1. What is the most significant change you’ve seen in your industry over the last year?
My industry changes slowly. The core of what we do is steeped in revered tradition. Nevertheless, we are constantly looking for ways to find cultural resonance—to address the needs of our community in ways that are unique to us. By far, the most significant development for orchestras in general has been the use of technology and social media - marrying a digital world with an analogue product.
2. Name the top three elements or practices that have been absolutely critical in the success of your business?
- Quality: No compromises on excellence. We make sure we present top-notch talent, rehearsed impeccably. Brilliant musicians, and timeless music make our performances memorable, inspired, and compelling.
- Listening. Listening is fundamental to my job. But it does not stop when I step off the podium. We may present glorious performances, but without an engaged audience, it would not matter. Listening to our ACO family, on both sides of the proscenium, is vital to our health and growth by finding ways to address our patrons’ desires while staying the course of our mission.
- Loyalty: On a personal level, I feel a deep loyalty to the masterpieces I spend every day with and an equally strong devotion to our supporters, our musicians, and our staff. Fostering that same loyalty from our community, our ticket-buyers, donors, board, and musicians, to both our institution and the art we make, helps ensure a sustainable growth curve.
3. What are things you’d like to change about your industry now? Your organization or business?
I would love to see a cultural shift that places greater value on the consumption of live, local performing arts. As a 501(c)(3) organization, we are not in the business of making money. Orchestras across the country celebrate if they can generate 40% of revenue from ticket sales. Most of the time, it is far less—around 25% to 35%. The remainder of revenue has to be raised. It sure would be nice to have a model that came closer to paying for itself as it would free up time and energy from fundraising and grant writing which could then be spent on advancing our mission more aggressively. That can happen when we decide, as a culture, that what we do is worth paying a premium for.
4. What’s your superpower?
I hear really well. I guess I am in the right business.
5. What will you base your success on for 2018?
We are always looking for ways to increase our reach, and attract new and diverse audiences to our performances. Broadening our base not only helps us enact and advance our mission, but helps ensure our financial health into the future.
6. How is social media impacting your industry or business this year? What’s in store for 2018?
We are actively pursuing ways in which we can leverage a social media presence to generate sales. But even more importantly, we are pursuing ways that social media can help us foster a more engaged and informed audience base. By using platforms like Facebook and Instagram, we can demystify the mysterious, and illuminate the obscure—making our audience and potential audience more comfortable and engaged. A thoughtful social media presence can help us broaden both our physical reach, and our intellectual one.
7. How are you using technology to improve your business?
I love this question. Though we are using social media to promote and inform, and we use all manner of technology to conduct day-to-day business, our core product—our performances—are deliberately, and gorgeously, low-tech. We play without amplification on instruments that are human powered—many of which are centuries old. It is that analog experience that is so special—it is truly handmade. That said, we are constantly asking ourselves how we might use technology to enhance the concert experience without supplanting its analog nature.
8. How do you find inspiration in today’s business climate?
The joy of making art is that it is its own inspiration. Playing the music of these great masters like Beethoven or Brahms—or discovering the brilliance of a young composer—is humbling, motivating and genuinely inspiring.