Starting an ensemble? Here's some advice.
Updated: Oct 22, 2020
As I sit here at the end of October 2020, I am reminded that exactly three years ago I fell in love with Cape Cod and began my pursuit to start the Cape Cod Chamber Orchestra. It has been a continuous learning experience both administratively and artistically but I've decided it might be time to write about it. Over the next several weeks I hope to debunk my successes and failures and offer some advice to my fellow colleagues in music. Below are my top five tips to ponder over while getting started and maintaining your new found passion project!
1. Why does your community need another orchestra/ensemble/quartet (fill in the blank)?
There is a reason why I've listed this up top. If you can't come up with a clean and clear answer to this question, it might be time to go back to the drawing board. What will you offer your community that is different than what is already available? REMEMBER: YOU CAN FIND A NICHE without making artistic sacrifices! What are you going to do that has never been done before for your audience?
2. Eat, Play, Live!
You need to get to know the area you will be doing business in. Where are the other cool art orgs at? What are some great places to eat (or in my case, the best lobster roll)? What do people do for fun? Just get out there and be mindful of your surroundings. How can you expect to build an audience (and eventually donors) if you can't recommend a good oyster bar?
3. Be prepared...to do it all.
It is time to educate yourself. Remember, this is your baby isn't it?? If you're like me you graduated college with ZERO business/marketing/fundraising experience. Fortunately the internet is your friend. And don't just read business advice from people in the arts, diversify the experience and look at how other fields do it. There is a lot more we can learn this way. The greatest advice I can give is that if your message and mission is clear, the rest of the administrative responsibilities tend to find their place.
4. Be mindful of your role models.
It is important to find a niche, yes, but try to look at those orgs you look up to through an administrative lens. What types of marketing campaigns were successful? Which programs and initiatives look welcoming to newcomers? How attractive is their desktop & mobile site? Is their mission statement clear? These types of questions are important to be mindful of early on and will help guide your own decision making.
5. The three T's: Trust, Trust, Trust!
Trust in your supporters, trust in your colleagues, trust in the mission of your organization, and trust in yourself! This is the one I've messed up the most. It is so easy to let seemingly small details with large consequences slip by in your day to day work, either organizationally, personally, or artistically. IT IS OKAY. You'll get in the groove of things as you make more mistakes, that is for sure! But take any negative experience and turn it into a positive. What did you learn from an unpleasant experience that you will avoid doing in the future?
Notice how in all of these tips I never really mentioned money. It is a hot button topic which I promise I'll explore in the next few weeks but I will say this; if your mission, your message, and your passion about your project is palpable to people you encounter and work with, support tends to find a way.
Dr. Matthew Scinto is the Founder & Music Director of the Cape Cod Chamber Orchestra and Music Director of the Civic Orchestra of New Haven. Read more about the CCCO here.