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Before pianist Di Wu ever touches a stage keyboard for her Sept. 21 season-opening date with the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic, she will work with orchestra staff to publicize the show and the entire 2013-14 season.
The native of China will attend a Chinese Fellowship reception here and a Partners in Education age-50-plus music class taught by Philharmonic music director David Bowden. Plus, she will lead a master class for young piano students.
Wu, a resident of New York City who has played with top ensembles worldwide, understands the publicity push in a classical music world means singing a different tune to attract audiences and stay vibrant.
“And that is (just) the first concert marketing strategy,” Bowden said.
The local professional orchestra recently completed a six-figure financial turnaround as a result of shrewd marketing and savvy budget cutting. Orchestras also have viewed the 28-year-old Wu as a good draw for younger audiences. That’s significant since the highest percentage of orchestra concert attendees is aged 55 to 64, according to a 2008 study from the National Endowment for the Arts.
“Because of my age, maybe some younger people might see me as more approachable,” said Wu, speaking by phone from her home. “And I think a master class is one pretty good way to introduce yourself to a younger audience.”
From the youngest keyboard students to older, classic rockers, the Philharmonic is aiming at different audiences for almost all of its new dates, including a first-ever foray into ’60s music with The Beatles tribute band, Classical Mystery Tour on Feb. 1.
The ensemble that once could count on two near-automatic 1,100-seat sellouts for its holiday concert, for example, saw one full house last season.
That was a presentation of homegrown talent from Columbus natives and Broadway singers Marja and Chasten Harmon and sax player Cam Collins.
“Regarding our target audience, the honest truth is that we really are trying to reach everyone during a season,” Bowden said. “It is actually a part of our vision statement.”
New Philharmonic marketing manager Chris Gordon, who is in his 20s, understands the importance of reaching his peers.
“My generation is constantly tuned in,” Gordon said. “Information is literally at our fingertips. We don’t want to go out of our way to seek out information, or plan ahead by filling our weekends up with season tickets.”
“Therefore, it is important to look for different ways to get this young generation to hear our music. We are doing this by playing different venues (like the recent Artfest downtown), promoting shows such as The Beatles tribute and reaching out with social media.
“The music is timeless, and I know that if we can get people of any age in the seats, they will see this as well.”
The Philharmonic is using many tools to reach new listeners:
Its Columbus Indiana Children’s Choir, which has appeared at Carnegie Hall, sang at Columbus Regional Hospital in December and even caroled on some of the patient floors.
The Philharmonic Youth Orchestra performed at YES Cinema earlier this year before a showing of the film, “A Late Quartet.”
The Philharmonic Brass Quintet played on the lawn of Madison’s Lanier Mansion last month.
Wu said she believes all orchestras can find a way to reach new ticket buyers. She herself is fascinated by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s rock and classical combos, performing its holiday arena concerts before thousands. It ranked among the nation’s top-grossing acts of 2012, according to Billboard magazine.
“That’s not to say orchestras need to be playing rock concerts,” she said. “It’s just that there are things they can do.”
Make a note
All Columbus Indiana Philharmonic concerts are 7:30 p.m. at Judson Erne Auditorium, 1400 25th St., unless otherwise noted. Single tickets range from $10 to $50. Season packages also are available. For information, call 376-2638, ext. 110, or visit thecip.org.
When: Sept. 21:
Program: Performing the music of George Gershwin and Franz Liszt
Instrument: Classical guitar
When: Oct. 19
Program: Playing Gioacchino Rossini, Joseph Haydn and Joaquín Rodrigo
The Philharmonic Chorus
When: Nov. 16
With: Area high school choirs
Program: Performing George Frideric Handel’s “Messiah.”
Columbus Indiana Children’s Choir
When: 3 and 7 p.m. Dec. 15
With: Vocalists Neil Jones and Lisa Beutler-Jones
Program: “Celebrate the Holidays”
Classical Mystery Tour
What: A Beatles tribute band
When: Feb. 1
Program: Performs a mix of Fab Four tunes, from “Penny Lane” to “I Am the Walrus”
The Philharmonic Chorus
When: April 4
Program: Performs Johannes Brahms’ “Requiem”
When: April 26
Program: Sings a variety of music from “Blue Skies” to “God Bless America”
About: Hamilton is a Columbus-born singer and national performer
Annual ‘SALUTE!’ concert
When: 6 p.m. May 23
Where: Bartholomew County Memorial for Veterans lawn
Program: Patriotic favorites
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