Worked, that is, to reach an orchestra’s community. Or simply to make an orchestra more attractive to people who might go to its concerts. A solutions post. And also a crosspost from the League of American Orchestras Orchestra R/Evolution blog.
Play music by Pulitzer Prize-winning composers.
Gier did this in his first season as music director of the South Dakota
Symphony. He wanted to play new music, a lot of it, but understood that
his audience might not be as excited about that as he was. So he got the
idea of featuring, on each concert, music by a composer who’d won the
Pulitzer Prize. He thought that his audience would talk the Pulititzers
seriously, and say, in effect, “This composer won this major prize! We’d
better listen carefully.”
And that’s exactly what happened. After each concert, David stood in
the lobby, to talk to anyone who wanted to talk with him. The response
was positive, even if people didn’t like a particular piece. He made new
music a central part of what the South Dakota Symphony did.
(Full disclosure. David is a friend, commissioned a piece from me,
and played another one I’ve written. But all that happened after his
Pulitzer success. In fact, we know each other because of what he did
with his Pulitzer concerts. To spread the word, he contacted many
people, me among them. We had lunch one day in New York, so he could
tell me what he’d done, and our friendship grew up afterwards.)
Offer child care at concerts (and more)
The River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, in Houston, has offered child care at its concerts. The concerts have
started at 5 PM, and the child care continues after the concert into the
evening. Couples with children can come, drop off their children, hear
the concert, and then go out for dinner.
And the children have been involved with the music. They’ve been
taught to sing part of one piece on the program, and before that piece,
they’re brought into the concert space, where they sing what they’ve
ROCO also has picked a few tickets at random, and invited the people
who hold those tickets to sit in the middle of the orchestra to hear the
In these two ways, and more, ROCO has made a name for itself in
Houston, and developed a loyal and enthusiastic audience (Though the
high quality of their playing doesn’t hurt. Musicians from all over the
US come to play in ROCO’s concerts.)