F or several years now I’ve been bugging Bruce Ridge to make a swing through Salt Lake and pay the Utah Symphony musicians a visit. We’re all well aware here that most of Bruce’s fieldwork has taken him to orchestras in various states of major distress. And, although the Utah Symphony has endured some very trying and difficult times over the past decade, we have not been taken to (or over) the brink by our management or board—as have so many orchestras whose situations have so acutely demanded Bruce’s attention. (Although, in retrospect, we actually got pretty close back in 2005.)
So I’d work angles like: “Hey Bruce, ya know, Salt Lake is a Delta Airlines hub. So, on your next trip out West, why not choose a connecting flight through here and simply stay a day or two? Maybe you could even time it to hear a rehearsal or a show.” I could tell he wanted to, but for quite a while it just didn’t work out—that is until last December when, at last, he was able to put together a trip that could work with his understandably harried schedule.
In fact, he scheduled several days here, so my partner in crime (read “ICSOM alternate delegate”) Larry Zalkind and I decided to milk this opportunity for everything we figured we could wring out of it. In the process, I temporarily became Bruce’s local press agent — booking him for interviews with the arts desks of Salt Lake’s two major newspapers, our biggest network TV affiliate, the classical music FM station, and a popular regional performing arts blog. Those of you who follow the ICSOM Group page on Facebook may recall the links to those printed or recorded interviews that soon followed.
There was a method to our madness here. Not only did we wish to tout Bruce’s visit in the press, this was also a marvelous opportunity for the Utah Symphony musicians to take charge of some of our own “branding” throughout the community and to put the orchestra and its players into dinner-table conversations around the state, even with folks who might not attend the Symphony. It’s important to find ways to remind people in one’s region just how important their symphony orchestra is to their region; and giving Bruce high visibility here talking about the Utah Symphony was a superb way to do this for us! Not at all surprisingly, Mr. Ridge came through in a huge way, hitting it out of the park in each interview. In addition, Bruce managed to work in: addressing the players after a rehearsal; attending our Ravel/Debussy concert that weekend; dinner beforehand with our CEO (my, but Bruce is a charmer—but that’s not news); and, after all that, attending an after-concert party the musicians threw for him.
We realize that the current issues facing our players don’t have quite the intensity or immediacy of those that many of our colleagues nationwide are currently being made to endure. Even so, many musicians here told me after his visit how they found Bruce’s words and energy to be uplifting, inspiring, and healing.
We eagerly await the next time Bruce can manage to swing through this Delta hub.