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No ‘off season’ for JSYM
Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra Director of Public Relations Paul Witkowski, Director of Sales Josh Schwerdtfeger, Executive Director Stacy Ridenour and Account Executive Bill Cosnotti.
by Max Marbut

Staff Writer

The Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra’s season begins in September and ends in May each year. During that time, there are more than 100 performances in the Robert E. Jacoby Symphony Hall at the Times-Union Center. The 54 musicians learn and rehearse as many as 40 programs each season, plus they present concerts for elementary and middle school students in North Florida.

It all adds up to a busy nine months, but it doesn’t end there.

In the “off season,” JSYM members teach music or travel to perform at music festivals all over the country, making their profession a year-round endeavor.

The same is true for the administrative side of the orchestra. The tasks are different, but the year-round schedule is the same for the organization’s other 100 executives and employees who don’t rosin a bow or tune a trumpet, trombone or tuba. They begin their new season even before the musicians finish theirs.

“The first push is in early spring when we renew the season tickets. That’s a six to eight-week process,” said Director of Sales Josh Schwerdtfeger. “Some season subscribers want to change seats and that takes another couple of weeks, then we seat the new subscribers.”

JSYM’s website, www.jaxsymphony.org, is also a place to become a subscriber and select where you’d like to sit in the hall, said Director of Public Relations Paul Witkowski. Online purchasing and seat selection will be available later this month.

“The website is the hub of the effort. We want to make it engaging so that people want to seek it out,” he added.

JSYM is also making use of Facebook and Twitter as part of the marketing effort.

“We have to get the market’s attention through the clutter and then build a relationship,” said Witkowski.

The next step in the marketing effort for the upcoming season is direct contact when a staff of 10 people begin making more than 5,000 phone calls each week to lapsed subscribers and new residents. While some people might call them telemarketers, Account Executive Bill Cosnotti said “they are more like inside salespeople.”

“And they provide a high level of customer service,” said Executive Director Stacy Ridenour.

She said the organization also has made pricing adjustments for the 2010-11 season. “We have really restructured the pricing. It’s going to be an offer you can’t refuse,” she said.

The lineup includes the farewell tour for mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade, “An Evening with Bernadette Peters,” Donizetti’s comic opera “The Elixir of Love” and Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Pirates of Penzance.”

Highlights of the Masterworks Series include Ravel’s “Bolero” and Holst’s “The Planets.”

The Fusion Series is returning next season, combining international music with cuisine to complement the geographical flavor of each presentation. The new menu features American, Russian, Nordic and Hungarian choices.

The Plugged In Series will offer three programs: “The Music of Michael Jackson,” “The Motown Experience” and “Celtic Celebration.”

Witkowski said the new season offers something for every type of symphony-goer. “We’re broadening our base. We want people to understand the symphony is the place to go and the place to come back to.”

mmarbut@baileypub.com

356-2466

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