A Holistic Approach

When things are going well for an arts organisation, it seems effortless. Every aspect of the organisation appears to offer positive support. Happily, Orchestra Wellington is in this very privileged position. A recent review of our final concert pointed to our close relationship with our public as the reason for our success, but I’m going to suggest a more elemental reason.

Everything we do comes out of our programming. As an orchestra, it makes sense that our total focus should be on the art, but where our approach perhaps differs from other organisations, is that everything we do grows out of the initial choices we make.

As a Music Director, I always am thinking about curating a selection of works that will attract the interest of the public. For me, a concert or a season must hang together, and have a sense of purpose. Putting together a season with a clear point of view also makes marketing incredibly effective, because the process is musically driven, rather than driven by marketing decisions.

One might think that devising a program is straightforward, but in the case of OW (and the Vallejo Symphony!), it is anything but! 

Aspects of consideration include (but are not limited to)…

Audience appeal (maintaining trust)

Specific themes – telling a story through musical links

Artistic growth – the continual rise in orchestral standard

Contribution to the dialogue of the art form (Commissions, Contemporary Composition)

Contractual obligations to Resident Artists (Composers in Residence, Assistant Conductor, etc)

Broadening of the repertoire – a commitment to works less well-known 

Recent performances

Competition in the marketplace – having a point of difference

Casual (extra) musician availability

Budgetary constraints

Soloist choices

Soloist availability

Library considerations

Venue constraints

Health and safety issues

Grant availability, and success

Instrument constraints (i.e., does the hall have an organ, can we find a specific specialty instrument, etc)

Marketing hooks and considerations

While a number of these considerations tend to go hand in hand (especially when one devises a programme with a clear sense of purpose), each and every one of these considerations must be carefully weighed. Each and every one of these considerations have a limiting effect on how a season can be formulated, but when one works through these limitations, I believe the results are that much more attractive to an audience. It seems to be working because already, last season’s all-time high subscription numbers have been surpassed this year, with a few more months left in the subscription campaign!

The ultimate reason orchestras exist is because of the music.  Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING grows out of this. I think of it as a holistic approach – if every aspect of running an orchestra keeps this central tenet as the motivating factor, the whole organisation will benefit. With such a focus, clarity of purpose is bound to follow, with the resultant effect of intelligibility, attractiveness, and ultimately the earned trust of the public.