What Really Matters, Re: Indianapolis Symphony, Part 3

To catch up on my rant please read Part 1, and Part 2.

Part 3 is just a continuation of my absolute frustration with what is happening with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.

This blog will tackle only one question:

What can be done?

In the previous blog, I was hoping to cover more topics in Part 3, but I think the question of ‘What can be done?’ is a pretty large area to cover.

So, What can be done?

The musicians of the ISO play at the top of their field. They give each and every performance their ALL. Yet, butts are not in seats. Should the musicians be to blame?

No, they should not be blamed.

To be frank, attending a Symphonic Orchestra concert is probably not on the top 10 to-do list of the average American. We here in the U.S. of A. appreciate our meat and sports, while we let the cultural aspect of our society hang in the background. We don’t truly appreciate it, and the people we vote into office rarely even give the arts lip service. So, what can be done by orchestral management to excite the general population? What can be done to build and audience, while developing a financially secure future?

Can you believe that I have some ideas?!! Well, I do and here they are!!

(the problem with having ideas, is that it takes people with the guts and know-how to actually implement them. Risks have to be taken and since most people are willing to let things be…risks are not highly endorsed, but these are desperate times, and DAMMIT, the ISO is worth taking some risks over, don’t you think!!??!!!)

Here are some ideas off the top of my head that the management could do to improve audience attention, community involvement, and give more people more reasons to support the ISO both with their pocketbooks and attendance at concerts.

1. Concert Times/Schedule: Right now there are about 7 different start times for different concert series. Some start at 8pm, some 7pm, others begin at 5:30pm. This is confusing. Besides, a large part of the population that works downtown don’t live downtown. Do you think they want to drive all the way home battling traffic, only to turn around and battle traffic to get back for a concert? No. How about a Friday ‘Rush Hour’ concert that start at 5:30 or 6pm. People would not only hear a great concert, support a great orchestra, but they would miss rush hour traffic.

2. How about some concerts designed to build an audience? Talk to the audience, interact with them. Drop the pretense and traditions and explain what the hell is going on!! Have the audience via Facebook or Twitter ask questions, then answer them on stage! Why does that one violist come out after everyone else? Why does the orchestra stand only when the conductor comes out? What is that the conductor holds and waves around? Basically, make concert attendance less mysterious and more approachable to the uninitiated.

3. Have an integrated Youth Orchestra. I grew up in the St. Louis area and was a proud member of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra (SLSYO). We rehearsed on the same stage, lounged in the same lounge, changed clothes in the same locker room as our mentors in the St. Louis Symphony. The Assistant Conductor was our Music Director. Sometimes Leonard Slatkin would come in and observe and comment! We rehearsed every Saturday and had our own concert series (about 5-6 concerts a year). Talk about audience development!! ALL members  of the SLSYO and families went to the SLSO concerts.

4. The ISO needs a larger Social Media (SM) presence. Yes, they have a Facebook page, and they send out texts, but there is hardly and value attached to the updates. No interesting information, quizzes, contests or anything that make me want to go check it out! A larger SM presence would allow the ISO to directly interact with the general population. How about some videos that show ‘A Day In The Life of an ISO Musician’. They could have cool interactive bios of orchestra members too.

5. OK, how about some innovative programming. More cross genre programming that would cast a wider net to gain a larger audience. Partner with the Eiteljorg Museum, or the IMA, or Dance Kaleidoscope. Think outside the box. Sitting there and playing to a half full house is no fun for anybody!

How about that. In 10 minutes I used my little trombone playing brain and came up with more ideas than the ISO management has come up with in 10 years (that could be a slight exaggeration. I probably thought about this for a few hours). Not every idea would work, but you have to try!

Instead, the organization is losing money and the musicians are now having to pay the price. So let’s call the City! Let’s call the board! Let’s do whatever we can to help save this world-class orchestra!!

…end of rant.

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