Sunday, October 30, 2011

It Is What It Is

I'm looking back at the events of yesterday and breathing a sigh of satisfaction. Not a sigh of relief or resign, just simple and gratifying pride. The orchestra performed two concerts yesterday, and while I committed more than my share of mistakes—I will not kick myself for them I will not kick myself for them I will not...—it was all a job well done, I think.

At some point last spring, I emailed our conductor and asked if he had ever thought of programming a concert aimed at kids. We've been thinking of ways to attract a younger audience, and I thought that if you bring in kids, you bring in their parents, and eventually you develop a more sustainable audience that won't die out in the next ten or twenty years. Not to sound harsh, but this is the situation orchestras are facing.

He said he had thought about turning the dress rehearsal of our October concert into a mini-concert for kids because we would be performing fun and creepy Halloween stuff, and it would be easy to adjust the program to their level. He had done the same thing with another group, and after the mini-concert, the kids were given a party. And boom—we had the beginnings of a plan. I came up with a list of ideas for the party and passed them onto a small committee assigned to the event. The committee was so small, in fact, that when one member decided the project didn't require much effort, the other member felt abandoned and brought me in to help.

She and I sat by the pool one day and visualized the space where the party would be held, the concert hall lobby, and we came up with a list of stations for the kids. There would be a game or two, a craft table, a musical instrument petting zoo where the kids could try out different instruments, a photo stop, a treat table, a balloon guy making animals for a happy audience. We refined the plan and ordered the goods and hired the balloon guy. The big IF in all of this was not knowing how many kids to expect. The event would be free, so we would have no ticket sales to help us out. All we could do was guess. We guessed at 200, even though one of the board members told us we'd be lucky to get 100. We stuck to our guns and dreamed optimistically.

After a big publicity thing with 5,000 flyers going out to schools, and information going out to newspapers and radio, and the parade, all we could do was say "It Is What It Is." Here are a couple of unexpected tasks I performed:
I blew up this four-foot pumpkin with the
strength of my own lungs.

I decorated these plastic masks as samples for the craft table. Arty
Then we stood in the lobby on concert day and waited. It was at that point that I had to walk away from the whole thing to focus on performing, but I did my waiting on stage. I watched kids and their parents filter into the auditorium, and I was nervous until they all seemed to stream in at the last minute. Turns out we had almost exactly 200 kids, plus their parents and grandparents.

They all laughed and applauded and seemed to really enjoy the program that began with a costume parade accompanied by Funeral March for A Marionette, and then they funneled out into the lobby while the orchestra finished up with our rehearsal. All reports say they loved every minute of the concert/party, as did the adults that came with them.

There comes a point in planning or preparing for something when you have to stop working and say "It Is What It Is." We said that many times yesterday, both about the party and about the music that was occasionally challenging. The phrase isn't meant to suggest apathy, it's just an acknowledgement that you've done all you can do. The big day we'd been planning since May Was What It Was. It was a very good thing.


dive said...

Wow, what a fabulous idea! I'm so glad it was a success. Something to build on next year and every year. I love the idea of grabbing your next generation of audience members (and possibly players, too). The petting zoo for instruments is a brilliant notion and the whole event sounds like tremendous fun.
Yay you for inflating that huge pumpkin with your mighty horn-player's lung power!

ejbisme said...

Robyn has been invaluable in the planning and execution of new initiatives to promote the Philharmonic and find more audience in the community. This was a first big new project and I'm more than gratified by the success, for the event itself and for the new organizing efforts of Robyn and others. Onward!

Scout said...

Dive, I hadn't thought of developing new players until my partner in crime thought of the "petting zoo." I nearly collapsed with that damned pumpkin.

Eric, I appreciated the opportunity to utilize my skills in this area. I look forward to future projects and hope to help develop more events as successful as this one.