Looking for innovative ideas for symphony

Submitted by Mike Clark on September 21, 2012 – 5:34pmFrom the editorial page

The symphony is trying to stay on its current level, forget the next level part. But it appears new ideas are needed.

So what would convince you to attend a symphony concert? And we’re not necessarily talking about current programming.

If the symphony is too much like your father’s Oldsmobile, a car company that is defunct, what would it take to attract a new audience?

Think outside the box. A new name? New programs? A new attitude?

You may comment here or just email me: mike.clark@jacksonville.com

Thanks

One thought on “Looking for innovative ideas for symphony

  1. Dana

    Top 10 list for the Jacksonville Symphony:

    1. Revamp the Symphony Board -
    Cut the number of board members – there are currently too many board members (approximately 75). I would start with the ones who aren’t actively participating in the board. I’ve noted there’s at least one board member who constantly travels & is probably only on the board for the amount of money their company could contribute rather than their level of involvement. Leave those types of folks for the development staff to build relationships with instead of making them a board member.

    2. Examine the executive director and administrative staff. Make changes where needed –
    The symphony administration has had the same staff throughout the years and have not been able to get the job done – either through fundraising or publicity or gaining community engagement. I actually had one person comment to me that they had no idea the symphony had a director of communications. John D. Rockefeller once said “Don’t blame the marketing department. The buck stops with the chief executive.” So, I am not blaming lower level staff for this failure, as it may be they have not been provided sufficient direction and support from the executive level. However, it may just be that people with a fresh approach are necessary to help right the symphony.

    3. Develop a solid fundraising plan –
    Good board members, executive directors, and development staff should be able to find wealthy people in town & build relationships. Follow up with board members and/or season ticket holders if they voluntarily drop off. Ask them why they’re not staying on/renewing, ask them for their suggestions, listen to them and fix the problem.

    4. Revamp the Symphony website -
    Every year, Drew McManus of Adaptistration.com, rates orchestra websites for their ease of use, purchasing of tickets, etc. http://www.adaptistration.com/the-orchestra-website-reviews/. The symphony’s website consistently gets poor grades.

    5. Develop a communications plan -
    Yes, they’ll have to shell out money. Find a company that’s willing to work with the Board, Administration, and musicians to develop a publicity plan that works for everyone and will get a favorable reaction from the community. Develop a communications plan that embraces current social media techniques.

    6. Hire a conductor with a passion for the music and the community -
    The new conductor must be willing to take musical risks & be willing to establish relationships with the community at large – not just board members or donors.

    7. Introduce innovative music in innovative ways -
    Mix new music with old and/or commission new works and livestream it. Nashville recently livestreamed the world premiere of Bela Fleck’s Banjo Concerto. (now who would have thought of a concerto for the banjo). It’s a good way to allow people not familiar with the symphony to experience online, for free, without risk. It’ may also be a way to bring in younger folks who routinely use the internet to download music.

    8. Build Community relationships/engagement -
    Bring back popular events like Starry Nights, the Symphony Showhouse (maybe incorporate chamber music concerts in the Showhouse), and Open House (that event had lines out the symphony hall doors) that draw the community at large in to become more familiar with the symphony. Coordinate events with other arts organizations. Talk to community groups you know who aren’t attending, ask them why not, and build a plan to attract them.

    9. Work as a team -
    The symphony should be a team consisting of the board members, administrative staff, the music director (conductors) and the musicians. Everybody has to work together in order to be successful. Too often, the musicians are left only to perform the music or are consulted as an afterthought. The musicians know the audience members (after all the audience comes to see them perform, not the board or executive staff). The musicians have insight into what music pieces should be performed, how they should be performed, and what may go over well with the audience. And certainly don’t limit their input to music, they also have good ideas as to the music/orchestra business as well. As a good example of that – the Milwaukee Symphony just appointed one of their own musicians to be executive director of the organization.

    10. Examine other orchestras’ best practices -
    Although what works in one city may not work in another, look at other successful symphony orchestras, find their best practices and study them to see if they might work in Jacksonville.

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