The conductor Leonard Slatkin has been in touch with his latest plans to revitalise the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Rather than editorialize, we decided to share what he has to say – and some of it is pretty revolutionary. Leonard, take it away:
Tonight we will open our season. As with most of our concerts this year, we are sold out. This is due to a new price structuring including a card which permits any student to obtain a ticket for the cost of $25 dollars. Oh, this fee is for the entire season, so if you buy the card now, that is all you pay for the whole year. We have sold 1,300 of these and as a result we are seeing a younger audience.
Every week that we have a subscription concert, we video stream a performance. It is free. The musicians realized that the definition of “audience” has changed and that there really is no difference between those attending the live event and those watching on their computers or mobile devices. The musicians do not get extra pay for this and there is no complaint.
We have a number of people who do not like to travel downtown. Last season we started a community program, where we perform in six different venues in six different suburbs. There are four concerts in each and they are all sold-out. This year we will start a shuttle service that will bring audience members to our hall if they want the experience of the magnificent Orchestra Hall.
Contributed revenue is up 33% over last year. This has enabled us to announce a balanced budget for this season, barring any unforeseen downturn. Relations between the musicians and board are very good now. Everyone is working toward long range goals. I hate to say it, but it is possible that the strike actually produced a good result. Of course it would have been best to settle early but such was simply not the case.
There was much talk of not being able to attract first class talent here. That has been upended with the recent hires we have made. A fantastic concertmaster, amazing first flute, great Cor Anglais and the list goes on. Rather than shunning Detroit, we are now a destination, as musicians know that something good is happening here.
There is still a long road ahead. We must replenish the endowment. I am hoping that in a couple years we will be able to increase our salary base and possible the number of weeks we play, although the latter is determined purely by market demand.