Accidental Orchestra, Intentional Audience

The other day I happened to catch an episode of the public radio program, Performance Today, a Classical Music show which highlights and rebroadcasts live performances around the country.  They reported on an unusual “flash mob” performance done by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.  The impact of this performance on the musicians and the audience was very instructive to me as I search for my audience.

 

Martha Kaplan, a violinist in the ensemble, stood up before a Carnegie Hall audience to tell them about the orchestra’s six-hour layover at the O’Hare Airport.  She said that the musicians decided that they would like to play, so they pulled out their instruments and gave those around them an impromptu performance of Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings.  Ms. Kaplan describes in detail the effect of that performance.

 

“I have to tell you, it was one of the most meaningful performances I have ever given because we don’t usually get to see the audience.  We had people standing this close to us holding our music for us!  And when the performance was over with, people were taking pictures, they were calling their friends on the phone, there was so much joy and a lot of very touched people, including myself.”

 

Of course, any flash mob is a fun event because it’s unexpected.  Also, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra is fantastic, so you know the performance was extraordinary.  But let’s examine some of the details that made this particular Serenade so successful.

 

      1)    The orchestra was providing a joyful experience to an audience that really needed one at that moment.

 

      2)     The audience was able to become a part of the performance by assisting the orchestra.

 

      3)     The audience could instantly share their delight with others who were not there.

 

 

Obviously I would love for those who manage and work in our orchestras to learn from this happening to better connect with their audience.  Actually, I think the lessons here apply to anyone who creates a product that they share with an audience, be they performers, authors or artists.  Let’s ask the questions:

 

      1)      Is the product or experience you are creating reaching the audience that needs it the most, at the time they need it the most?

 

      2)      Have you made it possible for your audience to reach you with their response or assistance?

 

      3)      Is it possible for your audience to share what it loves about your work with others easily while they are thinking about it?

 

While technology has changed the way we listen to music, read books, and communicate to one another, I am struck by the fact that these principles were the same 100 years ago!  Read about Charles Dickens and his rise to fame and you’ll discover that he kept these principles firmly in mind.  What has changed are the methods with which we make these things happen.

 

No, we can’t become famous the way Dickens did, nor can we have orchestras become successful the way they did under Gustav Mahler’s baton.  If we try, we’ll find ourselves doing the equivalent of trying to fix a computer with a hammer and a nail.  Can you share what kinds of things are working for you now that empower your audience and bring you closer together?

 

To hear Ms. Kaplan’s account in her own words, please click here.

2 comments

  • Darcy Hamlin

    Darcy Hamlin

    This is *such* a spot-on post. The Milwaukee Symphony did a flash mob at the art museum, and it was a pretty big success (it's on YouTube; we did Bolero at the Art Museum). It was by no means spontaneous on our part; it was meticulously timed and we rehearsed it all beforehand, but it gave the impression of spontaneity, which was the point. Clearly classical music organizations need to become more engaged in their communities. The trick is *how* to do it. How do you solicit your audience's feedback, and how do you need them to help, other than by having them come to your concerts? Excellent, excellent questions.

    This is *such* a spot-on post. The Milwaukee Symphony did a flash mob at the art museum, and it was a pretty big success (it's on YouTube; we did Bolero at the Art Museum). It was by no means spontaneous on our part; it was meticulously timed and we rehearsed it all beforehand, but it gave the impression of spontaneity, which was the point. Clearly classical music organizations need to become more engaged in their communities. The trick is *how* to do it. How do you solicit your audience's feedback, and how do you need them to help, other than by having them come to your concerts? Excellent, excellent questions.

  • Adam

    Adam

    Great, Darcy! I love to hear that the excellent Milwaukee Symphony is looking at new and different ways to find and nurture its audience! I've done a little consulting work with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, brainstorming with them on the education side, and they're also coming up with exciting ways to reach people they want to serve.

    Great, Darcy! I love to hear that the excellent Milwaukee Symphony is looking at new and different ways to find and nurture its audience! I've done a little consulting work with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, brainstorming with them on the education side, and they're also coming up with exciting ways to reach people they want to serve.

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