From the President - May 2011
As I write this, the St. Louis Symphony is nearing the close of its 2010-11 Season. There have been many successes, from a wonderful opening weekend with Joshua Bell and a spectacular gala with Renée Fleming (our second “annual” gala), to exciting Live at Powell Hall presentations including the St. Louis Symphony January collaboration with Circus Flora—a partnership that resulted in a uniquely designed show, The Floating Palace, an unprecedented event at Powell Hall. In addition, the first of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, complete with live orchestral and choral accompaniment, played to three sold-out houses. In the 2010-11 Season, we have diversified and expanded our programming to keep it vibrant and exciting, and to build new audiences. We are working to ensure that the trend of increased attendance and ticket sales over the last two years continues. At the core of all of this are the extraordinary musicians of the St. Louis Symphony who never cease to amaze audiences week after week.
Summer @ the Symphony
Although our regular season concluded in early May, this spring we announced Summer @ the Symphony, an expanded series of concerts in May and June combining Casual Classics and Live at Powell Hall events. I am especially excited about the breadth of these offerings—there is something for everyone.
Casual Classics evolves this season to include a wide range of musical tastes. We asked attendees of these concerts what they wanted to hear and they responded. The series includes a “Greatest Hits” concert featuring favorites such as Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik and Dukas’ Sorcerer’s Apprentice and more. A “People’s Choice” contest on Facebook helped program this concert. These concerts also include a “Symphonic Hollywood” evening featuring some of the greatest film scores of all time—think Lawrence of Arabia and Bridge on the River Kwai—as well as more recent music from The Right Stuff, Spider-Man and more, all presented with visual stills from the films. Casual Classics rounds out with “Vegas and Music of the Rat Pack”—a tribute to great entertainers such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr.
Live at Powell Hall has been so successful—bringing nearly 13,000 new households to Powell Hall in the last two years—that we’ve expanded. “Live” events were added in May and June kicking off with the legendary Neil Sedaka for one night only with the St. Louis Symphony. Additional events with orchestra include “The Music of Michael Jackson” featuring singer James Delisco in a fabulous re-creation of the pop icon’s greatest hits, from the early years of the Jackson Five to the ground-breaking Thriller and more, along with “Yesterday Once More: A Musical Tribute to the Carpenters,” the band that created some of the most beloved hits of the 1970s. This is a specially designed show that is making its debut in St. Louis with the St. Louis Symphony. And finally, Live at Powell Hall brings to the big screen again for the first time since the 1960s The Sound of Music (the last film shown in the St. Louis Theater before its conversion to Powell Hall)—but with a twist. It’s the “Sing-a-Long” Sound of Music where the audience joins in, complete with special host, props, a costume contest, and more. As you can see, there is no shortage of music and entertainment at Powell Hall right through June.
The 2011-12 Season – looking forward
On February 1, 2011, the St. Louis Symphony announced the 2011-12 Season, its 132nd and David Robertson’s seventh as music director. Our emphasis on outstanding quality, broad and diverse programming, and building audiences will continue to be critical to our future success.
The key focus for the Wells Fargo Advisors Series is on programming balance, accessibility, creativity and artistic growth. Accordingly, the recently announced 2011-12 season highlights a number of themes. Programs include a focus on dance-inspired music that features special performances by Hubbard Street Dance Chicago; the remarkable ballet scores of Ravel and Stravinsky, including an unprecedented opening concert that brings together three Stravinsky masterpieces: Petrushka, Les Noces, and The Rite of Spring all in one night! On the other end of the spectrum and season, a Rachmaninoff piano concerto “mini-festival” featuring Stephen Hough dominates the final two weeks of subscription concerts. In between the Stravinsky opening and Rachmaninoff big finish, audience favorites such as Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons can be heard, as well single-composer programs featuring evenings of all-Mozart and all-Beethoven. Other favorites abound, such as Bach’s Mass in B minor; Mahler’s Symphony No. 1; Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and his “Emperor” Piano Concerto and more. On the cutting edge, premieres and new works by major composers include Steven Mackey, Edgar Meyer, Philippe Manoury and others. The St. Louis Symphony also takes one of its outstanding subscription concerts again to Carnegie Hall during the 2011-12 Season.
Expansion of Live at Powell Hall will build on the success of recent seasons with unique shows such as Bugs Bunny at the Symphony, a brand new animated show for orchestra; Disney in Concert: Magical Music from the Movies featuring favorite Disney scores with visual enhancements; Final Fantasy, an orchestral show with spectacular visual effects based on the famous series of video games; along with movie presentations that combine film with live music including the great Lon Chaney classic, Phantom of the Opera. Powell Hall, originally a movie palace and now a world-class concert hall, remains the perfect venue to combine film with live music. Other presentations include the music of John Williams, two evenings with Michael W. Smith and the St. Louis Symphony, and many other surprises along the way.
Finally, Itzhak Perlman, world-renowned violinist and former STL Symphony Artistic Advisor, returns for the third annual St. Louis Symphony Gala, an event that in just a few short years has become a signature of the St. Louis Symphony in the community.
All in all, it is a 132nd season unprecedented in its range of presentations, all strategically building toward the St. Louis Symphony goal to double its audiences at Powell Hall in a decade, all part of making Powell Hall the epicenter for music and a true destination location in the region.
Reaching the marketplace
Successfully growing the audience begins with what we put on the stage and continues with the ability to market and promote the St. Louis Symphony. A rebranding process was undertaken in 2010 with new brand messaging and a new “look” now in place, including elevating Powell Hall as a true destination location. During that process, substantive research was undertaken to assist in shaping future program initiatives, format changes, and to better assess customer needs and buying motivations with a commitment to ongoing patron research to continue that assessment. Strategies have been enhanced to increase the value proposition of the repeat buyer, as well as continue our focus on the acquisition of new customers. In addition, investments are being made to increase the effectiveness of online sales with a new content management system and increased refinement in online segmentation so that we can more effectively target the interests of patrons.
To further support these efforts and reinforce the St. Louis Symphony brand more broadly, the St. Louis Symphony inaugurated in the 2010-11 season a new partnership with PBS affiliate The Nine Network (KETC), where the St. Louis Symphony is now featured regularly on Living St. Louis, and weekly live Saturday night broadcasts of its classical series concerts on St. Louis Public radio, now heard locally and online nationally and internationally. Since the launch of these radio broadcasts in September 2010, Arbitron ratings for the time slot now filled by the St. Louis Symphony have nearly doubled. These important partnerships will continue next season.
I look forward to sharing more details about next season, as well as results of our current season later this summer. In the meantime, I appreciate your interest in the St. Louis Symphony and the importance it plays in St. Louis, the region and as an internationally recognized institution.