Is personal connection > artistic quality?

October 2, 2011 § 1 Comment

http://www.artsjournal.com/engage/2011/10/quality-and-community/

This guy has some pretty compelling thoughts on the problem of "high art" getting to be so high that it’s irrelevant (and consequently of no interest) to the public. The importance of audience members feeling a personal connection with the professional artists is huge! I noticed this while doing data entry for hundreds of mailed in patron surveys last year in my CSO marketing internship. While the data entry was boring at times, I did enjoy reading through patrons’ free response portions of the surveys. When asked about which, if any, concert enhancements they liked, the overwhelming majority of patrons really like the "Prelude" videos shown before concerts. These videos include snippets of interviews with the musicians about either the program or the guest artist for that evening’s concert. They provide some relevancy for patrons, and a glimpse of the musicians’ personalities. While these videos are great, I also noticed that many of the same patrons who said they enjoyed the "Prelude" videos wished that these musicians would simply say a little something live from the stage. The audience craves that personal connection, the real thing, a real person talking in real time.

The author touches on issues of quality and how it may be impacted by community outreach. Perhaps quality does take a hit when resources are redirected toward community outreach, but what’s the point of a world-class orchestra if it performs for an empty hall? Wouldn’t it be better to have a really good orchestra, which may consist of moderately paid fresh young talent alongside better-but-still-moderately paid old-timer musicians, playing for a full house (made possible by more accessible pricing….made possible by a less strapped annual budget…….made possible by less outrageous musician salaries)? Or maybe we can have the best of both worlds, a world-class orchestra playing for a packed house. This makes sense, that people would want to hear world-class musicians. But the people first have to know that these musicians are great, and today’s consumers are too savvy to simply take an email-blast’s word for it. People want to know for themselves, through a personal connection. This is where musicians must roll their sleeves up and go out into the community to introduce themselves, be charming, and show people what their orchestra’s all about.

I know I’m preaching to the choir here. I continue to wonder how to bridge the gap between world-class artists and contracting their community-outreach. Perhaps if we all keep preaching, we’ll figure out a way to convince the more stubborn orchestras of the long-term merit of such extra work.

-Anna

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§ One Response to Is personal connection > artistic quality?

  • Helene says:

    Anna, I really enjoyed reading this article – well put! This is definitely a topic I feel strongly about, as you can tell from my first post. Last night I had an incredibly interesting conversation on this exact topic with a young orchestral musician. By the end, this person not only understood where I was coming from on this topic, but even agreed how important it was. They acknowledged that coming out to meet the audience halfway/reaching out to the community was something they had not realy thought about in that way.

    Maybe what we need is to have more conversations like this – not just among ourselves, but administrators and musicians together!

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