Nashville: (Classical) Music City!

We often write about things that go spectacularly wrong.  In Nashville it seems to be going spectacularly right!  When I read about the NSO’s new marketing strategy for “young people”, I started to draw my sword. I’m not a believer in a strategy that is at best insincere and at worst untruthful, as it always seems to end up alienating a “young” audience and is discriminatory.   Not so in Nashville….

The Nashville Symphony had to endure the tragedy of the death of their music director Kenneth Schermerhorn in 2005.  Opening a new hall in his honor certainly elevated his contribution and further to that appointing Leonard Slatkin as their artistic advisor paid deep respect to his artistic legacy with the hiring of an interim director with great musicianship, stature and respect in the music world.  If nothing else, it most definitely secured an audience base and the orchestra that would have been devastated by Schermerhorn’s passing.

Fast forward and after what seems to be an incredible transitional period with Slatkin and the new hall, the NSO appointed Giancarlo Guerrero as music director completing their transition.  To say it has been a success is an understatement!  In this article about their new strategy, it states that their ticket sales for the last two seasons have reached $7 million a year!!!!!  Not only that, they estimate 21% of their single ticket buyers are between 21 and 34 years old.  Both those figures are extraordinary.  So a strategy to reach more people in this age range does not come off as desperation, but more as a logical audience development idea since they are already connecting.

What’s apparent to me with their strategy which includes the use of new media such as MySpace, Facebook and YouTube, is that they are having fun, especially Giancarlo!   It also doesn’t come across to me that the target is only the young.  They are introducing a music director with a very different personality from their previous leader, and that is genuine and necessary.  I don’t think anyone would believe by watching the video clips that he is going to be directing traffic (well real traffic) or playing a honky tonk bar, but they will learn that he’s game for anything and enjoys what he’s doing, and will even take some risks.  That is not something reserved exclusively for the young is it?  I think it will bring interest from everyone, and since their base seems to be solidified, those who are just interested in the concerts themselves will not be turned off by this since the quality of the concerts has been proven by all accounts, and I noticed that this season Slatkin is still going to be a presence.  The approach they are taking seems to suggest :  Hey we’re doing great, let’s take it for a spin and see where we can go

With so much attention paid to when things go wrong, we also need to take note, and notes when it goes right!

This is my favorite clip:

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