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New Ways

img  Tobias

Maybe we should all relax just a little bit. It seems as though the phrase "Crisis of Classical Music" has penetrated our mindsets so deeply that noone questions it anymore. If you take a closer look, then possibly it is only a crisis of the recording industry and Symphony Orchestras. And then again, maybe the latter can deal with the challenges of the future, if managed by sensible and pragmatic people.

People like Carla Johnson. When she took over the position of executive director of the Virginia Symphony in 2004, there were problems abound: A financial burdon of somewhere between $1 and 2 Million, dwindling attendance records and a rigid program that lacked fascination. Many believed a miracle would be necessary to get things back on track, but her actions to rescue one of finest orchestras in the country were not a magic trick. Instead, she and her team have been prioritising reducing debts to allow for breathing space as well as looking closely to what kept people from coming to the shows. One of the easy and smart things she came up with was a pocket performance calendar, which also gave newbies useful hints as to what to wear and "when to clap". And a questionnaire that was sent out to 100.000 residents provided information on what they liked and disliked. With this in mind, she has carefully chosen the new season's performances. Instead of leaving the Classical program untouched and concentrating on the integration of "New Music", there is a clear vision: Give the people the Classics they love (the "Four Seasons", Beethoven's Ninth), but let them be played by exciting new artists such as Lara St. John. Arrange for special events, such as Mozart-specials, "Coffee-Concerts" and "Symphony Night Live" (aimed at Young Music fans). Give the core-crowd something special, such as Mozart's arangement of Händel's "Messiah". Bring in a few Pop-Stars. And, finally, offer cheaper tickets to allow for almost everyone to attend. It's both a popular and positiv approach.

First signs are positive: Tickets are selling and the budget is balanced again. Johnsons plan may not please those who would like a more experimental program. But it is making Classical Music special again, presenting music on the highest artistic level and is still leaving all future options open. Everyone, critics included, should just relax a bit.

Homepage: Virginia Symphony
Source: Daily Press
Source: Inside Business

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