How Houston Music Ensembles Are Taking A New Approach To An Old Problem

Five organizations are banding together in an effort to reach out to younger audiences.

By Amy BishopSeptember 19, 2016 9:30 am, ,

From Houston Public Media:

Every year, thousands of people take to the streets of downtown Houston for Theater District Open House. They can take tours, see free performances, interact with the performers, and get deep discounts on season subscriptions.

It’s also a chance for smaller arts groups to get their names out. Inside the crowded lobby of Jones Hall, Houston Chamber Choir’s Paige Myrick stops to chat with a person waiting in line to spin a prize wheel nearby. The non-profit was founded more than 20 years ago and employs 24 professional singers. Myrick attends concerts by other local groups with similar programming and noticed that they share many of the same audience members, which made her think.

“There’s a lot of power in coming together, rather than kind of isolating our audiences,” Myrick says. “Because there’s no doubt about it, we all overlap.”

She noticed something else: The audience demographics of the concerts skew more towards baby boomers and less towards millennials. So she approached the directors of four other groups and suggested they create a special subscription package for young professionals.  They’re calling the series Circle of Fifths, a play on the term referring to key signatures in music.

“(We’re) kind of going further, thinking about addressing an ongoing issue that we all have in the arts, which is how to cultivate a younger audience so that we do have a future,” Myrick explains.

Also manning a table at open house is Da Camera’s Leo Boucher.  For nearly 30 years, the organization has brought jazz and chamber music performances to the Houston area.

“We have experimented with a young professionals group and honestly, didn’t have a lot of luck getting it off the ground,” Boucher says. “So we thought this would be another way to try it.”

The young professionals groups within some of Houston’s larger arts organizations have seen growth in recent years but it’s an uphill battle for some of the smaller ones.

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