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Cirque del Symphonie Designed To Strike Chord With Young Crowd

Joanna Smiley

March 22, 2010

Like many arts organizations throughout the state, The Hartford Symphony Orchestra has been struggling to stay afloat. Dismayed by layoffs, concessions, budget cuts and empty corporate foundation pools, its future has been looking somewhat grim.

That’s one reason why May 8 is an important day. The symphony will be bursting back into the arts scene with a first of its kind event, Cirque de la Symphonie, aimed at appealing to a demographic it doesn’t normally reach — young people.

By collaborating with the Hartford young professional organization HYPE, the symphony hopes to strike a lasting chord with the 45 and under crowd. The occasion will mark phase one of the symphony’s three-year business strategy aimed at increasing revenue by attracting this age group. Right now, only 15-20 percent of the symphony’s single ticket sales come from this demographic, according to executive director, Kristen Phillips.

Cirque de la Symphonie is an energetic combination of music with dance and motion. Aerialists will soar in the front stage, while the symphony’s orchestra belts out tunes in the rear.

“All arts programs and orchestras in the U.S. are looking for ways to diversify their demographics,” said Phillips. “Hopefully we can introduce (young people) to the symphony with this event and they’ll come back for more. If we can get them to come to two or three concerts a year, that’s a victory in my mind.”

Phillips said she hopes the symphony’s summer Pops Series at Talcott Mountain will also bring in young people.

To add to the allure of the May 8 event, Phillips said she’ll be advertising a “post party” at Salute, the newly opened restaurant in downtown Hartford. Marketing plans also include offering discounted event tickets to the 1,500 members who belong to HYPE. Additionally, Phillips has been working with a public relations firm to help drive marketing efforts through social media outlets and other networking sites used by young people.

Jessica Zamora, 22, works as a business analyst at The Hartford Financial Services Group. She is one of several finance professionals who has been volunteering her time to help the symphony with its business strategy plan.

“We developed a three-year strategic plan, the goal of which is to generate five to 10 percent in incremental revenue a year, whether that is in concert attendance, donations, or matching contributions from their company,” she said. “I was eager for the opportunity to support a major cultural institution and to help to get other young people excited about going to the symphony. Before we started our initiative, the (symphony) did not specifically target young people. There is that need to first get people in the door and show them a good time before any long-term consistency of attendance and giving can occur.”

Like Phillips, Zamora hopes the “unique” event will drive interest by letting young people know that there is more to the symphony than classical music.

She says she also realizes that the symphony’s high ticket prices may be a reason for sparse attendance among young professionals and plans to work on offering several discounts to this age group.

“We are approaching this initiative much in the same way we would approach a strategy engagement at work, in the sense that we are looking at ‘where are we now’, ‘where do we want to be’ and ‘what levers can we pull to get there’,” she said.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Business Journal. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Business Journal Archives at http://www.hartfordbusiness.com/archives.php.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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