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Class of 2024

They’re Keeping Music Alive in New Ways for Future Generations

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Springfield Symphony Orchestra President and CEO Paul Lambert and Springfield Chamber Players Chair Beth Welty.

 

Beth Welty said the musicians just wanted to play.

With the Springfield Symphony Orchestra’s leadership and musicians locked in a labor dispute in 2021 and 2022, the players were willing to perform under the old contract until a new one was settled, but the SSO wouldn’t agree.

“At this point, the pandemic had subsided enough that all the other orchestras in the Northeast had come back to work, audiences were showing up, and we decided we needed to do something,” Welty said. “We were very worried if there was no symphonic music in Springfield — out of sight, out of mind — people would forget about us. We had to keep this going.”

So the musicians started staging shows on their own — both at Symphony Hall and at smaller venues around the region — churches, the Westfield Atheneum, anywhere they could draw an audience.

“We were playing at all these little places, constantly expanding to new communities and venues, and bringing live chamber music to as many people as we possibly could in Western Mass.,” said Welty, an SSO violinist who headed up the effort known as MOSSO, or Musicians of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra.

“So many people, including members of my board, have told me, ‘the first time I ever heard a symphony orchestra was in school.”

Well, you might know the story after that — the SSO and the musicians’ union struck a two-year deal last spring to bring full symphony concerts back to downtown Springfield, which proved gratifying to SSO President and CEO Paul Lambert, who never considered the musicians his enemies as they worked out their labor differences.

“I grew up in the Actors’ Equity Association. I’m a union member. And I believe in organized labor, especially in the performing arts. You want to make sure that everyone is well taken care of,” he said. “At the same time, I’ve been a businessman for a long time, so I’m very well aware of the economic realities and challenges that the performing-arts business is going through, especially in these eccentric times we’re still living through.”

The relief on both sides, in fact, was palpable. But the return of concerts to Symphony Hall was only part of the story. The other part was the continued existence of MOSSO under a new name — Springfield Chamber Players — and its continuing mission to bring smaller chamber concerts to venues around the region, including schools.

“We’re interested in promoting the voices that don’t get heard as much but are great composers — music by Black composers, composers of color, women composers,” Welty said. “We’re mixing in composers people have some familiarity with, but also bringing them composers they haven’t heard of, even living composers.”

So as the music reverberates around the region once again, BusinessWest has chosen to honor both the Springfield Symphony Orchestra and Springfield Chamber Players as Difference Makers for 2024 — not because they settled a labor agreement last year, but because of how important the performing arts are to the region, and how important both entities are to filling that role, hopefully for generations to come.

The Springfield Chamber Players

The Springfield Chamber Players string quartet includes Miho Matsuno, Robert Lawrence, Martha McAdams, and Patricia Edens.
(Photo by Gregory Jones)

“When people come to the concerts, and I may open with remarks, I ask people, ‘just for a couple of hours, turn off your cell phones and let it go,’” Lambert said. “It’s like therapy — go listen to some beautiful music. For a few hours, just relax and drink it in. We just need that so badly right now.”

Welty agreed. “Music is a big part of life, and I want that for everyone. It doesn’t have to be classical — we did a combo jazz-classical concert,” she noted, before citing Duke Ellington’s famous line about how genre doesn’t matter, and that “there are simply two kinds of music, good music and the other kind.”

And good music — good live music — truly makes a difference in a community.

 

Generation Next

Lambert recalled being in the fourth grade and attending a symphony concert; in fact, it’s an especially vivid, formative memory. So he’s grateful for a two-year, $280,000 grant from the city last spring to help the SSO create educational programming for youth.

“We are deeply involved in finding creative solutions, ways to reach out. This is a giant opportunity to reach all kinds of members of our community who might like to learn more about music — classical music, symphonic music, all the various forms of music that we can touch,” he said.

Meanwhile, through a program called Beethoven’s Buddies, people can donate money toward free tickets for those who might not be able to afford one. “Whatever your situation is, we want you to come to these concerts to hear this music and have a wonderful time,” he explained. “We’re excited about that. It’s also another way that we can reach into our community to pull in people as donors and sponsors.”

“You come together, and the concert happens, and it’s magic. It’s that one-time experience of being together in a space where this beautiful thing happens. It’s special.”

A long-time program called the Springfield Symphony Youth Orchestra is going strong as well, Lambert said, and the SSO just hired an education director, Caitlin Meyer, who has been engaging with public schools and colleges on everything from internships to educational programming and performances.

“That’s a critical piece in the equation,” Lambert added. “So many people, including members of my board, have told me, ‘the first time I ever heard a symphony orchestra was in school.’”

Meanwhile, Springfield Chamber Players recently presented educational outreach concerts at the Berkshire School in Sheffield and the Community Music School of Springfield.

Meeting young people where they are is simply a matter of survival for performing-arts organizations, said Mark Auerbach, Marketing and Public Relations director for Springfield Chamber Players.

“A lot of people who go to symphonies and come to our concerts are on the older side. And it’s partly because the music programs in schools are not what they were 30 or 40 years ago,” he noted. “If we can get family concerts going, educational concerts going, and interest kids and young adults to come to concerts, hopefully they will stay and grow with us.”

Welty is glad the SSO is doing grant-funded youth outreach because the budget for Springfield Chamber Players is limited, so it needs to be a group effort.

“I’ve been with the symphony 40 years, and we used to have a really robust school presence. We’d send a trio or a quartet to play for kids, talk to them, and answer questions. And they later came to Symphony Hall to hear the whole orchestra,” she recalled. “I think they want to bring that back. We have to be developing the next generation of audience members.”

Symphony Hall

Leaders of both Springfield Symphony Orchestra and Springfield Chamber Players are gratified to be bringing music back to both Symphony Hall (pictured) and smaller venues around the region.

Part of the growth and outreach is simply broadening the definition of what an SSO concert is, Lambert told BusinessWest.

“A lot of folks think of a certain type of music from Western Europe, from the 18th and 19th century. And I love that music. I love Mozart. I love Brahms. I love Beethoven. I love Schubert. I’m thrilled to hear that music, personally,” he said. “But I’ve become increasingly aware of the streams of music traditions that exist all around the world in different cultures and different backgrounds that might appeal to all kinds of folks. So we are trying to pull those various streams together in our programming opportunities.”

To that end, the SSO has begun assembling some hybrid concerts that offer a mixture of traditions, like the classical-jazz fusion explored at the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration concert in January, and a Havana Nights show earlier this month that featured Latin jazz and Afro-Cuban rythms.

“The MLK concert had a marvelously diverse audience. We are thrilled when we see new people coming in,” Lambert said. “At our Juneteenth concert that we did last year, we had so many people telling us, ‘I’ve never been to one of your concerts before; I’ve never even been to Symphony Hall before.’ It’s thrilling to us to get those folks coming in to hear this beautiful music.

“Our pops concerts do really well, and we’re going to see what we can explore with those, with different genres of music,” he added. “At the same time, we’re never going to lose track of that beautiful, traditional repertoire that people, including me, love so much. That’s the core of who we are.”

 

A Resource of Note

Welty noted that Springfield Chamber Players has brought an eclectic spirit to its offerings as well, such as “Johnny Appleseed,” a composition by local composer Clifton Noble Jr. based on Janet Yolen’s book of the same name. That concert will take place outdoors in Longmeadow — the legendary character’s hometown — on May 12.

Whatever the venue, she is passionate about exposing more people to good music — whatever that means to Duke Ellington or anyone else — and to get them into music at younger ages.

“I wish every kid could take lessons on an instrument for a few years. You really learn so much. Problem-solving, analyzing, listening, observing. Music is very mathematical, too. Music education would boost everybody,” she said.

“I really think of arts organizations — music, a ballet company, whatever it is — as a resource for everyone,” she added. “You can’t just go to work every day and then go home and watch TV. That’s a boring life. You want something more. And kids that see live music get interested. They want to try it themselves.”

A thriving performance culture is also an economic driver, Auerbach noted.

“It’s essential that Springfield Symphony Orchestra survives because it’s the only live, nonprofit performing-arts organization in Springfield,” he said. “Without the arts, we’d have trouble attracting new residents and new businesses. And there’s a lot of economic spinoff — you go out, first you pay to eat, you pay to park, you may go out to drink afterwards. The musicians, if they are local, spend money here. If they’re not local, they have to stay in hotels and eat here.”

Lambert agrees, even though the demographics for this art form are challenging right now — not just in Springfield, but everywhere.

“For a couple of years during the pandemic, folks stayed at home, and they got used to not coming out at night so much. You got used to staying home and being cozy in your armchair and watching Netflix. Coming back from that was always going to be a substantial challenge.”

But the rewards are great, he added.

“I used to think about how people make wine — you grow the grapes, and you tend the vineyards, and you design the bottle, and you do all of this work. And then you get to dinner and someone opens the cork and you drink it, and it’s gone. But it’s a beautiful thing for that moment.

“I often think about our experience the same way,” he went on. “All the work and the rehearsals and the planning and the tickets and this and that. But you come together, and the concert happens, and it’s magic. It’s that one-time experience of being together in a space where this beautiful thing happens. It’s special.”

Cover Story Creative Economy

Playing in Harmony

 

Springfield Symphony Orchestra President and CEO Paul Lambert

Springfield Symphony Orchestra President and CEO Paul Lambert

Paul Lambert left a long career with the Basketball Hall of Fame in early 2022 to become interim director of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra.

He said his family has often asked him why. Incredulously. Like … really, Paul, why?

To answer that question, he first notes that he loves music, but that’s only part of why he took over an institution that was still emerging from the pandemic and a long stretch without concerts at Symphony Hall — and embroiled in labor strife with Local 171 of the American Federation of Musicians, which, absent a new contract, had filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board.

But Lambert, who shed the interim tag and was named president and CEO of the SSO earlier this year, saw the value in righting the ship, working toward labor peace, and re-establishing — or at least re-emphasizing — the organization’s importance to not only downtown Springfield, but Western Mass. in general.

With the announcement on May 4 of a new, two-year labor deal between the SSO and the union — which calls for a minimum of eight concerts per year at Symphony Hall, annual raises for the musicians, and possibly other community and educational concerts around the region as well — Lambert, the SSO board, and the musicians are all breathing easier as they plan the 2023-24 season.

“Everyone had been reading the negative stories in the press about the labor issues. People were aware of the global pandemic issues. People were aware of all the challenges facing the SSO. And we had to rebuild people’s confidence.”

“I was very aware of the talent on stage and a great appreciator, if that’s the correct word, of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra,” Lambert said of his career change last year. “But I also was aware of the fact that it was a very challenging time.”

In fact, even long-time supporters in the community, including corporate sponsors, were growing anxious, Lambert admitted.

“Everyone had been reading the negative stories in the press about the labor issues. People were aware of the global pandemic issues. People were aware of all the challenges facing the SSO. And we had to rebuild people’s confidence that not only would we perform, but perform on a first-class basis, and then come back with a full season, with real concerts and real energy with our musicians working with us.”

Beth Welty, the union’s president, called the past few years a “demoralizing” time in many ways, but said everyone is feeling grateful now.

Union President Beth Welty

Union President Beth Welty said the musicians are relieved to have a new contract but hope to increase the number of performances in coming seasons.

“There are a ton of people throughout the organization that want to work together,” she told BusinessWest. “The musicians want to work with Paul and the staff and the board, and we are working together. We’ve got to come together and put the past behind us and work for a much better future.”

Lambert agreed. “This has been a very challenging time for the SSO on a variety of fronts. Certainly, the labor issues that have been in place for some years, on top of the global pandemic, which shut everything down and badly affected all performing-arts organizations for some time, were very real. And to get ourselves into a new beginning, a fresh start for all concerned around this labor deal, was critically important.”

 

Developments of Note

That said, as in many negotiations, no one got exactly what they wanted. For one thing, Welty said the musicians have been clamoring for more performances.

“When I joined the orchestra 40 years ago, we probably did three times the number of concerts we do now. For years, they’ve been constantly cutting and cutting; it felt like no number was small enough for them. They wanted to keep cutting, and we felt like we had to take a stand on that.”

She said the musicians were looking for more than 10 shows, the SSO wanted to go as low as five at one point, and they settled on eight — six classical and two pops.

“We’re not happy about that, but we’re looking to build back up from eight, and now there are some new board members interested in growth,” Welty noted. “You can cut yourself out of existence; the less we play, the less people know we exist.”

“The idea now is to put ourselves in a safer place to see what we can do together, to see what revenue streams we can create, where we can create new opportunities to play.”

Welty did have appreciative thoughts for Lambert, saying it’s clear he understands where the musicians are coming from. And Lambert told BusinessWest that eight concerts is not a hard ceiling, but only the minimum.

“That was a critical point in the negotiations: let’s see what we can do,” he said. “Let’s see what the market will bear. Let’s see what funding is available and what opportunities present themselves. We have to be very creative and open-minded as we work together to see what’s available.”

Symphony Hall

Symphony Hall will host eight SSO performances in 2023-24: six classical and two pops concerts.

Revenue is the big sticking point, he added, noting that, if the SSO sold every ticket for every performance, it would still be running a deficit without increasing external support.

“The challenges that face the Springfield Symphony Orchestra are hardly unique to Springfield. The industry as a whole — traditional, classical symphonic orchestras — is challenged right now,” he explained. “Those audiences, demographically, are aging and fading, and the folks who go to those concerts on a regular basis, and donors and corporations who support those concerts, have been a shrinking pool around the country. There are a lot of orchestras that are really struggling right now to make ends meet.”

He noted that many cities with wealthier populations and deeper corporate pockets than Springfield don’t even have symphonies.

“The idea now is to put ourselves in a safer place to see what we can do together, to see what revenue streams we can create, where we can create new opportunities to play. The whole idea, of course, is to play, to create opportunities for people to hear the Springfield Symphony Orchestra in a variety of formats.”

To that end, the Musicians of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra (MOSSO), the organization formed by SSO musicians during the labor unrest to perform smaller concerts across the region, will transition into a newly named entity, the Springfield Chamber Players, and will continue to present chamber-music concerts, including the long-standing Longmeadow Chamber Series.

Performances like these, Lambert said, will help build a larger audience pool. “They allow new people to come in, who, perhaps, have not listened to the music on a regular basis, and will be exposed to the symphony orchestra and say, ‘wow, this is beautiful. I didn’t know they played this.’”

He and Welty noted that the new season of full-orchestra performance at Symphony Hall, and seasons to follow, will feature a healthy mix of what might be called ‘the classics’ and newer works by more recent composers.

Springfield Symphony Orchestra

The Springfield Symphony Orchestra, boasting 67 musicians, is the largest symphony in Massachusetts outside of Boston.
Photo by Chris Marion Photography

“People love the classics, but you have to bring in living composers and composers of color and women composers, and represent everyone at concerts,” Welty said. “We really started to do that this season. It was more diverse and inclusive. In terms of the repertoire we’re doing next year, it’ll be the same type of year; we’re really excited about that programming, which is going to be more diverse and interesting. We’re still going to do a good dose of the classics — we’re not abandoning them — but we are combining them with stuff that was written in our lifetime.”

Lambert was also excited about this broadening of choices. “We want to certainly maintain and nurture our core audience, the folks who have grown up with us for many years, the subscribers and the bedrock of our audience who love the classic repertoire of classical music. But at the same time, there’s all kinds of music.”

He feels like that’s an important element in bringing in younger, more diverse SSO fans, who will continue to support the organization in the coming decades.

“We happen to live in a very diverse community and region,” he said. “So I think it’s really important that we find ways to reach all those audiences, let them know that the Springfield Symphony Orchestra is for everybody, that it’s music for everyone. We really are excited about those opportunities for people to come in and hear this beautiful music and these wonderful musicians.”

 

Sharp Ideas

The other key element in expanding the audience, of course, is connecting with young people. To that end, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno announced that the city of Springfield will provide $280,000 over two years in financial support for SSO to create educational programming for youth.

“As the Springfield Symphony and its talented musicians turn a fresh page of music in our beloved Symphony Hall, I cannot stress enough how important Springfield’s talented youth are to the success of this new beginning,” the mayor said in announcing the grant. “Creating a younger, more diverse, and more inclusive classical-music ecosystem should be a top priority of the symphony organizationally. The success of these efforts will ultimately be reflected in the diversity of the music that is played, those represented on stage, and those in the audience.”

Lambert said outreach to youth had been a big success, but stopped happening over the past few years. “As I talked to folks out in the business community, so many people said to me, ‘the first time I ever heard a symphony orchestra, I was in fourth grade … I remember going to that concert, and it changed how I looked at the symphony.’ So I said to the board on more than a few occasions, ‘that’s just not discretionary, that’s mandatory; we have to start redoing that.’ It opens the door for so many people, for the first time in their life, to hear a symphony orchestra live on stage.”

“As I talked to folks out in the business community, so many people said to me, ‘the first time I ever heard a symphony orchestra, I was in fourth grade … I remember going to that concert, and it changed how I looked at the symphony.”

Welty wants to go beyond those experiences, hoping to not only bring kids to Symphony Hall, but for small groups of musicians to visit area schools.

“We used to go play for kids in the classrooms. We probably stopped doing that in the early 2000s, but we did hundreds of those concerts,” she recalled. “I loved it. We interacted directly with the kids; there were Q&A sessions. I want to get back to that as an educational resource.”

She also fondly recalls the days when the symphony toured New England. “I understand that a lot of financial repair has to happen, and we can’t afford to take the whole orchestra, but we can take a quartet out. We can take a quintet out.”

Such traveling shows, like the two series of performances MOSSO staged at the Westfield Atheneum over the past two years, are another way to grow the SSO’s fanbase, she added. “It’s not just great for the audience, but a great marketing tool for the SSO. We hope to keep expanding that.”

As for corporate sponsorship, Lambert said it was a tough year, scheduling live performances on the fly under the old contract’s terms while building up the staff, negotiating with the union, and keeping supporters on board.

“There was a lot of work being done trying to convince people to trust us and come on board. Some folks started to do that when MassMutual came back and was willing to support us; that was critically important. There are other folks we need to embrace that. We’ve had some really wonderful response from a core group of sponsors — I hope there’s a lot more.”

As for growing new audiences, Lambert is confident that those who attend a concert — whether a full symphony performance in Springfield or a chamber concert in Longmeadow, Westfield, or elsewhere — will be “blown away,” and not only want to attend more shows, but perhaps support the SSO as a sponsor or donor. “We need everybody to work together.”

 

In Tune with the Community

After a couple years of performing concerts under the old contract’s terms, Welty is relieved the musicians can focus on the positive impact of what they do.

“For this community to thrive, it really needs a vibrant art scene. It’s a real economic driver,” she said, noting the impact of downtown events on restaurants and other attractions — not to mention on the ability to grow a business.

“If you’re a CEO or business person looking to be based in the Springfield area, and you want to attract the best talent to come work for you, Springfield has to be an appealing place to live — and the arts are so important to that,” Welty added. “Local sports teams are important, but the arts are just as important. If you think you’re living in a cultural desert, you won’t get the best people to come work for you.”

The Springfield Symphony Orchestra, boasting 67 musicians, is the largest symphony in Massachusetts outside of Boston — which is impressive in itself, Lambert said.

“The fact that Springfield, Massachusetts has a symphony orchestra in 2023 is kind of a miracle at this point. There are much bigger places that don’t have this great gift,” he told BusinessWest. “I think it’s really important that we all get together and recognize how this adds to the quality of life here in Springfield, how it adds to the reasons that people might want to live and work here and come downtown.”

Which is why Welty is encouraged by what the new labor agreement promises, and what it may lead to in the future.

“On paper, there’s less guaranteed work, but there’s more energy on the board to create new concerts, new programming,” she said. “I think, in the end, we will start building back and offer more to the community.”

 

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Symphony Orchestra (SSO) has announced a 2022-23 season that will include six classical performances and two “pops” concerts.

The first concert in the new season will be presented on Saturday, October 22 featuring world-renowned conductor JoAnn Falletta, music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

“We are extremely pleased to announce this compelling and dynamic season that will include a remarkable series of conductors who we know will bring joy and beautiful music to concert lovers with a combination of six classical concerts and two pops concerts,” said Interim SSO Director Paul Lambert. “We are pleased and excited by the talent and diversity of these conductors including two female conductors as part of the coming season – a first for the SSO.

“We are announcing this concert season at a time when we continue to be without a labor agreement with the musicians’ union,” he went on. “We want to be clear that we remain hopeful for a new agreement and look forward to working together to present this concert season. This concert season will showcase the extraordinary talent of the SSO musicians under the direction of a talented collection of guest conductors.

“We are looking forward to collaborating on these and future concerts with the musicians of the SSO family as we present our first full season coming out of the pandemic,” he continued. “We are thrilled to be re-engaging our patrons and believe we have a compelling lineup of classical and pops music that will attract new audiences into Symphony Hall.”

Two of the guest conductors that will be coming to Symphony Hall in the coming season, Falletta and Theodore Kuchar, have been included in the group of the 10 best living conductors in the world, according to David Hurwitz, a music critic and executive editor of ClassicsToday.com, the first and only classical music daily.

The six classical concerts included in the concert schedule are:

  • Oct. 22, conducted by JoAnn Falletta, featuring Zoltan Kodaly’s Dances of Galanta, Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto with guest cellist Joshua Roman, and Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 7, considered by many musicologists to be his best symphony;
  • Nov. 5, The Sound of Silence, conducted by Tania Miller, former Music Director of the Victoria (Canada) Symphony Orchestra, featuring “Messenger,” a work by Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Symphony No. 36  (Linz), and Johannes Brahms; Symphony No. 3, from which Dvořák derived the inspiration for his 7th Symphony;
  • Jan. 14, 2023 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration with African American guest conductor Kevin Scott, featuring the music of African-American composers, including Florence Price’s Piano Concerto in D minor performed by Artina McCain, and William Grant Still’s Symphony No. 4, the Autochthonous;
  • March 11, a program conducted by Mark Russell Smith featuring the work of female composersJoan Tower in her Fanfare #1 for the Unknown Woman, and Louise Farrenc in her Symphony No. 3; The program concludes with the powerful Piano Concerto #2 of Sergei Prokofiev, performed by Wei Luo;
  • April 15, Asian-American conductor Tian Hui Ng, Music Director of the Pioneer Valley Symphony Orchestra, will conduct a program featuring Benjamin Britten’s Four Sea Interludes, Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto, No. 2, an epic work of Romanticism, performed by Jiayan Sun, and Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations; 
  • May 13, conductor Theodore Kuchar, Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Lviv (Ukraine) National Symphony Orchestra, will lead a program featuring Dvorak’s Carnival Overture, Thomas de Hartmann’s Cello Concerto with guest cellist Matt Haimovitz, and Jean Sibelius’s dramatic and ever popular Symphony No.2.

The first pops concert in the concert schedule is “Holiday Pops” on Dec. 3, 2022 with conductor William Waldrop featuring guest soprano Camille Zamora and the Springfield Symphony Chorus. The program will include some old and some new versions of holiday favorites.

On Feb. 25, 2023 Byron Stripling, who also will perform on trumpet and vocals, will lead the second pops concert, celebrating Mardi Gras. He is a Springfield favorite, and is now the principal Pops conductor of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Symphony Orchestra (SSO) will stage its next concert, ‘Dances of Spring,’ on May 13 at 7:30 p.m. at Springfield Symphony Hall with guest conductor Mark Russell Smith. 

Tickets start at $15 and can be purchased on the Springfield Symphony Orchestra website, springfieldsymphony.org/event/dances-of-spring/, or by calling the SSO box office at (413) 733-2291. The box office is open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets also include free parking. 

Mark Russell Smith will lead the orchestra in Michael Abels’ Liquify, which captures the shifting moods of a great river. Abels is a U.S. composer and producer best known for his scores for the Oscar-winning films Get Out and Us.  

The concert will also feature the dance music of great composers Aaron Copland and Gabriela Lena Frank, with Copland’s Saturday Night Waltz and Frank’s Coquetos, followed by Johannes Brahms’ famous Symphony #1. 

“The diversity of the composers we are featuring in our May 13 program will be something to witness — two living composers of non-traditional backgrounds, Abels and Frank, combined with the classic beauty of Copland and Brahms,” said SSO Interim Director Paul Lambert. “It will serve as a wonderful bookend to our 2022 spring concerts as we look forward to planning a new 2022-23 season.” 

Smith, who previously served as music director and conductor of the SSO from 1995-2000, is music director and conductor of the Quad City Symphony Orchestra. He has worked as director of New Music Projects for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and Artistic Director of Orchestral Studies at the University of Minnesota, and has also served as music director for the Richmond Symphony Orchestra and Cheyenne Symphony Orchestra. Smith Also served as guest conductor for the SSO’s first Spring concert on April 22. 

To learn more about the music that will be featured and to purchase tickets, visit the SSO’s website: www.springfieldsymphony.org/event/dances-of-spring/.  

Concert dates for the Springfield Symphony Orchestra’s 2022-23 season will be announced in the near future. 

Daily News

 

SPRINGFIELD — MOSSO: Musicians of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra, will present a free concert on Oct. 15, at 7:30 p.m. at Springfield Symphony Hall. Maestro Kevin Rhodes, music director and conductor of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra for 20 years, will return to Springfield to lead a program titled ‘COMING HOME: A Symphonic Reunion,’ which will include popular symphonic works by Beethoven, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, and others to be announced by Rhodes from the stage. 

 

“I’ve missed my colleagues; since the pandemic silenced our concerts, and after isolating at my family’s home in Michigan, I’ve been conducting opera and ballet in Milan, Rome, Slovenia, and Slovakia,” said Rhodes. “I’m glad that my colleagues are working together to bring live classical music back to Western Massachusetts, and I’m honored to be on stage with them.” 

 

Beth Welty, assistant principal second violin with the Springfield Symphony Orchestra since 1983, points out, “MOSSO’s efforts to perform live music since the last official SSO concerts have included organizing performances at the Black Lives Matter rally in front of Springfield City Hall in September of 2020, the 2021 Springfield Jazz and Roots Festival with the Kevin Sharpe Band, the Mattoon Street Arts Festival, and a free concert on the steps of Springfield Symphony Hall in June of 2021. Area businesses have also sponsored MOSSO ‘pop-up’ concerts in various locations throughout the city.” 

 

Marsha Harbison, assistant concertmaster of the SSO since 1977, said, “the musicians of the SSO have not performed together on the stage of Springfield Symphony Hall since March of 2020. The professional musicians of the symphony are eager to perform exciting and healing music in our great Symphony Hall, under our world class maestro Kevin Rhodes.” 

 

MOSSO said the event was made possible by the support of the Music Performance Trust Fund, the American Federation of Musicians, Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, Amanda Spear-Purchase and the staff of Symphony Hall, and Lyman Wood.

 

Tickets for the Oct. 15 performance are free, but must be reserved in advance. No tickets will be sold at the door, and ticket holders must be masked and have proof of full vaccination against Covid-19. All performers will also be fully vaccinated and masked. Seating will be general admission, but Symphony Hall capacity will be reduced to allow for social distancing. For details and reservations: www.SpringfieldSymphonyMusicians.com.

Donations can be made online through the MOSSO website: SpringfieldSymphonyMusicians.com or checks can be made out to MOSSO and sent to MOSSO, PO Box 3513, Amherst, MA 01004. All donations made to MOSSO will be used to produce live musical events for the Springfield community. 

Opinion

Editorial

 

Going back to the start of the pandemic, we expressed concern for the survival of not only the businesses in Springfield and across the region, but also the institutions that contribute to the quality of life we all enjoy here.

That’s a broad category that includes a number of museums, the Basketball Hall of Fame, the Springfield Thunderbirds and other sports teams, and arts venues ranging from Jacob’s Pillow to Tanglewood to the Springfield Symphony Orchestra. All of them are part of the fabric of this community.

Among all those, perhaps the one we feared for the most was the symphony, which has seen several changes in leadership over the past decade and has seemingly struggled to attract younger and broader audiences. If there was an institution that couldn’t afford to be on the sidelines, out of sight, and in many cases out of mind, it was the SSO.

“Reading between all the lines, it appears that concerns about the future of the venerable, 75-year-old institution are very real and quite warranted.”

These fears gained some legitimacy last week when musicians who play for the orchestra issued a press release that doubled as both warning and call to action. These musicians, some of whom have been playing for the SSO for decades, raised questions about how committed the SSO’s board is to everything from giving long-time maestro Kevin Rhodes a new contract to a 2021-22 season for the SSO. They asked for “an encore, not a curtain call.”

The SSO’s interim executive director, John Anz, responded by saying many of these issues are intertwined, and the orchestra cannot proceed with a new contract for Rhodes or a 2021-22 season until negotiations with the musicians’ union are resolved.

Reading between all the lines, it appears that concerns about the future of the venerable, 75-year-old institution are very real and quite warranted.

We sincerely hope the SSO is able to rebound from what is certainly the greatest challenge of its existence. Springfield needs these institutions to become the destination that we all hope that it can be.

Indeed, many things go into making a community livable — jobs, neighborhoods, schools, a thriving downtown, and, yes, culture. Springfield has already lost CityStage; it simply cannot afford to lose another thread of its fabric.

This is especially true as the state and the nation emerge from this pandemic. We’ve heard the talk that large urban areas are now less attractive to some segments of the population, who are now looking more longingly toward open spaces and less crowded areas. And we’ve seen dramatic evidence of this in our own real-estate market.

Springfield is to emerge as a player in this new environment, a true destination, then it will need institutions like the SSO to create that quality of life that both the young and old are seeking out as they search for places to call home.

The SSO has certainly been rocked by this pandemic. Emerging from it will be a stern test. We certainly hope it can move forward and be part of Springfield and this region for decades to come.

Daily News

SPRINGFIELD — The Springfield Symphony Orchestra (SSO) has announced that its current executive director, Susan Beaudry, will be leaving the SSO effective April 23, to pursue entrepreneurial interests.

John Anz, currently development director, will step in as interim executive director, according to SSO Board President Robyn Newhouse.

“We appreciate all that Susan Beaudry has done on behalf of the symphony and for the arts in our region. Susan has made valuable contributions during her six years leading the symphony, first as development director and then as executive director. She is a strong leader and will be sorely missed,” Newhouse said.

Beaudry said she will pursue a passion in the wine industry. “I will be leaving my position with the symphony in the good hands of the board and John Anz. I was pleased to be a part of the most recent strategic planning process that I believe will lead to the re-emergence of the SSO and the goal of providing classical music in the region. As the arts and live performances re-emerge from the pandemic, I am optimistic the SSO will continue to fulfill its mission.”

Anz joined the SSO as development director in 2019 and has a 20-year career in development that includes independent schools, the YMCA and in music and the arts. Prior to joining the SSO, Anz worked as director of Development at Berkshire Hills Music Academy in South Hadley, and is a former board member of the Northampton Community Music Center.

“These are challenging and exciting times for live music and symphony orchestras everywhere,” said Anz. “So, it is both an honor and privilege to be asked to serve the SSO in this capacity at this moment. I look forward to working with all of our community leaders, cultural and business partners, and other key players to continue to move this cherished institution forward as we look toward a bright future, and beyond.”

According to Newhouse, the strategic planning process and the choosing of a new executive director will figure largely in how and when the symphony meets its mission of engaging the public around classical music performances. No time frame has been finalized on the selection of a new leader, she said.

Coronavirus

Developments of Note

SSO

The SSO hasn’t been able to perform live since the pandemic arrived, but it has found ways to keep the music coming.

Susan Beaudry called it a ‘stop the presses’ moment — quite literally.

Indeed, the program book for an adjusted, and truncated, 2020-21 season for the Springfield Symphony Orchestra (SSO) was at Hadley Printers back in April, and the presses were set to roll. But at the very last moment, the order was canceled.

“The tenor of our industry was … ‘I wouldn’t say anything, I wouldn’t announce a season,’” said Beaudry, adding that, back then, as the number of cases in this state and around the country were soaring, industry groups were advising that it didn’t make sense to put a schedule down in black and white. And it still doesn’t.

“When you’re selling, which is what we’re doing when we announce a season, it’s very difficult in this climate,” she told BusinessWest. “People are afraid, still, to make a commitment — they’re not sure they want to gather in large groups, or they’re not sure what their financial situation is going to be. They’re not going to pre-buy for a concert that may be months away; we just felt it was an awful lot to ask our patrons and the community to make that kind of commitment.”

This episode captures, in poignant fashion, the state of limbo in which the SSO, and most all other institutions of its kind, now resides.

In short, the future is unknown, and when it comes to live performances before real audiences — the absolute lifeblood of these orchestras — it comes down to a waiting game. A wait for a vaccine, most probably, or perhaps an effective treatment for the virus. Something that will prompt the governor of the state to give the green light for phase 4 of his reopening plan.

“We’re listening and waiting,” Beaudry said. “We’re not planning based on our needs or our desires; we’re just listening. And when it’s the right time, we have a season ready to rock and roll. We may have to move some dates around, we may have to move some soloists around … but we know what we’re doing when the time comes.”

“People are afraid, still, to make a commitment — they’re not sure they want to gather in large groups, or they’re not sure what their financial situation is going to be.”

Beaudry stressed that she and others at the SSO are not simply waiting. Far from it.

In fact, she said she’s probably working harder and longer than she would during a typical season, largely because of an even longer to-do list.

It includes providing music to an audience — not the typical audience and not in the typical way; the SSO is now offering the HomeGrown Series, a weekly (Wednesday) webcast featuring a performance, demonstration, or lecture. It also includes fundraising, creating a fund to pay musicians sidelined by the pandemic, planning — as much as that assignment can be carried out in the COVID era — and working ever harder to create ways to broaden the orchestra’s audience.

Indeed, those at the SSO were well aware, long before anyone had ever heard the term COVID-19, that it needed to expand its base of patrons and supporters, said Beaudry, adding that the pandemic has perhaps brought a greater sense of urgency to this work.

“What we’re not doing is waiting,” she explained. “We’re fully engaged, and we’re working very, very hard. We still have to raise money, we still have to market our brand, we have to keep our musicians in front of our patrons, we have budgetary issues, a strategic plan to undertake … I’m working harder and longer hours than ever, but it’s exciting, fun, and rewarding work.”

As BusinessWest continues its extensive coverage of the pandemic and its broad impact on the region and its business community, we take an in-depth look at the SSO and how it intends to not just weather the storm but use the time and this extreme challenge to examine how to change and become a stronger institution moving forward.

Working in Concert

As she and others at the SSO packed up their computers and whatever else they might need in mid-March and left the orchestra’s offices in downtown Springfield to work at home, the expectation was that it would be for just a few weeks, said Beaudry, adding that this was roughly the same mindset taken with regard to shelving events on the schedule.

Indeed, even before state and federal shutdown orders were put if effect, orchestras, knowing that their audiences are dominated by seniors, began postponing or canceling events — a few weeks or a month at a time.

“We were halfway through March, and we said, ‘let’s just cancel the rest of March,’” she explained, noting that there were several events impacted, from a show at Symphony Hall to a chamber-music performance at Twin Hills Country Club in Longmeadow. “The board agreed — ‘it’s prudent, it’s the right thing to do … let’s not worry about April yet.’”

Soon, though, those at the SSO had a lot more to worry about than just April. As the full scope of the pandemic became clear, the rest of the season was canceled — and soon it also became apparent that the new season, which traditionally starts in September, was now a huge question mark.

Susan Beaudry

Susan Beaudry says that, while waiting for the green light to start its new season, the SSO is busy with everything from fundraising to building its brand to undertaking a strategic plan.

Which takes us back to that order to stop the presses. The program book that was set to roll detailed a truncated schedule that would start with the popular Holiday Pops performance and include four or five other events, said Beaudry.

Now, as noted, even that shorter, simpler schedule is very much in doubt — but ready to go when and if the word — in whatever form it takes — is given.

In the meantime, there is much more than waiting to do — starting with the HomeGrown series, which started back in April with Maestro Kevin Rhodes performing some Brahms on the piano. Over the ensuing weeks, the program has presented a variety of short programs featuring individual artists and even the entire oboe section.

“It’s been very successful, and we’ve received some very positive feedback,” Beaudry said. “It redirects people to a less stress-filled subject and a little levity, a little beauty. As we’ve always said, the healing power of music is very real, and the longer this pandemic lingers, the more that rings true.”

But to provide that healing power, the orchestra must survive what will almost certainly be its most difficult financial test — although it has weathered many over the years, including recessions and even world wars. This one is different, because there are so many unknowns, said Beaudry, adding that the pandemic has already forced the orchestra to furlough some staff and reduce hours for those who remain; she personally volunteered to take a 30% pay cut.

“We’ve basically lost a season,” she said, referring to the second half of the 2019-20 season and the first half of the upcoming season — at least. “We have no box-office sales right now, and we still have expenses.”

A Paycheck Protection Program loan helped keep staffers employed for several months, but those funds ran out, she went on, forcing the furloughs that were announced several weeks ago.

Moving forward, and with no program book for the upcoming season and no concerts to sponsor at the moment, the SSO is looking for different ways to provide value for its sponsors, and for those sponsors to provide the continued support needed to propel the orchestra to the proverbial other side of the pandemic.

“What we’re hoping is that we can turn sponsorship into a sustainability partnership,” she explained, “where these sponsors are going to philanthropically help us get over the hump so that we’re solvent on the other side and ready to take our place in the community and on stage when this whole thing is done. And the only way we do that successfully is with the full support of the community around us.”

While sustainability is now the most critical issue, a related need — to change and broaden the audience base — takes on even more importance in this era of COVID-19.

“We need to remind ourselves that not everyone is going to get dressed up on a Saturday night and drive to downtown Springfield from wherever and sit for two or three hours through a concert,” she explained. “It’s a commitment to come, so we need to figure out what people want to come to and how we can morph — not that we’re going to change our mission; we’re a classical music organization, and we intend to remain that.

“There are lots of considerations for us to make what we do a better product,” she went on, adding that, in some ways, the pandemic is amplifying the need for change and perhaps accelerating the process. Meanwhile, it is also helping to move the SSO in directions it knew it needed to move, such as virtual offerings, like HomeGrown.

“What COVID did was prompt us to ask, ‘what can we do virtually — how can we reach bigger audiences with a stronger reach electronically and virtually?’” she told BusinessWest. “That is a new wave of performances. We’re a live-performance organization; that’s really how we’ve focused — how do we get people to Symphony Hall? But if we can figure out how to best use livestreaming, who can we reach? What does that do for our education programs and our performances, or even the snowbirds who are gone for half our season?”

On a Final Note…

“This music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.”

That’s a quote from Mozart, and it now graces the SSO’s home page in large, bold type.

Not nearly as large and bold as the words “When the Orchestra Returns, Your Seat Will be Waiting.”

That’s a confident pronouncement in itself, with emphasis on the word ‘when.’

“We’ve been around for 76 years, and we’ve been through wars and other disasters, and we’ll get through this, too,” Beaudry said in conclusion. “We’re here to serve; we’re mission-driven. That’s the priority, and we’ll be ready.”

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

Cover Story

Working in Concert

Executive Director Susan Beaudry

Executive Director Susan Beaudry

As the Springfield Symphony Orchestra prepares to kick off its 75th season on Sept. 22 with “Gershwin, Copland, and Bernstein,” it faces a host of challenges shared by most orchestras its size, especially a changing, shrinking base of corporate support and a need to make its audiences younger. Susan Beaudry, the SSO’s executive director, says the way to stare down these challenges is through imaginative responsiveness — and especially greater visibility through stronger outreach. And she’s doing just that.

Susan Beaudry says there’s a great deal of significance attached to the fact that the Springfield Symphony Orchestra turns 75 this season — starting with the harsh reality that fewer institutions of this type are reaching that milestone.

Indeed, several orchestras, including one in New Hampshire, have ceased operations in recent years, and many, if not most, others are struggling to one degree or another, said Beaudry, executive director of the SSO for more than a year now.

The reasons have been well-documented — the decline of many urban centers where such orchestras are based, falling attendance, declining corporate support, ever-increasing competition for the public’s time and entertainment dollars, and an inability to attract younger audiences are at the top of the list. The SSO is confronting these obstacles as well, Beaudry told BusinessWest, as well as the additional challenge of not knowing who will manage its home (Symphony Hall) after the Springfield Performing Arts Development Corp. announced last week that it will no longer manage that venue and CityStage, leaving the immediate future of those venues in doubt.

But while the institution is not as healthy financially as it has been in the past, it embarks on its 75th season on solid footing (there’s been a 20% increase in the annual fund since Beaudry’s arrived, for example), with determination to stare down the challenges facing it and seemingly all arts institutions, and optimism that an improving picture in Springfield and especially its downtown will benefit the SSO moving forward.

And Beaudry is a big reason for all of the above.

The former director of Development for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Beaudry was recruited to the SSO three years ago to lead development efforts for the institution. When Peter Salerno retired in the spring of 2017, she became interim executive director and later was able to shed that word ‘interim.’

“If you’re always doing your product behind closed doors, then it’s easy for other people to decide who you are and to give you an identity in the community. So it’s our job to open those doors, to get out, and to be playing.”

She brings to her role experience with not only fund-raising but business management — she’s a graduate of the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst, began her career as a national and international product marketing manager for Gardner-based Simplex, and operated her own restaurant.

She’s calling on that wealth of experience to create a new business plan for the orchestra — figuratively but also literally — that focuses on raising the profile of the SSO, introducing more people to orchestral music, and taking full advantage of what is, by most accounts, a rising tide in Springfield and its downtown.

Summing it all up, she said the orchestra has to do much more than what it’s done through most of first 75 years — perform about once a month, on average, at Symphony Hall.

“One thing that I’ve recognized since I’ve been here is that we can and must do a better job with our outreach and education and sharing the good work that we do with the community,” she explained. “If you’re always doing your product behind closed doors, then it’s easy for other people to decide who you are and to give you an identity in the community.

Principal percussionist Nathan Lassell

Principal percussionist Nathan Lassell was one of the SSO musicians featured at a recent performance at the Springfield Armory, an example of the orchestra’s efforts at greater outreach within the community.

“So it’s our job to open those doors, to get out, and to be playing,” she went on, adding that there have already been some good examples of this effort to move beyond Symphony Hall and creating more visibility. There was the SSO string quartet playing in the renovated National Guard Armory building at MGM Springfield’s elaborate gala on the eve of its Aug. 24 opening. There was also a sold-out performance of percussionists at the Springfield Armory on Sept. 1, a performance that Beaudry described as “the coolest chamber event concert I’ve ever seen in my life,” and one that did what needs to be done in terms of changing some perceptions about the institution.

“People were cheering and laughing, and it was so engaging,” she recalled. “People walked out literally moved; they now have a new perception of what orchestral music can be like.”

There will be more such performances in the future, including 4U: A Symphonic Celebration of Prince, an MGM presentation featuring the SSO, on Sept. 18, said Beaudry, adding that, overall, the orchestra, at 75, must create the opportunities and support system it will need to celebrate 100 years and the milestones to follow.

It’s a challenge Beaudry fully embraces and one she’s essentially spent her career preparing for. And she believes the timing is right for the SSO to hit some very high notes moving forward.

“We’re sitting at the pinnacle place,” she said. “We have a chance to hit it out of the park.”

Achievements of Note

It’s called the League of American Orchestras.

That’s the national trade association, of you will, for symphony orchestras. The group meets twice annually, once each winter in New York and again in the spring at a different site each year; the most recent gathering was in Chicago.

At that meeting, as at most others in recent years, the topics of conversation have gravitated toward those many challenges listed earlier, and especially the one involving lowering the age of the audiences assembling at symphony halls across the country.

“Every arts organization is looking to lower the average age of its patrons,” she explained. “That’s the only way to secure your future — having people joining you at those lower ages, at a lower ticket price, and eventually that will filter upwards and be your replacement audience.”

Chicago and New York are only a few of the dozens of cities Beaudry has visited in her business travels over the course of her career, especially when working for Simplex, maker of the time clock, among many other products, as divisional senior marketing director — specifically, a division devoted to a fire-suppression and alarm product line.

“This was a job where you on a plane every Monday, and you didn’t come home till Friday,” she explained, adding that this lifestyle — especially eating out all the time — helped inspire what would become the next stage in her career, as a restaurateur.

“As a result of all this travel, I became very interested in regional cuisine,” she explained. “When you’re the marketing person visiting from headquarters, they want to take you to what they’re proud of — their symphony, their museum, their opera, and their best restaurant; after a while, those meals start to grow a little thin, as do your pants.

“So I would say, ‘instead of going to a big, fancy meal at yet another steakhouse, let’s find a little hole in the wall that’s a representation of what the cuisine is in this area,’” she went on. “So I became really interested in food.”

So much so that, when she became a mother, and that ‘get on a plane Monday, return home on Friday’ schedule wasn’t at all appealing anymore, Beaudry, after staying at home for a few years, opened her own restaurant, Main Street Station, in Chester, not far from her home and where she grew up, and just down the street from the Chester Theater Company, which her parents ran.

She described the venture as a hobby, one she pursued for three years, before “returning to work,” as she called it, specifically with the Boston Symphony as director of the corporate fund for Tanglewood. She stayed in that job for seven years before being recruited to South Florida to set up the annual fund for Junior Achievement, before returning to this region.

She said she was approached by David Gang, president of the SSO (he’s still in that role) and encouraged to apply for the open position as director of Development for the orchestra. She did, and came aboard nearly three years ago.

Beaudry said she welcomed the opportunity to succeed Salerno, and for a number of reasons. First and foremost, there was the opportunity to lead an orchestra, one of her career goals. But there was also the opportunity to orchestrate (no pun intended) what would have to be considered a turnaround effort for the institution.

And as she commenced that assignment, she did so knowing that she had a number of strong elements working in, well, harmony.

“People were cheering and laughing, and it was so engaging. People walked out literally moved; they now have a new perception of what orchestral music can be like.”

Starting with the conductor, Kevin Rhodes, who has been with the SSO for 18 years, remarkable longevity in that profession, and has become in ways a fixture within the community.

“He’s such a high-energy, high-profile person,” said Beaudry. “And he’s so willing to jump in to help promote the SSO. In the commercials on TV, he’s willing to dress up in costume, be in character, and be light and silly. And that goes a long way toward changing the perception of what’s happening at Symphony Hall, that it’s not stodgy and stuffy and only for a certain demographic.”

Another strong asset was the board, Beaudry went on, adding that many of the 30-odd members have been with the institution for many years and thus bring not only passion for the SSO but a wealth of experience to the table.

“We’ve been lucky to have board members who have stayed with us for a very long time,” she explained. “So you have institutional knowledge and history and some people who have been through the ups and downs of the organization and can give new leadership like myself feedback about things that have been tried in the past, things we haven’t done in a while that might be successful, and more. To have that kind of leadership has been very helpful.”

Sound Advice

But a well-known, community-minded conductor and a committed board are only a few of the ingredients needed for success in these changing, challenging times, said Beaudry.

Others include imagination, persistence, and a willingness to broaden the institution’s focus (and presence) well beyond what would be considered traditional.

And this brings us back to that list of challenges facing the SSO and all or most institutions like it, starting with the development side of the equation, where the corporate landscape is changing. Elaborating, Beaudry said that, in this market and many others, fewer large companies remain under local ownership, and thus there are fewer potential donors with keen awareness of the institution, its history, and importance to the city and region — a reality far different than what she experienced in Boston.

“The corporations have left or merged — you used to be able to hit five banks in a week and take care of half your season in corporate sponsorships,” she told BusinessWest. “Now, you have to call long-distance; running into the bank president on the street corner just doesn’t happen anymore. You’re taking to someone who doesn’t have any idea what you are or who you are to the community or what the giving history or the relationship history has been, and, sometimes, not interested in learning about it.”

Then, there’s the growing competition for the time and entertainment dollars of the public, she noted, especially the young professionals that comprise the constituency the SSO — and all arts institutions, for that matter — are trying to attract.

“You need people that have discretionary income and time,” she explained, adding that the latter commodity is becoming the more difficult for many people to amass. “Busy parents who are running to soccer games and ski races and cross-country matches are exhausted come Saturday night. Not only are we competing with how busy family lives have become, we’re also competing with the ease of entertainment right in your home. Come Saturday night after a really busy work week and really busy Saturday taking care of your life, do you have the energy to get dressed up on Saturday night and go out when you can order a pizza, open a bottle of wine, and order any movie you want on Netflix?”

In this environment, which, she stressed again, is not unique to the city and this symphony orchestra, greater outreach, and making more introductions, is all-important.

“If the environment’s changed and you’re still doing the same things, eventually you’re going to see your own demise,” she said. “So you need to be reactive and responsive. One of the things I’ve done is increase the number of events that we have. Events are a nice way to introduce yourself to the community, shake a lot of hands, and meet a lot of people in one evening — and from there you can build further relationships and start meaningful relationships around giving.

This was the case at the Armory concert and the performance at MGM’s grand opening, she said. Hearkening back to the former, she said it’s clearly an example of what the SSO needs to do more often — partnering with other organizations and institutions within the community and putting itself in front of before new and different audiences.

“The Armory had a concert series, and we contacted them and said we wanted to participate,” she recalled. “As a mission-driven community partner, we need to be doing more of that; we need to be out in the community.”

And the performance resonated, she said, not just in enthusiastic applause for the performers, but, perhaps even more importantly, in pledges for all-important financial support.

“I literally had people telling me, as they were leaving, that they were going to be giving us more money — they were so impressed, they wanted to increase their gift to us,” she recalled. “And in the end, that’s what keeps us playing — people loving what we do and becoming excited to support it.”

While adding more events, the SSO is also adding more family-oriented performances to its lineup, said Beaudry, adding that, in addition to the annual holiday celebration in early December, there will be On Broadway with Maestro Rhodes, featuring songs from Oklahoma, Carousel, Guys and Dolls, and other Broadway hits, and also a Movie Night with Maestro Rhodes, featuring music from Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, Lawrence of Arabia, and many other timeless hits.

Moving forward, Beaudry said the opening of MGM’s resort casino and the coming of big-name acts like Stevie Wonder, who performed on Sept. 1, and Cher, who’s coming to Springfield on April 30, will bring more people to Springfield and, hopefully, expose them to more of its assets, like the SSO, CityStage, and others.

“As they say, a rising tide lifts all ships,” she noted, adding that the SSO could certainly be one of those ships, especially if works to become more visible across the area and even more of the fabric of the community. “When people are checking out a new place, sometimes they’ll open themselves up to new experiences.”

The Big Finale

Taking in a performance by a symphony orchestra would be a new experience for many, and moving forward, it is Beaudry’s goal — and mission — to make it something … well, less new.

It’s a challenge facing all those attending meetings of the League of American Orchestras, and one that can only be met, as she’s said repeatedly, by being imaginative, responsive, and reactive.

Beaudry and the SSO are working diligently to be all those things, and because of that, and to borrow a term from this industry, things are more upbeat.

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]