Live Blog: A behind-the-scenes conversation with The Cleveland Orchestra

What follows is a live blog from our behind-the-scenes conversation with leaders of The Cleveland Orchestra.

Participants include:

  • Gary Hanson, Executive Director of The Cleveland Orchestra
  • Gary Ginstling, General Manager
  • Joshua Smith, Principal Flute
  • Dennis LaBarre, President of the Musical Arts Association, governing body of The Cleveland Orchestra

5:24pm Hanson: Word-of-mouth has always been the best way to get people in the hall. The dearth of formal music criticism in newspapers has not created a huge void.

5:21pm LaBarre: The long-term commitment from conductor Franz Welser-Möst is the bedrock of the whole situation. He has been remarkably receptive to community programs. He wants to be involved.

5:13pm Smith: Culture is changing to a more open-minded, pragmatic way of thinking about things.

5:12pm LaBarre: As president the past three years, he’s focused on three things: 1) maintaining top artistic quality, 2) ensuring the long-term financial stability of the orchestra, and 3) strengthening “the fabric of the institution” – the three groups musicians, board, management becoming much more unified. A sense of… We are in it together, we know each other.

5:11pm Hanson: The trade agreement with the musicians traditionally has been more flexible than at other organizations. But orchestras are ocean liners, they don’t turn easily.

5:07pm How important is the “newness” of a program like Fridays@7? Hanson: Perhaps Fridays@7 becomes its own tradition. Develops its own audience.

5:04pm Ginstling: Regularly during Fridays@7 concerts, people applaud between movements. It feels like a different audience. (Fridays@7 is a one hour concert, followed by “well-curated” music — not classical — elsewhere in the hall.)

4:59pm Ginstling: To get over “geographic” barriers – the idea is to residencies within Cleveland. To immerse a neighborhood in all things TCO for a short period of time. LaBarre: With the goal to bring them back to Severance Hall.

4:56pm How do you track whether this is working? Hanson: The great thing, as a retail business, is you can see who’s coming and who’s in the hall. You can get a sense just from being there. But you can do much more with technology. You only really know it’s working over time. You have to look at it over time.

4:55pm When fully funded, TCO will offer free tickets to all kids under 18 in Severance Hall.

4:53pm Ginstling: It’s a pendulum. Sometimes people want to be involved, be a part of it, and at other times people want to enjoy the mystery. It will go back and forth. What will always move people is the experience of listening to this music.

4:51pm Hanson: Tweeting during concerts is not a terrible idea. At Blossom (summer music fest), people are already doing it, all the time. People tweet out on the lawn. Ten years from now, people will be taking video on their iphones and posting. The Grateful Dead became who they are through bootleg recordings and the community that sprung up from that. It will happen eventually.

4:46pm Hanson: The future of symphony orchestras will be more interactive. Unclear how we’ll get there, but that’s where we’re headed.

4:45pm Smith: My outreach is focused on people my age and older. The connection to a community, whatever age it is, or whether it’s based in schools or not, the great part of it is that we’re building relationships. The person who knows me and knows something about me, enjoys the concert more.

4:42pm Once you get the new people in, using these new initiatives, how do these people become life-long audiences that support the organization? Hanson: They have to fall in love. If you want them to fall in love, you have to play great concerts. LaBarre: They have to fall in love with music. Which is why outreach in schools with TCO musicians is so important.

4:31pm Audience barriers are economic, geographic and cultural. Hanson: If people are going to try out a performance, you have more of a chance of hooking them if price is not a barrier. The TCO is trying to get young people to concerts at very low prices. The big goal: by 2018, the youngest orchestral audience in the country. What actually moves the dial? A number of small programs. Keep trying things until you find what works.

4:26pm Hanson: Most top tier orchestras have more opportunity to grow at home than we do.

4:20pm LaBarre: The orchestra has needed to make sure that Cleveland knows they are still The Cleveland Orchestra. Cleveland the city has changed a lot. It’s reputation still depends on a lot on its great cultural institutions.

4:17pm Hanson: There is an element of supply and demand. In Miami, there is scarcity of TCO. In Cleveland, you might argue there is more supply than demand. The scarcity creates the buzz.

4:16pm Ginstling: Community interaction has to be genuine. In Miami, we are coming from the outside, it’s almost like the bar is set a bit higher. So we have to think about it carefully and almost work harder to get the same results.

4:12pm Why can’t experimentation happen in Cleveland? Why Miami? Hanson: we had to quickly make our mark in Miami. TCO quickly learned that the best way to embrace the community is to through institutional partnerships. The path to greater relevancy is best traveled with others, in partnerships. This was brought back to Cleveland. In Miami, TCO had to innovate and move quickly.

4:06pm Smith: At first, it was a curiosity and you can’t argue with spending a few weeks of the Cleveland winter in Miami. Board and community in Miami is very inventive. The city embraces experimentation. What if we play in high schools? What if we have Franz Welser-Möst conduct in a high school gym? Musicians also pitched ideas.

4:04pm Hanson: Now 20% of revenue comes from outside Cleveland.

4:03pm LaBarre: The antecedents to the Miami residency is that TCO is in the smallest market of all the great orchestras in the US. Also – residencies are more artistically rewarding, more efficient, and frankly speaking… more profitable

4pm Cleveland Orchestra Miami – a four week residency in 2012-13. It has a separate board and staff. Hanson: An institution has to pursue growth. TCO is pursuing growth in many places, but this project might be the largest. Miami residency is more than concerts. To be successful you need people on the ground to make it happen. To get the community involvement.

3:45pm Panelists are arriving at The Green Room here at Davies Symphony Hall.

No Comments

No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.