Changing the Narrative, One Year Later

A Year Ago This Blog Began, and Now It’s Time to Change Some More

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Pictured: California Symphony Music Director Donato Cabrera, along with Principal Bass Andy Butler, Trombone Thomas Hornig, Concertmaster Jennifer Cho, and Violinist Sergey Goldman-Hull. In a few weeks, a new face joins the top of this blog.

This blog talks a lot about change. In the last year, we’ve posted about how the California Symphony is changing patron retention rates, changing how we program, changing how we invest in our staff and how we select our artists, changing cold donor engagement with us, and changing the availability heuristic, among other rife-with-change topics. Which is why maybe it’s no surprise that it’s time for this blog to change, too…only a little bit though.

At the bottom of every post, you can see the author is California Symphony’s Executive Director, Aubrey Bergauer. Starting in the next week, you’ll see that at the top as well. Yep, that’s the change…no big deal really, except we wanted to give a heads up to our followers so that you’re not surprised or confused when the next post goes live and instead of seeing the blue and white California Symphony logo in the top right corner, you see Aubrey’s headshot smiling at you. If you are receiving post notifications through Medium, email, or an RSS feed, you don’t have to do anything and will continue receiving the content in the same way you have been.

The reason behind this change is that while we’ve been sharing once every month about our orchestra’s work in efforts to serve the field, proclaiming since day one this blog is for “whoever is interested” (which remains true), we’ve since realized we have a LOT of other content and stories to share that might be more exciting for our hometown audience and not so much to the orchestra world at large. In case you are among the few industry peers that really do want to know every. single. story. that comes out of the California Symphony, here’s the link to the new, more robust California Symphony blog: There you can read the same content reposted from here in addition to stories such as how Carlos, a 6th grader who just graduated from our El Sistema based Sound Minds program, almost dropped out a few years ago until his teachers and peers told him that wasn’t an option. Or how the California Symphony recently had a booth at a community festival next to Star Wars heroes and Disney princesses and held our own with a of kids waiting to get into our instrument petting zoo. Good stuff, but a slightly different feel than all the nerdy, er, I mean, highly sophisticated graphs, charts, and case studies you get on this blog here. Again, if you already read and follow this blog, you don’t have to do anything. You’ll see the profile pic and username change soon, and that’s it.

A Preview of What’s Next

I’ll continue to share once every month not about the challenges of running an arts organization, but about what the California Symphony is actually in response to those challenges. As a preview of what’s to come, the next post is going to dive deep into the California Symphony’s turnaround over the last four years, how it was facing the same problems as most other orchestras, and how a radical change (see, the topic of change continues!) in our approach — moving from focusing on short-term results to playing a long-term game — has brought transformation to our audience and a lot more revenue than we were ever making before. In fact, our fiscal year that ends this month closes the books with a 10% surplus and eliminating a portion of the organization’s accumulated deficit, all achieved while growing the operating budget by 44%. It took 2–3 years to fully see these kinds of dramatic results, and we’re going to tell you exactly how we did it (and how you can too) in the next post.

Here’s a sneak peek at one of the audience metrics, age, which has decreased among single ticket buyers and subscribers during this time:

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Over the last four years, the California Symphony’s audience has gotten younger, defying industry trends.

This is a different story than pretty much every other orchestra in the nation. Over the past year on a blog about change, one thing has stayed the same since the very first post: we are rewriting the narrative for symphony orchestras, and it’s working. Stay tuned; there’s a lot more to come.

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Working to change the narrative for symphony orchestras.

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