And other lessons learned from performing at a hockey game. 

I’ve written here before about what classical musicians can learn from sports teams – here’s an update. Recently, on behalf of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, I played the national anthem before a Cincinnati Cyclones hockey game, and picked up some more helpful tips about putting on a successful event.

Most orchestra concerts begin with a series of individual entrances- the executive director gives a curtain speech thanking donors, followed by the concertmaster, who tunes the orchestra, and finally, the conductor, who comes in, gets the orchestra up (which is unhelpful – we’ve just gotten settled), and bows (for no good reason – they haven’t done anything yet). This can take several minutes, and often drains much of the energy from the room.

What about starting the evening this way instead?

Twister (Cincinnati Cyclones mascot) entrance

This is how I think classical music concerts should start.

Posted by Bach and Boombox on Monday, December 17, 2018

So, we need fire and a cool mascot, maybe some ice – no problem. I can hear the naysayers now – “What about cost?” Remember, each of these items are potential sponsorship opportunities! (“Tonight’s fire is brought to you by Blue Rhino Propane!”) And any safety concerns are easily taken care of, by inviting your county’s fire chief and insurance administrators onto your board and getting their approval as an in-kind donation.

My other big takeaway from the evening – concert halls desperately need a penalty box. In hockey, penalties create the most exciting part of the game – the power play. Maybe the violins could play a movement minus one member if they get called for excessive screechiness when playing on the high E string (which happens all the time, according to ProMusica’s David Danzmayr a conductor who prefers to remain anonymous). Or that one patron who insists on unwrapping their cough drop at the quietest moment in the slow movement – you know who you are. Give them two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct and seat them directly in front of the trombones – that’ll teach them.

Now the big question is, of course, who decides? Conductors, please put your hands down – you have enough power already. What about members of the orchestra, or maybe a board member? Personally, I’d vote for either the third chair cello (always the wisest person in an ensemble) or even better, an unpaid intern – finally a chance for them to get some payback! Here’s where we need some groupthink – please post your suggestions for concert hall penalties, and who should hand them out, in the comments!

Till next time – and Go Cyclones!


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