Inside the Houston Symphony

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Posts Tagged ‘annual fund

What your Patron Services Specialists are up to…

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Patron Service Specialists Danny Hutchins, Samantha Gonzalez and Jessica Ford

Last fall, all of our donors received a letter and/or email introducing myself (Danny Hutchins), Samantha Gonzalez and Jessica Ford. The Symphony hired us as Patron Services Specialists in September in an effort to provide a more personal approach to customer service for our donors. I thought I’d give you all a closer look at what we do here at the Symphony.

As YOUR Patron Services Specialists, we are happy to help with questions regarding your contributions to our Annual Fund and with any issues you may have, such as ticket exchanges or ticket donations. During the day you will find us tucked away in our cubicles working on thank you letters for our gracious donors or making phone calls in an attempt to raise money for our many programs that fall under Music Matters!. For those of you that don’t already know, Music Matters! touches the lives of more than 125,000 children and adults each year through various outreach activities including instrument lessons for middle school students, family concerts, recitals at nursing homes, homeless shelters and fun-filled education concerts for elementary students.

Now, getting back to our effort to provide a more personal approach to customer service, one of the main goals of this change was to stop out-sourcing our tele-funding. As of last September, every phone call that is made regarding our Annual Fund is made by the Patron Services Specialists. As musicians ourselves (see our bios here), all three of us are very passionate about music education and do our best to raise as much money as possible for the Annual Fund. To achieve this, every day we make phone calls and send out letters and e-mails asking that you consider making or renewing your gift to the Symphony. Once we receive your gift, Samantha, Jessica and I send out thank you letters or make thank you calls to every one of our donors.

Attending events and concerts is another way for us to get to know our donors. The three of us attend every private rehearsal, attend at least two concerts a month each, and go to just about every other Symphony event. One of the most rewarding parts of our job is meeting our donors face to face, so next time you see one of us at a concert or event, please stop by and say hello.

Now that you know a little more about what your friendly Patron Services Specialists are up to, remember that next time the phone rings, it could be one of us calling to say hi or to thank you for your generous contribution.


Written by dannyhutchins

May 11, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Private rehearsals a real treat for donors

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Associate Conductor Robert Franz was a hit during the Pink Martini private rehearsal on April 29.

As I scroll through the past blogs of my colleagues, trying to move past the writer’s block that I am having, I can’t help but notice how great and intimate the blogs are.  Of course, you’re probably thinking that this is a really biased opinion. But seriously, we have done a pretty good job with giving you the inside scoop of what happens within this organization.  If you like these blogs, you would definitely enjoy our private rehearsals.

Thursday, April 29 was the final private rehearsal for the 2009-10 season. There is no better way to connect with the Houston Symphony than to go to our private rehearsals.  Throughout the year, we have 5 rehearsals that are opened exclusively for our Houston Symphony donors who donate $100 or more to our annual fund.  Three out of the five private rehearsals are for upcoming classical performances. However, the other two rehearsals are part of the Pops series. Since Samantha already gave you the scoop on what the rehearsals are in her blog a few weeks ago, I won’t bore you with any more technical details.

This private rehearsal featured the music that was played for the Woodlands performance and the first half of the Pink Martini concert this past weekend.  Conducting the concert was our very personable and quirky family and education concerts conductor Robert Franz.  The pieces performed during these concerts hold special significance, as Franz explains to the audience before the rehearsal starts, because they are tribute to Houston icon and arts philanthropist Cynthia Woods Mitchell.

The rehearsal began its very festive and exciting­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­ journey through great works of opera with Overture to Die Zauberflöte.  The spirit of the music continued with the Triumphal March from Aida, and then we settled in to stay a while in Spanish territory (as portrayed by French composer George Bizet) with five selections from the opera Carmen.  After the first piece, I knew that I was going to be in heaven because I absolutely love opera.  It was so great to hear some of the best and most well-known opera scores played by the Symphony.  We rounded up our trip through the opera world with the Overture to Orphée aux enfers (Orpheus in the Underworld). The rehearsal was completed with selections from Evita, Flying to Rio, and Tchaikovsky’s Capricio Italien.

Robert worked hard to complete the program without an intermission, but he gave audience members and the musicians a break before conducting the Tchaikovsky.  I decided that this would be a perfect chance to mingle with a few of their patrons and get some reactions to the music.

I first approached Ms. Debra Ortega, guest of our patron John Beury.  Debra occasionally accompanies John to the private rehearsals.  She has been to a few classical concerts but this was her first Pops performance.  When I asked her what she thought of the rehearsal, she said that she really liked it.  She confessed that the classical music she normally hears when she comes to the rehearsals didn’t really appeal to her. “It moves a little too slowly, and I have to admit I have fallen asleep before”.  However, she liked this rehearsal because the music is upbeat and exciting.

Niki Demaio has been a contributor and subscriber of the Houston Symphony for about 5 years now.   When I asked her and her guests their opinion about the show, they had a lot to say.  “I have been to a lot of private rehearsals and this one was one of the best.  This is actually my first time seeing Robert Franz conduct a performance and he is so personable and inviting.  He gave a speech at the beginning to give us a little background about the concert and introduced each piece as it was being played.  Also, when he gave notes to the orchestra you could actually hear him.  A lot of the conductors speak in hushed tones during the other rehearsals that I have been to and it’s really hard to hear what’s going on.  Because Franz spoke loudly, I felt like he was inviting us into the conversation, and it wasn’t some big secret.  It really makes a difference when you engage with the audience.

“I always try to bring my friends with me when I go, and one of things my friend Jane likes about going to the rehearsal is hearing the process of what happens when you work on a piece.  During the first run through she will try to listen for mistakes.  After the conductor has given his notes and runs through it again, she listens out for the changes that were made and how the piece is making its way toward perfection.”

So it seems that our last private rehearsal was a success.  Even though it was a smaller turnout because it is the one daytime rehearsal we open to the public, all the patrons left musically fulfilled and excited about going to next year’s private rehearsals.  It is never too late to join in on the experience for next year.  Just contact any of the Patron Services Specialists in the Development Department, and we will be happy to assist you.

Written by jessicajf

May 10, 2010 at 9:56 am

Making friends through music

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Check out Symphony Supporter Ann Anderson's new book!

March 28th marked my first six months working at the Houston Symphony as a Patron Services Specialist.  In the short time that I have been here, I have forged special relationships with several patrons who have been willing to open their hearts and welcome me into their Houston Symphony experience.  There are so many different people that I could highlight in this blog—many people who not only made the commitment to support the Symphony through their various resources, but they have influenced my life with their passion for our organization and helping us share great music with the Houston community. This time, I think I will choose the woman who was one of the first to touch my heart.

The first day on the job making fundraising calls I was met with a few sneers and abrupt hang-ups. Then, I called Ann Anderson for a renewal gift to our annual fund.  During the course of the conversation, I found out that she was not able to attend the Beethoven’s 9th concert at the beginning of the year, as it was the anniversary of her husband’s passing.  The atmosphere of the conversation suddenly changed.  After a few brief words and her consideration to renew her gift, Ann quietly hung up the receiver.  I’m not sure why, but that particular phone call stuck with me that day.  Even though I hardly knew this woman at all, I felt compelled to write her a note of encouragement.  I did not really know whether Ann would appreciate it or be appalled, but there was something in my spirit that wouldn’t let me let that brief encounter go.

A couple of weeks later, we received Ann’s donation to our Annual Fund.  When I contacted her with a follow-up thank you call, she was thrilled to talk to me.  She said she had been meaning to call and thank me for the note that I sent.  She had shown neighbors and friends, and was so touched by my letter.  We spent the next thirty minutes talking about her late husband and her latest project as a first-time author.  At the conclusion of the phone conversation, we agreed to meet at one of the upcoming concerts.

After that initial meeting, Ann and I have corresponded occasionally through mail, e-mail, during concerts and at private rehearsals.  I have had the privilege of meeting her friends and reading her book, A Blind Raccoon in the Family.  Aside from meeting Ann in person, I think one of the best gifts I’ve received was reading her book. Through the very descriptive narrative, the book allowed me to be able to become acquainted with her home life and with her late husband.  It really is a wonderful story of one woman’s relationship with a wild animal which reinforces her ideals of resilience, courage and the triumphs in motherhood.

A couple of weeks ago, I received an e-mail from Ann telling me that she is moving to North Carolina to be closer to family.  Although Ann said she will more than likely become a subscriber of the Charlotte Symphony, she will definitely miss the Houston Symphony’s world class performances. There is definitely a bit of sadness, even as I write this blog, knowing that a friendship I have made through the Symphony may come to an end.  I will definitely miss seeing such a warm familiar face during performances and private rehearsals.  When I asked her what she will miss most about the Houston Symphony, she responded, “I’ll certainly miss you. You’ve renewed my faith in human nature.  I’ll also miss the way the music enfolds me and lifts my spirits.  Live classical music played by the Houston Symphony enriches my life. It’s so much better than listening to a recording.  It’s a whole body experience that brings me joy every time I attend.”

There are probably hundreds of Houston Symphony patrons that could share similar stories of relationships that have begun with a trip to a performance.  Some patrons have told me that they became friends over the years because they have had subscription seats next to one another for so long.  One woman told me that she gets a pair of subscription seats every year because she likes bringing family and friends who really haven’t been exposed to orchestral music.

In the brief time that I’ve worked here at the Symphony, I’ve come to realize how important relationships really are and how natural relationship-building is in this setting.   Being able to share music with others is such a lasting gift.  However it’s more than that.  It’s about sharing life experiences with others through a common bond.  Music is only the beginning.

Written by jessicajf

April 1, 2010 at 3:29 pm