The Millennial Alumni Research Project

Millennial Alumni

It’s hard to believe that I’m coming up on one year post-graduation from American University’s Arts Management program and the completion of my Capstone Project, ‘The Millennials’ Orchestra – Marketing and Development Strategies for Engaging Millennial Audiences and Donors in the U.S. Symphony Orchestra Classical Concert Experience.”  During the research process, my understanding of the Millennial generation as a whole and their inclinations to give was greatly enhanced by the studies and articles published by Achieve, Pew Research Center, and the Chronicle of Philanthropy.  I became a big fan of these Millennially-charged fact tanks, so you can imagine my nerdy delight when I found out my Alma mater was selected to partner with Achieve and the Chronicle of Philanthropy in the 2014 Millennial Alumni Research Project.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy, in partnership with Achieve, will research the attitudes and engagement preferences of young alumni (Millennial generation graduates age 22-32). Through research surveys, focus groups, and user testing, institutions of higher education will have a better understanding of how alumni prefer to be involved and ways to connect and seek their support.

Flickr photo, ITU/Rowan Farrell

Flickr photo, ITU/Rowan Farrell

As a Millennial alum, I received an email asking me to participate in the survey.  I was excited to help out my school and contribute to the continued learning around the Millennial generation. Of course, I had to say yes!

I clicked on the link, taking me to the online survey.  In an appreciative and upbeat manner, the general purpose of the survey, as well as the length of time I could expect to devote to completing it, was explained upfront:

Thanks for agreeing to take the 2014 Higher Education Millennial Alumni Survey!  Your university is partnering with the Chronicle of Philanthropy and Achieve to understand the interests and preferences of Millennial alumni.  The survey will take approximately 10 minutes and we thank you for your time.

The survey began with a couple of simple, demographic questions, asking me to identify my gender and birth date (to verify that I fall into the Millennial age-range, I suspect).  Having completed the introduction, I was informed that the survey would be broken into three main components.  Compelled to know more, I continued with the survey.

As I completed one section and entered another, I received a clear message indicating the section/topic change.  I appreciated these mile-markers, not only for the reminder of the topics, but also for the structure of the survey.  Before we go any farther, however, you’re probably wondering what these mystery topics were all about…

  1. Alumni Attitudes
  2. Alumni Giving
  3. Alumni Involvement

As you might expect, I was asked a variety of questions about my interests, career development as it relates to my degree, giving preferences, and involvement with my Alma mater post-graduation, among others.  By the end of the survey, I was invited to participate in their on-going Millennial Involvement Focus Group and agreed.

It will be interesting to take part in this focus group over the next several months and exciting to read about the results of this research initiative.  We’ll have to stay tuned!

The research findings of the Young Alumni Engagement and Attitudinal Study will be released at MCON14 on June 18-19, 2014 in Chicago, IL.

MCON14

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SURVEY RESULTS: What People Really Think About Classical Music and Symphony Orchestra Performance in the 21st C.

GRADUATE RESEARCH SURVEY 2013 – CLASSICAL MUSIC AND SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA PERFORMANCE (SUMMARY OF RESULTS)

110 responses

1. Which generation do you represent? (Upper age limit adjusted as of 2012)

The Millennial Generation – Those born after 1980 – the first generation to come into adulthood in the new millennium; ages 18-32 62 56%
Generation X – People born from 1965-1980; ages 32-47 25 23%
The Baby Boomers – Those born between 1946 and 1964, associated with the fertility spike following WWII; ages 48-66 23 21%
The Silent Generation – Adults born during the Great Depression and WWII, between 1928-1945; ages 67-84 0 0%
The Greatest Generation – The generation that fought and won WWII, the adults born before 1928; ages 84+ 0 0%

2. What is your gender?

Female 79 72%
Male 31 28%

3. Is there a particular instance or influence that first attracted you to classical music?

Musicians in your family 32 29%
Music teacher 20 18%
Friends 6 5%
Particular performance 15 14%
Multimedia – movies, video games, TV shows, YouTube, etc. 14 13%
Other 23 21%

4. When was the last time you attended a symphony orchestra performance?

Within the past 3 months 57 52%
Within the past 6 months 9 8%
Within the past year 16 15%
Within the past 2 years 12 11%
Between 2 and 5 years ago 8 7%
Five years + 5 5%
Never been 3 3%

5. When and by whom were you first introduced to symphony performance?

As a child, by your parents or family 50 45%
During a field trip in primary school (ages 5-10) 23 21%
In secondary school, through friends, teacher(s), a mentor, band (ages 11-17) 24 22%
Private music lessons, by a teacher or peers 3 3%
During college, through peers, classes, professors, advisors, school performances, local orchestra (18+) 8 7%
Other 2 2%
Comments
  • My father has been involved with classical music as a child himself; therefore, he wanted to instill the same traditions into his daughter. As a child, he would play Harold in Italy by Berlioz for me and I would dance along with the melody. From this moment, he knew that I would play the viola.
  • I was in High School.
  • I saw a lot of band concerts because I was in band.
  • I (joined) the Symphony orchestra at the University.
  • Wolf Trap summer children’s festival. Also school field trips to the Kennedy Center.
  • Our public school district in north Jersey had a strong, well-supported music program.
  • My high school…

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

Programming – concert selections, musical time period, etc. 16 15%
Expense 16 15%
Concert experience 17 15%
Lack of interest 50 45%
Other 11 10%
Comments
  • I was an intern at the Kennedy Center for September through December in 2012 and attended many of their performances during that period. I think the NSO Pops drew the youngest average crowd for an orchestra production, but I’m not sure if that was due to the repertoire or the novelty. The concert experience itself does seem the most important element to me though, as everyone wanted to be there for this unique event.
  • pieces need to be fun and upbeat in order to get younger audiences interested. I am a musician myself, and I still get bored at orchestra concerts sometimes…

7. How do you participate in orchestra performance most often?

Listening to broadcasts and/or recordings 40 36%
Creating music – composition, performance, etc. 22 20%
Online – YouTube, streaming, Spotify, etc. 21 19%
Mobile devises – iPod, cell phones, iPad, etc. 9 8%
Other 18 16%
Comments
  • General Manager of the Capital City Symphony
  • Also most often an audience member.
  • Violinist in the AUSO (American University Symphony Orchestra)
  • Public radio
  • I’m also learning how to compose my own contemporary classical pieces. I frequently use Pandora and have several stations from different periods of music. I most often listen to the station created around Sergi Prokofiev and the Romantic period.
  • I have a large collection of music on my computer, and I keep meaning to buy the .99 cent master collection albums from Amazon. (100 tracks for 99 cents) …

8. If you had the option, how would you prefer to participate in orchestra performance?

Listening to broadcasts and/or recordings 20 18%
Creating music – composition, performance, etc. 49 45%
Online – YouTube, streaming, Spotify, etc. 7 6%
Mobile devises – iPod, cell phones, iPad, etc. 4 4%
Other 30 27%
Comments
  • While I do feel live performances are often the best way to experience a show from an audience perspective, online viewing does create a nice substitute though. Being able to see the performers does add another level of involvement, even if doing so from home, because the audience relates the physicality involved with producing the music.
  • Performance
  • The other options should always support and encourage people to attend (frequently) the live in-person experience, which is second to none.
  • On-line streaming could also be useful
  • I would love to compose or play, but I haven’t received the training…

9. If you could choose, what would you like orchestras to do differently? (change, do more/less of, add new, etc.?)

Concert timing (days, time of day, time of year) 14 13%
Musicians’ dress 5 5%
Programming (Classical, pops, contemporary, etc.) 35 32%
Technology 18 16%
Composers and/or artists 7 6%
Other 31 28%
Comments
  • Work with other groups to expand audience. Cross-pollinate!
  • Our minds have become overwhelmed with stimulus, and we are accustomed to bigger and better. With technology today, pairing orchestral performances with dance, aerial cirque acts, light shows, and video footage gives the active mind more to do and fortifies the experience so shelling out the $100 a ticket is more likely.
  • Evening performances are the norm for a working public, but I would love to see more daytime performances.
  • I think the orchestra has to do more to draw people in especially through social media, free events…

10. What else (ideas, experiences, opinions, suggestions, etc.) would you like to share about engaging audiences (current and new) in classical music or symphony performance?

  • Overall making performances relevant to current audiences, including programming, accessibility, concert experience, online interaction, etc.
  • Orchestra musicians, conductor and the soloist should come out from their backstage dressing rooms and greet the audience members after performances. It’s a more intimate feeling than just playing on stage.
  • As a performer, I find it is difficult to engage current audiences in classical music because of the general notion that it all sounds like Mozart or is boring. I would like to spend more time encouraging my friends to listen to more music that is not as predictable by taking them with me to more live performances or encouraging them to see me play. I feel it is always more interesting and engaging as an audience member to see someone you know up on stage performing.
Number of daily responses

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Special Thanks:
My professors in the arts management department at AU; Millennial blog platform, GenYHub and GenYTV rep, Marni G.; Professor Marc Whitt and his PR and Music Industry students at EKU; musicians in the AUSO; Audience Development Specialist, Shoshana FanizzaDr. Michael Ryan, ED of Fine Arts in Fort Worth I.S.D. (Independent School District); Twitter followers: Zero2Maestro, Harpist Nadia P., arts marketer Connie R.LibraryOboistSinfonia TorontoPolyphonic, American Composer Christopher James Lee, PV (Pioneer Valley) Symphony, Ilias Ntais of enchoris, Emily Davis President of Emily Davis (EDA) Consulting, and the League of American Orchestras.

Also, thanks to anyone who has taken interest in my work, shared my survey, or offered their thoughts, ideas, encouragement, or advice!