“I didn’t get forced into it at all,” newly named Cape Ann Symphony board president Fran White is quick to say. “But I did say, ‘Why me?’
“I have more of a business background,” says the founder and CEO of Beverly’s MDC Associates, a medical consulting firm. “But the real answer is that we have great music talent, and a wonderful part-time staff, and an new business manager who brings so much energy to the position.”
This optimism, coupled with ongoing growth of the CAS season into its second home at Ipswich High School, has the 67-year-old professional ensemble on the upswing.
The CAS season begins on Sept. 22 in Manchester Essex Regional High School, with music director Yoichi Udagawa continuing the world-wide Leonard Bernstein centenary by programming two of his most popular orchestral works, the Symphonic Dances from “West Side Story” and the overture from “Candide.” Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet Suite” from the ballet score rounds out the program. The program repeats the following afternoon at Ipswich High School.
Apart from reaching out to a new audience — “the Ipswich community has been very welcoming to us; it’s really a music conscious community,” White says — the symphony is fostering other initiatives to help community outreach. A chamber music series, featuring the principal players in the orchestra, is in the planning stages. “That allows us to keep ticket prices down, and bring music to a different group,” she says.
Extending the subscription concerts is also under discussion—“maybe doing another Pops concert in the spring,” she says, noting that nothing has been solidified yet.
And a new conducting fellow, Michael Coelho, will join the CAS this season, and work under Udagawa. Coelho, joined by business manager and principal second violinist Susanne Powers, will also give pre-concert lectures.
“It’s the first time that we’re doing this,” White says. “I’ve attended lectures like this at the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and they have always been helpful and well attended.”
At the core of the outreach lies one central problem, a problem that all orchestras have: attracting younger audiences.
“We all worry that classical music doesn’t reach out to them,” White says. “With Michael starting the lectures, that may help. We have youth programs in the schools, and for our holiday concerts, the Manchester-Essex choir will sing with us there, and the Ipswich choir will sing with us in Ipswich. That’s one good way of involving a different and younger audience.
“It’s about involvement,” she says. “You get them to one concert and that makes a difference. I remember I came to my first concert and I was blown away by the musicians.”
The CAS board also participated in a Harvard marketing study this past year in an effort to address the issue.
“It was a six-week study,” White says. “Various companies attended, like Tufts Medical and Fidelity. The companies were required to give the students a challenge, and we asked them how we could attract a younger audience. I won’t say that anything miraculous came out of it, but the basic message was to include a younger population, and to bring education into the mix.
“So we will increase those initiatives,” she says. “We have rigorous financial goals as well. But we have great music talent.
“There was a time when I didn’t even know there was a Cape Ann Symphony, when I first came to Cape Ann,” White says, “People are always surprised when they hear us. Our goal is to increase our input to the community.”
Cape Ann Symphony Season at a Glance
Sept. 22, 23
Season-opening concerts in Manchester and Ipswich continue the world-wide Leonard Bernstein celebration, with his Symphonic Dances from “West Side Story,” the “Candide” overture. Program also includes Prokofiev’s suite from the ballet score to “Romeo and Juliet.”
Nov. 24, 25
Popular holiday program with Cape Ann Symphony Chorus, under the direction of Wendy Betts, returns with three performances, featuring music of Strauss, Mozart and Leroy Anderson.
Pianist Jonathan Bass joins the CAS for one performance only, soloing with Mozart’s concerto No. 21. Beethoven’s second symphony, and Robert Bradshaw’s “Norman’s Woe,” also on the program.
May 18, 19
Boston Symphony Orchestra members Lucia Lin (violin) and Owen Young (cello) return to perform with the CAS in the rarely programmed Sinfonia Concertante of Miklos Rozsa. Rozsa’s Parade of the Charioteers from his score to the movie “Ben-Hur,” and Dvorak’s “New World Symphony,” close out the season.