Beyond Beethoven

Performing arts organizations seek the next generation of patrons

By Patricia Pickett

In the last two decades, Hamilton County’s quality of life quotient has risen considerably as leisure activities like parks, shopping and entertainment have burgeoned at a remarkable rate. Klipsch Music Center rose from the cornfields like a beacon to touring musicians as “Deer Creek” in 1989; with much fanfare and some controversy, The Center for the Performing Arts -- including the palatial Palladium -- opened in 2011.

These venues filled the void for Hamilton County residents seeking national touring acts and high-caliber entertainment in close proximity to their homes.

But then comes the tenuous job of cultivating audiences and filling the seats. It’s the business of the arts.

Seeking Millenials

 According to local arts leaders, it’s a bit of a balancing act: While nurturing the patrons who regularly purchase season tickets and may even be donors, there’s the simultaneous challenge of attracting new audiences, including millennials. Add to the mix the national trend of the traditional “season subscription” lessening in popularity – with so many choices, audiences don’t want to commit to an entire season.

Much like their business counterparts, arts organizations are constantly on the hunt for customers. According to Mark Truett, vice president of marketing and communications for The Center for the Performing Arts, it really comes down to programming followed by reaching potential ticket buyers.

“It’s about making sure we’re programming relevant content,” said Truett, who joined The Center earlier this year. “We have our core constituency of ticket buyers and want to provide what they are looking for and meeting our mission. But there’s no doubt that the millennials are our next-generation audience, and we need to connect with them as well.”

According to a 2016 survey of 25 arts organizations throughout the country conducted by the Wallace Foundation, there are four success factors in growing a millennial audience.

  • Dispel their perceptions of ticket prices which they believe are much more expensive than they are in reality
  • Create experiences that challenge them emotionally and intellectually, encourage self-discovery, and offer them a release from the stresses of everyday life.
  • Create social experiences.
  • Create “buzz worthy” experiences they can share with friends via social media

Yoga

Janna Hymes

As the newly appointed Music Director and Maestro of the Carmel Symphony Orchestra (CSO), Janna Hymes is familiar with these trends. A guest conductor for orchestras throughout the country as well as serving as music director for the Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra (WSO), she points to a performance of Star Trek music that orchestra will be performing this season. “A friend’s adult son came up to me and was so excited … we’re doing it four times, and he’s coming to two shows,” she said.

In another programming twist, when Williamsburg audiences were treated to violinist Elena Urioste, the WSO tapped into her “Intermission” yoga program and hosted a yoga class the Friday evening before the concert. 

“It just created an amazing vibe with not just the musicians, but the community as a whole,” said Hymes. “It underscores what I believe about performing arts. It is an integral part of the community. The arts give the community a heartbeat, provide economic growth and bring in fascinating people. That’s a much bigger story than, ‘Hey did you hear Beethoven on Saturday?’”

As Hymes begins her tenure with the CSO, she says her challenge will be discovering what makes Carmel and the surrounding community tick and programming accordingly. “One thing I know is that Carmel has one of the most beautiful halls I’ve ever seen,” she said. “We’ve been able to create a palpable ‘buzz’ in Williamsburg, and I know we can do the same in Carmel.”

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Look at Fishers Today

This could be FishersThis was our cover story just 3½ years ago. This could be Fishers! It was hard to believe because the town had grown (quickly) on a suburban scale. Wide streets, single story buildings, large fields with trees around the municipal center. This rendering didn’t look anything like that. But Fishers had unveiled a plan for downtown that was designed to make the area around Town Hall more walkable, urban and business-friendly. This was the view from the second floor of Town Hall then.

This the view today

View of Downtown Fishers

It’s a remarkable transformation, especially considering the time frame. In three short years the (now) city has seen amazing activity in the city core. Not everyone likes the change, and some question the public investment, but you have to admire the ambition that’s gone into the dozen or so buildings erected around the Municipal Center. They are creating a sense of place that was missing before, and luring residents and businesses that were nowhere to be found just a few years ago.

Nickel Plate Trail

 One part of those plan for downtown Fishers includes a trail that would run on the right of way of the Nickel Plate Railroad, which runs north to Noblesville and south to downtown Indianapolis. Of course, turning it into a trail means the train tracks would likely have to come out.

For the past 30 years or so, the Indiana Transportation Museum has run a Fair Train on those tracks from Fishers to the Indiana State Fair in the Summer. All those fields around the Town Hall served as convenient parking lots for tens of thousands of people who enjoyed giving their kids a taste of railroading while avoiding parking hassles at the Fairgrounds.

The Fair Train was cancelled last year over track safety issues raised by some within the ITM’s own ranks. It doesn’t look like it will run this year either. The Fair Train was the museum’s main revenue generator and the cancellation has strained its finances.

We take a closer look at this unusual museum in this edition: what constitutes its collection, how it operates, and what are its prospects. It’s run a by a dedicated group of people who love trains and have made countless memories for families over the years. Here’s hoping the wheels of progress don’t claim one of Hamilton County’s most unique assets.

And, while we’re on the subject of trains, let me direct your attention to the Northern Hamilton County chamber page, page 28. Most of it is devoted to promoting a new festival called Atlanta Express. It celebrates our railroad heritage and promises to be a great time for both young and old. Sounds like a great opportunity to head up to the northern part of the county.