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Taking the Pulse of Small Ensemble Music12391GP0|#8056f3bc-89c1-4297-814a-3e71542163be;L0|#08056f3bc-89c1-4297-814a-3e71542163be|Building Audiences for the Arts;GTSet|#a1e8653d-64cb-48e0-8015-b5826f8c5b61<p>​​​​​The field of small ensemble music, ​despite its name, is mighty. It spans a range of genres—including classical, contemporary, jazz and more—performed by small groups of musicians (think&#58; duet, trio, quartet, etc.) with one person per part, typically without a conductor. The musicians in these ensembles often function independently and generally work with fewer resources than those available to larger arts organizations. Still, these small groups have long persisted in the face of adversity, even during the Covid-19 pandemic. For example, <a href="https&#58;//www.westerliesmusic.com/" target="_blank">The Westerlies</a>, a New York-based brass quartet, figured out how to use technology to perform together, in sync, while quarantined in their homes. Similarly, the <a href="http&#58;//hydeparkjazzfestival.org/" target="_blank">Hyde Park Jazz Festival​</a>, kept from its large outdoor stages and intimate indoor clubs on the South Side of Chicago, turned to livestreams and pop-up concerts in driveways, backyards and parks to bring music to Chicagoans where they live.</p><p>Chamber Music America (CMA), a national service organization that represents nearly 4,000 musicians, ensembles, presenting organizations, businesses and affiliates, conducted a series of Wallace-supported surveys to better understand the difficulties the field has faced and the ways in which they have worked to overcome them.&#160;The first survey, launched in <a href="https&#58;//www.chamber-music.org/pdf/CMA_Survey_Summary.pdf" target="_blank">April 2020</a>, came as organizations were shutting down in response to Covid-19. Subsequent surveys in <a href="https&#58;//www.chamber-music.org/pdf/CMA_Survey_Summary_June_2020.pdf" target="_blank">June 2020</a> and <a href="https&#58;//www.chamber-music.org/pdf/SurveySummary-June2021.pdf" target="_blank">June 2021</a> show how small ensembles have adapted as the pandemic drags on. </p><p>We connected with Nichole Knight, CMA’s Director of Operations, over email to help understand what survey results reveal. A transcript of our conversation follows, with minor edits for readability. </p><p> <strong>The Wallace Foundation&#58; What has been the biggest challenge overall that the small&#160;ensemble&#160;music field has faced throughout the Covid-19 pandemic?&#160;&#160;</strong><br> <br> <strong>Nichole Knight&#58; </strong>CMA’s constituency is unique among the performing arts as there are many individual musicians, ensembles and smaller organizations which historically haven’t had the same access to resources as some larger institutions. During the pandemic, we saw that ensembles, in particular, weren’t eligible for the same recovery support that organizations and individuals were. </p><p>One survey respondent wrote, “For us, a small [nonprofit] who never formally laid ourselves off during this time, it meant that we were very limited in the number of artist-specific Covid relief programs we were eligible for.” </p><p>Our data confirm this. Our third survey suggested that over 60 percent of respondent organizations and individuals had received CARES Act funding, while less than 40 percent of respondent ensembles had obtained support. &#160;&#160;<br> <br> But to take a step back, I want to reiterate what I hope we all understand by now&#58; not everyone was affected by this pandemic equally. Some musicians could rely on teaching positions to supplement their income; others could not. Some presenting organizations had the infrastructure and the capacity to pivot to virtual programming, while others had to overcome learning and logistical barriers or could not afford the equipment necessary to do so. And when emergency funding became available to individuals, some members experienced additional barriers due to the lack of the digital tools/technology that were necessary to complete online applications. And [relief] funds were often depleted by the time they could access them. &#160;<br> <br> We also know that those who have been traditionally marginalized—people of color and the economically disadvantaged—got sicker, experienced more loss of life within their families and communities, and will likely take longer to recover than their peers. And so all of the inequities we saw play out on a larger scale also happened within our field. &#160;</p><p> <strong>WF&#58; What surprised you most about the survey results?&#160;&#160;&#160;</strong></p><p> <strong>NK&#58; </strong>I think the surveys told us what we expected to learn, which was that our constituents were having an extremely difficult time. But the results also helped paint a fuller picture of what they were going through and show that they weren’t alone. &#160;<br> <br> That being said, our third survey, which closed mid-May but was published in June, showed that more than half of ensembles and organizations had already begun performing or presenting in-person performances. At that time, depending on the state, vaccines had just recently become available to most adults, and subsequent updates in prevention protocols were changing constantly. So I think that just proves how eager most people were to get out and perform, present and experience live music again, even without assurances of being 100 percent in the clear. <em>[CMA did not ask about vaccination status in its 2021 survey.]</em> </p><p>And while not surprising, per se, something that becomes very clear when looking at the survey results and thinking about the conversations CMA’s staff had with our members and constituents is how interconnected our discipline is. Certainly artists, presenters (and their venues) and audiences were affected by the shutdown. But that impact rippled exponentially to so many others. The livelihoods of artist managers, who have been unable to book work for their clients, and composers, who usually receive royalties when their work is performed, have also been drastically affected. So it’s going to take time for the entire field to recover.&#160;</p><p> <strong>WF&#58; While respondents in June 2021 expressed that they're eager to return to live performances, the survey also found that many plan to continue using virtual programming in some capacity moving forward. What specific advantages does virtual or hybrid programming offer musicians and small ensembles? Does it present any particular challenges as well? &#160;&#160;<br> </strong> <br> <strong>NK&#58; </strong>I think the main benefit is the ability to engage new audiences regardless of their physical or geographic proximity. But there are barriers of cost and technological know-how in undertaking a new model. And even among the respondents who have adopted new technologies, the monetization of these virtual events has not made up for the revenue lost due to cancellations and postponements. &#160;<br> <br>Another challenge musicians face is simply missing the energy of a live audience and the particular intimacy that comes with a small ensemble music performance. We’ve heard from our members time and again that while virtual programming may be great, nothing beats being in the room together. &#160; </p><p> <strong>WF&#58; What are the biggest shifts within the field that you’ve noticed over the course of these three surveys from March 2020 to June 2021?&#160;</strong> </p><p> <strong>NK&#58; </strong>The biggest tangible shift would be the increased use of technology. It was a common topic that members discussed in our virtual convenings, and we even hosted two webinars on it. In our most recent survey, respondents said they used approximately 25 different platforms, such as Zoom, social media platforms, Patreon and Twitch for their online activities (performances, rehearsals, webinars and workshops, private lessons, town halls, etc.). </p><p>In a larger sense, I would say there was a stark difference in attitudes toward the pandemic. Earlier on, respondents expressed more hopelessness. In the most recent survey, while still uncertain about the future, there seemed to be some more positivity and cautious optimism. (I’ll allow for the possibility that those who were feeling more positive were more willing to fill out the survey.) But the third survey was conducted before the current rise of the Delta variant and that is sure to have a strong impact on people and the field. So, it’s hard to be certain about attitudes right now. &#160; </p><p> <strong>WF&#58; Based on what you’ve heard from your constituents through these surveys and otherwise, what do you think are going to be the biggest changes to the field as the pandemic subsides?&#160;</strong> </p><p> <strong>NK&#58; </strong>I have a few thoughts on this. New ticketing models, for one. As I mentioned earlier, according to our surveys, overall, profits made from monetizing virtual events have not replaced in-person revenue. And vendors that maintain social distancing measures will continue to have limited capacity in their spaces. So I think we might see new ticketing models created to help make up for the extreme loss in revenue. &#160;</p><p>I think we will continue to see new tools and technologies or new ways of utilizing old ones to aid in recovery. For instance, I learned from our members about masks created to allow reed and wind players to rehearse and perform while masking up. So I think there is going to be a lot more innovation to accommodate a “new normal.”&#160;</p><p>Also, a lot of this innovation will come from the younger generation. Those who have been in school during this pandemic will have unique takeaways and bring new outlooks to their careers. A <a href="https&#58;//www.chamber-music.org/mag/2021-summer/lessons-learned">recent article</a> in the Summer 2021 issue of <em>Chamber Music </em>highlights the silver linings educators and students have taken away from this past school year. They include everything from sharper listening and rehearsal skills, to adaptability, technological know-how and a renewed sense of commitment to and belief in the discipline. </p><p>And as the field continues to work toward dismantling racial inequity, everyone will have to develop strategies to address the fact that people of color have been and continue to be <a href="https&#58;//www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/health-equity/race-ethnicity.html" target="_blank">disproportionately affected</a> by the pandemic. I’m not sure what that will look like exactly. But the old methods weren’t working even before the pandemic. So, organizations will have to adapt to thrive. &#160;</p>Wallace editorial team792021-09-08T04:00:00ZChamber Music America field surveys reveal innovation and resilience despite the pandemic’s challenges9/8/2021 1:36:54 PMThe Wallace Foundation / News and Media / Wallace Blog / Taking the Pulse of Small Ensemble Music Chamber Music America field surveys reveal innovation and resilience despite the 350https://www.wallacefoundation.org/News-and-Media/Blog/Pages/Forms/AllItems.aspxhtmlFalseaspx
Looking Toward an Alchemy for Arts Organizations Post-COVID26778GP0|#8056f3bc-89c1-4297-814a-3e71542163be;L0|#08056f3bc-89c1-4297-814a-3e71542163be|Building Audiences for the Arts;GTSet|#a1e8653d-64cb-48e0-8015-b5826f8c5b61<p>​​What is a “universal story”? </p><p>While many leaders of nonprofit arts organizations have, out of necessity, made financial stability a priority during the COVID-19 pandemic, some have been driven to explore even more fundamental questions about the stories they choose to tell in their performances, and how to make sure the stories have meaning to their audiences. The goal, ultimately, is to broaden their audience base as well as strengthen their financial bottom line. </p><p>Michael Bateman, managing director of the A Noise Within theater in Pasadena, California, for instance, says he has focused on connecting with and finding relevance with communities beyond the organization’s more traditional audiences in Los Angeles, which had been predominantly white. The organization began by questioning the so-called classic plays they presented from the Western tradition, which touch on what are intended to be universal human themes—the artists ranging from Shakespeare and Dickens to Moliere. Did these plays really touch and move the kinds of diverse audiences the theater wanted to reach, particularly in communities of color? </p><p>To answer that question, the organization found opportunities to hold discussions with artists of color and asked them to define what a new “universal story” might be. They’d begun this effort before the pandemic, but Bateman says it gained new importance as the organization began to rethink its mission and increase its outreach to new communities as the pandemic and national reckoning with racial justice took hold. </p><p>“We know it’s hard for all to feel welcome here,” Bateman says of the traditional plays and other performances and events at the theater. “We want to tell stories where the audiences see themselves. We want to make people feel more welcome. We’re engaging with other artists in our community. What we’ve done is go back to our community and say, ‘What do you need from us now?’”</p><p>Bateman was one of three panelists in <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/reimagining-the-future-of-the-arts-a-webinar-series-from-the-wallace-foundation-session-2.aspx">the second conversation</a> in Wallace’s <em>Reimagining the Future of the Arts</em>&#160;series. The other participants were Zenetta S. Drew, executive director of the Dallas Black Dance Theatre, and Kim Noltemy, president and CEO of the Dallas Symphony Association. Zannie Voss, Ph.D., director of SMU DataArts, one of the country’s leading centers for arts research, moderated the panel. </p><p>Voss is co-author of a recent study for the Wallace Foundation, <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/the-alchemy-of-high-performing-arts-organizations.aspx"><em>The Alchemy of High-Performing Arts Organizations,</em></a> which analyzes the elements that produce financial stability by looking at two groups of high-performing arts organizations, one group that had consistently strong financial track records and a second group that had been in financial distress but recovered. The study summarizes its lengthy analysis this way, “The cornerstones of high performance appear to lie in the alchemy of high standards in the creation of work that is meaningful to the local community.”</p><p>Simply put&#58; high-quality art + community relevance = success. </p><p>In the panel discussion, and in later conversations with the panelists on their efforts to adapt to the current environment, all three emphasized that finding those meaningful community connections was an immediate priority, in the hopes that the results would eventually help them build new business models. Each admitted to a combination of excitement and anxiety.</p><p>Drew of the Dallas Black Dance Theatre describes this as a moment of validation for her organization and the company’s vision. She says it is a time of great challenges but also opportunities that we have waited years to implement. Since 1996, she says, the theater has tried to build a digital audience, previously with little success, due to historical barriers to online expansion. She has leapt at the greater interest in virtual performances now, with theaters closed, both to try and sustain revenue but also to connect with audiences and communities beyond Dallas. </p><p>A starting point, she says, is the role the arts are playing in helping people manage in the pandemic. “As a result of the pandemic, the arts are finding relevancy for our individual and collective work,” Drew says. “Everybody now, novice and professional, has become art makers and are putting things online. Art has been validated in its relevance. Artists are essential workers to our nation’s social, emotional resilience and recovery. It is enriching us. It changes lives. It heals.”</p><p>The theatre has been charging for popular digital events, a model that Drew says she intends to aggressively pursue. She stresses that it’s not just an alternative way to add earned revenue, but a core element in the mission of an arts organization that, she says, has long confronted an array of deep challenges. DBDT has never had the kind of broad and deep donor base that some other arts nonprofits have, making for a precarious and lean structure well before the pandemic. Also, its focus on Black artists and Black audiences has meant the organization encountered resistance from some white members of the community and sponsors, she says. Some had urged the organization in the past to remove the designation as a self-declared “Black” theater from the name, which it has to this day refused, since that is the group’s identity and identifies a core community it serves.</p><p>“I’ve always been working with the pandemic of racism,” Drew says. “That’s been true for us from the beginning. COVID is just another issue on the list of issues we have to deal with, and that’s why we’re ready, we’re resilient, we have ideas. I have the same panorama of problems as everyone else, but we are focusing on the opportunities.”</p><p>Audiences have embraced DBDT’s online events and performances, which are earning revenues and expanding not just in Texas but in surrounding states and even overseas. “I have someone from Australia on every virtual event we do,” she says.</p><p>“I’m trying to lead the industry in thinking outside the box,” Drew says. “We’re not just doing things until we can get people in seats again. We can’t go backwards. We’re building a new paradigm for our existence. This was great news for DBDT.” (To read more about DBDT's digital efforts and vision for the future, read <a href="/news-and-media/blog/pages/can-pandemic-be-catalyst-for-new-global-arts-ecology.aspx">Drew's recent essay​</a> for The Wallace Blog.)<br></p><p>On of Drew’s fans is Kim Noltemy of the Dallas Symphony (the two sit on each other’s boards). She expresses admiration for how successfully the Dallas Black Dance Theatre has utilized virtual performances to earn more revenues and to create a sense of excitement around its events. It is a model, she says, that she is eager to replicate to some degree at the symphony.</p><p>“I think this is going to be a great turning point for the orchestra industry,” she says. “People are becoming accustomed to listening to music online and paying for it. It was such an effort before. People only wanted live music. But we’re changing the paradigm.”</p><p>Offering virtual concerts, about 20 percent of which are free, is a means of developing a more complete digital musical experience. Additionally, they have expanded the symphony’s free outdoor music events, mostly chamber groups, which allow it to reach into new neighborhoods and build relationships with more diverse audiences, particularly in communities of color. In those outdoor events, they have been offering a combination of classical music, pieces such as Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, popular contemporary music, such as music by the film composer John Williams, and jazzy ragtime pieces for a brass chamber group. In previous years, she says, the symphony did from 15 to 20 of those events a year. Performances have increased sharply to about 90 since the pandemic hit, and Noltemy expects they will offer 40 more before the year’s end, hoping that some of those audience members will turn into subscribers.</p><p>“This transformation is permanent, no matter what happens with the pandemic,” she says. “Now, our focus is creating high quality content for the online events and getting better at those productions. That takes experience.”</p><p>Additionally, Noltemy says they will be extending the kind of attention that the symphony has traditionally provided to donors, board members and subscribers to a broader array of audience members and prospective audience members. Once the symphony is offering indoor concerts on a regular basis again, this will include invitations to pre-concert discussions of the programs to post-concert parties attended by some orchestra members. For now, there will be more targeted marketing materials and digital outreach. “That has to be a high priority, like in business,” she says. “We need to use those tools much more than we ever have.”</p><p>Such ramped-up communications and personal outreach can help organizations interact more deeply with the diverse communities they seek to engage with. Some are even creating programs designed to prompt discussion and feedback. Bateman at A Noise Within points to new free online programs&#58; “Noise Now,” started last year, and “Fridays@Five,” which began during the shutdown. Both involve a series of discussions with writers, directors and artists of color talking about their backgrounds and what special insights they may bring to their work in the theater, among other things. </p><p>“We have to dig up that part of our cornerstone and rebuild our foundation,” Bateman says, referring to the organization’s mission and its growing knowledge of what kind of stories might be relevant and meaningful to the different communities around Pasadena. In fact, A Noise Within has just written a new strategic plan with a goal of one day creating a new financial model that includes, among other things, more revenue from online plays and events—something that has come directly from these conversation about community and sustainability. </p> ​<br>James Sterngold 1122020-12-10T05:00:00ZExpert panel says high quality art, community connection plus a strong online presence can help fuel future success in the arts12/10/2020 2:00:24 PMThe Wallace Foundation / News and Media / Wallace Blog / Looking Toward an Alchemy for Arts Organizations Post-COVID Expert panel says high quality art, community connection plus a 506https://www.wallacefoundation.org/News-and-Media/Blog/Pages/Forms/AllItems.aspxhtmlFalseaspx
Experimentation and Refinement a Key to Audience Building in the Arts3968GP0|#8056f3bc-89c1-4297-814a-3e71542163be;L0|#08056f3bc-89c1-4297-814a-3e71542163be|Building Audiences for the Arts;GTSet|#a1e8653d-64cb-48e0-8015-b5826f8c5b61<p>Introducing a recent panel on how to build audiences in the arts, Monique Martin, director of programming at New York’s Harlem Stage stressed the human aspects of arts performances. “I want to acknowledge the importance of community and the desire for our audiences to be part of a community,” she said. “We are in polarizing times and the arts are a refuge for many.” </p><p>But how can organizations help ensure that people seek out that refuge and continue to take advantage of it?</p><p>For the last four years, The Wallace Foundation has been working with 25 performing arts organizations on the <a href="/knowledge-center/building-audiences-for-the-arts/pages/default.aspx">Building Audiences for Sustainability (BAS)</a> initiative to help stem declines in arts audiences. Using data, market research and other tools, BAS organizations take on a process of continuous learning to bring in new audiences, encourage repeat attendance, attract a particular demographic or address any other goal that serves their mission.</p><p>“Continuous learning begins with the premise&#58; we are unlikely to get it right the first time,” Bahia Ramos, Wallace’s director of arts, told the crowd gathered at the panel at The Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP) annual conference. Martin was moderating the panel, which also included Jenny Reik, director of marketing and communications at Cal Performances, Maure Aronson, executive director at Global Arts Live and Andrew Jorgensen, general director at Opera Theatre of Saint Louis (OTSL). All shared stories of risk taking and resilience on the road to building their audiences. &#160;</p><h3><strong>Opera, Food, Millennials…oh my!</strong></h3><p>Opera Theatre of Saint Louis had set out to <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/think-opera-is-not-for-you-opera-theatre-of-saint-louis-says-think-again.aspx">target millennials and Gen-Xers</a>, with a special emphasis on populations of color. The journey began with a period of research, after which the company launched a multifaceted campaign with the goal of expanding OTSL’s visibility throughout St. Louis. With expanded print advertising and digital billboards, the organization hoped that greater visibility would heighten awareness of OTSL and ultimately help sell tickets. Unfortunately, the campaign did not produce tangible results. </p><p>“The campaign taught us that we don’t have the resources necessary to blanket the entire St. Louis region with our brand message year-round,” Jorgensen explained. “More importantly, it underscored that visibility by itself, without meaningful context, is not enough to entice potential audiences to buy tickets and get them into the theater.” </p><p>In revisiting the company’s past experiences with hosting preperformance lawn picnics and other community events, Jorgensen noted that they learned the social component is a key part of the OTSL experience. So the organization implemented “Opera Tastings,” a series of concerts with a diverse group of singers performing a range of popular pieces from the history of opera at restaurants and other venues across the St. Louis region. Local chefs pair food and drink to the music, and tickets are $25. In the first year, nearly 50 percent of new attendees at Opera Tastings ended up buying a ticket to the company’s festival season.</p><p>Although they were successful, Jorgensen said, Opera Tastings were also expensive. “They did not produce enough revenue to support themselves without philanthropic backing,” he explained. When asked how the organization plans to move forward, he noted, “It’s a question we are struggling with. As passionate arts presenters, we have a desire to always be adding programming and reaching more people. Opera Tastings is only four years old, and it’s hard to imagine letting go of it.” </p><p>This spring OTSL will host a modified version of Opera Tastings with fewer events, larger audiences and a slightly higher price point, as they continue to learn how to better reflect the demographics of key audiences. For example, African Americans comprise the largest non-white group in St. Louis, so the organization will continue its commitment to present work that they’ve learned might appeal to African American audiences. “Representation matters” Jorgensen said. </p><h3><strong>A Music Festival Grows in Boston</strong></h3><p>Global Arts Live (formerly World Music/CRASHarts) learned a similar lesson about programming when it began its <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/world-music-crasharts-tests-new-format-new-name-to-draw-new-audiences.aspx">effort to expand audiences</a> with extensive market research. The research suggested that the organization's name was too hard to remember and its brand could be more clear and consistent. So the organization rebranded, revealing <a href="/News-and-Media/Blog/pages/new-name-new-look-to-draw-a-new-generation-of-fans.aspx">its new name, Global Arts Live</a>, in May 2019.</p><p>Research also suggested that the organization’s current audience was growing older. This led Aronson and his team to start programming events for a younger audience, specifically in the 21-40 age range. “We thought that changing our marketing and adding small, secondary events, such as meetups, classes and talks, would reengage the younger audience by creating a sense of community,” he said. “But we learned that experimenting with on-mission programming was far more effective.” </p><p>Global Arts Live started producing 10 to 15 targeted concerts per year in “millennial-friendly clubs,” which were incredibly successful. These target concerts attracted between 7,000 and 10,000 attendees, which was a big jump from the 500 attendees that the less-successful secondary events attracted. Aronson and his team also developed CRASHfest, a global festival offering a vibrant and social atmosphere. This idea stemmed from focus groups the company executed during its market research phase. The festival, targeted toward millennials, showcased different types of performances in the same place. “We found that expanding artistic programming worked in parallel with CRASHfest, not only as a reengagement tool, but also as an audience building tool,” Aronson said. “The two strategies worked together to create multiple points of frequency.”</p><p>The first CRASHfest event took place at the House of Blues in Boston in 2016. Fifteen-hundred people attended, meeting the organization’s goal and grossing $38,000. Sixty-one percent of the audience was new to the organization, and 56 percent of the new audience was under the age of 40. “It’s nice to see it being multigenerational--reaching new audiences but keeping our old audience happy as well,” Aronson said. “You’re still finding a fair amount of people over the age of 40 coming to these events, which is important because we’d be in trouble if we lost our old audience.” </p><p>One surprising finding, according to Aronson, was that millennials didn’t mind being in an intergenerational audience. The two other organizations on the panel agreed that they had also made presumptions about their target audience that proved untrue. </p><h3><strong>Students Take the Reins</strong></h3><p>Reik noted that through her team’s efforts at Cal Performances to reach a younger audience, they too learned that millennials had more things in common with their older audiences than they would have expected. “Many of us had preconceived ideas of what a millennial generation would need. Some of what we found was that younger audiences liked the same things that the older audiences did—they actually like our core programming,” Reik said. “The other really interesting thing is that the current audience actually liked the really edgy stuff.” </p><p>During the first year of the BAS initiative, Cal Performances tested multiple approaches to target the 18- to 22-year-old student demographic on the UC Berkeley campus. “One of our most illuminating failures came in that very first year, and it is important to start with because our successful programming evolved as a result of that,” Reik shared. </p><p>Cal Performances had implemented a program called Citizen Dance to give students access to the organization’s resources and stage. Staff saw this as an opportunity for the many student-led dance crews to create large-scale work in cooperation with emerging choreographers. But participation was much lower than expected. “We learned quickly that students wanted to be in charge of their own program delivery, and they saw Citizen Dance as competing for their time and attention. It wasn’t enhancing their own experience,” Reik explained.</p><p>The difficulties they experienced launching Citizen Dance led Cal Performances to significantly strengthen student ownership of events. The organization attracted a close-knit group of students who were involved in every decision regarding the genesis, production, artists, programming, marketing and more. The organization then launched Front Row, an event curated by the students themselves. “We taught students how to be presenters themselves—they received all of the credit,” Reik said. The results were quite different from Citizen Dance—more than 45,000 students attended Front Row, many for the first time. </p><p>While building this community of students, the staff at Cal Performances also learned that price matters greatly to this audience. As a result, the organization implemented Flex Pass, which offered students four tickets for $40 to Cal Performances’ main stage events. Reik said Flex Pass was a great success in its first two years. In year three of the programming, the organization increased the price of Flex Pass in an attempt to “move the needle upward” against the investment costs of making seats available at discounted prices. “We found that even a five dollar increase had a fairly significant impact on sales,” said Reik. </p><h3><strong>Risks and Rewards</strong></h3><p>The three leaders agreed that risk taking and experimenting with new strategies and tactics, such as those described, was vital to better connect with their audiences. While they may have tried different methods and experienced different challenges along the way, they agreed that all departments must be involved in the audience-building work from the beginning for it to succeed. “When different departments work together from the beginning—when the structure and whole concept is built from that foundation—you can move quicker to execution and success,” Reik explained. </p><p>“You have to be all in&#58; the staff, the board, to succeed or to fail in this project,” Aronson added. “We see the future as optimistic. The work is continuous; it’s incremental, and you have to have a vision in the organization to implement your learnings.”&#160; </p><p><em>Learn more about the arts organizations who were on the panel&#58;</em><br> <a href="https&#58;//calperformances.org/">Cal Performances</a> is a performing arts presenting, commissioning and producing organization based at the University of California, Berkeley. &#160;</p><p><a href="https&#58;//www.globalartslive.org/">Global Arts Live</a> brings international music, contemporary dance and jazz from around the world to stages across Greater Boston. </p><p><a href="https&#58;//www.opera-stl.org/">Opera Theatre of Saint Louis</a> is known for its short annual festival season in late May and June, and for its commitment to commissioning new operas and developing emerging talent. </p><p><a href="https&#58;//www.harlemstage.org/">Harlem Stage</a> provides opportunity and support for artists of color, makes performances easily accessible to all audiences and introduces children to the rich diversity and inspiration of the performing arts. </p><p>To learn more about Wallace’s building audiences work, visit our <a href="/knowledge-center/building-audiences-for-the-arts/pages/default.aspx">knowledge center</a>.</p>Jenna Doleh912020-02-11T05:00:00ZYour source for research and ideas to expand high quality learning and enrichment opportunities. Supporting: School Leadership, After School, Summer and Extended Learning Time, Arts Education and Building Audiences for the Arts.2/13/2020 5:37:34 PMThe Wallace Foundation / News and Media / Wallace Blog / Experimentation and Refinement a Key to Audience Building in the Arts Arts leaders on panel say data, market research and 634https://www.wallacefoundation.org/News-and-Media/Blog/Pages/Forms/AllItems.aspxhtmlFalseaspx
How Can Opera Draw Younger and More Diverse Crowds?3322GP0|#8056f3bc-89c1-4297-814a-3e71542163be;L0|#08056f3bc-89c1-4297-814a-3e71542163be|Building Audiences for the Arts;GTSet|#a1e8653d-64cb-48e0-8015-b5826f8c5b61 <p>When tenor Joshua Blue gets together with friends, they sometimes kick around the same question nagging opera companies and other performing arts presenters everywhere&#58; how to draw younger, more diverse audiences to the art form they love. They have a few ideas, including a radical one that would test their own powers of concentration. &#160;</p><p>But let’s back up and meet Blue. The 24-year-old rising star, who this season is singing Alfredo Germont in “La Traviata” and as a soloist in “A Concert of Comic Masterpieces,” among other roles, at the Washington National Opera, precociously signaled his own interest in music at age 3, when he started plunking on the piano in his home after watching his sister practice. His mother decided to get him lessons, too. Once he was in school, a friend convinced him to join a choir group—both of his parents sang in choirs—and then “a teacher had me get exposed to every kind of vocal group there was.” He attended Waubonsie Valley High School, his local public school in Aurora, Il., which happens to have a Grammy Award-winning music program. On a choir group trip to Australia, Blue saw his first opera (“La Traviata”). Soon thereafter—as he was going into his senior year in high school—he decided that he wanted to be a professional opera singer.</p><p>But to state the obvious, “Historically, classical music wasn’t something that black families had access to,” Blue notes, and therefore they couldn’t teach their children about it. In the past, schools might have filled the gap, but nowadays, given the cuts in arts education funding, most kids just aren’t exposed to opera at all—unless, of course, opera companies take on the task. </p><p>If opera is to flourish, Blue says that opera companies must do that. He believes that they should go into schools, churches, community centers and the local YMCA, perhaps offering free one-hour sessions&#58; “Instead of asking them to come to the opera, you have to take it to them in their own comfort zones.” He cites the Opera on the Go program of the Opera Theatre of Saint Louis (OTSL), “where the performers are in jeans and polos,” as a good example. </p><p>OTSL, which receives funds from the Wallace Foundation through its Building Audiences for Sustainability initiative, <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/think-opera-is-not-for-you-opera-theatre-of-saint-louis-says-think-again.aspx">also offers a program called Opera Tastings, </a> where Blue has performed. At these events, which Blue lauds as a “low-pressure” way to introduce opera to those who are unfamiliar with it, people listen to live opera excerpts while they sample food and drink that is paired with the performances. </p><p>But even with such efforts, Blue says you can’t expect people to buy tickets right away. “If they’ve never gone, they don’t know if they are supposed to wear a suit, or buy a bottle of champagne, or what else to expect,” he says. And if they’ve seen only a one-hour concert version of “The Barber of Seville,” say, they are not going to buy $200 tickets to a full-blown production of it even if they loved it, he adds. Blue recommends offering lower-price tickets for initial purchasers. </p><p>Then Blue turns to that revolutionary idea&#58; he thinks opera companies could offer one show per season that is “family-friendly.” People could bring their babies and children and be given the message&#58; “We don’t care if they make noise, we’ll keep doing the presentation—we are taught to act with absolutely anything happening.” Blue says he knows people who cannot attend because they can’t get, or afford, a baby-sitter and they know their children will not keep quiet during a performance. This idea would address that issue for them. Wallace’s research over the last few decades has both documented that <a href="/News-and-Media/Blog/pages/breaking-the-practical-barriers-of-arts-participation.aspx?_ga=2.255114048.971312321.1546880470-1057583374.1513009179">such “practical barriers”</a> may factor into the considerations of many who might attend an arts event and discovered what some organizations are doing about it.</p><p>Blue also sees language as a problem for many would-be attendees. Sub- or super-titles simply do not solve the problem for some people who don’t like switching back and forth from the action to the words, he says. He wishes more companies performed in English, though he realizes that would annoy traditional opera-goers. </p><p>Blue also thinks that some opera companies are wrongly fiddling with programming to attract more diverse audiences&#58; “They think, if we do ‘Porgy &amp; Bess,’ we’ll get African-Americans.” And maybe they will—but he believes that the better way is to aim for diversity in casting. “You don’t need to do ‘Porgy &amp; Bess’ to see more blacks in the audience; you should just hire a more diverse group of people for roles.”</p><p>“In a perfect world,” he adds, “you want your performers to reflect your audience; you want them to be just as diverse in age and gender and race as we are on stage.” This is necessary, he believes, because “people want to go and support people that remind you of yourself. That makes it easier to put yourself into the story, to make the emotional connection.” </p><p>“It is beginning to happen,” Blue says. “Opera will look completely different in 20 years. As shows and casts become more diverse you’ll see audiences follow suit. We are starting to see it. Diversity is a key factor in keeping opera alive.”</p> To see how other arts organizations are working to build and retain audiences, visit our <a href="/knowledge-center/pages/the-building-audiences-for-sustainability-stories-project.aspx">Building Audiences for Sustainability Stories page</a>. Judith H. Dobrzynski892019-01-08T05:00:00ZOne young tenor has some ideas to make the art form more accessible to new audiences1/16/2019 9:42:39 PMThe Wallace Foundation / News and Media / Wallace Blog / How Can Opera Draw Younger and More Diverse Crowds One young tenor has some ideas to make the art form more accessible to 1498https://www.wallacefoundation.org/News-and-Media/Blog/Pages/Forms/AllItems.aspxhtmlFalseaspx

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