By Jennifer Barlament, Executive Director of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
1. Every time the Atlanta Symphony wins a GRAMMY Award (we’ve won 28), we insert our city—by name—into the consciousness of people around the globe. And we do it in ways that reach beyond the music. Our GRAMMY Awards reach past artistic achievement to reflect the character of our city. Atlantans are committed to artistic excellence; and each time an Atlanta Symphony GRAMMY win is announced, that commitment to the art and the music by this community is delivered around the world.
2. While professional orchestras are not established to help stabilize a community, the reality is they do. When the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra moved to Midtown in 1968, the orchestra and its partner arts organizations at The Woodruff Arts Center were an oasis in an otherwise distressed neighborhood. Businesses had closed, residents had moved away, the tax base had plummeted and vacant buildings had become the norm. The revitalization of Midtown has a long, complex, and layered history, but the proximity to world-class arts continues to anchor this flowering. Today’s Midtown is a neighborhood where people can live, walk, work, play and enjoy a rich variety of visual and performing arts.
3. The ASO has triggered an explosion of community music-making. In 1970, music director and choral conducting legend Robert Shaw founded the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus. Soon, singers from across the country and beyond began moving to Atlanta for the privilege of singing under his baton. To this day, choir directors across the city will proudly tell you they sang for Robert Shaw—followed by a favorite Robert Shaw story and the sharing of his signature techniques. While performing in a chorus has not yet been elevated to America’s favorite pastime, the fact is more people sing in choirs than play on baseball teams and the all-volunteer Atlanta Symphony Orchestra Chorus is one of the best in the world.
4. For nearly 75 years, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has furthered music education in the community with a steady infusion of top-tier music teachers. The art of passing musicianship from one generation to the next is in a classical musician’s DNA. Can you imagine Atlanta’s talented young musicians having to fly to New York for music lessons? Playing in the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra is a full-time job, but nearly all our musicians also teach in their spare time. This embedded talent not only benefits Georgia’s young musicians, but area colleges and universities, who are able to have top-tier players on their faculty without having to pay for full salaries and benefits. In turn, they can attract the highest caliber of students to their institutions.
This is all in addition to the orchestra’s own education initiatives, which enhance music education in schools and help close the gap for schools that, sadly, have cut music from their curriculums. In fact, the ASO Talent Development Program is the most high-quality, prolific, longstanding, and influential training program for minority classical musicians in the country.
5. Finally, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra is good for business. An excellent airport and lower cost of living have helped fuel enormous growth in our business and private sectors, but at the heart of this growth is the quality of life Atlanta offers. As you’ll see in this welcome video by the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, the ASO is featured in a montage of the music of the city. Indeed, a sizable percentage of our audience helps keep Midtown hotels, restaurants, and parking garages humming. And the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra itself employs more people than any other performing arts organization in the Southeastern United States.
Ultimately, we wouldn’t be a great orchestra without you. The people who derive energy from living in a creative, urban environment; the tens of thousands of people who buy tickets to our concerts; the parents and teachers who bring a busloads of young people to Symphony Hall; the civic leaders who help us reach greater artistic heights. These are the people who give purpose to what we do.
We have a pretty good idea why most people support the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and it’s not the reasons listed above. The reason comes down to something deep within the hearts of those who sit in our audience: the Danish author Hans Christian Anderson liked to put it this way, “Where words fail, music speaks.”