Atlanta Symphony Orchestra — Symphony 360°

Music from every angle

The premise:

Atlanta launched Symphony 360° as a result of audience development research, which showed that the audience wants to learn more not only about the music, but also about the whole concert experience. Those who are new to ASO concerts may wonder when to clap, or may feel oppressed by the “stuffiness” of classical concert protocols as compared to a bar, club, or rock concert. Research has reinforced the idea that understanding the concert experience correlates with greater enjoyment, and with enjoyment comes repeat attendance. Ultimately, Symphony 360° seeks to explain the tradition of the orchestra without taking away the magic of the performance.

The plan:

Each Symphony 360° concert features only one work—an accessible piece from the standard repertoire such as the Symphonie fantastique by Berlioz or Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet. Each concert begins with backstage cameras shooting live interviews with musicians in a pre-game format, shown on screens in the concert hall. Once the musicians arrive on stage, a roving emcee with a wireless microphone moves through the audience, prompting them to ask questions of the orchestra. Audience members typically ask about the music they will hear, the tuning procedure, and the set-up of the orchestra. Often, several audience members are selected to sit onstage during the concert. The concerts are conducted by the ASO’s American Conducting Fellow, Laura Jackson.

Early results:

This four-concert series, held on Thursday nights, is now in its second season. Ticket sales have been moderate at 700 to 800 a concert, and the majority of tickets sold are single-ticket purchases. There is no single demographic represented; the audience includes both young and old with longstanding subscribers and brand-new attendees. Ultimately, the orchestra feels Symphony 360° is a wise investment, and they will continue to monitor sales and audience reaction. (Note: The ASO performs full evaluations of new program initiatives after three seasons. Stay tuned for details.)

For more information:
Charlie Wade, Marketing
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