The Millennials’ Orchestra: Changing Styles of Engagement

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


The Millennials’ Orchestra: Changing Styles of Engagement

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

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

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

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

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

*     *     *

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

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.

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.

Metro Musicals: Getting Creative with Urban Sounds (VIDEO)

Land-fillharmonic:
Young musicians in Paraguay, South America make beautiful music with a collection of unconventional instruments.  Colá, a local professor, transforms aluminum and other discarded materials into respectable, recycled symphony orchestra instruments.  The idea for this magnificent initiative comes from Maestro Szarán.  The orchestra’s educational offerings have expanded to include this innovative instrument building program, ultimately improving the emotional and intellectual well-being of these young musicians and overall cleanliness of the community.


Metro Sounds:
Another example of urban musical creativity comes from the mechanical clatter emitted by the DC Metro.

Listen to the escalator engines’ meditative rhythm, cool and even like a sleeping drum machine. Listen to the impatient patter of human footsteps quietly rebelling against the escalator’s master tempo.

Even if Metro ever gets all of its escalators running this smoothly, they’ll never lose their secret music. We’ll only have to listen more carefully.

Can you remix the Metro?
The Washington Post’s Pop Music Blog – Click Track – challenged readers to remix the sounds of the Metro’s aging escalators in Washington, DC.

The Accidental Music of Imperfect Escalators on SoundCloud captures the unique musical experience:

Chris Richards is a music critic for the Washington Post, and after years of ignoring the wailing and screeching of the much maligned, often broken escalators in the DC Metro, he began to hear them in a new way. He began to hear them as music.


Share your urban music experiences:
What and where are urban sounds creating music in your community?
What other examples or ideas would you like to recommend or explore?

I look forward to hearing your stories.  Please share your comments below!

Top 20 in Social Media: Google+ takes the bronze (can be effective promo tool for nonprofit arts – here’s how)

SilverPop – a digital marketing technology provider – decided to research trends in social media growth among the top 20 social networking sites.  The usual suspects topped the list: Facebook takes the gold with a mere 1 billion users and Twitter comes in second with 500 million registered users.  Another somewhat unexpected player has joined them on the winners podium, however.  Coming in third, Google+ gets the bronze.

On Nov 27, 2012, SilverPop announced their findings (data as of Nov. 15, 2012), using a nifty infographic to illustrate the rapidly evolving social networking landscape.  Participants were ranked, in most cases, by total registered users and then grouped into 5 different clubs according to growth patterns.

At the top, social media celebrities Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ mingle in The 100 Million User Club; the increasingly popular location-based, photo-sharing, and microblogging platforms, Foursquare, Instagram, and Tumblr, shine among The Rising Stars; from XING (never heard of it), to Yelp, and LinkedIn, let’s not forget to acknowledge The Steady Freddies, showing steady growth over the past 3 to 5 years;  The Child Prodigies of social media, Pinterest, Soundcloud, and Path, have achieved a meteoric rise to fame despite their young age (between 2 and 4 years old); Friendster, MySpace, and Orkut, which were launched in 2002, 2003, and 2004 respectively, have taken a seat in the Cooling Off club in regards to popularity.

By mid-September of this year, Google+ reached 400 Million users.  Less than three months later, Google+ now has more than 500 million members, which is on par with Twitter in SilverPop’s 100 Million User Club.

*  *  *

Despite initial skepticism, Google+ has grown from 40M users in Oct 2011 to 500M users as of Dec 2012.  Google+ is definitely on the rise and I would like to share my ideas with you for using this growing platform as an effective promotional tool for nonprofit organizations (particularly the arts)!

In recent news, Google+ has also launched Google Communities, encouraging groups to gather around common interests, connect using Google Hangouts and the Google+ mobile app, and explore current or new passions with your communities.

As an emerging arts leader, I am excited at the prospect of using Google+ Hangouts and Google Communities to connect with symphony orchestra and other performing arts enthusiasts.  I think Google+ will prove to be an innovative and effective tool for building relationships with current and future audiences, donors, administrators, board members, volunteers, etc.

Will you join the club?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections

This week’s photo challenge theme allows me to reflect on my love of music and portray it visually!  I am additionally excited because it also represents the meaning behind my blog.  The title I chose – mezzaphonically speaking – is a play on the phrase, “metaphorically speaking,” emphasizing my love of music, sound, and creative expression.  Although I cannot take credit for the photo, I thought it effectively represented my passion in life, my path to true love, my curiosity around culture, and my work in the arts.  A picture is worth a thousand words, right?

Mezzaphonically Speaking
Beyond Words – Life, Love, Culture, and the Arts

https://s-media-cache-ec9.pinimg.com/upload/248331366923081908_gMLvfsmo.jpg

Meet Itzhak Perlman’s Young and Exciting Classical Protégé

Hahn-Bin made his international debut at the age of twelve, performing at the 42nd Grammy Awards in an event honoring Isaac Stern.  Studying under the famed violinist, Itzhak Perlman at The Julliard School of Music, Hahn-Bin has since made his debut at Carnegie Hall, receiving the Peter Marino Concert Prize in 2009 for his first-place win in the Young Concert Artists International Auditions.  He performs in a way that not only showcases and respects the beauty, expression, and technical intricacies of the art-form, but also engages audiences in an emotionally moving experience.  Embodying the “renaissance of classical music,” Hahn-Bin* continues to inspire and amaze audiences around the world in a dynamic, virtuosic display of emotionally stirring musical performance.

*Note: Hahn-Bin  has changed his name to Amadeus Leopold (publicly announced on Aug 28, 2012).

The Millennials’ Orchestra: Engaging Younger Symphony Audiences and Donors in the Classical Music Experience

The Millennials’ Orchestra: Engaging Younger Symphony Audiences and Donors in the Classical Music Experience

Millennial generation – “Generations, like people, have personalities, and Millennials – the American teens and twenty-somethings (ages 18-29) who are making the passage into adulthood at the start of a new millennium – have begun to forge theirs: confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change.”[1]

YouTube Symphony Orchestra
Sydney, Australia 2011

It is no secret that symphony orchestras are facing hard and changing times.  In addition to the challenges posed by the struggling economy, symphony audiences are continuing to increase in age as overall attendance continues to decline (Alan Brown’s Classical Music Consumer Segmentation Study and Thomas Wolf’s “The Search for Shining Eyes”).  This decline has been most dramatic among young adults over the past thirty years.  Without adequate numbers of younger people to eventually replace current audiences, the future of symphony orchestras in the US has been called into question.  Despite the doom and gloom of bankruptcy announcements and foreclosures in the world of symphony orchestras, some organizations are managing to adapt and survive through innovative programming and by offering greater opportunities for audience engagement.

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Brooklyn Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Chicago Symphony, and Detroit Symphony Orchestra have gained attention for their ability to engage 21st century audiences in the concert experience through 21st century means – the BSO’s Off the Cuff and Webumentaries series; Brooklyn Phil’s Beethoven Remix (click here for finalists) and collaboration with Mos Def; San Francisco Symphony’s Keeping Score and conductor MTT’s TEDTalks; Chicago Symphony’s Beyond the Score; and Detroit Symphony’s webcasts.  I believe that engaging the Millennial generation as members of the audience and as donors will increase the potential for these symphony orchestras, as well as other arts organizations, to maintain and sustain future success.  Not only would this help fill an ever-growing void in audience attendance, it would also lend to renewed interest and excitement in orchestral work and foster future generations of support for music and the arts.

As a member of the Millennial generation, I am excited to meet and talk with other Millennials who are passionate about symphony orchestras, classical music, and the arts.  As arts managers we must know how to attract and engage these individuals in ways that resonate with their rapidly evolving interests and needs (Pew Research Center – Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next) , while retaining the current audiences and donors already supporting our organizations.  In general, Millennials are eager to get involved, take on leadership roles, and contribute time and money to philanthropic efforts in nonprofit organizations (see Millennial Impact Report).  Symphony orchestras are beginning to take notice and placing greater emphasis on engaging these younger audiences and donors in exciting and relevant ways.

It is an honor to be the guest host of #ArtsMgtChat in the upcoming discussion The Millennials’ Orchestra: Engaging Younger Symphony Audiences and Donors in the Classical Music Experience.  I look forward to hearing your ideas on engaging Millennials in the performing arts!

Discussion questions:

  1. As an arts consumer and arts manager, what are some of the major barriers to symphony orchestras and classical music?
  2. What are professional symphony orchestras doing well to engage the Millennial generation?
  3. What role(s) do Millennials play in and for your organization?
  4. How much priority should Millennials be given in the nonprofit arts?
  5. What marketing strategies does your organization have in place for targeting and attracting younger audiences?
  6. Does your organization have development programs and/or opportunities for younger donors?
  7. How important is mobile and social media technology for engaging audiences and donors?
  8. How have you been involved with music in your life?

[1] PewResearchCenter, 2010, Millennials: Confident-Connected-Open to Change, In Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next, edited by Paul Taylor and Scott Keeter: Pew Research Center.

It Takes a Village – Welcome to the BSO family

“It Takes a Village,” by Mike Giuliano in SymphonyOnline

This is one of the most inspiring U.S. orchestra turnaround stories I have ever read.  It shares the real-life struggles, passionate teamwork, brilliant leadership, and reinvigorated direction and growth of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.  “It Takes a Village” is a relevant and insightful article.  It highlights some of the changes and programs that have occurred since the appointment of the new President and CEO, Paul Meecham, and BSO’s music director and esteemed Maestra, Marin Alsop, in 2007.  The article has informed me of financial difficulties the BSO has faced with the national recession, decisions that were made in response, including the key players in those decisions, and confirmed my understanding of effective audience engagement in the 21st century.  With the extraordinary leadership of the new CEO, the tremendous talent, skill, and personality of the new music director, and an enthusiastic and supportive Board Chairman, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra set out on a re-energized and corrective path.

The article shows how a variety of factors have contributed to the success of the BSO’s revitalization.  The first step was bold, yet simple.  The Orchestra decided to offer a subscription plan for $25 per seat (36), compared to the typical $60+ subscription cost – a reduction of 40% from the average subscription price!  Paul Meecham recognized the BSO’s empty hall as an audience development challenge and answered the community’s need for greater affordability with the new subscription plan.  This was achieved with the help of a large corporate gift ($1 million) from PNC, shortly after its acquisition of a longstanding Baltimore bank, attempting to build awareness among the community.  In the following season (2008-2009), the BSO was able to continue the plan only slightly modified due to a $250,000 matching grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  The $25 subscription plan remained in place for three seasons, extending from 2007 through 2010.  The BSO experienced dramatic increases in subscription sales, attendance, giving, and public interest.

The first decade of the new Millennium was marked with challenge and change.  Faced by the emotional and financial strain created by the events of 9/11, the establishment of the Music Center at Strathmore as a second home in 2005, and the initial controversy among the musicians over the selection of the new music director, the BSO was challenged to prove its strength.  “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 (38).”  As the title of the article suggests, “it takes a village,” a team, a family, to work together and turn an organization around.

Paul Meecham realized the symphony needed to be focused, disciplined, and live within its means, in addition to placing greater emphasis on communication, transparency, and connecting with new audiences.  The board played a big role in the BSO’s success as well.  The BSO had previously accumulated a five-year deficit of $17 million, but the board decided to use some of the endowment funds to balance the debt and establish a healthy operating cushion.  The endowment was split into two separate funds – $27 million unrestricted and $62 million restricted – and the $17 million was paid off all at once.  This left $10 million in unrestricted funds for the orchestra for future support.  The Board Chairman at the time, G. Bronfein, had described his “relationship with Meecham and Alsop as a ‘three legged stool’ (39),” further emphasizing the collaborative and supportive spirit of BSO’s leadership.  Even the musicians opted to donate a portion of their salary and benefits, as well as participate in fund-raising efforts for the sake of the organization.

The organization has been rejuvenated with a fresh vision and energy in the appointment of Marin Alsop.  She has helped to infuse excitement, confidence, and innovative spirit into the Baltimore Symphony, elevating the artistry, repertoire, and public appeal to a new level.  Despite her impressive resume, she is known for being a team player, down-to-earth, open with musicians and the community, and a great musical leader.  Her “expansive” style of communication resonates with 21st century audiences, especially to young people.  Maestra Alsop’s preference for all kinds of music, ranging from masterworks and contemporary composers to global music, incorporation of technology, and attention to diversity and education have contributed to the BSO’s developing reputation as an exciting, cutting edge symphony orchestra.

Having a basic understanding of younger, 21st century orchestra audiences, it is clear to me that the Baltimore Symphony is truly working hard to keep the orchestra and the symphony experience not only alive and well, but also approachable and fun for all ages.  Marin Alsop has been quoted saying, “I’d like my legacy to be inclusion, access, and possibility.  I strive for versatility and a real spectrum of sound.”  Giuliano’s article shows that it takes a village of strong, passionate, knowledgeable leaders, artists, supporters, and audience members to make such dreams come true.$25 subscription series, 2007-2008