For those who do not know me, the Union Symphony Youth Orchestra is my artistic home away from Rock Hill. The Union Symphony Youth Orchestra is a youth symphony managed by the Union Symphony Society, Inc. (USSI) in Monroe, NC. Back in 2009, I was very fortunate to have been led to the formation of said youth symphony and to have been a member of it for three years, the latter two being principle cellist. I was also a member of several smaller ensembles within the symphony; Exposition, which was a cello quartet formed out of the members that commuted from York Co. SC, and Ceilidh (pronounced Cay-lee), which was a string trio with two violinist that played Celtic and Irish folk music. I was playing with them until I graduated high school and moved on to college. I am an intern with the youth orchestra, serving as an assistant cello coach, and assistants to the director of the youth orchestra, and their younger counterpart Prelude.
The reason I'm bringing this all up is not to show you my history with them, though I am very proud of it, but to give you background information for what I think can be a very vital asset to helping build arts support in a community.
|Prelude Junior String Orchestra 2012-2013|
Photo by: Midori Johnson
The fact that all arts activist and arts supporters have to come to the conclusion is no matter how much work we do, or how much effort we push into spreading our craft for others, we will never get to everyone. There will always be one person that will have no clue what happens in a specific art, or any of them. Even though this guarantees a need for people who will continuously spread the arts, this conundrum also means we do not have a way to communicate with some group of people. That was the approach symphony societies like the USSI have had to come to terms with. Rather than having to market a traditional method, one of using flyers and word of mouth to communicate their existence to possible patrons, concert viewers and possible future musicians, the USSI decided they should bring the arts to the public, and here is where that information comes to play.
Along with the use of the youth symphony playing their standard concerts, they figured to begin marketing it to people who knew the reputation of the adult symphony one that had formed out of a desire of wanting a symphony in their community. They planned on combined concerts, where the adults would play the concert material with the youth symphony, and use that as a means to attract more people. This is a wonderful starting point for those whom are trying to start off a youth symphony, or start anything really. Work with another group in your community that has a lot of respect in the community. It is as if you are telling the younger audience: "Do YOU want to play with professionals?" It also works well because it shows the adults that the group exists and they will encourage the children to join too.
|Union Symphony Youth Orchestra 2012-2013|
Photo by: Midori Johnson
This also leads me into my next point, collaborating with local organizations to spread the word. Sometimes the power of two groups will be more powerful than one alone not to mention making each other aware of the other. As stated before, the use of a ballet company combined with a symphony in a public venue causes to bring yourselves to the attention of the unaware public. There is a likely chance an unaware person in the other group who wants to be involved with your group but never knew how or even that you existed. This tends to be a very common problem among various groups of people. There is also the possibility that you could find someone involved with the other group which had no idea yours existed and decided they should be involved with yours.
Another brilliant idea that symphonies can do to advertise to the common person is playing in public. Within the past few years a video came to light online of an orchestra flash mob that has inspired many others to do the same. That has also been a target that many symphonies like the Union Symphony Youth Orchestra has tried to continuously hit, and what more artists need to hit: Bring the arts to the general public. Just because one has not ever attended a symphony concert does not mean said person will not enjoy it or will not become involved. They need to know that they do exist and are within reach. The more involvement that is created within a local community, attempting to incorporate the people whom are regularly involved with the arts, and the blind public, then the more one can grow.
|Live at the mall!|
Photo by Adam Sullivan
This idea of community involvement can be achieved in several ways, one of the more common is having smaller ensembles performing in local venues. That was the initial purpose to both Exposition and Ceilidh, someone had an event they wanted live music for or the symphony society needed music for an event they were hosting, so they would call us to play. You could also use the whole symphony to preform in the public, like mentioned above. For example, I had hinted on Facebook and Twitter about this article through sharing a picture of the symphony playing in a mall near Monroe. This has been a venue of theirs for several years now, collaborating with one of the dance studios in the local community and putting on The Nutcracker out in a location most people would be around.
There are many other wonderful ways to bring the arts to the public, but I hope these ideas will work as stepping stones towards inspiring more activist to helping spread the arts to everyone. If you have an idea you would like to share, then feel free to leave it in the comments below, or share it with us through Facebook or Twitter. Don't forget to subscribe for part 3 of the series!