Inside the Houston Symphony

Taking you behind the music–one concert at a time!

Posts Tagged ‘musicians

Musicians About Town

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Elise Wagner at Discovery Green

What makes people feel connected to the Houston Symphony?  That question was my challenge for our season campaign.  Is it the experience, is it the programming, is it the local arts aspect?  All of the above actually, and for the 2010-2011 Season, we decided to focus on the connection of hometown pride.  This city has a lot of pride for the arts scene because we have one of the best. Of course, this is from a hometown girl’s perspective, but hey, I’m the one writing the blog here.  We wanted to connect our musicians and our organization with the people of this city on a personal level with something we can all relate to.  And what we can all relate to, hopefully, is that we are all a part of Houston (and surrounding areas), and we can be proud of our local talent and arts organizations.  Our marketing campaign is all about that connection.

In order to create this connection we decided to work out a campaign where we show our musicians with their instruments in recognizable locations around the city.  Locations like Discovery Green, Hermann Park and a Metro Rail station.  We used taglines such as “Music for Houston.  Music for YOU.”  We also incorporated photos with the musicians in the various locations with patrons, and relating quotes about their symphony experiences.

Phillip Freeman with patron Gina Stevens at the Metro Rail.

We had a great time working on a photo shoot for this.  We had one day to have 2 photographers, 7 Symphony musicians, 3 marketers, 5 patrons and 4 locations all coordinated into an around town shoot.  One of the most eventful of these photo shoots was the one with Phillip Freeman of our orchestra who plays the bass trombone.  We scheduled him as the second to last shoot of the day at the Metro Rail station near the Medical Center.  So we got there with dreams of doing all kinds of fantastic shots with our musician and patrons on and around the trains arriving and departing.  We got all set up with cameras, tripods, lights, etc. only to be kicked off the platform by the metro police within ten minutes.  Apparently you need a permit to take pictures here.  So, our brilliant plan was foiled, and we moved across the street to do the rest of our photo shoot in front of one of the Medical Center buildings.  As we were wrapping up, here comes yet another metro police vehicle.  We were questioned a second time and given our second warning of the day not to get back on the Metro Rail platform.  My favorite line of the day was from our fearless Marketing leader, Glenn Taylor.  When we were asked “Who is in charge here?” He boldly replied, “I guess that can be me.”

Anyway, we ended up with some amazing shots that are being used as we speak in all our marketing materials for the 10-11 Season.  You can find them in brochures (click here to view the brochures online), print ads and online.  And, coming soon you will see some more casual shots of our musicians downtown for our Symphony Summer in the City campaign.  The hope is that seeing the musicians about town in your own city relates that they are Houstonians like us who love this city, and want to bring you the best music they can offer.  The Arts in Houston is truly thriving, and we, as Houstonians, should have pride in the caliber of music, visual art and performance art this city offers.

Support the arts in any way you can because we all want it to be around for our children and our children’s children.  I think the best possible way you can support the arts in Houston is to subscribe to the 10-11 Symphony Season … but that’s just me.


Written by Allison Gilbert

April 22, 2010 at 12:22 pm

Home sweet home …

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Dear Dan Rather,

Thank you so much for coming to our concert last Thursday, and for tweeting praises about it!  Twice!  So glad you enjoyed the performance.  You are always welcome, please come again!



To everyone else who came, THANK YOU SO MUCH, too!!!  Our Carnegie concert was such a success because of you!


Friday, we all flew down to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, exchanging freezing sidewalks for balmy beaches!  Our first concert on Saturday evening was at the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach.  There was a very large turnout, the audience was incredibly sincere and not without sense of humor.  There was hearty chuckling before the movement Saturn (Bringer of Old Age), and Uranus (well, how do you say it?).

Our final concert was Sunday evening at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale.  Again, incredible turnout, even larger than WPB.  Very enthusiastic audience.  More chuckling before those two movements.  (Isn’t it said that we all revert back to our childhood as we age?)

Overall, both Florida performances were huge hits.  Our entire tour was a huge success!  Going on tour, wherever it may be, is so critical for the health of a major symphony orchestra.  To be able to share and spread our art and love of music increases our fan base, and garners more international support.  Touring is beneficial for the Houston Symphony, and also for a thriving, expanding, globalizing, prospering city such as Houston.  Not only do we represent ourselves, we also represent the city in which we are located.  I hope we may continue to tour more, as we have done in the past, in the future.

Many thanks and shout-outs to people, without whom this tour would be impossible.  Thanks to everyone on the Houston Symphony Board and Administrative Staff for organizing and arranging everything.  Thanks to HS management for taking such good care of us on the road (thanks Steve for letting me use your laptop!).  Big, big, thanks to the HS stage crew (Donald Ray!!!  Kelly!!!  Cory!!!) for being so awesome and magically switching the stage at least three times a night.  Finally, big thanks to Mario of Mario’s Catalina Restaurant for serving the best Cuban food… and Mojitos…

Now — home sweet home!  I’m going to relax and watch one of my favorite movies, Tampopo.

Written by kiju

February 4, 2010 at 11:25 am

A plane ride to NYC … hardly plain!

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Glenn Taylor, the Symphony’s Senior Director of Marketing, also took the trip up north and sent in photos and his personal take on the experience. Keep an eye out for more posts from Glenn in the future!

Houston Symphony's very own Aurelie, Amanda and Steve enjoying their time backstage at Carnegie Hall.

As I and 50 or so musicians began to board Continental flight 40 Wednesday morning, I wondered what would keep me occupied for the 3 hour trip to Newark airport. I was filled with excitement to be accompanying the orchestra to Carnegie Hall, but the plane ride itself … ehhh. The most I was hoping for was a smooth ride, to catch some zzz’s and get a bit of work done. Well, and that the provided in-flight snack would be yummy in my tummy of course. (Turns out it was a chicken wrap… not bad, Continental!)

Then the real excitement would begin once we got to New York and Carnegie, right? Well, not exactly.

Not that anything bad happened with the flight. It was a nice flight. But something occurred that I didn’t expect … a wonderful connection was made, and I ended up learning more about the behind-the-scenes life of a Symphony musician than I ever have done hanging around backstage at Jones Hall.

I had the pleasure of sitting next to Ellie Herrera. Ellie’s a cellist in the orchestra, but we had never met before. Even though I’ve been working with the Symphony for almost 6 years now, it’s not uncommon to still not know everyone in the orchestra. We both looked at each other and said “Are you here with the Houston Symphony tour?” … “Yes.”

Turns out that Ellie’s a substitute cellist, but has been playing with the orchestra for a full season or two now. Her connections to the Houston Symphony go deeper than that though. Her father was a violinist, and had moved their family from England to Houston back in the late 70s to take a job as Co-Concertmaster with the orchestra. (How cool!) You can still hear Ellie’s British accent, albeit a bit hidden now behind her Houston Texas dialect.

Ellie’s mom wasn’t a professional musician per say, but also had ties to music through her love of playing the piano. And she was supportive of her husband’s music career. Ellie told me that the last time her mom went to Carnegie was to hear him perform with the Houston Symphony. Now, her mom has come along again to New York, but this time to hear her daughter perform with the Symphony. (Again … how cool!) That history and legacy with the orchestra and Carnegie is a neat backdrop to the entire experience this week. And imagine all the other similar connections and stories that may exist with every musician in the orchestra.

Back to the plane. After 3 hours of sharing back and forth with Ellie about our respective families, the environment, favorite Houston spots, and other randomness … we realized the flight was almost over. I don’t think I’ve ever spent an entire flight in discussion with the person next to me. I feel privileged that I could get to know one of our amazing musicians on that level. And now we’ve agreed to meet with our respective spouses at a Houston farmer’s market sometime soon. Turns out this cellist goes green. Nice.

The orchestra has just landed in Florida and is now gearing up for their next two performances–Saturday at the Kravis Center and Sunday at the Broward Center. Stay tuned for more updates–including a recap of the concert at Carnegie Hall!

Written by glenn taylor

January 29, 2010 at 2:52 pm