For many years now the performing arts world has been confronting a troubling trend: the traditional largely Caucasian, aging, affluent audience on which symphony orchestra, concert series, theatre and opera companies have depended for a substantial portion of their ticket sales and subscription income has been steadily eroding while new, younger, fixed income, multi-ethnic audiences have yet to take the place of the older, mostly White, well-heeled one.
Statistics from a number of sources show alarming trends: the non-Caucasian segment of the population is increasing year after year and yet African-American, Hispanic and Latino audiences are not augmenting the ranks of performing arts attendees. Not only subscribers but single-ticket buyers to arts organizations continue to decline in numbers.
In an effort to address the problem, arts organizations large and small are proactively tackling the problem. Here’s what the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra is up to in trying to remedy the problem.
Launched in 2019, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s CSO Proof series is an incubator for innovative concert formats.
Designed to challenge the constructs of a traditional orchestra performance, every element is up for grabs. Programs are envisioned by a variety of artistic collaborators often employing elements of theater, dance, and technology that add new dimensions of color and texture to the concert experience.
The first CSO Proof of the 2021-22 season is Anna Meredith’s ANNO, a reimagining of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, utilizing 8.1 surround audio and immersive video to create a fresh, hour-long experience of the Baroque masterpiece for string orchestra and electronics.
The second CSO Proof is Black Being¸ a co-commission from Flutronix based on a poem by Jaki Shelton Green that explores the African American female experience through the themes of fear, sacrifice, beauty, survival and strength. Composers/performers Nathalie Joachim and Allison Loggins-Hull will create an immersive, evening-length staged performance intended to provide a lens into black cultural realities and human conditions.
SPECIAL PROJECTS OF THE CSO
For more than two decades, Classical Roots has been a Cincinnati community staple, and what started as a small concert series in 2001 has grown into a diverse community of music lovers, united in celebration of the rich legacy of African American music and the African American experience.
The Community Mass Choir, led by Resident Conductor William Henry Caldwell, and made up of 150 singers from more than 50 churches will perform in concerts throughout the year.
On April 22, 2022, Pops Conductor John Morris Russell will conduct the Orchestra’s annual Classical Roots concert at Music Hall.
DIGITALLY STREAMED CONCERTS
During the pandemic, the Orchestra stayed connected to audiences through investing in its digital capacity, producing and live streaming more than a dozen CSO and Pops concerts as well as educational content for the learning environment.
Virtual audience attendance exceeded the capacity the Orchestra would have been able to reach in-person at Music Hall for the same time period.
Building upon that success and furthering its commitment to serve as a resource and be accessible to the widest possible audience, the Orchestra will continue to produce and stream a regular cadence of digital content and concert broadcasts in the 2021/22 season.
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT AND LEARNING
Multicultural Awareness Council
Music Innovator William Menefield’s residency will continue into next season, and the CSO will collaborate with him to present a program of his original compositions in fall 2021
Young Peoples’ Concerts will be provided digitally in fall 2021 and will return to Music Hall in 2022.
Lollipops Family Concerts, introducing children ages 2-9 to the world of orchestral music with fun, interactive performances, will be presented digitally in the fall and will return to Music Hall in March 2022, with programs to be announced.
Each and every one of these initiatives are a good example of how to right what’s wrong without throwing out the Beethoven/Brahms baby with the bathwater.
Rafael de Acha ALL ABOUT THE ARTS