Keeping Classical Music Alive

The Non-Profit Strategies of Three Orchestral Titans
The classical music world has experienced a drop in support from local communities on many levels. Some of the world’s top orchestras have cultivated ways to survive and maintain lasting methods for gaining vital support. They have seen steady growth in terms of monetary and in-kind support, and they have acquired ways to stimulate true interest and involvement from local community members of all ages.
For the purposes of this study, three comprehensive organizations have been chosen to illustrate how their efforts have resulted in orchestras that are not only enduring but also thriving with music that is alive and inspiring the patrons. These three organizations are the Boston Symphony Orchestra from the United States, the London Symphony Orchestra from the United Kingdom, and the West Australian Symphony Orchestra from Australia.
The first season of the Boston Symphony Orchestra commenced in 1881 with the comprehensive support from an American Civil War veteran, Henry Lee Higginson, who, donated over $1 million over the course of 37 years ( Higginson helped to create their mission, “dedicated to the making of music consonant with the highest aspirations of musical art, creating performance, and providing educational and training programs at the highest level of excellence”, which is still maintained to this day ( Today, the BSO’s performances have swelled to over 250 concerts a year, and have grown to parent major entities like the Boston Pops and Tanglewood, the BSO’s innovative music education academy. Established in 1904, the London Symphony Orchestra was the first independent orchestra in the UK to be solely owned by the musicians and is therefore self-governing. This position has made listener convenience a mission and a reality, offering nearly 80 concerts at the Barbican Centre in London and 45 performances while on tour. The LSO aspires to “make the highest quality music accessible to the widest possible audiences through (their) international concert performance, recordings on LSO Live, and through LSO Discovery, (their) music education and community program” ( Starting in 1913, they were the first orchestra to record performances using gramophone records, and have sustained this tradition by recording live broadcasts and film soundtracks including Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. LSO Live, the orchestra’s own label, is one of, if not the best selling classical label in the world, and is consistently rated No. 1 on iTunes classical download charts (
The West Australian Symphony Orchestra, formed in 1928, has become a central and leading element of Western Australia’s musical culture with a primary goal “to touch souls and enrich lives through music” ( au). The WASO has over 170 annual concerts, and performs with other art companies and festivals including the Western Australian Opera, the Western Ballet, and the Perth International Arts Festival. The WASO performs both classical and contemporary music during their seasons, collaborating with pop musicians from around the world, and commissioning original compositions from Australia’s top composers (ARTSHUB. com).
A professor at the Manhattan School of Music in New York, Pinchas Zukerman believes outreach programs for the youth are now more important than ever. In an interview with the Denver Post in November of 2007, Zukerman discussed how efforts to revitalize classical music must be more than training young performers who will grow to have a natural love for music. Efforts must also include shaping awareness of and appreciation for the beauty of classical music in young listeners (MacMillan).
Music education programs involving younger generations make the appeal to a wider audience and open doors for donations and partnerships that otherwise would not exist. A crucial way to maintain a respected reputation within an organizations community is by representing a youth education program that is directly run and influenced by orchestra members. This educational component is an integral part of the BSO, the LSO, and the WASO.
The Tanglewood Music Center, created by the BSO in the 1930’s, has become a model youth music education program. Edwin Barker, currently the Chair of Instrumental and Orchestral studies, notes, “the presence of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and its artistic resources enables students to learn the art and craft of orchestral performance with master teacherperformers in orchestral and master class settings” ( Musicians from the BSO who are active during the summer seasons at TMC, help to guide and challenge students in instrumental and vocal studies, composition, and conducting. Students endure vigorous training in an extensive range of musical styles, honing a “regard for artistic excellence that makes the festival unique” (
Bank of America announced it will serve as Tanglewood summer music festival’s exclusive sponsor beginning in the summer of 2008 through 2012. Robert E. Gallery, the president of Bank of America, MA, said that a main concern for them is to make the arts available, “particularly to underserved populations…providing opportunities for everyone to experience the BSO’s premiere programming” (
The London Symphony Orchestra recently developed their own music education program, LSO Discovery, with a mission to “bring a world of musical opportunities to everyone”. One aspect, the Young Talent Program, offers young musicians master-classes, conducting and composing workshops, and year-round coaching and performance opportunities with the LSO (LSO Discovery). Other involvement opportunities include youth choirs, community choirs, free lunchtime concerts, attending LSO rehearsals, and the benefit of offering chamber group performances at local schools (LSO Discovery).
Aiming to include everyone, the LSO has created workshops for disabled children, including “visually interpreted” concerts for deaf students, composition and performance projects for blind musicians to “literally get their hands on the Orchestra”, and music-making groups, informal concerts and song-writing classes for students with mental health problems or learning disabilities (LSO Discovery). A resource center and a teacher-training program are also available to help expand the benefits teachers can offer to all of their current and future students (LSO Discovery).
The WASO has found successful ways to inspire and promote youth involvement in classical and contemporary music by providing unique workshops, concerts and events for a range of ages and attention spans. Programs have been created to actively connect with children ages 2-5 years old, involving meeting the musicians, introducing the children to the different instruments played in a full symphony orchestra, seeing the instruments close up to possibly touch and play them, and listening to excerpts of suitable classical pieces and recognizable children tunes. This kind of special treatment toward younger groups of children is a wonderful way to introduce the world of classical music, generating interest and appreciation at an early age (
Appealing to older children and young teens, the WASO offers The Time Traveler, presenting Composer-in-residence, James Ledger, who discusses his commitment to music, and shares some of his favorite pieces and the composers who have influenced his own work. The students are introduced to different compositional techniques and familiarized with fundamental music theory concepts. Once the students come to appreciate those elements, the analyzed pieces are performed. (
The WASO also offers a general program, Keys to Music, for listeners of all ages who want to develop a better understanding and appreciation for classical music. The “barriers to enjoying classical music” are explained and surmounted, allowing the listener to learn about basic musical concepts, and analyze chosen pieces by popular classical composers. The hour-long show is recorded live with the orchestra for the ABC Classic FM Series, offering the program to a wide range of listeners (
The BSO, the LSO, and the WASO have developed successful fund raising methods and partnerships. Worth Magazine honored the Boston Symphony Orchestra for being one of the top 100 charities in 2002. Mark Volpe, the Managing Director of the BSO, acknowledged the struggle that scores of music and arts organizations are dealing with, noting that “many of the country’s top orchestras and arts organizations have seen challenging times due to the difficult economic climate” which continues to persist today. Volpe said that even though the BSO has dealt with some tensions because of the “economic slow down” the BSO has “been very fortunate to be able to maintain (their) financial equilibrium” (
One of the major contributing factors to the BSO’s success is generated in-house, via their website. Created in 1996, attracts close to 5.5 million visits annually, generating nearly $10 million of income per year. ( This major feature allows the BSO to enjoy a 90% subscriber renewal rate. Other in-house income producers are the BSO’s two progenies, Tanglewood and the Boston Pops, which is one of the only orchestras in the US to tour several times a year.
UBS, the United Bank of Switzerland, one of the BSO’s major corporate sponsors, has renewed their support as the BSO’s 2007-08 exclusive season sponsor. The Chairman and CEO of UBS, Robert Wolf said in support of their commitment to the BSO, that it manifests their “philosophy of working collaboratively with (their) clients to deliver the customized solutions that help them pursue their goals” (
The BSO has several other major supporters including EMC, an IT product company. They see great value in the Tanglewood program, and the BSO’s commitment to “commissioning new works from today’s most important composers” ( In alliance with the BSO and Women Waging Peace, led by founder, Ambassador Swanee Hunt, one of EMC’s missions is to help support “concerts around the world with the theme of peace and diversity” (
The London Symphony Orchestra also has a secure relationship with UBS, which is enduring and progressive. In the spring of 2007, the LSO and UBS were recognized as the Arts and Business Champion of the Year, awarded by the Arts and Business network (A&B), a national charity based in London. A&B values their ten-year partnership, which has helped to widen the listening and supporting audience, both representing “extremely strong brands, founded on shared values (including) teamwork, commitment and excellence” ( After restoring St. Luke’s Church for LSO Discovery, new projects developed through the relationship including the Sound Adventures project, commissioning British composers to write for the LSO, and providing the support to fund two concerts from the LSO’s annual international tour.
Another major partner with the LSO is Rolls Royce. After a highly successful tour to Beijing in 2004 to celebrate the centenaries for both organizations, Rolls Royce became the exclusive sponsor for the 2007 LSO tour in China. Because China is a key market for Rolls Royce, these performances benefit the company by acting as a way to support the Chinese communities. The tour has also opened doors for the LSO to provide educational opportunities to students in Beijing, internationally expanding their commitment to music education.
The WASO has generated roughly 20 current partnerships with a wide range of businesses. In 2007, the WASO received $3 million in corporate support, equaling 20% of their annual income. Chief Executive Officer, Keith Venning said that although they receive Commonwealth and State Government grants and have generated in-house revenue from box office sales, “corporate and private sector (support) is imperative to the ongoing sustainability of the company”, which has exceeded their funding from the state government. Venning said that he and the WASO “pride themselves on their ability to meet the needs and expectations of their corporate partners” which is crucial to sustain the varied corporate partnerships they have today (
One prosperous relationship the WASO developed with a local business is Yacht Grot, a small business supplying boating and marine hardware. AbaF, an affiliate of the Australian government, promotes private businesses supporting the arts, and in 2004, presented the WASO and Yacht Grot as the winners of the Senses Small Business Award. Yacht Grot was the first small business to become one of the WASO’s Orchestral Partners, usually sponsored by large corporations (
The partnership between the WASO and Yacht Grot was unusually created. Their board members and musicians were asked to widen their roles, by making it everyone’s responsibility to help cultivate monetary and inkind support. This approach to help the WASO preserve their presence in the community offered the musicians a clearer understanding of the hardships arts and music organizations confront, and the “commercial realities associated with securing income in a competitive environment” ( au).
Another major contributor to the WASO is Ernst & Young, a financial company with 140 locations across the world. A corporate partner for the past ten years, they support two of the WASO’s principal concerts, Pops in the Park, and the Contempo Series. This partnership demonstrates how businesses with such wealth and influence in a global market can acknowledge the importance of supporting the communities in which they are located, and respond to the needs of local organizations including the music community (
An appreciation and excitement for classical music has continued to inspire new works by contemporary composers, and enthuse audiences of all ages. But this momentum will only remain if the organizations continue to perform exquisite concerts, offer music education programs that are innovative and inspiring, and honor current relationships with patrons while honing new methods of fund-raising. Equally important is the donors and concert attendee’s role in providing support to the culturally enriching organizations they see as a vital aspect of their communities.
In the US alone, the number of concerts performed each year has risen 30% since the mid 1990’s, according to the American Symphony Orchestra League, now offering nearly 36,000 concerts annually ( In addition, classical music enthusiasts around the world are slowly adapting to the digital phenomenon. Some listeners have begun searching for Internet radio programs featuring classical music, and downloading classical music off of iTunes, which is accountable for 12% of iTunes annual sales (NYTimes. com).
It must be remembered that the baby boomer generation, a large portion of donors and attendants to classical concerts today, are being followed by smaller generations who are spread out over an array of musical options. Fortunately, interest in classical music is growing among young professionals. An article in the New York times in 2006, reported that the number of middle-aged listeners and supporters are steadily rising for possible reasons such as “changes in taste, a desire to expand their musical experiences, (and) a lack of interest in current pop (music)” (
The BSO, the LSO and the WASO are archetypal leaders in the classical music industry. They have provided accessible music to local communities and demonstrated their commitment to the education of music through their own programs. These approaches have garnered enduring and committed benefactors who value the cultural imprint and leadership such organizations impress.

By Mary Jarchow



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