Community engagement was central to Spring For Music. Spring For Music concerts didn’t look like any other concerts in Carnegie Hall. Orchestras were encouraged to bring fans from their home towns to New York for their concerts. We created a Hometown Fans section in the center of the hall. Each orchestra chose a color and hometown fans were given handkerchiefs to wave. Some orchestras brought as many as 1,600 fans with them, and the hall sprang to life in a sea of color and enthusiasm.
Online, in addition to using social media, we produced a series of experiments meant to build and engage classical music fans. Our approach to these activities was not to use them to promote concerts but stimulate interest in the ideas that the project embodied. The premise was that S4M was more than just a set of concerts, it was a set of ideas. So we wanted to promote those ideas in many different ways.
Fantasy Program Contest – 2011
Spring For Music was built not around orchestras, but around programs. Orchestras wanting to be chosen for Spring For Music had to submit innovative programs. We posted all of the programs online so visitors could see them and judge for themselves. Each program included a rationale for the program. So we wondered what kinds of programs the community would come up with. Visitors posted programs, and the community voted. A New York cellist by the name of Peter Sachon submitted the winning program.
Fantasy Program Contest – 2012
We repeated the program contest in 2012 and got some novel programming ideas including one titled “An Evening with Satan and his Friends“. The voting went back and forth many times, until Peter Sachon, the 2011 winner, mobilizing his social media friends, ended up on top again. His program, titled “Too Popular,” consisted of Wagner’s Das Rheingold – Prelude (5:00); Herrmann: Psycho – A narrative for String Orchestra (16:00) Glass: The Hours – Concerto for piano and string orchestra (24:00); and Glass: Symphony No. 9 (50:00).
Great Arts Blogger Contest – 2012
Thirty-two arts bloggers entered our contest. Each week for four weeks we asked a question and asked bloggers to write blog posts on their own blogs in response. Participating bloggers got new readers, who voted on their favorite posts. We also had a jury who voted on the entries. The blogger contest furthered S4M’s aim of stimulating discussion around issues we care about. Ultimately, singer Jennifer Rivera, who writes the blog Trying to Remain Opera-tional won the competition and a free trip to New York and tickets to Spring For Music.
S4M University – 2013
Massive Open Online Courses were just gaining popularity in 2012/13. We created a course built not around the programs of Spring For Music, but about what makes great programs and great orchestras. We also talked with experts about how to listen to music. Thousands signed up for the course. This might have been the first-ever MOOC created by an arts organization. Absent a software platform built specifically for MOOCs, we improvised with WordPress and social media.
Public Vote For 2014 Orchestras
Each year, orchestras applied to participate in Spring For Music by submitting innovative programs. We invited visitors to the Spring For Music website to vote for the 2014 programs they liked best. While the audience vote didn’t choose the orchestras (artistic director Tom Morris made the final decisions), the audience vote had an influence. Some orchestras mounted public campaigns through their social media and newspapers, and after a furious battle, the Winnipeg Symphony won with more than 3,000 votes. Winnipeg was chosen and delivered one of the most interesting evenings of the 2014 festival.