Audience Diversification – Charlotte Symphony Orchestra: Multiple Points of Entry
For the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, producing more concert series means appealing to more potential audiences. In addition to a Classical Series and a Pops Series, CSO offers a Movie Series and a Family Series, and its Create Your Own offer draws on all of the above. There are also On Tap concerts at neighborhood breweries, an outdoor Summer Pops Series, and one-off concerts with featured artists such as, most recently, Nashville singer-songwriter Cody Fry. “It’s a young, growing city,” says President and CEO David Fisk. “We want to show up in cool, ‘happening’ places where people are.”
CSO also thinks of its community and educational programming as a point of entry to new listeners. Performances in hospitals, places of worship, community centers, and organizations like Roof Above, serving Charlotte’s unhoused population, include free or low-cost invitations to traditional concerts. CSO’s three youth orchestras, with 70% of participants people of color, and its Project Harmony after-school program, are yet more points of entry.
Looking ahead, the CSO has partnered with the City of Charlotte Economic Development Department to commission a mobile stage, a convertible trailer accommodating up to 30 musicians. “We want to provide access to the arts and cultural activity in every neighborhood,” says CSO President and CEO David Fisk, calling it a form of “creative placemaking.” Charlotte’s mobile stage is modeled in part on the Richmond Symphony’s Big Tent, a $250,000 mobile stage partly funded by a grant from the League of American Orchestras Futures Fund program that Fisk pioneered when he led that institution.
Over the last two years, the CSO has seen real growth in the percentage of African American, Hispanic, and Asian ticket buyers, increasing from 11% to 16%. Millennial purchasers have increased from 22% to 26%, and Gen Z purchasers from 1% to 3.5%. The many points of entry seem to be making their mark.
Photo: The Charlotte Symphony performs for residents at a Healing Hands concert. Photo courtesy of the Charlotte Symphony.