”[12] In addition, the incidence of music education in the lives of Millennials reportedly fell by more than a third (to 38%) during that time.[13] Greg Sandow refers to the NEA’s research in his classical music ArtsJournal blog, but emphasizes the dramatic decline in attendance by Millennials beginning in the early 1980s.[14]

Given the decline in classical concert attendance even among older adults in recent years,[15] and relative absence of Millennials to help sustain arts organizations going forward, waning attendance becomes not only a concern of reduced ticket sales and annual revenue[S1] , it also brings the long-term health of classical symphony orchestra performance into question.[16] Millennials are clearly eager to make a difference in the world[17] and symphony orchestras would be wise to develop ways of effectively and strategically engaging these individuals, making good use of their time, skills, and donations.[18]


[1] Pew Research Center, 2010, Millennials: Confident-Connected-Open to Change, In Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next, edited by Paul Taylor and Scott Keeter: Pew Research Center.
[2] Ibid.
[3]Achieve and Johnson, Grossnickle and Associates, “The Millennial Impact Report 2012.”
[4] Anne Gregor, “Financial Leadership Required to Fight Symphony Orchestra ‘Cost Disease’,” in Stanford Graduate School of Business (2012), published electronically February 8, 2012, http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/news/headlines/symphony-financial-leadership.html.
[5] Robert J Flanagan, The Perilous Life of Symphony Orchestras: Artistic Triumphs and Economic Challenges, 2012.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Alan Brown, 2002, Classical music audiences, in Midmorning: Minnesota Public Radio.
[8] Robert J Flanagan, The Perilous Life of Symphony Orchestras.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Greg Sandow, “Building a Young Audience (Proof of Culture Change).” In Greg Sandow on the future of classical music. ArtsJournal, 2012.
[11] Kevin Williams and David Keen, “2008 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts,” edited by Don Ball, National Endowment for the Arts, November 2009.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Greg Sandow, “Building a Young Audience (Proof of Culture Change).”
[15] Alan Brown, 2002, Classical music audiences.
[16] Greg Sandow, (ArtsJournal blogger), interview by Catherine Starek, “The Future of Classical Music,” June 10, 2012.
[17] Achieve and Johnson, Grossnickle and Associates, “The Millennial Impact Report 2012.”
[18] Ibid.