After more than 30 years in the dry cleaning and laundry supply business, Bill Cosnotti thought he was going to retire in 2003 when he and his wife, Kathy, moved from Long Island, N.Y., to Ponte Vedra.
After about a year, Cosnotti — who had always supported the local symphony orchestra whether he and his wife lived in Chicago, Phoenix, Toronto or Long Island — answered a newspaper ad seeking a sales account executive for the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra.
When he didn’t get a call back in three weeks, Cosnotti contacted the symphony to ask for an interview.
“They said they didn’t think I’d be happy with the job because it didn’t pay much. I said I didn’t care what it paid,” said Cosnotti, who soon joined the sales team. “It’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”
He admits that for him, at least, traditional classical music was an acquired taste.
Until he went to work for Jacksonville’s orchestra, Cosnotti’s interest was mainly in the area of pops concerts, but he has since grown to appreciate Bach, Beethoven and Brahms.
“It’s like 12-year-old scotch or a Martini. The first sip is a little tough. The second sip is pretty good. After a while, there’s nothing like it,” he said.
For the past 10 years, Cosnotti concentrated on group sales, developing symphony experience packages and selling ads in “Encore,” the orchestra’s concert program.
Taking his experience in growing markets gained during his corporate career, Cosnotti went to work to expand the influence of the orchestra well beyond the city limits.
He helped develop a combination of luxury bus service, fine dining and concert tickets that have brought symphony fans from Lake City, Palm Coast, The Villages and the Brunswick and St. Simons Island, Ga., areas to the Times-Union Center.
Dinner cruises along the St. Johns River aboard the Foxy Lady yacht also have prove to be popular and have helped more people discover the orchestra.
“We enhanced the experience. Hopefully, they’ll buy a ticket again,” Cosnotti said.
While he’s dedicated to making retirement stick this time, Cosnotti said he and Kathy won’t be strangers in Jacoby Symphony Hall even though he won’t be in the office five days a week.
“I’m going to miss the people and the product. I told the musicians they’ll be seeing me whether they like it or not. The symphony will always be a part of my life,” he said.