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

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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.

AU Arts Management Master’s Capstone Presentations – Spring 2013

AU Arts Management Master’s Capstone Presentations – Spring 2013

Emerging arts leaders from American University’s Arts Management program discuss more than a year’s worth of research and work on their Master’s Capstone projects. Presentations were made Thurs – Fri, May 2-3 & Mon, May 6, 2013.

  1. Master’s Capstone Presentations start today! The time has come.:) fb.me/2tm58WlmD
  2. T-minus 5 until the start of “Using Social Media Technology in Arts Organizations.” #engagearts
  3. Live tweet or follow along to “Using Social Media in Arts Orgs” 5/2 9am. Use #engagearts facebook.com/events/5232997…
  4. #engageart @artmansteven Master’s #AUCapstone (@ AU – Cyrus and Myrtle Katzen Arts Center – @americanu) 4sq.com/13P2IsT
  5. Social media strategy for the arts – think of it in the form of a pyramid. #engageart
  6. Marketing basics form the base of social media strategy for #engageart
  7. Social media is the second layer of the pyramid – @chadbauman social media is the “wild west.” Once out, can’t control it.
  8. @ArtsmanSteven is so kind! Acknowledging me as a key player and social influencer leading to a successful @EALSAU 2013 Thank you! #engageart
  9. @ArtsmanSteven is doing a GREAT job on his #AUCapstone presentation – I will have a lot to live up to tomorrow at this time. #artsrolemodel
  10. Social media marketing – the idea is that it will lead to ticket sales… Do you agree? #engageart
  11. Marketing and social media are NOT the same thing – try to separate them in your mind. Yes, part of mktg mix, but use for real engagement
  12. Consider the #engagement bottom line (I like that!) and then the financial bottom line. #engageart on social media
  13. Social media engagement (for engagement sake) good research and promotion = greater ticket sales in the #arts
  14. Don’t over-post, you’ll become white noise. #engageart
  15. Social media: not a marketing platform, it’s a connection platform! #engageart
  16. @CStarek That’s the beauty of Twitter, one feels, in this capacity: for continuing dialogue with supporters…!
  17. Social media is meant for creating a forum for #conversation #engageart (customer-centered approach!)
  18. For crystal-clear analysis of social media and strategy, @ArtsmanSteven – Killer capstone defense. #EALS2013 #AUartsmanagement
  19. Audience Q: Do all arts orgs need to use soc med? A: If you can’t devote time, it’s like inviting ppl to dinner & not showing
  20. Social media policy, planning, engagement strategy. Get everyone involved – artists, evangelists, mindful mktg
  21. #engageart @ArtsmanSteven confidently handled the tough questions from the audience. Great #AUCapstone presentation pic.twitter.com/8wtjiJnsMX
  22. @BoardSource discovered that only 1 in 5 boards are actually taking action to improve board diversity #AUCapstone by Anjali
  23. T -1 hour! #MillennialsOrch
    facebook.com/events/5228936… fb.me/2URfC58UP
  24. 63% of millennials volunteered for nonprofits. #MillennialsOrch
  25. 77% of millennials are interested in leadership roles. #MillennialsOrch
  26. 75% of millennials made a financial gift in 2011. A hidden pot if gold for fundraisers? #MillennialsOrch
  27. Live tweeting @CStarek capstone presentation about the Millennials Orchestra. #MillennialsOrch
  28. Millennials want to know “how my money will make a difference.” Be prepared to give that info. #MillennialsOrch
  29. @BaltSymphony Concerts with a Twist: themed concerts with an aim to the millennial generation. #MillennialsOrch
  30. @BaltSymphony looks into sleek, modern wardrobe design so musician don’t look so “stuffy.” #MillennialsOrch
  31. @BaltSymphony BSO Ambassadors. Engaging the evangelists and market influencers for a form of “viral marketing” #MillennialsOrch
  32. @CStarek the most important issue with millennials is trust. #MillennialsOrch
  33. Spend the time NOW building real relationships with millennials. They will me your major donors in the future. #MillennialsOrch
  34. Average audience member for BSO was 60 years old before there millennial engagement strategies. 😦 #MillennialsOrch
  35. Q: I’d there a connection for millennials to the core orchestral product, or only the “special” programs? #MillennialsOrch
  36. Q:” we have seen what millennials are and what they care about. What will the next generation care about?” #MillennialsOrch
  37. Congratulations to the emerging arts leaders who are graduating this May!!
  38. Reposition our argument for board diversity, rephrase in a way that matters to board members. In terms of fundraising. #AUCapstone
  39. Reframing rationale for board diversity. Smart, deep research by Anjali Lalani. #AUartsmanagement pic.twitter.com/TgyopJz0Ty
  40. Anjali chose several orgs across the nation with most responsibility and greatest opportunity to explore board diversity
  41. Top 2 barriers to #diversity on #arts boards – recruitment and board culture
  42. Are other sizes and types of orgs better equipped to diversify by ethnicity? #AUCapstone Anjali L
  43. Talk to your audience in their language. Couch discussion on board diversity in terms if fundraising potential, ways that matter to them.
  44. At least 20% participation to shift the board culture towards greater ethnic diversity. Doesn’t happen automatically, has to be nurtured.
  45. A lack of Contributed income is a large trend among education depts. in theaters. -Amy Russell
  46. Healthcare for Artists – an in depth analysis of what’s available (and what isn’t) by David Simmons. #AUartsmanagement
  47. Watching @violet_dc giving her capstone presentation via uplink to London. Leveraging Brands of Campus Museums
  48. #UMOJA Founder Raynel Frazier speaks at AU about her innovative jazz music series
  49. @EALSAU Executive Council member Raynel Frazier talks about her #UMOJA jazz music series. #Build artistic vision in jazz.
  50. #UMOJA based on 9 elements of business model building
  51. #UMOJA engaged in #crowdfunding on @kickstarter – campaign was unsuccessful, but a huge learning experience.
  52. @AUArtsDC Senior Professor Sherburne Laughlin is visibility excited about #AUCapstone presentations and arts mgt student success. 🙂
  53. #UMOJA will be focusing on making the personal ask. Growing and diversifying funds.
  54. #UMOJA jazz music series hosts a Zumba fundraiser… Awesome!
  55. #UMOJA is built on principles of Kwanzaa – Unity, self determination, faith and fosters community through education and jazz music
  56. Fabulous, growing music series – awesome music, musicians, and principles, woven into the fabric of the Hartford… fb.me/25OvcXUQf
  57. Congratulations to the emerging arts leaders who are graduating this May!!

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Pairing Sight with Sound: More on Symphonic Photochoreography

As I discussed in my previous post, symphony orchestras are beginning to explore innovative audio-visual performance opportunities, such as James Westwater’s symphonic photochoreography.

Symphonic Photochoreography

Symphonic Photochoreography — what exactly is that?

As founder James Westwater explains: “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.” Learn more>>

Who’s Doing It?

Here are some examples of visionary orchestral ensembles, effectively shaping the 21st century symphony orchestra performance and audience engagement landscape.

1. The Concert Artists of Baltimore:
The Concert Artists of Baltimore (CAB) is exploring new ways of providing musical performance and enhancing audience experiences through the use of visual media in orchestral performance.

In collaboration with the CAB orchestra, Maestro Polochick, and Westwater Arts, The Concert Artists of Baltimore presented a symphonic photochoreography Maestro Series concert – “a multi-media extravaganza pairing concert favorites with stunning images of nature.”

Performance Pieces:
Copland: Three Old American Songs
Copland: Appalachian Spring
Barber: Adagio
Respighi: Ancient Airs and Dances, Suite III
Vaughan Williams: The Lark Ascending

2. Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has also collaborated with Westwater Arts to provide an audio-visual symphony concert, contributing to Westwater’s “Kids, Cameras and Classics™” series.

It’s a great way to engage young people with classical music and your orchestra. KC&C is interactive, hands-on, innovative, educational, empowering, skill-developing, collaborative, spirit-lifting, kid-friendly and readily fundable.

Baltimore Symphony performs a Westwater KCC piece. http://westwaterarts.com/involve.html

3. Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra

Our ‘Heroes’ concert was an excellent example of what we mean when we say that we are not merely an orchestra in Boulder, but rather ‘Boulder’s orchestra.’ [The concert] demonstrated not only our commitment to offering ways to enhance and deepen the impact of a musical experience, but also our determination to reflect our community’s spirit of discovery and civic-mindedness. — Michael Butterman, Music Director & Conductor


Other examples of audio-visual concerts

4. North Carolina Symphony – The Planets: An HD Odyssey
In early February, the Women of North Carolina Master Chorale and the North Carolina Symphony performed “The Planets: An HD Odyssey,” compliments of Opus3 Artists.  The performance offered a stunning combination of “Holst’s symphonic powerhouse, The Planets, live with HD images from NASA projected on the big screen.”

Performance Pieces:
Richard Strauss: Fanfare from Also sprach Zarathustra
Johann Strauss, Jr.: On the Beautiful Blue Danube Waltz, Op. 314
John Williams: The Battle from Star Wars
arr. Custer: Star Trek Through the Years
Holst: The Planets, Op. 32

“The images in the movie…were often ­astonishing. Photographs from rovers and satellites, radar images and ­computer-generated ­graphics were combined to give the audience the impression of circling individual planets and sometimes ­flying over their awesomely barren landscapes.” —The New York Times

5. The Philadelphia Orchestra
You can learn more about the orchestral innovations of Philly Orchestra’s performance of The Rite of Spring in another recent blog post>>

Take-Aways

Finding common ground with so many members of your community is exciting in itself and I think these concerts provide a forum that makes this possible.  It’s not just music, it’s a concert experience...a shared concert experience that becomes a story that audiences want to share with their family and friends. Concerts that stimulate both the visual and audio senses, at least in my opinion, seem stickier.

With innovative partnerships, dynamic multimedia, and exciting, multi-sensory audience experiences such as these, I encourage symphony orchestras to continue thinking outside of the traditional performance, to push their creative boundaries, and connect with their audiences in a variety of ways that are relevant and interesting to them.  You have to know your audience, which takes time and stems from the development of strong relationships.  With audio-visual performances to facilitate social interaction and find common ground among enthusiastic and innovative arts organizations, I think symphony orchestras and other cultural arts groups have a lot to look forward to in the evolution of technology.

Have you participated in a multi-media concert experience? What are your thoughts?

The Houston Symphony performed at Carnegie Hall on Thursday, led by Hans Graf and featuring images of our solar system. NY Times – Music Review.

Spice Up Your Image Strategy

Drew McManus, the “orchestra insider” and author of www.adaptistration.com, has made a cry for change, asking for anything but “blah” in arts management photography.  His post, “Let’s Get Rid of Blah Arts Manager Photos Once and For All,” prompted me to come up with a list of ideas for more engaging images of arts managers and symphony orchestras/musicians.

photo by Christian Colberg

Bo Li, Acting Assistant Principal

Questions for readers:

  1. How is your arts organization engaging patrons/donors with photography?
  2. Have you established an image strategy?  Why or why not?
  3. Are there arts organizations in your community or otherwise that you think are doing a good job with arts manager and musician photos?

Here are my thoughts for getting rid of “blah arts manager photos once and for all.”

  • Links to photographer websites that have great arts manager photos (or even applicable corporate exec images).
  • Explain why you think the image(s) are appealing.
    • They’re fun, creative, and provide insight into the musicians’ personalities and lifestyles
  • Explain what you think would make an exciting and captivating arts manager photo/portrait.
    • Photography that shows arts managers enjoying what they are doing, interacting with musicians, actors, dancers, poets, etc., and provide other interesting insights into their lives and work – behind the scenes, office fun, (appropriate) personal quirks, etc.
  • What sort of message do you think an arts manager photo/portrait should project?
    • Light-hearted, approachable individuals
    • Passion for the art form
    • Fun and engaging work
  • If money wasn’t an object, how would you stage an arts manager photoshoot?
    • Sky diving with symphony hall below
    • Themed (e.g. masquerade ball, introspective, hobbies, around the office, etc.)
      photo by Christian Colberg

      Richard Field, Principal Viola

       

       

      How would you “fix” arts photography?

Celebrating Amateurs and Professionals – BSO’s Rusty Musicians, Nov 2012

“For one brief but action-packed evening, amateur musicians are invited to join members of the BSO on stage to rehearse and perform predetermined repertoire led by BSO Music Director Marin Alsop.”

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is internationally recognized as having achieved a preeminent place among the world’s most important orchestras. Acclaimed for its uncompromising pursuit of artistic excellence, the Baltimore Symphony has attracted a devoted national and international following while maintaining deep bonds throughout the Maryland community.

See more about the program and registration at Baltimore Symphony Orchestra – Rusty Musicians.

Uploaded by on Feb 4, 2010 – The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra invited local rusty musicians to perform with them onstage at the Music Center at Strathmore on February 2 and 4. More than 400 answered the call. Divided into four sessions each night, BSO musicians and Rusty musicians rehearsed and performed together with Music Director Marin Alsop in Elgar’s Enigma Variations (Nimrod) and Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony (Movement Four). Co-presented by The Music Center at Strathmore.

Kaiser’s Debate: New Models or Better Management in the Arts?

Internship Reflection & AU Blog Post: July 12, 2012

As I work with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and more specifically with the development team for the BSO at Strathmore, I am finding an increasing amount of evidence that the BSO is part of the solution for arts organizations.  According to Michael Kaiser, the “new” model of arts organizations may be equated with organizations that are well managed and find ways to effectively adapt to change.  The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has worked hard to keep up with the needs and interests of a rapidly evolving society and serves as an inspiration for the “new” way of functioning as an arts organization in the 21st century.

Marin Alsop, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s conductor and music director, has spearheaded many innovative efforts and has done a lot to bring the symphony “up to speed” within society.  She has been a major proponent of implementing new technology in the arts experience, reaching out to audiences, and to diversifying the orchestra performance experience.  Our audiences are changing and Marin has heightened awareness among BSO management.  In a collaborative effort, the managers, leadership, and musicians have tapped into new possibilities during turbulent times.

Michael Kaiser has stated: “I believe firmly that well-run arts organizations that appreciate how the world is changing, and react accordingly, that engage board members, that excite audiences, that create important work, that grow and change with the times, will survive and thrive for decades to come.”  The Baltimore Symphony resonates with this description and is effectively positioning itself as a leader among arts organizations in modern society.

I look forward to continuing the discussion in the next #ArtsMgtChat — Friday, August 17, 2012 at 2:00 PM Eastern (see discussion questions below).  Feel free to join in and/or follow the #artsmgtchat on Twitter!

Questions:

  1. What strategies do you use to fund your work?
  2. Do you see a need for larger institutions that support and deliver art?
  3. Is the cost of maintaining organizations becoming too high and actually burdening the art and artists?
  4. Are audiences eroding in your community?
  5. Are you using technology to access audiences? Donors?
  6. Is your staff/team putting in more time for less pay?
  7. Are you collaborating with other artists or institutions to produce your work?
  8. What do you see that you would consider a “new model”?

Artist vs. Institution

Earlier in July, ArtsJournal blogger Diane Ragsdale challenged elements of Michael Maso’s acceptance speech given at the Theatre Communications Group conference in Boston.  He replied to Ms. Ragsdale’s retorts with a blog post of his own, wanting to address the important issues she had raised and to clarify any previous misconception.  Here is a rough video of his speech if you wish to view it:

The heated discussion that ensued as a result of his speech caused our arts management internship class to contemplate the role of the arts organizations we are currently interning with and defend whether or not we felt they are truly helping or hindering the quality of life and work of performing artists.  Here is my reaction based on my experience with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra at Strathmore:

There are several indications that members of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, both musicians and staff, have established a long-lasting, healthy relationship with one another and consider the organization home.  Working as the BSO at Strathmore development intern and interacting with BSO musicians has allowed me to experience the BSO’s passionate and dedicated leadership and organizational teamwork firsthand.

“It Takes a Village,” a Symphony article released in 2009, describes the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s collaborative turnaround efforts in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and national recession.  “In a remarkable collective effort, the entire Baltimore team – administration, music director, musicians, board, and members of the extended ‘family’ – worked together to turn the orchestra’s situation around.”  The strength of their working relationship and sense of community remains apparent today.

Perhaps the strongest advocate for the musicians and their work is the BSO’s illustrious conductor and music director, Marin Alsop.  Since her appointment in 2007, Maestra Alsop has led the BSO into a more forward-thinking and modern position within the field and society.   In 2008, she partnered with the Naxos record label and brought the BSO online through iTunes.  Maestra Alsop has also played a major role in the formation and success of:

The passionate teamwork and dedication displayed by the musicians, conductor, board, and staff, have ultimately made these endeavors a great success.

When the orchestra experienced a growing deficit due the most recent national recession, BSO musicians initiated a fundraising campaign and agreed to a reduced salary and benefits for several years in a row.  Paul Meecham, the CEO/President of the BSO, has been supportive, yet firm in terms of financial management, which he has referred to as, “tough love.”

Founded in 1916, the organization has navigated almost a century of change and growth, including the emergence of the field of orchestra management as a formal discipline.  Although the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra may be unique in the sense that they are one in a small group of professional, full-time (year-round) orchestras in the United States, it is clear that the success of the organization rides on the musicians’ and staff members’ love of their work and the organization as a whole.

Everyone has had to work hard and make personal and financial sacrifices to live and work in nonprofit arts, but at the end of the day, the emotional reward, feeling of accomplishment, and relationship with the music, artists, and community, make everything worthwhile.  Everyone at the BSO wants the orchestra continue to evolve and succeed.

Contemporary Engagement: Attention-Grabbing Tactics of a Pulitzer Prize Winning Composer, Kevin Puts

Based on “The engaging voice of composer Kevin Puts: BSO to play symphony by Peabody Institute’s Pulitzer winner,” by Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun

Maestra Marin Alsop has an appreciation for all types of music and displays a particular affinity for propelling the work of contemporary composers.  Kevin Puts appears to be one of her favorites.  With the finale of the 2011-2012 concert season, the Peabody Institute’s Pulitzer Prize winner has now been featured by the BSO three times in the past decade.  This article is of particular interest to me because it explores Marin’s adventurousness in artistic programming and the engaging symphonic works of a younger, contemporary composer.  The implications of such practices relates to my master’s portfolio on engaging Millennial audiences in the orchestra concert experience.

The highlighted work of Kevin Puts, his Symphony No. 4, is meaningful in a variety of ways.  It explores some of the history and traditional melodies of the Mutsun Indians, guided by one of their descendants to ensure a more authentic and honorable portrayal of the culture and music.  The first movement[1] has been shaped and is inspired by early 19th century Mutsun melodies and motives (repeated phrases, or melodic themes, in the music).  Movement II represents the collision of two peoples – the Mutsun Indians and the Spanish missionaries who attempted to convert the Mutsuns – with fragments of “Mutsun-like themes” juxtaposed against the Missionaries’ hymns from Spain.  Movement III is a touching and meaningful tribute to history, where the “past and present come together.”  The finale, or the fourth movement of the symphony, pays homage to Mutsun tradition and the patron who commissioned the work.  In this section, Puts offers his own version of a traditional Mutsun healing song.  The finale not only honors the Mutsun culture, it also provides comfort and support for the patron’s ailing wife, Carrie, for whom the piece was commissioned.

Kevin Puts likes the audience to know the story behind the music – a practice that he applies to his work as a composer – because he feels it makes for a more meaningful, genuine, and ultimately more responsive experience.  The overall nature of Puts as a composer and the music he creates has great potential for contemporary audiences to engage in the symphony concert experience.  Puts is known for his “expertly crafted music (that) speaks in a compelling, natural voice.”  Placing an emphasis on authenticity, he takes the time to research and learn about the subject(s) of his work and create a storyline through the music.  Like Marin, Puts can be described as being inclusive and versatile.

Both Marin and Puts work to provide audiences with “vivid entry points” to the music that is being performed.  They enjoy speaking about the story and meaning behind pieces, which in turn promotes understanding and often creates a more moving experience for the members of the audience.  Their willingness to trying new things and incorporate wider variety into individual works and the larger repertoire contributes to the generation of distinctive and appealing music.

This article alludes to great potential for engaging contemporary audiences.  Millennials demand and expect to receive such access, authenticity, insight, variety, and dynamic experience in everyday life and in cultural activities.  The work of Maestra Alsop and composer, Kevin Puts is blurring the boundaries between different eras of music and characters of sound.  The meaningful entry points, blended varieties, and communicative experiences established by the composer, conductor, and the music seem to be opening doors (figuratively and literally) to larger, curious audiences.  Smith’s article confirms my perception of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra as having an important role in fostering acceptance for contemporary music and creating increasingly engaging symphony concert experiences for 21st century audiences.


[1] Movements are the main thematic sections of a piece of music; symphonies are typically constructed in four movements.

The Millennials’ Orchestra: Enabling Connectivity and Engagement Through Technology

Social media and technology has become essential to the communication and connectivity of performing arts organizations.  Used effectively, social media can help the arts establish personality, authenticity, transparency, and encourage greater audience interactivity and participation.  The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra uses a variety of social networking and multimedia tools to help promote their work and engage constituents.  The BSO is active on several major social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.  Links to the BSO’s social media pages can be found on the “BSO 2.0 Connect With Us”[1] page on the organization’s website, inviting people can connect to the symphony and to fellow BSO fans and providing access to a collection of BSO recordings on iTunes.  The Baltimore Symphony maintains a regular presence online, posting frequent updates, multimedia files, and expressing a variety of information.  When it comes to expanding outreach and awareness through technology, the BSO seems to be doing rather well.

  • The BSO on Facebook shares videos, recordings, images, concert/event updates, symphony news, opportunities to connect with the conductor, interesting posts related to classical music and composers, audience reactions, and fan comments.  The BSO has also enabled the Spotify app, providing listening access to Baltimore Symphony Orchestra radio free of charge.  Overall, their Facebook page certainly seems to be effective in terms of increasing visibility; it has been “liked” by more than 6,800 users.[2]
  • @BaltSymphony posts regular #tweets about concerts and events, fan comments, audience reactions, promos, and interesting, music-related articles, reaching over 7,000 followers on Twitter.  An image of the symphony’s esteemed Maestra, Marin Alsop, is used for the background, reinforcing the connection between the conductor and BSO fans.
  • BSOmusic on YouTube is especially critical to establishing this technological connection between the conductor and audience, featuring videos of backstage interviews with musicians, performances/events, season previews, conductor talks, musician conversations, and all of Maestra Alsop’s Webumentaries about the works performed by the BSO.  BSOmusic videos have accumulated nearly 140,000 views and more than 220 YouTube subscribers.[3]

The BSO has achieved success in other technological outlets through their recordings and radio broadcasts of their performances.  The Baltimore Symphony has an acclaimed recording history, receiving its first Grammy award in 1990, followed by two more in 1994, and Grammy nominations in 1997, 2000, and 2009.  The orchestra’s modern technological outreach and development has been propelled by the esteemed BSO Maestra, Marin Alsop.  Under her leadership, the BSO ventured into online distribution on iTunes beginning in 2007, featuring a series recordings and free podcasts geared towards classical music newcomers.  The orchestra also entered into a partnership with XM Satellite Radio, reaching a subscriber base of more than eight million nationwide, and with the Naxos record label.  Additionally, Marin Alsop has become a regular feature on National Public Radio’s “Weekend Edition,” with her radio segment, “Marin Alsop on Music.”  The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra has also been featured on American Public Media’s highly regarded music programs, “Performance Today” and “SymphonyCast.”[4]

The use and importance of technology is made apparent in their programming and professionally designed website as well.  Although the BSO’s 2011-2012 concert season recently came to a close, there is already a buzz in the air about the future programs scheduled for 2012-2013.  The coming season will feature multimedia productions inviting audiences to “explore the energy of the film score and the art of cinema” (e.g. Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times, West Side Story, Hair Spray, James Bond, and Star Wars).[5]  All of this is explained, of course, in a video preview on the BSO website.

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is unique, however, because they perform at two “home” locations – the Meyerhoff in Baltimore, Maryland, and Strathmore in North Bethesda.  As the Strathmore Development intern for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, my experience with BSO technology has primarily revolved around the Tessitura Network and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software.  The BSO recently switched to the Cloud, which prompted the decision to upgrade security to a higher level to prevent hackers from accessing sensitive patron information.  This shows responsibility and greater accountability towards BSO constituents.

The BSO development team at Strathmore maintains open lines of communication via email, telephone, and direct mail.  Electronic invitations are sent to donors for special events, allowing for RSVP tracking online.  Email invitations are sent out to Symphony Society and Governing Society Members for pre-concert and intermission receptions held in the exclusive Comcast Donor Lounge.   As they respond, it is my job to update their individual activity histories in Tessitura.  Having a record of attendance allows us to track participation, identify potential prospects for greater giving, and to know whom to expect at the Donor Lounge on the night of the performance.

At the season finale and donor reception, photos were taken of board members (including the Board Chair), donors, guests, and the featured soloist, Nadja Salerno Sonnenburg, with Marin Alsop.  These pictures become special memento for the people who attended the event, as well as a visual reminder for potential donors to see how much fun they could be having at the BSO at Strathmore events!  Subscribing members receive additional benefits throughout the season, such as a free subscription to the Naxos online music library and special discounts.  For anyone who is curious about future performances, the BSO at Strathmore’s season brochure has been made available online, which can be accessed at any time.

The BSO has integrated the use of technology, social media, and electronic and multimedia outreach tools into the company culture, but I think the BSO at Strathmore could do more to enhance their presence online to grow the donor base and tell their story.  It is clear that the current donors are greatly appreciated, but what if they received regular “thank you” videos from the Donor Relations Manager (my primary supervisor) and the VP of Development at Strathmore?  Not only would they feel acknowledged for their contributions, the video could also be used to provide evidence of the impact of their support.  To encourage patrons to become or continue as donors, why not send them video previews of the special donor events planned for the season?  Having these videos would make it even easier for patrons to share these experiences with family and friends, which could potentially result in increased contributions and participation in future concerts and events.  To improve outreach and audience awareness, the BSO at Strathmore could even create their own Facebook page to connect with fans and further promote BSO events at the Bethesda location.

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Overall, I think the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s Twitter profile says it best, reinforcing the organization’s reputation as a high quality, innovative, and engaging orchestra – “The BSO is a world-class orchestra that performs regularly in two venues and has established itself as a leader in programming, technology & outreach.”[6]


[5] ibid.