The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: It takes more than luck for some symphony orchestras — like the Madison Symphony Orchestra — to survive and prosper in hard times while others head into bankruptcy

December 7, 2010

By Jacob Stockinger

I guess we in Madison can consider ourselves very lucky. The Madison Symphony Orchestra (below) seems to be in great shape financially as well as artistically.

Consider the fact that, in contrast, the Louisville Symphony Orchestra (below) has just filed for bankruptcy:

The Louisville Orchestra joins San Jose, Honolulu and others symphony orchestras in bankruptcy while the Detroit Symphony Orchestra is still in undergoing a strike and experiencing difficult times that could result in bankruptcy.

So we are lucky.

But it’s also more than luck, as reporter Gayle Worland showed in her recent story about the Madison Symphony Orchestra for the Wisconsin State Journal:

The MSO marketing staff, under director Ann Miller, has been aggressive in marketing to students and younger audiences and sell more tickets.

Apparently those efforts are paying off.

This past weekend’s Christmas Spectacular sold 6, 244 seats in Overture Hall, just about a total sell-out for each of the three performances, according to Miller. That include 3,470 single tickets — which are now making up for slower than usual subscription sales — and 568 student rush tickets compared to 174 last year for the same concerts.

The MSO continues to offer three performances of each program and finished out the last fiscal year in the black.

It programs well, and has some smart strategies, including, for the third year in a row, bargain prices tickets to some pretty fantastic programs to give as holiday gifts.

Take a look:

But I think it also speaks well for the Madison area that so many people go to hear good classical music in live performance.

And it also speaks to the urgent need to find a good and lasting solution to preserving the Overture Center.

What do you think is the secret of such success for the Madison Symphony Orchestra?

The Ear wants to hear.

Posted in Classical music

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